Thursday, December 31, 2009

...a bird's eye view

I don't often get to see birds from above! I like the view...

A female Northern Cardinal perched in a crab apple tree beneath our family room window.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mrs. Red, a.k.a. The Heat Miser

Mrs. Red had an erie resemblance to the Heat Miser this morning out on our deck, seemingly having styled her crest after that fiery little guy's hair-do (she also looks perturbed with the current weather conditions)...

Why Mrs. Red--your crest appears to be aflame!

Monday, December 28, 2009

That darn squirrel... just getting too cute for his own good!

This morning while nosing around in the fresh snow, Squirrel Nutkin found a stash of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit. He would push his little head around in the snow and come up a few seconds later with a seed and a snowflake face.

Squirrel Nutkin using his head as a snowplow...

...ratcheting up the cuteness ratio...exponentially...
(I love how his little paws form a heart.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Red and the Black-oil Sunflower Seed

In that strange half-light between day and night when the sun starts to sink and the shadows lengthen and eventually disappear...and the day birds go home to roost for the night, tucking their heads under their wings and snuggling close for warmth, Red, my little dusk-bird, hangs on, eating those last few sunflower seeds and chipping out his last dusk-call until the light is all gone...

...with dusk fast approaching, Red finds a sunflower seed among a fresh dusting of snowflakes.

Winter, spring, summer or fall, I can always count on the Northern Cardinals being the last birds at the feeder.

Little dusk-time Red's chip is always a happy sound. Even with the windows closed in winter, I can hear him calling out his location as darkness approaches.'s dusk, it's cold......must find another seed....

Red seems to know a surface low pressure system is on the way that will leave a trough in its wake making conditions right for snowfall as an upper-level disturbance sweeps through with heavy precip----or maybe he's just hungry... ;-)

...why are you just sitting there on the floor clicking that camera? Snow is on the way...go to Kroger's and get some bread and milk!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Bird Count…and BirdsEye—a really cool iPhone birding app!

Last Saturday on December 19 I participated in my first ever dawn-to-dusk Christmas Bird Count. I joined the Hamilton-Fairfield CBC team and birded areas in Butler County I had never been to, being introduced to Gilmore Ponds and spots along the Great Miami River (a lot different from my haunt, the Little Miami River). Our team leader, Mike (who has a blog of his own, "Everybody Funny"), knew where a few special birds were hiding, so along the way I tagged three life birds, seeing an American White Pelican (huge wingspan, huge bill, hugely cool!), a small flock of American Pipits (a sweet song rising up from the grass as they took to the wing), and a Least Sandpiper (tucked away on a tiny gravel island in the Great Miami, Mike had been staking out the bird for the past couple of weeks. I would never have seen him on my own because he blended in so well).

…early in the morning as I pulled out of my driveway the yard and trees were covered in snow. Large snowflakes were falling softly and the beauty and silence of the morning were so inviting I had to snap off a shot before driving on.

...our little band of birders.

Freshly fallen snow softened our footsteps as we walked the covered paths, and every now and then thick clumps of the white stuff would crash down on our heads, making us laugh, as the accumulated ice crystals began to melt and then slide off the branches above us.

...not much compares with the beauty of snow-frosted branches.

It snowed nonstop through the morning and early afternoon, eventually turning into a wet snow/rain mix. I was wearing my crazy-warm parka, so I never became chilled, but by the end of the day I was soaked through. I really enjoyed myself and am already looking forward to next year! Here is a list of the birds from our count (list supplied by our team leader, Mike):

American White Pelican 1
Snow Goose 1
Canada Goose 1978
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 3
Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 4
American Black Duck 9
Mallard 933
Blue-winged Teal 8
Northern Shoveler 5
Northern Pintail 11
Green-winged Teal 3
Canvasback 16
Redhead 22
Ring-necked Duck 17
Lesser Scaup 6
Bufflehead 28
Common Goldeneye 4
Hooded Merganser 9
Ruddy Duck 45
Wild Turkey 2
Pied-billed Grebe 8
Great Blue Heron 20
Bald Eagle 1
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 7
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 19
American Kestrel 9
American Coot 135
Sandhill Crane
Killdeer 9
Least Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull 16
Herring Gull 1
Rock Pigeon 1698
Mourning Dove 618
Great Horned Owl 2
Northern Saw-whet Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 9
Red-bellied Woodpecker 26
Yellow-belled Sapsucker 9
Downy Woodpecker 66
Hairy Woodpecker 6
Northern Flicker 21
Pileated Woodpecker 14
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 15
American Crow 3
Horned Lark 98
Carolina Chickadee 157
Tufted Titmouse 36
White-breasted Nuthatch 29
Brown Creeper 10
Carolina Wren 55
Winter Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 16
Eastern Bluebird 43
Hermit Thrush 7
American Robin 1846
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 7
European Starling 8833
American Pipit 10
Eastern Towhee 7
American Tree Sparrow 92
Field Sparrow 3
Fox Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 116
Swamp Sparrow 4
White-throated Sparrow 124
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco 77
Lapland Longspur 15
Northern Cardinal 180
Red-winged Blackbird 158
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
House Finch 107
American Goldfinch 133
House Sparrow 109

…this morning, waiting for me under the tree from Rick were two things that will really help me next year during the CBC--the iPhone birding app BirdsEye and a spotting scope (can you believe it? Now I can bird with the big kids!). BirdsEye is powered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird and works in real time letting you find out what birds are being reported in your area and when and where they were sighted (read Kenn Kaufman’s review on Birding with Kenn & Kimberly for more info). I can’t wait to use the spotting scope. We still have to get the eyepieces, though…Rick didn’t realize they were sold separately, but soon….soon….

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Little snowflake squirrel…

...mid-morning solstice snow dots your fur and falls quietly with promise. And your tiny little paws hold seeds you can eat while three faces on the other side of the glass watch, thinking you’re the most important creature on earth at that moment.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An American Bald Eagle Study

…remember back on November 7 when I saw two beautiful American Bald Eagles flying over Caesar Creek Lake? I was so happy to see those two birds flying high in the sky so close to my house. Actually, I was beyond happy. I was ecstatic, awestruck…infatuated even, because it was the first time I had ever seen an American Bald Eagle flying in my town. My infatuation goes all the way back to 1967 when I was in the first grade and the bird was put on the endangered species list. At that time, conservation was huge, and we talked about the American Bald Eagle in school all the time. As a first grader, I knew the American Bald Eagle was threatened, even close to extinction--and we would probably NEVER, EVER see one in the wild—EVER! That was my reality, and that desperation was burned into my brain, and an intense love of the bird grew out of how fragile his stay on the planet was. We all knew about the DDT pesticide poisoning and how it had filtered into the lakes and streams, accumulating in the tissues of the fish the eagles ate, and causing the eagles to produce eggshells so thin they would break under the bird’s weight during incubation. It really was a hopeless and scary time, but…that is not the case anymore!! They are back, doing well, and can be regularly found in several places around Cincinnati!

…the Bald Eagle…is there a more intense looking bird? I love the oversized supraorbital ridge (the boney ridge above the eye) that puts a permanent snarl on his face. It’s really there to block the sun and help eliminate sun glare so he has an easier time hunting, but boy, oh boy, does it ever make him (and all hawks) look tough!

...the American Bald Eagle is my mom's favorite bird...this post is for you, mom!

An American Bald Eagle soaring over the water at at Caesar Creek State Park, Nov 7, 2009.

Beak Bit
A timeline of the American Bald Eagle's recovery in Ohio
To check on these dates, I went to my copy of Bruce G. Peterjohn’s, The Birds of Ohio. With such an amazing come-back story, it’s so cool knowing that a bird put on the endangered species list over 40 years ago is now living and breeding in our town!

Because the American Bald Eagle can live up to 30 years in the wild, their numbers remained stable even though the birth rate had dropped to almost zero due to the DDT which had poisoned their food supply in the 40s and 50s; however, as the older birds started to die, they were not replaced, and the American Bald Eagle’s population crashed. By 1979 Ohio was down to 4 or 5 pairs, and they weren’t producing many young. At this point, the Ohio Division of Wildlife stepped in and began managing the few pairs left by monitoring nests, trying to eliminate disturbances around breeding pairs, and transplanting young eagles into the nests of successful parents. These actions and the elimination of DDT in 1972 boosted Ohio’s Bald Eagle population to 12 pairs by 1989. In 1992 Ohio’s breeding population increased to 20 nests, 33 in 1996, and 57 in 1999. By the late 1990s, wintering eagle numbers soard to 100 -150 birds, and in a blog article from from January 24, 2008, volunteers spotted an amazing 649 eagles during the Ohio Department of Natural Resources mid-winter survey. Of course, since the eagle is a water-loving bird and its diet consists primarily of fish, the largest concentration of eagles in Ohio is around Lake Erie, but as we well know, we have a few down in Cincy! are a few of my photographs of the bird from November 7, 2009...not nearly as commanding as the images made with a paintbrush, but you can at least make out his field marks!

Yes, oh yes...just 30 minutes north of our digs, this beautiful eagle was flying high.

...the Little Miami River is calling your name, bird...right at the bend near the Kings Powder Factory (or maybe that was me...).

...seeing the contrast between the white and black in the sky is beautiful.

...knowing this bird has fought its way back from near extinction is even more beautiful.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Walking the winter woods

Quiet and stillness drift through the empty woods in winter, leaving a gentle calmness behind that reminds us to slow down and listen to the winter sounds. One sound that always makes me smile is the soft, muted call of a White-breasted Nuthatch. Nasally and insistent, its voice seems to wrap itself around the bare trees and linger in the air before revealing where the little bird is hiding...

White-breasted Nuthatch walking down a tree looking under lichens for something to eat.
For such a gentle and soft call, it never goes unheard...

White-breasted Nuthatch...part of a small flock foraging along the Little Miami River.
This little fellow was part of a small flock foraging in the trees along the Little Miami River. Five were flitting back and forth, chasing each other and foraging at the same time. Normally I don't see that many hanging together.

White-breasted Nuthatch walking down a tree looking under lichens for something to eat.
...always busy, this little nuthatch was constantly flipping up tiny bits of moss and bark, gleaning the tree for small bugs and spiders tucked away for the winter.

White-breasted Nuthatch walking down a tree
One of the five nuthatches was more intent on saving seeds and hiding them in the bark. I watch as he grabbed several maple seeds and tucked the seed and papery tail into a small crack in a crook of the tree. Unfortunately, he was a little too far away to photograph, so I had to be content to watch him through my binocs.

White-breasted Nuthatch
...I love it when they give you that look, which pretty much says, "Move on now, human, you have enough photos..."

A good book for the cold winter nights ahead…

I just finished reading “A Year on the Wing, Four Seasons in a Life with Birds,” by Tim Dee, and I really enjoyed it. Much of the book takes place in England, which is what first appealed to me. Since starting my blog last January and making friends with many of the British bird bloggers, I’ve learned so much about the European birds. This book helped me reinforce that knowledge. Written in a beautiful, poetic style, you will want to linger over the pages—not speed through them. “A Year on the Wing” is a perfect book to get you through the gray days of January. Travel along with the author as he follows the birds through the year with a special concentration on migration. One of my favorite paragraphs in the book illustrates how devoted the author is to the birds and how sensitive he is to their lives, in particular, to their seasonal journeys:
"What must it be like to be so sensitive to the magnetism of the earth that you are able to taste the iron in the air; to be drawn up into that air as if evaporated; to feel the inching creep of longer nights pushing you away from what you know toward what you don’t? What must it be like to hatch from an egg and look up from a nest and know the stars already? As if your paper-thin skull were a planetarium, along with the smooth curve of your late abandoned eggshell and the cup or your nest, too, as if the skies and the stars had pressed their map into everything there is of you."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Candlelight and snow...

Christmas Waltz

Frosted window panes,
Candles gleaming inside—
Painted candy canes on the tree.

Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh with things—
Things for you and for me.

It's that time of year,
When the world falls in love.
Every song you hear seems to say,
“Merry Christmas, may your
New Year's dreams come true!”

…and this song of mine
In three quarter time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing too!

By Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, 1954

Time is passing so fast, and I just can't seem to get hold of it! What I'd really like to do is slow down and enjoy the love of my family and friends. So to help get us in that Christmas spirit and suspend time, I'm posting a few old-fashioned watercolors full of candlelight and snow...gentle night images of the holidays...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Red-headed Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds

After birding Lake Erie, Dave and Laurie thought we should try out the Sandy Ridge Reservation Wetlands. I'm so glad we did because because the woods leading to the marsh seemed to be filled with Red-headed Woodpeckers. These birds are rarities for me in Cincy, so when I heard the first Red-head calling I was very excited. He came easily into view and we watched him for a while. As we walked further down the trail towards the marsh, two more tagged along, the third perching in the stand of dead trees at the edge of the marsh.

A juvenile Red-Headed Woodpecker spent a lot of time foraging in a stand of dead trees at the edge of the marsh. At one point he was only inches from the water. It would have made a lovely photo (if my photo card had not been full!). This little juvenile was so sweet, and look...he still has a head full of baby feathers.

I love that deep red hood. It is spectacular in the field.

Unfortunately, my photo card filled up way too soon, and my extra cards were in my field journal bag at home on the floor in the living room, so I missed the opportunity to photograph a beautiful Eastern Bluebird pair. I had to settle for painting one back home.

Male Eastern Bluebird

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boy, is it windy here! I look out the window, I keep expecting to see an elf holding a package go rolling across the front yard (like when the winter storm approaches in the Christmas cartoon, "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer")! Ho, ho, ho!

Rose Hips in the Snow

Monday, December 7, 2009

Red-breasted Mergansers and gulls--and a huge splashfest on Lake Erie...

Later in the morning we drove a little further west on Lake Erie to try another section of the lake. Dave had heard all three scoters had been sighted, and we were hoping for a glimpse. We didn't see the scoters, but we did see something amazing to me--thousands of gulls (mostly Herring and Ring-billed and even a few Great Black-backed Gulls too) were swarming around a huge raft of Red-breasted Mergansers. I'm sure this is a common sight for Lake Erie dwellers, but it was a first for me.

A group of Red-breasted Mergansers floating on the water surrounded by endless numbers of gulls.

Red-breasted Mergansers are fish-eating diving ducks, and this is the reason the gulls swarm around them. As a merganser surfaces with a fish in his bill, a gull is often there to help himself to the merganser's dinner. Mergansers are often called "sawbills" because their bills are serrated and resemble a saw. These sharp little edges help the merganser hold onto slippery fish, but even the serration is no match for a hungry Herring or Ring-billed Gull who can pluck the fish right out of the merganser's bill--pesky little fish thieves!

Icicles forming along the rocks and hanging from branches as the waves crashed up against the shore.

You would never know how cold it was in this photo...looks like a warm, summer day at the beach...

The Herring and Ring-billed Gulls were relentless in their thieving ways...

....of course, not all the gulls were stealing fish. Those closest to me and farthest from the mergansers were diving head first into the water to catch their own dinners. Here a group of juvenile Herring Gulls were trying their luck at fishing...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Heading north to Cleveland to see the huge flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Erie...and a few blogging birder friends!

...another hockey tournament for Matty, another northern city and more cool birds for me, plus more birding with bird blogging friends! Rick, Matty and I headed up to Cleveland Friday afternoon. It was an easy trip--just 3.5 hours right up I-71 where Red-tailed Hawks rule! We saw a steady stream of them sitting on fences, trees, bushes, signs, and rails all the way to the hotel. You could almost tell where one hawk's territory left off and another's began by the regular intervals at which they appeared along the highway. It's amazing how easily they stand out as you're rushing down the road...

As soon as we checked into the hotel, Dave and Laurie called me to set up a birding trip for Saturday. While Rick and Matty would be hanging in the rink, I'd be hanging with Loopy and the Doodles. If you're not familiar with this birding couple, check out Dave's blog, Birding from Behind. The Loopy One is very funny...and the Doodles is very tolerant of the Loopy One!

Laurie and Dave in their beautiful backyard. Can you tell it's cold? It was 27 degrees F, but the windchill on Lake Erie made it feel so much colder!

Saturday morning started very early for me. I stumbled around the room in the dark, trying not to wake Rick and Matty, but it's hard to get ready in the dark and not wake anyone. It all worked out, though. I only fell once, and Rick and Matty were still sleeping when I slunk out. Cleveland is cold, but I had my trusty good-to-52-degrees-below-zero parka, and I used it. I only wish I had had a scarf for my cheeks, which are still rosy... The wet wind on Lake Erie is brutal, and exposed cheeks don't stand a chance. With snow pants and eskimo boots on, my feet and legs were nice and toasty, but my little leather gloves left my fingers numb after just a few minutes! (Next time I'll remember my warm gloves...)

Red-breasted Mergansers Staging on Lake Erie
I've wanted to go to Cleveland to see the incredible numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers staging on Lake Erie for quite a while. Since reading about them in Bruce Peterjohn's book, "The Birds of Ohio--with Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas Maps," I couldn't wait to see the spectacle. I was actually cutting it close arriving on December 5, because in Peterjohn's words, "the large Red-breasted Merganser flocks normally disappear by December 7." Luckily, according to Dave and Laurie, the weather had been fairly mild up to this point, so I guess the birds were a bit slow on the go because the mergansers were still there in huge numbers. Totally amazing to me, they stretched in a swarm from as far as I could see to the left to as far as I could see to the right.

...constantly moving and flying, endless numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers massed together on the horizon looking like a black river flowing in the sky.

From Peterjohn's book (and if you are an Ohio birder, it's a must-have for your birding library)...
Fall flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers along Lake Erie can be awe-inspiring. Beginning at sunrise, these flocks fly low over the water, some days to the east and other days to the west, depending on wind direction. They continue to pass along the lakefront all day, although the greatest numbers are seen in early morning and late afternoon. I once witnessed an evening flight stretching across the entire horizon and continuing for more than ten minutes, easily exceeding 100,000 individuals, with additional flocks flying by as the sunlight disappeared from the sky.

I have no idea how many birds Dave, Laurie and I saw, but we stopped at three different beaches throughout the morning and they were at every beach every time. Maybe they were the same birds looping around hours later, I don't know...

Peterjohn mentions not much is known about their movements. What is known, however, is "...each fall, Lake Erie hosts a sizable proportion of the North American population of Red-breasted Mergansers." The largest flights are between the Lake Erie islands and Cleveland. Interesting, though, is this has not always been the case. In the early 1900s, flocks rarely grew to more than 200 birds, and in the 40s the numbers were still small. Numbers started growing in the 60s and continued on into the 90s. Peterson offers that the introduction of the zebra mussel into Lake Erie has changed the ecology of the lake "dramatically," which has increased the populations of the types of fish mergansers like to eat. He counters that if these populations decline, so too will the staging numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Erie.

Go mergansers, go! Fly like the wind...

SoloMerganser with spiky hair...

SoloMerganser looking for a pal...

SoloMerganser from behind...

Thanks Laurie and Dave for taking me out birding! I have at least two more posts on this adventure...

Jim McCormac posted recently on Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Erie. Click here for his post.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hiking and Painting at Clifton Gorge near Yellow Springs, Ohio

Last Friday morning, I drove an hour north to the beautiful little town of Yellow Springs, Ohio to hike the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. My friend, Krista, was at the same time driving an hour south from her mother-in-law’s home near Columbus. Krista, who lives in Michigan but was in Columbus for Thanksgiving, is a blogging friend I met through Laure Ferlita’s online watercolor classes. Back in September when I saw the Sandhill Cranes in Ann Arbor, I met Krista for lunch, but this time we were determined to get out and paint, and we did. We had so much fun at Clifton Gorge, and despite the cold, 30-degree temperatures, we were able to paint without our fingers freezing. The place is gorgeous, and I’ll be back during spring migration. At many points along the trail, it's almost as if you are in the canopy of huge Sycamore trees, no doubt ideal hiding places for those canopy-loving neotropical migrants! Plus….wouldn’t you know it, the water rushing over the rocky bed of Clifton Gorge is my favorite birding river--the Little Miami!

At only 20 miles from its headwaters, the rock walls of Clifton Gorge sometimes narrow to no more than 20 feet apart, and in other spots, the Little Miami River looks more like a creek than a river.

Look at this narrow pass. The waters below churn and roar with amazing power as they are forced through an incredibly narrow rocky channel, but don't try to jump it! Since 1965, at least 10 people have died by falling into the gorge.

...we have to back up a little bit! Before heading to the gorge, Krista and I started our day in the sleepy little town of Clifton, Ohio, home to the only surviving grist mill in the area and one of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence, Clifton Mill.

Built in 1802, Clifton Mill supplied the soldiers with grain during the War of 1812, and from 1908 to 1938 it powered Clifton, Cedarville, and Yellow Springs with electricity for $1.00 a month for private residences and $2.00 a month for businesses (hmmm...doesn't that sound lovely!)

…covered in Christmas lights for the holiday season, the old mill wheel at Clifton Mill is a reminder of how important the rushing waters of the Little Miami were to Ohio settlers in the 1800s. Now, the nighttime light display of over 3.5 million twinkly lights is supposed to be spectacular. We might have to head up there one evening this December...

Beautiful old homes line the streets of the town.

We didn't stay too long in Clifton as we wanted to get to the gorge. Returning to the parking lot off State Route 343, we hopped on the Rim Trail at Bear's Den. (We later found out you can also access the trail at Clifton Mills, so the next time I might start there.) It was still early in the day, so the parking lot was empty (or maybe it was because most of the population was recovering from the turkey and mashed potatoes consumed the night before on Thanksgiving)! Either way, as soon as we stepped on the trail, we could feel the stillness of winter all around us, but the quiet and cold only added to the wonder of the gorge, exposing the beauty of the dolomite and limestone cliffs. With no leaves to get in the way, the black walls of rock dominated the scenery.

Massive and beautiful...the wonder of Mother Nature is everywhere at Clifton Gorge.

On the other side of the river, we could see caves formed from "slump blocks."

Clifton Gorge was formed over 10,000 years ago as an ancient meltwater river from the Wisconsinan continental glacier eroded the soft limestones and shales in its path. Silurian dolomite, resistant to erosion, formed the walls of the gorge as undercutting continued to carve out the softer stone under it. Reported as "an outstanding example of interglacial and post-glacial canyon cutting," Clifton Gorge is an open book of geological history. Slump blocks are formed when flowing water carves out softer rock under erosion-resistant rock, such as the harder Dolomite in Clifton Gorge. As the horizontal undercutting continues, the layers of rock above eventually collapse under their own weight, tumbling into the canyon or slumping against the walls forming slump-block caves.

...slump blocks glowing with spongey, electric-green moss. The hunks of Dolomite cover the canyon floor. Some can be as large as a house, some much smaller, all very cool...

Wherever you look there is beauty. The grays and brows of winter only help highlight the remaining color found in fallen leaves. A small spring feeds this tiny brook that eventually falls over 100 ft to the river below.

The glacial meltwaters also formed the incredibly diverse plant life of the gorge. Boreal relics of northern species were deposited in the gorge as the mile-high glacier retreated, and thousands of generations later, the plants still survive due to the cooler temperatures in the shady gorge. Eastern Hemlock and White Cedar (Arbor vitae) live throughout the preserve, as well as other northern species such as Red Baneberry and Canada Yew. Other rare plants are sheltered within its protected walls, and in spring you can find the rare Snow Trillium.

Large cliff-hugging White Cedars (Arbor vitae) cling to the rock walls of the cliffs. With such impossible-looking displays, the roots of the Arbor vitae must be very strong. I read ancient White Cedars growing along the Niagara Escarpment are very slow growing and outlive the sedimentary rock beneath them. When the rock erodes away, they end up clinging to the edges of cliffs. Click here for more info. I don't know if that's how our cedars reached their precarious positions, but it's interesting!

...more slump blocks. Always covered with the bright green moss, they are especially beautiful now as they show the only saturated color in the winter landscape. In spots, the water of the river had an aqua tinge as you see here. I read somewhere it's because of algae. We both noticed the beautiful shade of blue appearing in certain spots.

...Krista laughing at the bottom of the gorge. Can you tell it was cold. It was about 37 degrees then, so it wasn't too bad. I think she was laughing because I forgot (of all things) my paintbrush and had to run back to the car to get it. Typical.

...a shot of me, courtesy of Krista, looking very northern in my super fluffy good-to-52-degrees-below-zero down parka. Needless to say, after climbing back up the gorge with camera and painting supplies, I was sweating!

Here and there small springs leak from the cliff walls and the beautiful sound of the dripping water is soothing. I can only imagine what it looks like when the temperature drops below freezing and the gorge is encased in ice.

This has been my longest post ever. I hope you're still awake. It seems I am destined to bird the Little Miami… I have my “patch" of the Little Miami at the Kings Powder Factory (thanks for the British term, Warren and Frank…), Fort Ancient just 15-20 minutes up the road, Caesar Creek 30-35 minutes….and now Clifton Gorge at just an hour north. I haven't tried birding the Little Miami south of me........I wonder what's down there....

Information I did not know was gleaned from these sites, click for details:
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve Flyer (found at the interpretive hut at Bear's Den, this is the online version of the same flyer, complete with map and directions).