A Great Blue Heron has occasionally been seen perching on a branch of a nearby dead tree. Yesterday I spotted the bird in time to grab my camera and, as discreetly as possible, shoot photos of it. I watched as it sat, then preened a bit, stretched, then took flight down to the edge of our pond. Frogs, fish, and other prey attract the random heron, and our neighborhood Red Shouldered Hawk.
Our local Red-Shouldered Hawk alighted on a tree near our pond Sunday as it has been doing of late. The raptor — this one or a lookalike — has regularly rocketed across our front yard, staked out our bird feeder, bagged itself a Mourning Dove, dined on a bullfrog, easily earning the Murder Bird reference.
Deadly though it may be, this bird is beautiful and interesting to watch. It stayed for a long time on the tree branch, looking around, probably hunting from its perch. I’ve shot some photos of the hawk as it perched in other spots but never got shots of it in flight — they’re just so fast! Patiently waiting helps but this time I had a good vantage point with some space and, therefore, time to react when the bird launched. Murder Bird stretched its tail, stretched each wing, scratched itself, and faced the wind.
Off it went! I was able to shoot only a few frames and most were not very clear as I pushed to catch up with the hawk’s fast-accelerating movement; one shot, the one above, was decent enough to show. Our Murder Bird is a vicious predator but absolutely gorgeous and thrilling to watch.
We’re near, rather beyond the time when I withdraw my bird feeder from use leaving the birds to fend for themselves over the warmer months.
The bird feeder has been busy. I have not been busy. So I shot a good number of photos of birds at or near the bird feeder, only a few feet from my office window.
Several larger birds have escaped me because they cannot fit inside the wire fence cylinder that protects the feeder from squirrels and deer. The bigger birds show up and quickly leave, seeking treats elsewhere; they include Bluejays and a Red Bellied Woodpecker. The woodpecker has landed on the cage occasionally and used its pointed beak and long tongue to retrieve a morsel or two but he’s usually here and gone before I can grab my camera.
The day was beautiful for a Sunday in early March — sunny and mild with a high temperature of 60ºF — so we headed out to a couple of favorite, easy-to-access spots for a little walking and bird spotting.
The F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, a part of Summit (County) Metro Parks, features a beautiful visitors center with an observation room viewing a large bird feeding area. Today Common Grackles were the dominant presence. Bright sunlight and our angle of view brought out incredible iridescence in the birds’ plumage changing them from common to uncommon beauties.
Following a short walk on paved and dry pathways at Nature Realm, we made a little visit to the Bath Road Heron Rookery, at the northern city limits of Akron. There seemed to be fewer nests this year, one formerly-inhabited tree was entirely vacant. Seen in other trees were the stick nests and mated pairs of birds standing upon them. Occasionally a heron would glide down from a tree to search for nest-building materials, then loft them back to their waiting mate in the tree. I shot a good number of photos but this overhead view is my favorite of the day.
These are common, everyday birds going about the business of living; if we look at them closely and well we will discover the uncommon beauty of the commonplace.
I’ve never seen them. I’ve never, ever seen Bluebirds in my yard or at my feeders. Until this month.
First I saw a couple of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) show up just after I restocked my feeders for the morning. They returned the next day and then there were three. Skip forward a few days and yesterday, February 12, I counted eight — eight! — of the beauties around the feeders, in neighboring trees, and on the ground!
I don’t know why this year is different but at a time when I could use some cheering up, the Bluebirds flock to the view from my window. And they do, indeed, bring happiness.
There was some excitement this dreary afternoon as this Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) first perched on a small tree in our front yard to stake out our bird feeder; then chased a couple of sparrows into a nearby row of barberries (seen here). This time the little birds escaped, rocketing out in separate directions at ground level from beneath the thicket and the predator. A pile of gray feathers beneath the bird feeder a couple of weeks ago were evidence that a Mourning Dove wasn’t so lucky as today’s sparrows. (Image shot though window glass and screen.)
Photographed and Written: September 16, 2018. Published February 25, 2019.
The weather has been so often uninviting this summer that it was a pleasure to have a nice day Sunday. It was hot but too pretty to stay indoors, so we drove to the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve in Huron, on Lake Erie.
It’s migration season for birds but we rarely think of Monarch butterflies … they migrate too! It’s hard to imagine such delicate creatures as butterflies flying hundreds of miles but we have seen seeing them lately heading south. One of the first beautiful things we saw at the preserve was a Monarch picking up nectar from bright yellow flowers along the path.
We were also delighted to see an American Bald Eagle swooping down over the shallow waters of the marsh trying to catch a fish! As far as I could tell, the eagle missed the fish it was after when I spotted it. Some other visitors told us that they saw the eagle catch a fish but that it got away; it turned out to be a young bird so perhaps it needs to work on its technique! We didn’t even know there was an eagle’s nest at the nature preserve, so this was a real treat. At one point the eagle flew right overhead and that’s when I got my best pictures of it.
We watched a Great Egret, though we couldn’t get very close to it. The egrets are brilliant white with dark legs and only a little color: their orange beaks and a tiny greenish patch next to their eyes. They are so bright in sunlight that they are hard to photograph without special camera adjustments. The Great Egrets are sometimes harder to find than Great Blue Herons but are also wonderful to watch and I’ve gotten a few nice pictures of them over the years.
The main walking path at Sheldon Marsh is not very long but because of wooded areas, the wetland area, and the Lake Erie shoreline, offers plenty of wildlife spotting.
Speaking of spotting, I saw a feather stuck in the bark of a tree along the path! The feather was black with white spots. I don’t know how or why the feather was in that place but I suspect someone found it and put it on the tree. No matter, really, there it was! It turns out the be a wing feather from a Downy Woodpecker – beautiful, small black and white birds that often come to home feeders. I’ve found a Downy feather before but on the ground, not on a tree trunk.
The earliest fall colors are beginning to show up. Among them were some brilliant red leaves from a vine growing on a tree. The afternoon sun was shining through the woods, lighting up the leaves: perhaps my favorite way to look at them!
Among the other things we saw was a pretty Garter Snake – though it was too quick for me to get a picture – and a beautiful little Wood Duck that was quietly paddling around the marsh, just off the trail.
It was a beautiful day but as I said, it was also hot. We were walking slowly and mostly in the shade but we were dripping sweat so we headed home. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Working on my annual photo calendar for family and friends, I realized I missed posting here a few shots I love from 2018. This shy male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) we spotted in the wooded shallows near the path in the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Huron, Ohio. The bird soon paddled deeper in the wetland wood disappearing completely from sight. September 2018.
Sighting an American Bald Eagle in Northern Ohio was once, not that long ago, seeing a rare bird. Fortunately the eagle population is growing and sightings are more common, though still thrilling.
A juvenile American Bald Eagle glided on the updrafts along the shoreline at the Lake Metroparks Lake Erie Bluffs park. While we eventually saw two eagles of the same apparent age, I was only able to photograph (above) this one; I believe it to be in its first year. The distinctive white head and tail feathers take about five years to fully develop.
On an earlier September visit to Sheldon Marsh State Park, Huron, Ohio a mature American Bald Eagle soared majestically over exciting visitors as it fished the shallow waters on a Sunday afternoon. We saw the bird swoop in low over open waters, apparently missing the fish it had spotted, then climbing high to continue its patrol of the wetlands. Other visitors saw the bird catch a fish, only to have it escape. Even a fierce predator misses most of the time.