August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

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.

A First Sighting

Each year it’s a happy time when we again realize that while increased leaf cover and more secretive nesting behavior may make birds harder to observe other beautiful and fascinating things have taken their place. The other things that enchant, as we explore area parks, are the butterflies and dragonflies.

These creatures are a lot like small birds in the sense that you must get close up and personal in order to really appreciate them. At a distance they look like just another LBFI. For starters an essential tool is a pair of close focus binoculars, minimum focus distance of 6 – 7 ft. If you are like me that may soon give way to the desire to photograph them either as an aid to identification or for the record. That’s when you really start to notice how fascinating and beautiful they are. The next thing you may notice is their behavior like the pond surface tapping of a female dragonfly depositing eggs or the unique flight patterns of various butterflies. The more you observe and learn the more enchanting it all becomes.

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Dragonfly heaven, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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That’s not to say that we’ve given up on the birds. During recent insect outing I was hoping for a good shot of an Indigo Bunting but the one seen was just a little too far away.

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Again too far away for a good picture but it is an Indigo Bunting.

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A few other birds were a little closer.

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A Brown Thrasher plays hide and seek in the leaf cover.

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Certainly not trying to hide, this singing Protonotary Warbler was amazing hard to find but once spotted hard to ignore. It’s cavity nest wasn’t far from this perch.

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Gradually as we work our way through June the bulk of nature’s activity increasingly revolves around the insects. A major menu item for many of the now stealthier birds, it’s impossible to ignore them while exploring areas such as Darby Bend Lakes in Prairie Oaks Metro Park. On a recent outing dragonflies and damselflies seemed to be everywhere and was made all the more exciting when a dragonfly that my wife spotted turned out to be the first recorded sighting in central Ohio!

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Double-striped Bluet, (Donna).

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Smaller than a Halloween Pennant a beautiful Calico Pennant poses for the camera.

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Damselflies often are seen flying among the leaves of low lying bushes making them easy prey for the orb weaver spider.

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Female Blue-ringed Dancer

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Damselflies can be friendly.

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Powdered Dancer

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Blue-fronted Dancer.

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Male Ebony Jewelwing, (Donna).

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Halloween Pennant

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Mating Halloween Pennants.

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Female Widow Skimmer

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A male Widow Skimmer dining on what appears to be a damselfly.

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Male Eastern Pondhawk

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One of the larger, but very common, dragonflies this female Eastern Pondhawk dines on a small insect, (Donna).

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Fawn Darner

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The Swift Setwing is one of the larger dragonflies and this sighting was the first recorded in central Ohio. Over the past few years it has slowly been working it’s way north perhaps due to such factors as global warming, (Donna)

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Butterfly Weed

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And as if the dragonflies weren’t enough during the past few weeks we’ve been treated to sightings of an amazing variety of other insects. So much so, that at times it was a bit overwhelming!

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The medium size Eastern Comma Butterfly.

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Eastern Comma another view, (Donna).

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The medium size Great Spangled Fritillary, (Donna).

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Another view of the Great Spangled Fritillary.

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Virginia Ctenucha Moth

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Red Admiral.

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On a warm day the medium size Hackberry Emperor often lands on exposed skin to take advantage of the goodies in ones perspiration.

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The beautiful marking on the underside of the Hackberry Emperor’s wings.

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Monarch Butterfly.

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A Monarch Butterfly shows the underside of it’s wings.

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As far as we can remember this is the first time we’ve seen a Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

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A very rare view of the top side of the very small female Eastern-tailed Blue Butterflies wings, (Donna).

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A very common medium sized Orange Sulfur Butterfly.

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Sometimes it’s hard to believe your eyes, such was the case a number of years ago when we saw our first hummingbird moth. We continue to be amazed.

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Snowberry Clearwing Moth, Donna

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Another view, (Donna).

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Pearl Crescent, a common, beautiful, but smaller butterfly, (Donna).

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Duskywing, a fast flying smaller butterfly.

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The Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly is one of the larger skippers that we’ve observed to have an rather fearless attitude toward other flying insects. (Donna).

 

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A Hoverfly pollenates on a Black-eyed Susan.

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A very small long legged fly taxes the closeup capability of a Tamron 18-400 mm zoom.

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Recently not far from our house we were thrilled to see Michigan Lilies in bloom

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It’s always hard to know when to stop as there are always more pictures that could be part of the post based on their merit. However, realizing that the photographer is usually more excited about pictures taken than those looking at them I’ve decided to show some compassion and stop here. At the very least I hope this post inspire nature lovers to get out and take a closer look and find that which enchants.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Hey wait, what about me!

 

 

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