An Uncommon Loon

During a recent rough and windy late May paddle in central Ohio we were excited by the sighting of an immature Common Loon. This is the first time we’d seen one while paddling in Ohio. Usually they’ve moved north by the time we get the canoe in the water so this one was a bit of a mystery. On this particular day our goal had been to see warblers while exploring the reservoir’s quiet coves but the wind put a damper on that effort. Fortunately there were other things to see.

Common Loon, Alum Creek Reservoir north of Cheshire Rd, (Donna).

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In one cove after a little exploring on foot a relatively new Beaver lodge and dam were discovered.

Beaver Lodge, Alum Creek State Park.

A beaver lodge resident, Kentucky Flat Millipede.

Beaver Dam, Alum Creek State Park.

.   .   .  and yes we did get one very average picture of a Yellow Warbler near the beaver dam.

Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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A little further on a mother Wood Duck did her best to distract us from her babies.

Female Wood Duck, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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The outing’s best bird pictures were taken by my wife at the end of the day while I put the canoe on the roof of the car.

Eastern Towhee, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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The season moves on and with it the ever increasing activity of butterflies and dragonflies. New adventures await.

Female Common Whitetail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Thanks for stopping by.

***

We didn’t see them all, but . . .

this spring the warbler migrants have been as enchanting as ever. While the mix of birds that pass through our area is undoubtedly fairly consistent from year to year what we end up seeing isn’t. There is always a little frustration when a favorite bird doesn’t present itself in our local park especially when they were almost impossible to miss the year before. With many birds having come and gone, and others now much harder to see and photograph due to the increased leaf cover, we thought it would be a good time to showcase some that were seen.

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One doesn’t always have to travel far. One morning, after hearing it’s call, we found a Chestnut-sided Warbler in our front yard.

Chestnut-sided warbler on it’s way north.

2.

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At our local park, sometimes not more than a few yards from each other, my wife might see a bird that I would miss completely. A persistent call helps, but unless one detects movement the often brightly marked birds can be hard to spot.

Black & White warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park.

With a small insect.

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Blackpoll warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

2. (Donna).

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Yellow warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Still further from home others were seen along Alum Creek Reservoir and the south shore of Lake Erie at Magee Marsh.

Yellow warbler, Magee Marsh.

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Blackburnian warbler, Magee Marsh, (Donna).

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Prothonotary warbler seen while canoeing the north end of Alum Creek Reservoir.

2.

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Magnolia warbler, Magee Marsh.

2. (Donna).

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Northern Parula warbler, Magee Marsh.

2.

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***

In our local park, in addition to the warblers other birds have been active and hard to ignore.

Red-eyed Vireo, Griggs Reservoir Park.

2. (Donna).

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Probably just passing through a Swainson’s thrush peeks out from behind a small branch, Griggs Reservoir Park.

2.

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Blue-headed Vireo, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Great Crested Flycatcher, Griggs Reservoir Park.

2.

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A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak is seen at Griggs Reservoir Park and appears to be nesting in the area.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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Cedar Waxwing also nest in Griggs Reservoir Park .   .   .

2.

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as does this male Red-winged Blackbird.

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Seen more often in the winter this Hooded Merganser enjoys the morning sun along the Scioto River just below the Griggs Reservoir Dam .   .   .

then commences to tidy up.

3.

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***

Wildflowers also continue to enchant and never fail to provide strong competition for our attention.

Wild Columbine along the rock faced shore of Griggs Reservoir.

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While we will continue to see warblers for the next week or so it’s always a bit of a let down when one senses that spring migration is coming to an end. True, one can travel north and see birds but as nesting activities begin in earnest things become quieter and the birds more secretive.

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But for this year in this writers eyes the gift has been given. It is the realization once again that we are part of a sacred world of diversity and wonder and no more noble, important, or worthy than the warblers that are also part of earth’s fabric of life and grace our lives each spring as they make they way north to continue the cycle.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Spring along the Scioto River.

 

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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<<< >>>

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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.

 

 

A Spring Day At Magee Marsh

It was mid morning, sunny, the gentle lake breeze was cool, but warmed by the sun we felt energized. That was a good thing because the two and a half hour drive from Columbus had left us feeling just a little lethargic. It was our annual visit to Maggee Marsh in search of migrating warblers and we had just arrived at the parking lot adjacent to the boardwalk. Once in the refuge, located along the south shore of Lake Erie, we had made our way toward the lake on a very straight two lane road bordered by wetlands. On the ground and overhead a welcoming committee of more than the usual number of Great Egrets, a generous smattering of Great Blue Herons, a Snowy Egret, as well some of the other usual suspects, had greeted us. Near the lake, high in a Cottonwood, an active eagle’s nest could be seen. It felt like it was going to be a good day in birders paradise!

One of many Great Egrets seen.

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On this particular morning, as I hoisted my heavy camera over my shoulder, I couldn’t help thinking it would be nice to enlist all my senses and just be there with only binoculars in hand. But you never know what might be seen so better take the camera. After all, it’s a tool that does allow one to better tell stories and that’s good. However, when it’s pressed against my face I’m removed from the experience I seek to capture, caught up in the details (see PS: below) of taking a reasonable photograph of an object that refuses to sit still among what seems like an infinite number of twigs, leaves, and branches. Sometime it might really be nice just to hang out with these little guys. Besides, it’s not like there’s a shortage of excellent photos on the web of almost any bird you could imagine. However, I’m not quite there yet, so with the camera in hand the internal debate goes on.

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In the spring the area acts as a stop off point for migrating warblers as they pause to rest and wait for a favorable wind to carry them north across the lake to summer breeding grounds. The boardwalk, right along the lake with wetlands to the south, winds it’s way through a wet low lying area with numerous tall trees, including many Cotton Woods, and plenty of bushes and other ground cover that warblers as well as other birds seem to enjoy. This makes them especially easy to see.

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In past years we’ve gotten a fairly early start and have seen birds in the morning but our experience has been that things don’t really get cranked up until the afternoon. Such was the case on this trip. After lunch a lot more birds were seen. It may have something to do with temperature as it did warm up considerably as the day progressed.

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Ruby Crowned Kinglets were everywhere. That was the case throughout the day.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Take 2.

Take 3.

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The Yellow Warblers were also hard to miss.

Yellow Warbler

Take 2.

Take 3.

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As the day went on we saw other birds. We were especially excited to see Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Take 2.

Take 3.

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Palm Warblers were numerous.

Palm Warbler

Take 2.

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A Cape May Warbler proved a challenge to photograph.

Cape May Warbler.

Take 2.

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One of Ohio’s most commonly seen warblers made it’s presence known.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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Looking more like a thrush than a warbler, it was great to see a, not often seen, Ovenbird.

Ovenbird

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We did also see a thrush.

Swainson’s Thrush, (Donna).

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Catbirds made a good showing along the boardwalk.

Catbird

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Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were also trying to get our attention.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher high in a tree, (Donna).

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A Tree Swallow was seen at it’s nesting cavity.

Tree Swallow

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White-throated Sparrows were hard to ignore in the low underbrush.

White-throated Sparrow.

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Not far from the boardwalk Solitary Sandpipers were busy foraging for food.

Solitary Sandpiper

Take 2.

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Along one of the canals, and partially hidden by low lying foliage, several Green Herons were spotted.

Tinged the green by a nearby leaf this shot captured a Green Heron waiting for lunch, (Donna).

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At the opposite end of the spectrum from the kinglets, Bald Eagles were getting on with their life.

Bald Eagle watches it’s nest, one of two in the immediate area. (Donna).

Eagle chick testing it’s wings while the other seems to be taking cover.

Exercise session over, the other chick pops up.

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Despite the grand reception as we entered the refuge, we didn’t see as many warbler species as in past years. However, there were still plenty of birds. While photographs were obviously taken, enough time was an spent listening and looking, as the fragrance of flowering bushes occasionally wafting past on the cool lake breeze, that I was there and not just behind the camera lens.

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PS: On a technical note, many of the photos taken on this trip were blurry or overexposed to the point of not being usable.  A few could be salvaged through post processing. After arriving home exposure compensation was found to be set at +1.3 EV and aperture had somehow been bumped to f13 for at least part of the time. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve taken a picture but I got lazy. Always check your settings and double check them throughout the day.

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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.

 

 

In Full Swing

Walking in Griggs Park near our home in recent days has been a real treat. We are always debating what is our favorite season but right now we’re thinking it’s spring!  The movement of migrating warblers and other birds through central Ohio seems to be in full swing but increasing in leaf cover in the last week is starting to make spotting them at little more difficult.

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A good Mom!, Mallard babies, Griggs Park.

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The Columbine bloom is also in full swing along the reservoir cliffs, Griggs Park

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Prothonotary warblers continue to entertain, Griggs Park.

IMG_4832

Prothonotary warbler, Griggs Park.

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We’ve seem several Scarlet Tanagers in Griggs Park in the past few days..

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Spring color across the river below Griggs Dam.

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Eastern-tailed Blue , Griggs Park, (Donna).

P1270537

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Griggs Park, (Donna)

Cedar Waxwing 1 LL 1 best 1 051016 Griggs cp1

Cedar Waxwing, Griggs Park, (Donna).

IMG_4866crop

Cedar Waxwing with something to say, Griggs Park.

IMG_4844

Eastern Wood Pewee, Griggs Park.

IMG_4848

Fleabane

IMG_4878

Yellow Warbler, Griggs Park.

IMG_4914

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher giving us the eye, Griggs Park.

IMG_4927

Blue-gray being serious, Griggs Park.

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Blue-gray being cute, Griggs Park, (Donna).

Mushroom family 1 best 1 051016 Griggs cp1

Recent rainy weather means plenty of mushroom families, Griggs Park, (Donna).

Ox-eye Daisy 1 051016 Griggs cp1

Ox-eye Daisy, Griggs Park, (Donna).

P1100092fix

Griggs Park and the reservoir.

P1100134

Immature male Baltimore Oriole, Griggs Park.

P1100156

Black and White Warbler, Griggs Park.

P1100188use

Warbling Vireo, Griggs Park.

P1100192

Robin, Griggs Park.

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Much of this year birding has been done on foot. Now with the leaves coming out in force, and our field of view decreasing, it may be time to get the canoe out for a better view as we paddle the shoreline of reservoirs near home.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

A Tree Swallow and Some Friends

In the last few days the number of migrating and non-migrating birds seen by us and other birders in central Ohio has been incredible. We are trying to remember back to last year but nothing approaching the last few days comes to mind. Were we  just not paying attention? We’ve visited our usual areas along Griggs Reservoir, but also got over to Hoover Nature Preserve and adjacent areas at the north end of Hoover Reservoir as well as Glenn Echo Ravine in Clintonville. Wherever we went there were birds. Only a few of those seen are documented below either because they were a little too far away, moving around too much, or the light just wasn’t favorable for a picture. For more info on birds in central Ohio along with some wonderful pictures visit Central Ohio Birders Facebook page.

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Some other notable birds seen but not photographed;  Hoover Nature Preserve north end of the lake: a number of Red-headed Woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, Yellow Warblers, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Hoover Nature Preserve Meadows Area: American Redstarts, Nashville Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine: Great Crested Flycatcher, Black Headed Blue Warbler, Northern Parula Warbler, Black and White Warblers, Baltimore Oriole, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.

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So here are some of the birds seen.

P1090808 (2)

Tree Swallow, boardwalk north end of Hoover Reservoir

Black-throated Green 2 best 2 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Black-throated Green Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine, (Donna)

P1090892 (2)

Black-throated Green Warbler, Glen Echo Ravine

P1090831

Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Hoover Nature Preserve, north end of Hoover Reservoir

Yellow Warbler 1 LL 1 050316 Hoover N cp1

Yellow Warbler, Hoover Nature Preserve north end of Hoover Reservoir, (Donna).

P1090845 (2)

Great Egrets, meadows area, Hoover Nature Preserve

P1090963bc (2)

Indigo Bunting, Glen Echo Ravine

P1090963 (2)

In the same tree, Glen Echo Ravine

P1090963ct (2)

Scarlet Tanager, Glen Echo Ravine

Waterthrush Northern 1 LR 1 best 1 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Northern Water thrush, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna)

IMG_1067 (2)

Baltimore Oriole, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

IMG_1107 (2)

Catbird, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

IMG_1149 (2)

Downy Woodpecker, Kiwanis River Way Park.

IMG_1169 (2)

Pileated Woodpecker, Kiwanis River Way Park

IMG_1119

Prothonotary Warbler, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

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If there wasn’t a bird to look at there were other things.

 

jack-in-the-pulpit 1 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Jack-in-the-pulpit, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna).

Orange tan fungi 1 best 1 050316 Hoover 3 cp1

Fungi, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area, (Donna)

Wild Geranium 6 Best 6 close-up 2 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Wild Geranium, Glenn Echo Ravine, (Donna).

Pearl Crescent 1 best 1 050316 Hoover 3 cp1

Pearl Crescent, Hoover Nature Preserve meadows area, (Donna).

 

P1090926

Mayapple, Glenn Echo Ravine.

Yellow Flowers with water backgrd 1 050416 Glen Echo cp1

Marsh Marigold, Glen Echo Ravine, (Donna).

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New leaves, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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In the back of our minds we know that one day not too far in the future the spring celebration will be over. It’s a good time to be in the moment.

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Wetland landscape, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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Wetland landscape, Hoover Nature Preserve, Meadows Area.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Bob by Bird Mural 1 050416 Glen Echo csb1

Bird Mural, Glen Echo Ravine

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XXX

Super Zooms Visit Magee Marsh

Last Wednesday May 13th we found ourselves at Magee March celebrating spring migration with some of our closest feathered friends. This post is about birds seen that we were able to photograph with relatively inexpensive super zoom cameras. We thought it would be fun to leave the “bird cameras” at home and see how we would fair trying to get a few shots using the popular constant aperture super zoom from Panasonic. Since we can never anticipate what the bird is going to do, and to increase our chances of getting a usable image, we always shoot in burst mode. So we hope you enjoy our little adventure. Some shots are okay, some good, and some even better.

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All things being equal, for very erratic fast moving subjects, a small, light, maneuverable camera wins the day. All things are not equal. In lower light or difficult lighting conditions, a good DSLR will focus faster and more accurately. Also, due to it’s larger sensor will generally produce better images if paired with a good lens. However, to reiterate a statement we’ve all heard, the best camera is the one you have with you.

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One can write an epistle about camera equipment for birding but some questions the selection process should address are:

– What do I intend to use the resultant photos for? The tradeoffs involved in getting the highest quality image with the most creative control may not be worth it. Sometimes good is good enough.

– Am I a birder that would like to get a few “memory shots” and not too concerned about whether or not I get an image of every bird?

– Am I a photographer that loves the challenge of getting the best images of the most birds possible on any given day?

– How much equipment do I feel like carrying?

– How much do I feel comfortable spending?

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To give you an idea of how much cropping and post processing was done, “as shot” and “final” images have been included to highlight some of the more challenging situations. To keep it simple all images were shot as jpeg’s.

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To the pictures:

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Bay Breasted

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Bay Breasted, (cropped)

P1020656c

Bay Breasted, (cropped)

Bay Breasted female original file c

Bay Breasted female, (cropped), (Donna)

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P1020603 (2)c

Cape May, (cropped)

P1020594

Cape May

P1020594c

Cape May (cropped)

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P1020533 (2)c

Northern Parula, (cropped)

P1020504c

Take two, (cropped), (Donna)

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P1020378

Blackburnian

P1020378ac

Blackburnian (cropped)

Blackburnian original file 1c

Blackburnian, (the best of the day just slightly cropped), (Donna)

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IMG_5457

Palm

IMG_5457-2c

Palm, (cropped)

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IMG_5437 (2)c

Yellow, (cropped)

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Blackpoll Warbler original file 1

Blackpoll, (Donna)

Blackpoll Warbler original file 1 (2)c

Blackpole, (cropped)

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P1020850

Kingbird

P1020850 (2)c

Kingbird, (cropped)

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P1020809c

House Wren, (cropped)

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Tennessee Warbler 2 LR best 2 051315 Magee Marsh cp1

Tennessee, (corrected per reader input), (cropped), (Donna)

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Tennessee, (corrected per reader input), (cropped)

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P1020800c

Great Egret, (cropped)

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P1020865c

Baltimore Oriole, (very low light, cropped)

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P1020330

Red Wing Blackbird

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Thanks for stopping by.

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P1020793c

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