A Walk in the Woods

There’s nothing like a walk in the woods to bring things back into perspective. Sometimes I find myself contemplating too many “what ifs” and “what might be’s” and not focusing on the here-and-now. A walk in the woods can help realign what’s important and help one let go of those things that are simply out of one’s control.

My walk in the woods on this day brought some of the unusual and unexpected, like this Barred Owl. I think it was watching me as much as I was watching him (or her). It did surprise me that it was roosting in an area that had dense tree branches and leaves. Normally I would expect it to be in a dark shaded area with tall trees and a bit more open space, but perhaps he was en route to a better roosting area. The Barred Owl is one of eight types of owls found in Ohio, and its call is readily identified as “Who cooks for you.” The Barred Owl has a rounded head, dark eyes, yellow bill and rounded tail. Perhaps you’ll see one on your next walk in the woods.

The trail was primitive in that it wasn’t the typical gravel path that one finds in a lot of parks these days. It was what I would classify as a good trail to hike. There were areas with large trees and those with more thicket-like areas like the one below. It’s always a treasure to find a quiet spot with few people and lots of nature. It’s also cool on hot summer days.

A number of birds were scouting for food among the trees and shrubbery (and mostly eluding my camera) except for this Prothonotary warbler and Scarlet Tanager. Both of which just popped up on the trail in front of me. Little brilliant bits of bright color that one can’t ignore and wouldn’t want to.

I also came across one of the largest Sassafras trees I’ve ever seen. The leaves of the Sassafras look rather like the shape of a mitten. The bark is very dense and somewhat resembles a Black Walnut tree. I’ve seen lots of Sassafras trees in the past, but none that were nearly this large. It was impressive.

This year I’ve seen very little fungi on my walks. Perhaps because it’s been too dry lately? I did happen upon this vividly colorful one. iNaturalist seems to think this may be a Wax cap, but I’m not sure about that. Fungi identification isn’t my strong suit.

Out in a sunny area, I found even more colorful species like this Blue-fronted dancer and Black Swallowtail butterfly – both enjoying the sunshine. They’re beautiful creatures that can be fascinating to watch and very challenging to photograph.

BLUE-FRONTED DANCER DAMSELFLY
BLACK SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY ON CLOVER

This year I’ve noticed more milkweed than I can remember seeing in past years. They’re in fields, along roadsides and even in yards. It would be nice to think that people are planting more milkweed (or allowing it to grow) due to the awareness that we’ve lost a good percentage of our Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in the past 20 years. The loss has occurred due to a number of things including breeding habitat loss and pesticide usage.

Douglas Tallamy’s latest book, Nature’s Best Hope, promotes the value of incorporating native plants in yards, regardless of yard size or even if it’s just a pot on the patio of an apartment.

A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.

While I didn’t see a Monarch on milkweed this day, I did find bees and beetles on them, like these two guys hanging upside down. I loved the fact these two critters were similarly colored and were working side by side. Diverse, yet harmonious. I think we can learn from that.

Until next time, keep looking at nature up close.

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