Clifton Gorge Celebrates Spring

A couple of times a year, usually in the spring and fall we get together with friends for a hike from Clifton to Yellow Springs and back. Yellow Springs turns out to be a great place for lunch with a number of excellent small restaurants and delis. The hike wanders through Clifton Gorge Nature PreserveJohn Bryan State Park, and finally Glen Helen Nature Preserve allowing us to enjoy a truly unique Ohio landscape. In the spring the quantity and diversity of wildflowers is truly amazing. The hike usually adds up to about ten miles so it necessitates compromises in the camera equipment we use. No heavy DSLR bird cameras here.  However, should you choose to bring more serious equipment or just not feel up to a long hike, there are many shorter options that still allow one to enjoy the natural beauty.


Leaving Clifton the hike starts out overlooking a narrow stretch of the Little Miami River.

Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve

In the spring numerous small streams feed the Little Miami.

By no means the narrowest portion of the gorge it does give one an idea of what it is like.


Continuing to follow the river it wasn’t long before we saw our first trillium.

Large-flowered Trillium with a hint of pink.

A nice group.

They covered the hillside, Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve.


In the mix there were other trilliums to enjoy.

Toadshade Trillium

Another view, (Donna).

Drooping Trillium. Also known as Bent Trillium.

Drooping Trillium


There were also “non-flower” things to see.

Dryad’s Saddle

This Redback salamander was crossing the road so we decided to place him in a safer location. This salamander can actually be one of two colors: “redback” or “leadback.” In its redback phase it has a reddish stripe that runs down its back from the base of its head to the tail. Found throughout Ohio, it is most often seen in early spring beneath rocks and logs, especially in floodplains. It is entirely land-dwelling and usually will not go to water even to breed. Ref: ODNR.

Morel Mushroom, (Donna).


As we made our way downstream the river started to widen.

The Little Miami


.   .   .  and then pool before becoming a river once again.

Blue Hole


There was never a place where we couldn’t see a wildflower.

Virginia Bluebells


Large-flowered Bellwort was everywhere.

A closer look.


There wasn’t always a bridge when we needed one. Fortunately on this particular day the river level wasn’t too high.

In John Bryant SP.

Green was still mostly restricted to the forest floor, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

View from the bridge over the falls on Yellow Springs Creek, Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

A stream feeds Yellow Springs Creek.


Just when you thought you’ve seen all the flowers   .   .   .

Rue Anemone, (Donna)

Squirrel Corn, It’s roots are yellow tubers that somewhat resemble kernals of corn. This fact, along with squirrels digging it up for food, gave rise to the name. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio by Robert L Henn)

Squirrel Corn, a closer look, (Donna).

Wild Ginger, (Donna). The root stalks have a ginger scent and taste. American settlers boiled the root stalks with sugar to make candy. Not the same as the true Ginger spice which is derived from a tropical plant. (taken from Wildflowers of Ohio -Robert L. Henn

Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William, (Donna).

Wild Geranium was just coming along! Also known as Crane’s Bill. (Donna).

Golden Ragwort, (Donna).

Marsh Marigold, (Donna).

Yellow Trout Lilies, (Donna)

Surrounded by Chickweed the trout lilies peek through, (Donna).

Getting down and dirty.

Early Meadow Rue, (Donna).

Hepatica, (Donna).

Dwarf Larkspur

Dwarf Larkspur

How many different wildflowers can you spot in this photo?

Spring Beauty, (Donna).


Sometimes we’re left feeling as though life’s magic is slipping away and there are no longer any miracles to celebrate. That’s when we might want to consider taking a walk in the spring woods.


Rue Anemone stands as a lone sentinel over the Little Miami.


Thanks for stopping by.




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Spring Wildflowers? Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

The whole idea was to look for early spring wildflowers at one of our favorite Columbus metro parks. As you’ve probably remember us mentioning in the past, one of the good or bad things about looking for very small flowers hiding in last years leaf litter or in amongst other much larger plants is that you find other things, usually trash, but sometimes something very special, something you’ve never seen before. Such was the case yesterday on what turned out to be a seven mile ramble around the trails of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.


Many folks come to the park to see the bison, once native to Ohio.


We hadn’t gone far when my wife spotted a very curious object. Arriving back home and checking was our rather limited guide to north American fungi we were able to come up with a fairly educated guess that it was Devil’s Urn, one of the earliest fungi to emerge in the spring.

Devil’s Urn

A little further on another unusual looking fungi was also spotted but this one’s identity remains a mystery.

Some type of polypore?

Turkey Tail, an example of a commonly seen fungi.


Of coarse the real reason for the hike was the flowers and they didn’t disappoint.

Virginia Bluebells

Purple Cress

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

Pink Rue Anemone

The easily overlooked very small flowers of the Harbinger-of-spring, (Donna).

Spring Beauty, (Donna).

Toadshade Trillium, (Donna).

Yellow Corydalis, (Donna).

As pretty as any flower, Virginia Waterleaf.

Due to it’s fragile and fleeting nature the flower of the Bloodroot is one of the more difficult to capture.

Immerging Bloodroot


Take 2, (Donna).


It’s hard to simultaneously look for wildflowers and birds but a few were hard to ignore, either because of their number or their song.


An Eastern Towhee in full song is hard to ignore.


At one point a large group of Golden-crowned Kinglets flittered about overhead.

Take two.

Several White-breasted Nuthatches provided a welcome diversion as they chased each other around the tree, (Donna).


Anytime we discover something that we’ve never seen before it makes for a very special day. Thanks for stopping by.




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Early Spring at O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve

March 30th, perhaps it was time to check out  O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve and see what early spring wildflowers might be making their presence known. After all we don’t want to miss anything. Having said that, this time always leaves us feeling a bit impatient as spring always seems to progress so slowly and often heads in the wrong direction.

A Beech Tree adds color to the early spring landscape, (Donna).


Upon closer inspection we find other color in what is still mostly brown.

Spring Beauties


Standing out in the stark landscape, a fallen trees creates a shape that fascinates when not looking for small flowers.

Fallen tree.


Some flowers seen are unfortunately escapees from someone’s yard.

Ground Ivy, (Donna).

With Twin Lakes in the distance, the foreground flower make for a beautiful scene, that is until you realize it’s invasive Lesser Celandine.


In a vernal pool the frogs were strangely quiet considering the time of year.

Vernal pool.


We did discover a few native wildflowers. Looking at the still leafless canopy it’s a race against time for early spring ground plants that call the woods home.

Purple Cress.


Sharp-lobed Hepatica, (Donna).

The small blossoms on a Spice Bush.

Rue Anemone.

Spring Beauty, (Donna).

Hispid Buttercup, (Donna).


We will continue to mark the season with visits to wooded areas near our home. The Trout Lilies, both yellow and white, should be blooming any day now.

Spring Beauties stand guard over the creek below, waiting for the Trout Lilies.


Until next time, thanks for stopping by.




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A Heron, Egret, and Cormorant Rookery in Columbus

If you’d like to see nesting Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants pack up your binoculars or better yet a spotting scope, and head over to Campbell Park off McKinley Avenue and just south of Trabue Rd. The park is interesting in it’s own right because it’s one of the last ancient cone-shaped burial mounds in Columbus, but in addition, the top of the mound happens to be a great vantage point to view an island rookery located in the middle of the adjacent quarry.


We learned about the spot by chance from a fellow birding enthusiast while looking for migrating warblers along the Scioto River in Columbus. So before we get to the rookery, below are a few shots from our adventures along the Scioto in recent days.


Prothonotary Warbler along the Scioto below Griggs Dam, FZ200.


Red-bellied Woodpecker being a good parent along the Scioto below Griggs Dam, FZ200.


Turkey Vultures along the Scioto below Griggs Dam, FZ200, (Donna).


Robin singing, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, FZ200. (Donna)


White-breasted Nuthatch, Kiwanis River Way Park


. . . just a minute I’m not quite ready!

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Palm Warbler, Kiwanis River Way Park


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Bluebird, Kiwanis River Way Park

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Yellow-throated Warbler, Kiwanis River Way Park.


Cardinal, Kiwanis River Way Park.


When we’re not looking for birds .   .   .


Kiwanis River Way Park


Butterweed, Kiwanis River Way Park


Shooting Star, Kiwanis River Way Park.



???, Kiwanis River Way Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Wood Sorrel, Kiwanis River Way Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Spring Beauty, Kiwanis River Way Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Wild Hyacinth, Campbell Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Black Swallowtail, Campbell Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Fleabane, Campbell Park, FZ200, (Donna).


Campbell Park and the rookery. Views through our spotting scope were much better!


Entrance to the mound. Campbell Park.


Historical Marker




The best view of the island and rookery (the only view really), was from the top of the mound.


The bird camera at full zoom, Canon D50, Sigma 150-500.


Looking around the island, nesting Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants, Canon D50, Sigma 150-500.


Another view, Black-crowned Night Herons can just be made out in the lower lift corner, Canon D50, Sigma 150-500.


Donna’s FZ200 takes a look at a variety of nesting birds.


Nests, , Canon D50, Sigma 150-500.


Nesting cormorants, Canon D50, Sigma 150-500.


While my wife was investigating the wildflowers and butterflies I also tried some photos with a Digi-scope rig but the results were disappointing no doubt the result of operator error. If you have such equipment I recommend giving it a try. At the very least bring your spotting scope and enjoy the view while many of the birds are still on their nests.


Thanks for stopping by.

Cabbage You Wouldn’t Eat

In the last week or so migrating birds have started to move through central Ohio. While there have been reports of early arriving warblers we have yet to see any. That may have more to do with our approach to nature, which at any moment in time focuses on the “low hanging fruit” rather than expending effort to see something that may or may not be there. It’s quite possible that as we were fascinating over a wildflower one of those little buggers flew right over our head. Oh, well.


So with that in mind this post is mostly about those early spring plants and wildflowers that every year usher in the magic of spring.


One of the first to be seen is Skunk Cabbage which due to it’s capacity to generate it’s own internal heat, often emerges by melting it’s way through the snow. It’s name comes from it’s skunk like smell. In contrast to it’s smell we’ve always thought it’s appearance to be quite attractive. It almost looks good enough to eat.


Skunk Cabbage, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park


Take 2.


Take 3, almost looks good enough to eat (not recommended!).


Skunk Cabbage habitat, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park, (Donna).


Not far from the skunk cabbage it was hard to miss this Eastern Towhee.


Eastern Towhee, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park.


Another early arriver is Dutchman’s Breeches. It continues to do well against the onslaught of Lesser Celandine in the many areas we visit. Lesser Celandine was introduced into the United States as an ornamental and is now considered invasive.


Dutchman’s Breeches, Griggs Park, below the dam.


We did manage to see Swamp Buttercup which is often confused with Lesser Celandine. Note the difference in petals and leaves. It seem less common each year which may be due to the aforementioned invasive.


Swamp Buttercup, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park


Lesser Celandine, (web pic)


We always get excited when we spot the beautiful flower of the Bloodroot. Although not uncommon, it is very fragile and doesn’t fair well against the early spring wind and rain.

Bloodroot group 1 032916 Griggs cp1

Bloodroot, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).



Bloodroot, Griggs Park below the dam.


With the rain not every interesting thing on the forest floor is a flower.


Wood Ear fungus, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park


Seeming to defy the temperature, early moths and butterflies made an appearance on the few “warmer” days we’ve had.


Geometer Moth, Griggs Park, (Donna).

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Grapevine Moth, Griggs Park west shore, (Donna).


Red Admiral, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.


The flowing water of early spring inspired a beaver’s creativity.


Beaver dam, Kiwanis’s Riverview Park.


Sometimes a sound overhead pulls us away from the wildflowers.


Northern Flickers, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.


Northern Flicker, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.


Male Cowbird, Griggs Park.


Fox Sparrow, Prairie Oaks Metro Park


Tree Swallows, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).


Male Downy Woodpecker, Prairie Oaks Metro Park


Other flowers also fascinated.

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Twinleaf buds and leaves, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

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Cutleaf Toothwort, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).

Violet 2 duo 1 better 1 040616 Griggs west cp177

Violet, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Spring Beauties 2 colorful 1 032916 Griggs cp13

Spring Beauties, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).


A lone hepatica brings delicate color to it’s otherwise dreary early spring world.


Round-lobbed Hepatica, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir.


Other plants were also flowering under the still open tree canopy.


Toad Shade Trillium, Griggs Park below the dam.


Virginia bluebells, Griggs Park below the dam.


Trout Lilies, Griggs Park below the dam.


Ever feel like you’re being watched.


Cooper’s Hawk, not far from Griggs reservoir.


Some plants still have a way to go before their often missed flowers emerge.


May Apple, Twin Lakes Area, O’Shaughnessy Reservoir, (Donna).


A little further along, (Donna).


In the days to come we’ll be keeping track of the progress of the May apples while out of he corner of our eye watching for those sneaky migrating warblers.


Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Takes Flight at Prairie Oaks

We hadn’t been to Prairie Oaks for a while so we thought we’d head over to what is one of Columbus’s nicer metro parks and see how spring was progressing.  The day was breezy and cool so we weren’t sure what we’d find. Often the birds stay put on such days making locating them a challenge. But the sun did pop through the clouds periodically, and when it did, the birds, as if on cue, became more active. On this day, as often seems to be the case, the most magical event happened near the end of our adventure just as we arriving back at the parking lot after five miles of walking, looking. and then walking some more.



A spring creek flows through the park on it’s way to the river.


We hadn’t gone very far when a few birds appeared to greet us.


White-throated Sparrow

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A Tree Swallow takes a break.

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A Yellow-throated Warbler not cooperating for the photographer.


Further on my wife noticed some Dryad’s saddle. The time of year and recent rains all had contributed to a bumper crop.

Pheasant back 10 Trio underneath best 2 Prairie Oaks   csb1 (2)

Dryad’s Saddle, (Donna)


Dryad’s Saddle. The one at the top is just emerging.

Pheasant Back 4 under and over close-up 1 042715 Prairie   Oaks cp1 (2)

In full bloom, (Donna)


While it’s just a few miles from Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, the diversity of spring wildflowers at Prairie Oaks is not as great, but the flowers are beautiful just the same.


Golden Ragwort


Large-flowered Bellwort


Wild Geranium


Spring Beauty


Toadshade Trillium


Toadshade Trillium


It was an extensive patch.


Where there are wildflower you can count on seeing other things.

Spring Azure 9 wings closed best 1 042715 Prairie Oaks   cp1 (2)

A tiny Spring Azure, (Donna)

Spring Azure 5 close-up on violet 1 042715 Prairie Oaks   cp1

As if to mimic the flower. A great shot by my wife of a butterfly that’s very difficult to get a photo of with wings open. Perhaps the warm sun and cool air helped.


A Bumble Bee heads for Virginia Bluebells.


On final approach


Flaps down!




As we continued our exploration we were fortunate to see a few of our other feathered friends.

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Eastern Towhee


Yellow Warbler


Take two. Okay, I couldn’t help it. The bird was so cute!


The Big Darby flows through Prairie Oaks Metro Park.


During high water the soil is scoured from around the roots of this Sycamore tree.


The Big Darby.


Many of the turtles we come across seem to have a very acute awareness of their surroundings making them deceptively hard to photograph. They usually slide off the log and disappear under the water’s surface just as we get ready to click the shutter. But not this time.


Red Eared Slider

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Painted Turtle

Turtles Trio on log 042715 Prairie Oaks cp1 (2)

The group, (Donna)


Spring nurseries for frogs and other living things surrounded by luminescent green.


My wife checks out one of a number of spring nurseries.


Frog heaven.


At the end of our walk, not a hundred yards from our car, we observed a group of Killdeer (males?)  making quite a fuss.


A meeting of the Killdeer.


The discussion was loud and went on for quite awhile.


One seems to have made his point and wants to move on.


.   .   .   but then as if tired of the their earth bound or perhaps just to celebrate the day,

.   .   .  they took flight.

Kildeer group 9 in flight best ever 1 042715 Prairie Oaks   cp1

Killdeer in flight, (Donna)

Kildeer Group 9 in flight best 2 042715 Prairie Oaks   cp1

Revealing a beauty not seen until they were in the air. (Donna).


.   .   .   as a straggler tries to catch up.


Thanks for stopping by.

Looking For Spring

Some out of town travel has resulted in fewer posts in the last couple of weeks but now we’re back searching for plants, animals, and birds that will encourage us that spring, which so far has been too slow to green, leaf, and flower, is not that far away. Based on things seen while walking along the river recently, which included Turkey Buzzards, Double Crested Cormorants, and Tree Swallows, we are encouraged.


Below are some things seen along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River in the last week:


Bluebell emerging plant 4 closer 1 best 032815 Griggs   cp1

Along the Scioto River some area Bluebell plants are just emerging, (Donna)


A few days later we see progress, (Donna)


Cutleaf Toothwort is getting ready to bloom, (Donna)


Virginia Waterleaf doesn’t need to bloom to be beautiful, (Donna)


A very close look at Harbinger of Spring reveals it’s beauty, (Donna)


A solitary Trout Lilly bloom leads the way, (Donna)


Spring Beauty does it’s best to add some color, (Donna)


The Toad Shade Trillium are very close to blooming, (Donna)

Mystery green plant 032815 Griggs cp1

An island of unidentified green, (Donna)

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A Brown Creeper doing what it does best.

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Along the Scioto an Eastern Phoebe eludes a good picture. The first one seen this year..

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Eastern Phoebe along the Scioto.

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A White breasted Nuthatch finding lunch among the still bare branches

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White breasted Nuthatch


Bloodroot, beautiful and one of the earliest wild flowers.


Bloodroot, (Donna)


Coltsfoot almost seeming to smile.


Another view, (Donna).



Buds getting ready to leaf out, (Donna)


Common Chickweed is a welcome sight as it gets ready to bloom.


We found still green Dutchmen’s Breaches along the river, (Donna)


The fact is, if spring progressed any faster we would surely miss a lot. That’s something that undoubtedly happens anyway but at what seems like spring’s usual snails pace it feels like we at least have a chance to see it’s wonder.


Thanks for stopping by.

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