Looking For The “White-throated Sparrow”

In the back of our mind during outings over the past week has been the thought that we might see the season’s first White-throated Sparrow. For us, along with the arrival of the Dark-eyed Junco, this small bird marks the passing of the season and the certain coming of winter. During breeding, they are found further north in either coniferous or deciduous forests up to tree line in the U.S. and across Canada. During migration and during the winter months central Ohio is just one location they call home.

Autumn reflection.

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Recently, walking along the Scioto River looking for White-throated Sparrows, and perhaps a stray kinglet or two, we stumbled across some slightly larger birds.

Bald Eagles along the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam are always a real treat to see.

Take 2.

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At river’s edge, almost right below the eagles, a young male White-tail deer relaxed. It was apparently not too concerned about the eagles.

White Tail Deer, (Donna).

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The next day, hoping for additional photos of the eagles that were now nowhere to be found, Golden-crowned Kinglets seemed to be everywhere  .   .   .

Golden-crowned Kinglet, along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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.   .   .  along with a few of their close associates with the exception of “the sparrow”.

Male Downy woodpecker, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Male Bluebird, Griggs reservoir Park.

Yellow-rumped warblers continue to stick around enjoying the Poison Ivy Berries, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

“Must you take the picture when my mouths full and besides, I’m not a bird!” Red Squirrel, Griggs reservoir Park.

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A tree’s few remaining leaves seemingly slide a slippery slope to the ground.

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Wanting to check out a location not previously explored, we decided on Shale Hollow Park, one of Delaware County’s preservation parks. Blustery cold conditions made birding less than optimal, so while birds eluded us we did find something quiet different and no less interesting, concretions. Probably some of the best examples we’ve seen in central Ohio. For us it was proof once again that one should always be open to the wonder of the day.

For those that are curious, “A concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the surrounding strata. Concretions have long been regarded as geological curiosities. Because of the variety of unusual shapes, sizes and compositions, concretions have in the past been interpreted to be dinosaur eggs,  animal and plant fossils, extraterrestrial debris or human artifacts.” (Wikipedia)

 

Concretion, Shale Hallow Park, (Donna).

Two concretions that appear to have seen better days.

A concretion that may have been spherical at on time.

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In addition to concretions, with the coming of  wetter weather, there have been other things to appreciate.

Disclaimer: Fungi identifications represent our best effort.

Turkey-tail on log, Shale Hollow Park, (Donna).

Rusty Polypore, (Donna).

Shaggy Mane, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Witches Butter with fruiting lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Split-pore Polypore, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Emerging mushroom, Amanita muscaria var. guessowii, Shale Hollow Park.

Same as above but further along.

Pink polypore with lichen, (Donna).

Red leaf on Turkey Tail, Shale Hollow Park.

Radiating Phlebia on log, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Wood Ear, Griggs Reservoir Park

Another view.

On a fallen branch a, almost too small to see, mushroom pops up through some lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Late autumn sentinels along Griggs Reservoir.

The beautiful patterns of newly emerged Dryad’s Saddle, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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It’s often when least expected, near the end of a long hike, almost back to the car and too tired to care, that what we seek appears. Such was the case with the White-throated Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

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Some may wonder what the big deal is. Why is seeing a sparrow so meaningful? For many who spend time in nature the answer is simple; seeing a white-throated Sparrow brings expression to a sense of connectedness to a world much bigger than ourselves. We usually first hear and then see the sparrow and for the time is sees fit are in its presence. It in turn acknowledges us in its own unique way. This small, seemingly fragile, creature has travelled perhaps a thousand miles and during this brief fleeting moment we are part of each other’s world. Next summer if we look, we will not find it. It will again be further north engaged in its own dance to the cycle of life. This wonder graces our lives with the appearance of the first spring wildflowers, the larger than life sound of spring peepers, the spring migration of the many too beautiful to imagine warblers, the sight and sound of a distant summer thunderstorm, the call of the loon on a northern lake, the color of leaves as a low autumn sun filters the branches, and the slow quiet descent of  winter’s first snowflakes.

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Concretion, Shale Hollow Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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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.

Life In A Cemetary

It had been about a year since we visited Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve and Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve , so we thought a road trip was in order to see what we might find in the way of insects and other wildlife. Last year we had seen a number of hummingbirds at Bigelow so we thought that might be the case again. Unlike Bigelow, which is a very small plot of native prairie, Big Darby Headwaters is a much larger area and one we have only begun to explore. Repeated visits throughout the year would be best to get to know and really appreciate these areas. We usually have to satisfy ourselves with less.

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The first thing one notices upon arriving at Bigelow is how small it is, only about one half acre.  The initial thought is that such a small area shouldn’t take long to explore. An hour and a half later we left and could have easily stayed longer if the Big Darby Headwaters had not beckoned. The number of living things in this small area compared to the surrounding farm field monoculture was mind boggling.

Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery Preserve.

Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

The preferred direction.

A male Red-winged Blackbird seemed concerned about our presence. Perhaps a nest was nearby. Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Painted Lady butterflies were common at Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Take 2.

Take 3.

The cemetery is old by Ohio standards.

Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

A Monarch Butterfly made up for the fact that no hummingbirds were seen, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Donna takes aim on a wildflower, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

Gray Headed Cone Flowers and Royal Catchfly, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery.

White Campion (alien), Bigelow Pioneer Cemetary, (Donna).

Common Checkered Skipper, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

Stink Bug nymph, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

Familiar Bluet, Bigelow Pioneer Cemetery, (Donna).

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Having spent as much time as we thought we should at Bigelow, it was close to noon when we arrived at the Big Darby Headwaters. Usually not the best time of day to be out in nature.

A fair mount of habitat restoration was required to make the Big Darby Headwaters NP what it is today, (Donna).

The hiking trail in Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Calico Pennant Dragonfly, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

A Meadow Fritillary is joined by some of it’s closest friends on Butterfly Weed, Big Darby Headwaters.

Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Big Darby Headwaters.

A curious Song Sparrow looks on, Big Darby Headwaters.

Michigan Lily, Big Darby Headwaters.

Halloween Pennant, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Tall Bellflower, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Stream, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Depford Pink, Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

Looking for a bird, Big Darby Headwaters.

Big Darby Headwaters, (Donna).

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Over the past few days there’s been no shortage of things to see closer to home.

A male Bluebird watches, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Royal River Cruiser, a new dragonfly for us! O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Take 2.

Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Four-toothed Mason Wasp on Rattlesnake Master Flower, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

 

Coneflowers, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

 

Banded Longhorn Flower Beetles, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

Silver Spotted Skipper, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Female Eastern Pondhawk, Big Darby Headwaters.

Great Spangled Fritillary, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Jewelweed, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Eastern Amberwing, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Common Whitetail (F), Big Darby Headwaters.

Common Whitetail (M), O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

White Tail Deer, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

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Even in our backyard .   .   .

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

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I continue to think about the diversity and abundance of life at Bigelow. It may be reasonable to expect that if such places were more numerous or extensive such diversity and abundance might not be as noticeable as the creatures observed there would have more options. However, forgetting for a moment the pollution of the air and water due to human activities, it’s still hard not to wonder about the long term sustainability of the planet when so much acreage has been, and continues to be, developed. Once developed it often becomes just another barren monoculture which at best grows crops that feed us or worse becomes another woods or meadow roofed over for industry, commerce, or shelter, or paved over so that we can drive or park our cars. While more far-reaching solutions are undoubtedly necessary, in the short term planting more wildflowers in lieu of maintaining an extensive lawn might be worth our consideration.

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As always thanks for stopping by.

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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.

A Late Spring Celebration of Nature

Whether paddling or walking our explorations in the last week or so have been very close to home in Griggs Park and the reservoir. We hardly feel deprived. As the pictures below will attest, especially in the case of my wife, the closer you look the more you see.

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Some of the flowers we are now seeing will continue to bloom for most of the summer. Others will not. Part of the ever changing scene.

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Ox-eye Daises, (Donna), FZ200.

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Hairy Ruellia, (Donna), FZ200.

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Rough-fruited Cinquefoil, (Donna) FZ200

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Northern Catalpa, Griggs Park, FZ200.

 

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Along the shore of Griggs Reservoir the Blue Flag Iris continues to enchant, (Donna), FZ200.

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Goats Beard, (Donna), FZ200.

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Mushrooms, (Donna), FZ200.

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Some things seen have been unusual. Many thanks to New Hampshire Garden Solutions for help in identifying what was going on in the following pic, Elm Pouch Galls.

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Produced by aphids, Elm Pouch Galls rise from the upper leaf surface, Griggs Park, FZ200.

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While we are still hearing them, many birds choose to peer at us from behind the leaf cover so my wife has directed more of her attention to more cooperative subjects.

 

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Peck’s Skipper, (Donna), FZ200.

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Zebulon Skipper, (Donna), FZ200

 

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Bronze Copper, (Donna), FZ200

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Top view.

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Clouded Sulfur with a friend, (Donna), FZ200.

 

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

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A busy bee, Griggs Park, Canon 3ti, 18-135.

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Eastern Pondhawk (F), (Donna), FZ200.

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Widow Skimmer (F), (Donna), FZ200.

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Look even closer and you’ll see tiny insects with jewel like qualities.

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Stream Bluet, (Donna), FZ200.

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Stream Bluet (F)?, (Donna), FZ200.

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Powdered Dancer (M), (Donna), FZ200.

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Very small gold fly, (Donna), FZ200.

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Thankfully not all of our feathered friends were in hiding.

 

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Male Bluebird, Griggs Park, FZ200.

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Kingbird, Griggs Park, FZ200.

 

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Robin, Griggs Park, ZS50.

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We haven’t had much luck getting a close pic so far this year but we did catch the male Baltimore Oriole along the Scioto below Griggs Dam,  ZS50.

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What were these White-breasted Nuthatches doing? ZS50.

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Fledglings! along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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With so many beautiful Great Blue Herons along the reservoir so it hard to resist taking a picture, Canon 60D sigma 150-500.

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We watched this Great Blue Heron for some time as he struggled and went through all kinds of contortions but never did see him swallow the poor fish which by heron standards wasn’t all that large, ZS50.

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As we walk along park path, just overhead a Turkey Vulture sizes us up, “Still Moving, @?%#!!!”, ZS50

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Mother Mallard with baby along Griggs Reservoir, FZ200.

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An Osprey watches as we paddle by, north end of Griggs Reservoir, Canon 60D, sigma 150-500.

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A Red-tailed Hawk does likewise, Canon 60D, sigma 150-500.

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And a few other creatures too.

 

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Sunfish, sometimes what a fish lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. This little fella went swimming right after the pic, Griggs Reservoir, Canon SD850.

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A turtle convention along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam, ZS50.

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Looking like somewhere in northern Michigan a deer crosses the Scioto north of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna), FZ200.

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Not seen as often as Map Turtles and Red-eared Sliders, we were excited to see two Painted Turtles enjoying the sun along the Griggs Reservoir shore, (Donna), FZ200.

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Sometimes it’s good to just step back and admire it all from a distance.

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North end of Griggs reservoir, FZ200

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Thanks for stopping by.

In Full Bloom

Recently I decided a paddle on our local reservoir was in order and needing some exercise why not make it a lengthy one covering several miles. When on such an adventure it’s best to stay fairly close to shore because that’s where all the interesting stuff seems to be.

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I had the place to pretty much to myself. Of course in the city there is always a few floating plastic bottles to pick up.

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On a quiet morning or afternoon it doesn’t take long for things to appear:

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Whitetail deer look out from the shore.

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Turtles (Red-eared Sliders) try to warm up in the meager morning sun.

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A Spotted Sandpiper, beautiful from any angle.

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Spotted Sandpiper

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The reservoir has some unique features which are home to one of Ohio’s most beautiful flowers.

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Several areas in the reservoir have small cliffs which are home to Columbine.

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Columbine

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A closer look.

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Seeing the Columbine always puts the exclamation mark on spring but in recent days walks along the reservoir shore have also been rewording.

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Redbud

 

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Dryad’s Saddle

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False Solomon’s Seal

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Flowering Buckeye

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A beautiful cluster of Golden Ragwort

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Revisiting a favorite scene at the very north end of the reservoir.

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A few birds have also posed for photographs, some while in the middle of a meal.

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Palm Warbler

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Green Heron

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Tree Swallow

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Wait, I’m not quite ready!

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Baltimore Oriole

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on nest.

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Cooper’s Hawk with lunch.

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No sharing here.

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Along residential streets near home spring was in evidence everywhere.

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Buckeye flowering

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Dandelion’s gone to seed beautiful in their own way. Probably doesn’t make much difference but I’m glad this guy doesn’t live next door!

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Dogwood.

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Spring in full bloom, at the peak of it’s celebration, is sometimes a bit overwhelming but that’s probably a good problem to have.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Speaking With A Soft Voice


In recent days we’ve found ourselves visiting some of the usual places as well as making another trip the Clifton Gorge for a hike with friends. The gorge trip was interesting because, unlike our last visit, the day was cloudy and different light often means different photographic possibilities! Whether along the gorge or closer to home, we’re always on the lookout for things that interest us, some of which might even be worth sharing in a blog. Sometimes we’re not the only ones looking.

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A Raccoon watches as we walk along the Scioto River

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From a creative point of view this time of year, as colors start to fade, can be a challenge. Taking pictures just for the sake of taking a pictures, or trying to make a good picture of a subject that doesn’t really draw you in, has never been of much interest to me. The subject needs to speak to me in some way and in November it’s often with a very soft voice.

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Reflections on the last few leaves

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While on our recent gorge hike, it was fun to explore landscapes similar to those photographed a few weeks ago. What had changed? While exploring on cloudy days one often notices that photos taken come out of the camera “muddy”. With that in mind, contrast or saturation are often increased just a bit so the finished picture reflects what was “seen”.

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The Little Miami, similar to a shot posted a few weeks ago but this time with a cloudy sky.

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A few weeks ago

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This method of crossing the Little Miami works fine unless there’s been a big rain.

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Pillars along the Little Miami. A cloudy day means good detail in the shadows and river.

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Same spot a few weeks ago. Quite a bit of work was done in “Lightroom” to try and bring out shadow and river details as well as to address blown out highlights.

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Fallen leaves along the gorge. Notice how the shadows are well controlled. But on cloudy days just don’t have your heart set on a beautiful picture of the sky.

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Another comparison from a few weeks ago, which do you like better?

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The gang on one of the bridges over the Little Miami.

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Cliffs along the gorge. The lack of deep shadows allows one to enjoy the colors, as none are blown out, as well as textures and the underlying design.

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Through the trees.

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Trail along the Little Miami, (Donna).

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Water starts to pool as it leaves the gorge.

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In a few places color persists.

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Contrasts.

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Flowers persist long after you would think they’d be gone.

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Tall Bellflower, (Donna)

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Our friends in the world of fungi seem to like the cooler. damper, weather, bringing their color to an increasing drab landscape.

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Fungi, (Donna)

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Colorful fungi, (Donna).

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Whether we were walking or paddling, there were places where things looked pretty bleak so expectations for seeing critters aren’t real high, but .   .   .

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Male Kingfisher along Griggs Reservoir. They never seem to let us get close enough for a really good shot.

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Hunting season, not to worry we’re in the middle of the city.

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Common but beautiful. Under very dramatic but harsh light.

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The November morning sun warms Red-eared Sliders on Griggs Reservoir.

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It had been a very quiet outing but at on point during a recent walk along the Scioto River we were descended upon by a noisy group of Carolina Wrens.

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Take two.

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Always reliable this time of year, Downy Woodpeckers weren’t far away.

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This male Blue Bird seemed content to just sit and enjoy the late autumn sun, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Warm days in early November mean we’ve continued to see a few butterflies.

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Buckeye, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Along the trail near Clifton Gorge.

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Door Hinge

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Maybe the trick is to let go of expectations and allow yourself to hear the voice of each season. Even when it speaks very softly.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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***

“Up North” in Michigan

Every year for the past ten or so we’ve travelled from central Ohio to the northeast part of Michigan’s lower peninsula for a few days of “catch and release” fishing.

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Devoe Lake, (Keith)

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Although certainly providing it’s own challenges and excitement, it not so much about the fishing as just being there. We’re “Up North” after all, a special place for many of us who grew up further south.

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Ready to launch, showing rod setup and remotely actuated “fish cam”, Devoe Lake

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Jimmy fishing, Devoe Lake

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Looks like a promising area, Devoe Lake, (Keith)

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Jeff with a nice LM Bass caught using a Wacky Rig, (Keith)

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AuSable River SM Bass using a gold Rapala, “fish cam”.

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“Up North” magic; perhaps it’s a quiet misty morning with a distant Loon’s call or the long trail of  splashes as it slowly accelerates running, flying, then finally, after what seems like way to long, breaking the water’s hold. At night it may be the call of a Barred Owl or the laugh of a coyote. Unlike past years, this year the Whippoorwills were quiet as the sky darkened just after sunset, replaced later by the silent flashes of light from the Perseid meteor shower.

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Various wildflowers grace the shore of Devoe Lake

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A Green Heron watches as a fisherman’s cast breaks the water’s surface.

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A Loon swims close to the canoe, Devoe Lake

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Then a pair follow suit, Devoe Lake.

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Deer watch curiously along the shore, Devoe Lake.

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A small island provide a welcome place for a break, Devoe Lake.

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As if from an upstream lake or adjacent woods, magic finds it’s way to the river, it’s clear water flowing silently over sand and smooth rocks, interrupted occasionally by green.

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Launching on the Rifle River

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Dead Ash trees along the river caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.

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Late afternoon on the Rifle River

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Jim and Keith on the Rifle River.

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Rifle River tunnel.

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Occasionally an insect or a flower becomes the magic, seemingly more vivid and clear than it would be nearer to home.

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Along the Rifle River, a female White-faced Meadowhawk perches, seemingly unperturbed, as we launch our canoes.

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A closer look.

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Hard to miss, a bright slime mold on forest leaf litter, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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Lobelia kalmia, Brook lobelia, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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Joe-Pye Weed, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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Turtlehead, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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In the middle of the lake a Vesper Bluet damselfly finds the canoe.

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A closer look.

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Late in the day, the wind gone, the lake’s surface creates a canvas of light, shadow, and sky.

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Reflections, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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Near sunset, Devoe Lake, Rifle River Rec Area, MI.

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Racing the storm, Devoe Lake, (Keith}

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Illusion, Devoe Lake

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Again we are left with memories that sustain imagination and dreams until next year’s trip north.

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Camp, Devoe Lake Rustic Campground

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Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Wonder at Griggs Reservoir

Spring is a wonderful time of year. It seems that nature is in it’s most generous mood. “New” arrives everyday whether it’s in the form of a bird, flower, or other creature. Places that may seem ordinary later in the year are magically transformed by this new life. Even for those of us that spend large amounts of time walking in the woods or paddling along rivers, this time each year is no less fascinating.  This is certainly the case for a special place to us, Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River just below the dam, which is not far from our home. For those of you that follow this blog you know we write about this place often. Residents of central Ohio probably know where it is, for all others, it’s located right within the city limits of Columbus, Ohio. For us, this fact greatly contributes to the magic.

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In an attempt to document this magic, the photos below are a record of some things seen  over the last two weeks.

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 Common Red-breasted Mergansers along the Scioto River.

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Can’t help but think these Red-breasted Mergansers (corrected per reader comment) should be further north by now, (Donna)

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The early spring wildflowers are gone but others have taken their place.

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Dame’s Rocket, Griggs Park, (Donna)

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Appendaged Waterleaf along the Scioto, (Donna)

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Wild Stonecrop along the reservoir, (Donna)

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Golden Alexander along the Scioto River, (Donna)

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.   .   .   and one of the more unique late spring wildflowers has appeared on the low cliffs along the reservoir.

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Wild Columbine along the reservoir

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Wild Columbine typically grows on vertical rock faces.

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A good selection of reptiles have also been observed.

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Red Eared Slider, Griggs Reservoir

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Northern Water Snake, Griggs Reservoir

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Eastern Spiny Soft Shell, Griggs Reservoir

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On one of our paddles, two deer look on as we glide by.

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Whitetail Deer along the shore, Griggs Reservoir, (Donna)

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Then there are the birds.

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Tree Swallow, north end of Griggs Reservoir (Donna)

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Prothonotary below the dam, (Donna)

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Prothonotary, below the dam.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers continue to be a common sighting below the dam.

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Singing Baltimore Oriole (male) along the Scioto River below the dam, (Donna)

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, below the dam.

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Here till the fall Cedar Waxwings have finally made an appearance, Griggs Park.

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Cedar Waxwing

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There are mothers and fathers with babies.

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Canada Geese share the parenting responsibilities, Griggs Reservoir

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 But among the birds, the real treat is the return of mating pairs of Wood Ducks.

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Wood Ducks on the Scioto River below the dam.

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Wood Ducks, Griggs Reservoir

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The female Wood Duck has to have good parenting skills because she’s on her own, Griggs Reservoir cove.

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Not to long after mating the Male Wood Duck will be hard to find, Griggs Reservoir cove.

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.   .   .   and it’s all happening so close to our home! What’s happening close to yours?

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One of the coves popular with Wood Ducks on Griggs Reservoir. The rock faces in the background are a typical location for Wild Columbine.

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Hope you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by.

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