A Spring Wildflower Wonderland

A few days ago we thought we’d better take the hour and a half drive south from Columbus to Miller Sanctuary State Nature Preserve and Highlands Nature Sanctuary to check out the spring wildflowers before they bid us farewell for the year. Both destinations are located within an area commonly referred to as the Arc of Appalachia which is comprised of numerous beautiful undisturbed natural areas no matter what the time of year you choose to visit. 

An area map showing the location of access points for the areas we explored.

Our first stop was the Miller Sanctuary which has about three miles of trails. Even though the trails are not long one should allow plenty of time as the number of wildflowers is truly amazing and it will take time if one wants to adequately appreciate them.

Remember: you can click on the images should you desire a better view.

Golden Ragwort, common throughout Ohio, was one of the first wildflowers to greet us as we started down the trail.

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When one thinks of the Large Flowered Trillium one usually thinks of a white flower but the images below show the change in color as the bloom ages.

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In a very small area one can see a variety of wildflowers.

Blue phlox, rue-anemone, trillium.

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A closer look reveals the delicate beauty of Blue Phlox.

Blue Phlox or Wild Sweet William.

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The Rue-anemone blossoms were hard to ignore.

Rue-anemone, (Donna).

From another angle.

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Fiddleheads grace the bank of the Rocky Fork River.

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A little further on there was another nice grouping.

Virginia Bluebells, Large Flowered Trillium, and Miterwort.

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The Miterwort flower is so small that from a distance it doesn’t even appear to be a flower but if one takes a closer look  .   .   .

Miterwort or Bishop’s Cap.

.   .   . and closer still, (Donna).

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While certainly not uncommon throughout Ohio, Virginia Bluebells were also present in the sanctuary.

Virginia Bluebells.

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Redbuds accent the Rocky Fork landscape.

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The large boulders and rocky cliffs provided an excellent habitat for Wild Columbine.

Wild Columbine, (Donna).

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A real treat were the Shooting Stars, a flower we don’t often see closer to home.

Shooting Star, (Donna).

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May Apples carpet the forest floor but we were a bit early to see their flowers.

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We were greeted by more wildflowers as we continued along the trail.

Very tiny Bluets

Goldenseal, (Donna).

Emerging Squawroot. A native perennial, non-photosynthesizing parasitic plant that grows from the roots of mostly oak and beech trees, (Donna).

Large-Flowered Bellwort, (Donna).

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The sanctuary contain a sizable stand of large Tulip trees.

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Canada Violets, (Donna).

Blue Cohosh, the yellowish flower clusters ripen into berries that eventually turn deep blue.

Nestled under the plant’s leaves close to the ground one really needs to look to see the flower of the Wild Ginger plant, (Donna).

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Trilliums line the bank of a small feeder stream.

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Wild Geranium.

Star Chickweed.

Moving in a little closer, (Donna).

Jack In The Pulpit, (Donna).

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The beauty of wildflowers complimented by the sight and sound of a small waterfall.

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Just on the other side of the Rocky Fork River were trails contained in Highlands Nature Sanctuary. We choose to hike the spectacular Barrett Rim Trail. While many of the wildflowers were the same, the dramatic rocky outcropping brought an additional dimension.

One section of the trail runs between the river and these cliffs.

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Certainly not the showiest the blossoms of the Pawpaw were just emerging.

Pawpaw.

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As with Miller, Large Flowered Trillium lined the trail in many places.

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The extensive groups of Celandine or Wood-Poppy were a real treat. A plant we didn’t see in the Miller Sanctuary.

We were surprised by their number.

Wood Poppy, a closer look.

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It’s easy to see how the Rocky Fork River got its name.

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Perhaps the most exciting discovery on our two-mile hike was one solitary flower that was new to us.

Wood Betony.

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After five miles of hiking and countless wildflowers we returned home excited about the possibility of a return visit. For those interested in checking things out this year there have still been reports of wildflowers, some of which are “new arrivals” that we didn’t see, as I post this a week later.

Another view along the Rocky Fork River.

There are times when a walk in the woods provides more than it’s share of encouragement to again be in nature. Thanks for stopping by.

Late May At Cedar Bog, a Celebration of Biodiversity

It was not an ideal day for a nature outing with the temperature forecast to reach 90 F with matching humidity. However, after three days of suffering with what appeared to be a case of food poisoning and feeling restless, I convinced my wife I was feeling well enough to take a trip to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve a pleasant back roads country drive from Columbus just a few miles south of Urbana off route 68.

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It’s one of Ohio’s unique natural areas and given the timing of our trip there was a good possibility of seeing a showy lady’s slipper. It’s a flower that’s much more common in states north but is also seen in a few Ohio locations. By itself the flower might not have been enough to justify the drive but we were also enticed by the preserve’s biodiversity and the fact that it was home to other rare things such as the endangered spotted turtle. The bog (not really a bog), is said to be the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio. Walking slowly and looking intently no spotted turtles were seen the day of our visit but other things made up for it.

A small stream flows through the fen. In fact the whole fen is really flowing.

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Upon entering the preserve we were immediately greeted by a indigo bunting singing from what seemed like the highest branch in the tallest tree.

Indigo Bunting

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Amazingly, while others were seen throughout the preserve, we didn’t have to travel far to come across our first showy lady’s slipper.

Capturing the fen’s unique beauty.

Showy Lady’s Slippers

A closer look, (Donna).

Not fully emerged.

Blue Flag Iris were also present. Unlike yellow irises they are native.

Sometimes leaves, in this case those of a young tulip tree, are as fascinating as any flower.

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Not to be outdone by the flowers a little further along a large dragonfly performed it’s aerial display before finally posing for a picture.

Brown Spiketail, (Donna).

 

Another view.

Others were also seen.

Painted Skimmer

Another view, (Donna).

Female Common Whitetail

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Where there are dragonflies there are usually damselflies.

Mating Eastern Red Damselflies, (Donna).

Female Ebony Jewelwing

Male Ebony Jewelwing

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During our admittedly short visit only one species of butterfly cooperated for the camera.

Silvery Checkerspot

Another view, (Donna).

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Usually we find ourselves drawn to butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies but when looking for them it’s hard not to notice and appreciate other insects.

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

Crane Fly

Flowers were particularly fragrant which wasn’t lost on this hover fly.

Daddy Longlegs

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, (Donna).

Mating bee-like robber flies.

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The preserve is also known to be home to a population of mississauga rattlesnakes and while none were seen we did see a northern water snake as well as the broad headed skink which we have not seen elsewhere in Ohio.

Northern Water Snake

Broad Headed Skink

Another view.

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Considering the wet environment and amount of fallen trees it was somewhat surprising that only one type of rather plain fungi was spotted.

An unidentified fungi.

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As if it had been inspired by the indigo bunting, a common yellowthroat made it’s presence known just as we were about to leave the preserve reminding us not to wait so long before our next visit.

Common Yellowthroat

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When we visit islands of unique diversity like Cedar Bog it’s hard not get swept up by the thought of what Ohio was like before Europeans settled the area and, with the aid of the industrial revolution, transformed much of the land into a monoculture of corn, soybeans, or wheat.

Now, when diving through rural Ohio on a late spring day the landscape seems permanent, natural, and right, and painted with the new green of crops and freshly leaved trees often beautiful to our 21st century eyes. However, a very short 250 years ago it would have looked very different and been home to many more diverse living things. Just as we, with first hand knowledge of what was there before, may morn the loss of a farmers field to a new strip mall or housing development such things become legitimate, right, unquestioned with the passing of time once the land has been transformed. The march towards less and fragmented islands of biodiversity continues.

It is true that change is inevitable but how much biodiversity do we and other living things need to thrive ten years from now, one hundred, how about in one thousand years when our sun will still be warming the planet much as it does today? Cedar Bog both delights and challenges us with it’s beauty and it’s questions.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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It’s Spring and Love Is In The Air

In recent days we’ve made a number of trips to areas along Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River not far from our home. It’s spring migration and the challenge is to see how many migrating birds we can spot right in our “neighborhood”. At some point we may change our emphasis and increase the number of trips we take to more distant birding locations, but for now we’re having fun concentrating on places close to home.

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To date the most numerous warblers seen are the Palm and Yellow-rumped. While the Yellow-rumped is very common, with more subtle markings than many of it’s peers, I never tire of finding new beauty when I look at one. At Griggs Park the Baltimore Oriole is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Connecting trees with bright sunlit streaks of orange the males seem to be everywhere.  Should an oriole or other bird not be close by, it’s easy to find other things to appreciate this time of year.

The boardwalk at Kiwanis Riverway Park. One of our favorite birding spots. The water level was very high when this shot was taken.

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When we arrive to photograph birds we sometimes find them “still getting ready”,

Male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.

“Okay, I’m ready!”

“There’s just this one pesky feather that won’t stay in place,” Palm Warbler, Griggs Park.

“Okay, how do I look?”

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some may be busy doing other things,

A female Baltimore Oriole appears to be trying to build a nest out of monofilament fishing line in Griggs Park. We try to pick up lost or discarded fishing line and tackle whenever we see it.

Robin on nest, Griggs Park.

Mother Mallard tries to keep track of her charges, Griggs Park.

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while most are usually ready when we get there,

American Robin, Griggs Park.

 

Severely back lit, an illusive Black and White Warbler taxes the capabilities of the camera.

Take 2.

The Yellow Warbler is cute from any angle, Griggs Park.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Park.

A better look at the unique crest on the Yellow-rumps head.

Male Bluebird, Griggs Park.

Female Bluebird, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Chipping Sparrow, Griggs Park.

Downy Woodpecker, Griggs Park.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Griggs Park.

House Wren, Griggs Park.

Tree Swallow, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

A Red-eyed Vireo ducts behind a small tree, Griggs Park.

Yellow-throated Warblers are often heard. Finding them is more difficult. Griggs Park.

It appears that this Chickadee has been spending entirely too much time with it’s Tufted Titmouse friends, Griggs Park.

Seeing this White-crowned Sparrow was a real treat, Griggs Park. “White-crowned Sparrows typically breed in the far north in open or shrubby habitats, including tundra, high alpine meadows, and forest edges. Patches of bare ground and grasses are important characteristics. During winter and on migration these birds frequent thickets, .   .   . “, from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Black-throated blue Warbler, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

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but a few are just trying to get away.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Griggs Park.

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Other birds were engaged in finding a find a dry perch, made all the more challenging by recent heavy rains.

In the company of friends a Great Blue Heron looks on as the very high Scioto River races by.

In recent days Great Egrets seem to be everywhere along both the reservoir and river, Griggs Park.

Out on the reservoir a Great Blue Heron floats by on a tree branch.

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Many flowers have undoubtedly benefitting from the recent rain.

Stumped again, the flower of a small unidentified flowering tree or bush. Is it a garden escapee?

Fleabane, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

The flower of the Tulip Tree. Native to eastern North America from southern Ontario and Illinois eastward to Massachusetts and Rhode Island and south to central Florida and Louisiana, Tulip Trees can grow to more than 160 ft in virgin cove forests of the Appalachian Mountains. (Wikipedia)

Non-native Butterweed, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Large flowered Valerian, Kiwanis Riverway Park.

Hobblebush, Kiwanis Riverway Park

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You never know what might be hiding next to a flower.

A large female Fishing Spider, Griggs Park.

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Heading back to the car at the end of one outing, my sharp eyed wife spotted three Northern Water Snakes celebrating the season. The males are quite a bit smaller than the female. These snakes are fairly common along the river and reservoir. However, unlike the various species of turtles which always seem to be around, they aren’t often seen so it was a real treat to see them!

Large female with two smaller male Northern Water Snakes, Griggs Park. They mate from April through June and do not lay eggs like many other snakes. Instead, the mother carries the eggs inside her body and gives birth to free living young and may have as many as thirty at a time, but the average is eight. They are born between August and October. Mothers do not care for their young; as soon as they are born, they are on their own. (Wikipedia)

The males were in competition for the female’s affection.

The larger male seems to have won, at least momentarily.

A tangle of tails.

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After missing shots of numerous fast moving warblers and the recent challenge when I tried to capture the Black and White, I’ve decided to upgrade my otherwise excellent Canon 60D camera body to a Canon 80D. For the time being the bird camera lens will continue be a Sigma 150-500mm. Future posts will reveal how well it all works out. Thanks for stopping by.

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PS: As is often the case, Molly Cat sat watching intently as I finished this blog. I’m glad I’m not a mouse!

Molly Cat

XXX

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Should you wish, prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

 

Photos by Donna

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