. . . With A Little help From Our Friends,

Yesterday, at a park near our home on a rather nondescript winter day, we ushered out 2020 with a little help from our friends. These friends have been reliable companions through a difficult year, but on the year’s last day, or perhaps because it was the year’s last day, their importance hit home more forcefully. There is no need to reflect on the love that develops between a person and their pet as most of us have known that. However, to experience a similar connection with creatures that make a living in the environment of trees, brush, fields, and waterways that surround us, owing us nothing, is truly special. Some days, as we walk, their numbers may be less, and the cast of characters may vary, but with their often cheerful dispositions and curious antics they are always there. For just a moment in time we celebrate the shared experience of life.

Downy Woodpeckers are common winter residents in central Ohio,

There are always Mallards but in December we’ve also been fortunate to see Hooded Mergansers on a regular basis along the Scioto River.

The White-throated Sparrow is a favorite winter friend,

A few days ago we spotted Sandhill Cranes heading south. On that day there were numerous sightings around the city.

Song Sparrow.

In the past week we’ve enjoyed numerous Hermit Thrush sightings along the Scioto River.

It was a good December for Brown Creeper sightings.

We can always count on hearing, then seeing, Carolina Wrens.

Numerous pairs of Eastern Bluebirds occupy Griggs Reservoir Park in the winter. There almost electric blue never fails to put a smile on our face.

As long as there’s open water the Great Blue Herons will be busy.

On quiet cloudy mornings Bald Eagles can be seen along Griggs Reservoir.

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Wishing everyone all the best for the coming year. One where time spent with friends and family again becomes the norm.

Woods along Griggs Reservoir.

 

 

A Unlikely Door

Opening the door this time of year and venturing out into nature isn’t something most of us feel compelled to do. The landscape certainly doesn’t perk one’s curiosity. The wildlife that may be seen, which includes birds for the most part, have often migrated further south.

Along the Scioto River the landscape begs for a blanket of snow.

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However, with it’s lack of leaf cover, the landscape offers one good reason to pass through the door and see what’s still in the neighborhood or what may have moved in from further north. With their endearing behavior and colors that are often a cheerful contrast to their surroundings, birds are a welcome part of the December woods.

A resident all year long in Griggs Reservoir Park, the Carolina Wren’s song and chatter are especially welcome this time of year, (Donna).

Typically the only heron to hang around through the winter, the Great Blue is always a welcome sight along the Scioto River, (Donna).

A winter visitor from the north, the Dark-eyed Junco usually moves in small flocks and typically stays close to the ground. A fun bird to watch, (Donna).

A year round resident that’s always up to something, this Red-bellied Woodpecker has apparently found something to it’s liking, (Donna).

Another visitor from the north, this Tree Sparrow is an easy one to miss, (Donna).

The White-breasted Nuthatch arguably adds more cheer to the winter woods than any other bird, (Donna).

The immediately recognizable White-crowned Sparrow is another visitor from the north, (Donna).

Seen more often than the White-crowned, the the White-throated Sparrow is another sparrow we look for this time of the year, (Donna).

Assuming a graceful pose, a Ring-billed Gull preens on Griggs Reservoir.

Griggs Reservoir Park squirrels beware, this Red-tailed hawk is on the hunt.

In recent years, with the increase in the Catbird population, Mocking Birds have become a rare sight in central Ohio. Seeing this one was a real treat.

Carolina Chickees in Griggs Reservoir Park are always a delight.

Sometimes solitary and sometimes in a group of titmouse and chickadees the Downy Woodpecker is hard to ignore.

American Cardinals are abundant in Griggs Reservoir Park near our home.

As if out of nowhere a Brown Creeper suddenly appears. These birds may be present in the summer months but leaf cover makes them much harder to find.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are not seen as often a some of the other central Ohio woodpeckers. This view would have been obscured by leaves in the summer.

Year-round residents in Griggs Reservoir Park, Eastern Bluebirds also bring joy to the December landscape.

With a beautiful song, Song Sparrows are a year-round resident but are pretty quiet this time of year.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is another migrant from the north. I had to content myself with a feeder picture of this one at a Greenlawn Cemetery.

Ice covered waterways further north have brought waterfowl south. In a local flooded quarry these Buffleheads were no exception.

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In recent days some really special birds have graced us with their presence.

Not far from our home an American Kestrel makes it’s it’s home in a nondescript area of tall grass, brush, and trees adjacent to a quarry.

Just close enough for a decent picture

Perhaps the most noteworthy was a immature Snowy Owl that had travelled from the north country to hang out in central Ohio. They typically eat voles, lemmings, and other small rodents as well as birds so a shortage of such goodies further north is undoubtedly the reason for the visit. Seeing one this close to Columbus is rare.

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Time spent in nature seldom disappoints. The observant eye will always find something that inspires and rewards. One only needs to open the door.

Graced with a light blanket of snow.

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Thanks for stopping by.

With A Little Help From . . .

We are blessed to enjoy nature and this usually results in not being around a lot of people. A perfect combination for these times. Spring is the season of new life whether it be the young leaves and flowers of a buckeye tree, or the sometimes almost frantic activity of nesting and migrating birds. One day last week, along a wooded park road at waters edge, there seemed to be colorful “missiles” flying everywhere. In that moment, with the smell of spring flowers and a backdrop of surrounding tree green luminescence, it was hard not to feel the warm embrace and the affirmation of being part of something that is much more.

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So with a little help from our friends, be they butterflies, birds, wildflowers or trees, we are invited into a world that to our peril is too often ignored. But to work it’s magic, it demands that we be in the moment, pay attention with intention, and extend our curiosity beyond it’s usual realm. At first, we may find our curiosity stunted because, equipped with little knowledge, our imagination of what lies beyond the next “mountain” is limited. Finding the answer to that first small question may start a journey that informs and empowers in ways never imagined and that far outreach the original field of inquiry.

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In the spring birds are endlessly foraging for food in trees and in low lying brush. What in the world are they all eating? Observing bird behavior, particularly Baltimore orioles as they work over buckeye flowers, coupled with additional research reveals the answer. In the spring birds, including warblers, obtain nutrition from tree buds and the edible parts of flowers including their nectar in addition to insects. Could this be one of the reasons that the orioles like the park near our home with it’s numerous buckeye trees? Within limits, don’t look for a common yellow-throat in the top of a tall tree, most migrating birds find suitable food in a variety locations.

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So below are some birds that have brought a dimension to life in our humble city park that will not be there in a few weeks. In doing so they have expanded our awareness of life that goes far beyond our current cares.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park (GRP)

Take 2, GRP.

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Male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Duranceau Park (DP)

Male courting display, DP.

The female looks curious, DP.

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Chestnut-sided Warbler, GRP.

Another view, GRP.

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Male Indigo Bunting, GRP. Could we be so fortunate that it would nest in the park?

Take 2, GRP.

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Male Baltimore Oriole, GRP. Baltimore Orioles build many nests in the park.

Another angle, GRP.

Immature male, GRP.

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Palm Warbler, GRP.

Singing, GRP.

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Pine Warbler, DP.

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Male American Redstart, GRP.

Another view, GRP, (Donna).

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Tree Swallows are hear for the season, GRP.

Male and female, GRP.

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Barn Swallow, GRP, (Donna).

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Northern Parula Warbler, GRP.

Another look, GRP.

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Blue-headed Vireo, GRP, (Donna).

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Warbling Vireo, GRP.

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White-eyed Vireo, GRP, (Donna).

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Yellow Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Blue-winged Warbler, DP, (Donna).

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Black and White Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Yellow-throated Warbler, GRP.

Take 2, GRP, (Donna).

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White-crowned Sparrow, GRP.

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White-throated Sparrow, GRP, (Donna).

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Magnolia Warbler, GRP.

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Prothonotary Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Scarlet Tanager, DP.

Take 2, DP.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, GRP.

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The Great-crested Flycatcher nest in the park, GRP.

Northern- Flickers also nest in the park, GRP.

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Tufted Titmouse are a year round resident, GRP, (Donna).

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As are Downy Woodpeckers, GRP, (Donna)

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House Wren, GRP, (Donna).

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Catbirds are also a summer long resident, GRP.

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Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, DP, (Donna).

Female, GRP, (Donna).

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Mallard family, GRP, (Donna).

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We hope that this post finds you in good health and that in this season of new life and rebirth, you find your celebration.

Chipmunk

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Thanks for stopping by.

Celebrating The Season

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I wished for a white Christmas and hoped the snow, with periodic additions of fresh whiteness, would stick around until spring. While my wish was never completely realized, being 150 miles north of where I live now, winter was a more satisfying if not tiring experience.

(Images may be clicked on for a better view)

The low December light pierces the open canopy revealing patterns in leaves and the geometry of trees and river.

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A few days ago, we woke up to a light covering of white. We rushed down to our local city park before too many foot steps marred it’s beauty. Now, despite colder temperatures, the snow is mostly gone, the victim of wind and sublimation. Winters are like that in central Ohio. Cold temperatures, when they come, often leave the dry, naked, and shivering landscape wishing for a warm white blanket. But while not a paradise for lovers of snow, for those willing to venture out and look carefully, this time of year provides an opportunity to enjoy a subtle beauty and be entertained by creatures making this place their winter home.

With snow, the forms of water and trees becomes sublime.

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It was very faint but unmistakable. You know how woodpeckers can be. Looking up into branches in the adjacent woods, it seemed hopeless. How about just looking for dead branches  .   .   .

Working on a warm winter home?

A female Downy works away.

. . . as the male goofs off on a nearby branch.

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Quiet early winter morning along the Scioto.

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One advantage to living in an area subject to cold temperatures, but with little snow, is that ice is free to express itself.

Small icicles and patterns in ice.

Interesting shapes form as river levels recede, (Donna).

Near the river, a small frozen pool, and solstice ice.

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In the summer we don’t notice as many Eastern Bluebirds, a gift of the colder months?

Male Eastern Bluebird, (Donna).

Taking flight.

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Not far from their downriver nest, Bald Eagles are seen more often along the reservoir this time of year.

Perched across the reservoir and too far away for a really good shot..

Doing it’s best to avoid a photograph.

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At river’s edge, the roots of a sycamore struggle to maintain their hold.

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With the reservoir frozen, a pair of Hooded Mergansers were spotted in the open water of the river just below the dam. Eventually, if the reservoir stays ice covered, they will be joined by Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and other waterfowl not commonly seen in the area.

Hooded Mergansers on the Scioto River.

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These images were taken before realizing that the White-breasted Nuthatch it was eating lichen. An unexpected revelation.

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A quick look through the binoculars revealed it to be a Mockingbird which was a real treat as we couldn’t remember the last time one was seen in the park   .   .   .  then, one very average photo, and it was gone.

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There are a countless number of American Robins in the park this time of year. They are everywhere, and with their antics provide endless entertainment.

***, (Donna).

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Brown Creepers are not easy to spot. Sometimes their faint call is heard before they are seen. Their erratic movement make them a difficult subject to photograph.

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While working on a dead branch, this male red-bellied woodpecker really showed off it’s red head.

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Other local residents, as will as migrants from the north, have also entertained us in the last few days.

Tufted-titmouse, (Donna).

Carolina Chickadee, (Donna).

White-throated Sparrows can be found in Ohio in the winter but call the forests across Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the northern Midwest their summer home.

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A fox squirrel ran up the tree and hid just as I walked up causing my wife to miss a “good” picture. She had to make due with the image below.

***, (Donna).

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Winter along the Scioto River.

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This morning while standing in front of our church greeting incoming worshipers, a ruby-crowned kinglet flew into a nearby evergreen, paused for a moment as if to look my way, then flew off. Enchanted by what was an unusual occurrence, I had an extra big smile for the next group of parishioners. In nature the usual can also become enchanting, and in that enchantment, we may lose ourselves and in doing so find that we have become part of something much greater.  We wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

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Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

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Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

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While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

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It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

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There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

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It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

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Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

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November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

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In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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