A Quiet Voice

One of the wetlands in Prairie Oaks Metro Park, a park located not far from our home, is easy to pass right by as you drive into the west entrance. Unlike the grand vistas of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon that overwhelm one’s senses making it hard to look away, wetlands speak with a quiet “voice”. A voice that can only be “heard” if one gets close, stops, listens, and looks. Usually at first little will be seen, but as one waits life will slowly announce it’s presence.

Wetland, heavy vegetation around the perimeter made getting to the waters edge difficult.

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It was a hot steamy early July morning that, given the recent prolonged hot spell, possessed nothing to set it apart from the day before or the day after. With the warm temperatures the goal was to see what we could see during a relatively short visit.

Not far from the water in an area of restored prairie, White Wild Indigo, “It’s habitats include moist to dry black soil prairies, sand prairies, thickets, edges of marshes and sandy marshes, borders of lakes, limestone glades, and dry clay hills. Bumblebees pollinate the flowers and the caterpillars of some skippers and butterflies occasionally feed on the foliage, including Wild Indigo Duskywing, Hoary Edge, Southern Dogface, and Orange Sulfur. The caterpillars of the Black-spotted Prominent moth can also be found on the foliage. The Wild Indigo Weevil and their grubs also feeds on this plant. White Wild Indigo is poisonous to mammals“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

At water’s edge a very tiny Blanchard’s Cricket Frog that the casual observer could easily mistake for a grasshopper if it weren’t for the water. “Ohio Distribution: Occurs in the western 2/3 of Ohio. Appears to be more common in southwestern Ohio than in other parts of the state. Status: This species is declining rapidly across much of its entire range. In northern Ohio it appears to be less abundant today than in the past. No apparent declines in southern Ohio have been noted to this point“, Ref: OhioAmphibians.com. (Donna).

The wetland is an oasis for dragonflies.

Male Blue Dasher, they are most common around shallow marshy ponds, (Donna).

Female Widow Skimmer, common around rivers lakes and ponds, (Donna).

A striking male Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

Bull Thistle adds color to the wetland environment.

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With the prolonged hot spell and little rain the wetland’s days may be numbered which may pose a challenge for this painted turtle.

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Milkweed flowers and leaves attract numerous insects not the least of witch is the Monarch Butterfly.

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Perhaps to become a gray tree frog, a tadpole rests near the water’s surface.

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A Green Heron lands in a tree overlooking the water. We wonder if he sees any tadpoles.

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Nearby it was hard to ignore the striking color of a male American Goldfinch.

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The Big Darby flows through the park not far from the wetland.

Lazard’s Tail, with it’s lovely fragrance, is currently very common along the river.

This Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly was seen along the muddy banks of the Big Darby. I’m always grateful I’m not a gnat when I see those eyes.

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Water Willow, with it’s small but beautiful flower, is a very common aquatic/semi-aquatic plant in Ohio and can be found along most reservoirs and rivers. “Habitats include sandbars, gravel bars, or mud bars of rivers, low islands in rivers or ponds, shallow water or muddy banks of ponds and rivers, shallow water of rocky upland streams, shallow water or wet areas of swamps, and sandy marshes. Water Willow occurs in wetlands with either stagnant water or slow to moderate currents of water. The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees. Other floral visitors include various wasps, flies, small butterflies, and skippers. These insects obtain primarily nectar from the flowers, although some bees collect pollen and some flies feed on pollen. Water Willow is one of the host plants for the caterpillars of Hydrangea sphinx moth which feed on the foliage. This plant is also a minor source of food for muskrats“. Ref: http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info

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We hope you enjoyed this brief early July visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park. The wetland left us with the heightened realization that nature contains universes within universes, all interconnected, but each with a magic and beauty all their own.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Flowers and Flies

Exploring the world of insects is an excellent example of how digital photography has opened a door into a world most folks don’t give much thought to much less appreciate. A passion for bugs may start out innocently enough when one decides to photograph a flower and finds that it’s occupied by many creatures not noticed before. A closer look reveals some to be beautiful and fascinating in their own right and others downright scary. This may prompt one to make an effort to identify the bug just photographed which in turn often leads to an awareness of how much there is yet to learn about this small world. 

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Fortunately it doesn’t take an expensive camera to get a reasonable picture of a insect the size of the common house fly. We’re not talking macro-photography here, where one focuses on the dragonfly’s eye, but instead about a picture that will allow you to identify the insect and be good enough to share on social media. Our favorite of the small sensor “bridge cameras” is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 or 300. With their fast lens and close focus capability they are a great all round camera for anyone starting out in nature photography. When one moves up from there to larger APS-C sensor DSLR’s you are looking at more money and bulk which may limit their appeal on long hikes. In the world of DSLR’s just about any lens similar to the Canon 18-135 mm will allow you to focus close enough to get a reasonably good shot. Longer lenses such as the Tamron 100-400 mm (more money still) will allow you to focus on subjects that won’t let you get close enough with a shorter lens. With it’s close focus capability perhaps the best all round bird/bug nature camera setup I’ve seen is the micro four thirds Panasonic G7 with the 100-400 mm Panasonic/Leica lens that my wife uses. It employs an excellent but smaller sensor than my Canon APS-C which is part of the reason for it’s admirable close focus performance. That being said I’m sure there are excellent camera setups that I’ve not had experience with.

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Unless stated otherwise the below pictures have all been taken close to home at Griggs Reservoir Park so the adventure doesn’t necessarily mean hours of driving to some exotic location. Almost all insect images have been significantly cropped.

(click on the image for a better view)

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A Bumble Bee enjoys Foxglove Beardtongue.

An nice illustration of the difference in size between a sweat bee and bumble bee, (Donna).

If you think this is an innocent little Bumble Bee you would be wrong in fact it’s a Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly no less ferocious than the one below, (Donna).

A more typical looking robber fly a little over an inch long. If you’re a small insect it will be a bad day if you run into one of these, (Donna).

Four lined Plant Bug, (Donna).

Eight-spotted Forester Moth, (Donna).

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Thimbleweed.

Moth Mullein, (Donna).

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A very small but beautiful Long-legged Fly.

It’s a rough world for bugs. A long legged fly falls prey to a robber fly.

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Water Willow at waters edge. Deer are known to browse the leaves and beaver and muskrat will consume the plant rhizomes. The submerged portion is home to many micro and macro invertebrates, (Donna).

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Little Wood Satyr.

Painted Lady, one of the most common butterflies found on every continent accept Antarctica and Australia, their favorite food plant on which to lay their eggs is thistle, they do not overwinter and they can have long migrations up to 9,320 miles long, (Donna)

Hackberry Emperor, a butterfly not usually seen on flowers but on a warm day may land on exposed skin, (Donna).

Question Mark, (Donna).

Red Admiral, (Donna).

Silver-spotted Skipper, one of the larger skippers, (Donna)

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The beautiful flowers of the Milkweed. A very import plant for many insects most notably the Monarch Butterfly.

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Milkweed Beetles, (Donna).

Great Golden Digger Wasp, (Donna).

Perhaps some type of wood wasp, (Donna).

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Black-eyed Susan’s.

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Golden-backed Snipe Fly, they can be found throughout Ohio, and are most often observed resting on low vegetation. They appear in the late spring and early summer, and have been observed mating in late May and early June, although timing likely varies across their range. Little is known about their life cycle.

Small hoverflies on fleabane.

Hoverfly profile.

Two Marked Tree Hopper. Click here to learn more about this fascinating insect.

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Common Mullein.

Northern Catalpa.

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Syrphid Fly Yellowjacket Mimic. The syrphid fly often mimics wasps or bees to gain protection from predators, (Donna).

The Green Bottle Fly is usually observed around less savory food items.

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Black-eyed Susan’s, (Donna).

Depford Pink, (Donna).

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Mating Candy-striped Leafhoppers, (Donna).

Mirid Plant Bug, (Donna).

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Butterfly Weed.

A field of clover.

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A Mayfly falls prey to a jumping spider. Normally slow moving jumping spiders are capable of very agile jumps, when hunting, in response to sudden threats, or to navigate obstacles. They all have four pairs of eyes, with the pair positioned closer together being larger.

Another view, (Donna).

A small moth on Canada Thistle.

If it’s real lucky this Orange Dog caterpillar may become a Giant Swallowtail.

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A field of fleabane.

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A rarely seen Orange Bluet, (Donna).

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

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Hairy Wild Petunia.

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It’s hard to believe what’s out there in that small incredible world that goes largely unnoticed by most as we pursue our daily lives. In the hierarchy of human affection warm cuddly animals seem to be at the top with insects being at the other end of the spectrum and usually not considered a welcome intrusion. But as with most things the more you know and understand the more you grow to love.

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A casual glance will not do. To discover wonder and beauty one must look closely with intention.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

A Quiet Walk In The Park

It was a quiet morning at Griggs Reservoir Park with little wind and an overcast sky that threatened rain making it almost too dark for pictures. The kind of day one pretty much has the whole park to themself. My pessimism about what would be seen, much less photographed, was reflected in my selection of cameras. I contented myself just with a Panasonic FZ200 superzoom accompanied by a pair of binos, while my wife expressed her optimism by taking a “bird camera”.

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Rain and the resultant higher water levels meant that in many areas Water Willow graced the reservoir shoreline.

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With the absence of traffic both in the park and on the reservoir, normally wary and prone to flight Great Blue Herons were content to stay on shoreline perches as we walked by. Other birds also seemed less prone to flight as we got close.

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An immature Male Hooded Merganser is spotted with a group of Mallard Ducks, (Donna).

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By a rain puddle a Barn Swallow strikes a contemplative pose, (Donna).

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A Robin with a mouthful of earthworm and mulberry, (Donna).

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Even with the dullness of the morning the unmistakable fire orange of a noisy Baltimore Oriole caught our eye as it streaked by on it way to a nearby tree. Taking a closer look through dense leaf cover revealed an almost completely hidden nest. Suspended by next winter’s bare branches, what remained would be easy to spot.

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Male Baltimore Oriole

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Take 2.

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Take 3.

My wife looked ever closer in an effort to see a “new to her” insect or spider. Life that most of us walk right by.

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White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

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Katydid, (Donna).

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Female Amber Wing Dragonfly

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Through the leaves a lone Painted Turtle is spotted. Not a good day to sun oneself on a log.

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Very small mushrooms caught my eye while a millipede remained unnoticed until a review of the pic. 

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A very small and young Gray Tree Frog tries to remain unnoticed, (Donna).

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Seemingly unabated, wildflowers continue their march through the year. Those that greeted us just a few weeks ago are gone but new ones have taken their place. On a sunny day they speak in a bright and joyful voice so it seems counterintuitive that the best time to photograph them is usually on overcast days. No blown out highlights, deep shadow values, and more saturated colors.

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Horse Nettle is a good plant just to look at but not to touch.

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Canada Thistle is a pesky weed for Ohio farmers.

As if playing “King of The Mountain” the vine and flower of the Morning Glory take advantage of an accommodating Moth Mullein.

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Black-eyed Susan’s spread their cheer. 

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Not the most common of our native wildflower standing forlorn at waters edge is what remained of a fairly large display of Butterfly Weed, someone had picked the rest.

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Daisy Fleabane.

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Thimbleweed.

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Tall Meadow-rue.

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White Moth Mullein.

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Canada Anemone.

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Reservoir landscape.

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It never did rain and as our longer than expected time in the park came to a close so did the time for taking a “closer look” and for reflection. As is often the case when in nature we left much richer than when we came.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Perhaps I should stick with photography!

 

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