Too beautiful a morning to stay home, we paid another visit to the Ira Trailhead and its canal boardwalk in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Birds have finished rearing this year’s young and have scattered, some have begun their migration treks. It was a weekday, during the school term, so the area was nicely quiet. We spotted a tiny heron plying the waters of the old Ohio & Erie Canal. A passerby had said there was a Green Heron just up the path; did they get the ID wrong? The bird was so small! Through the telephoto lenses we could see they were correct… it was a Green Heron all right though it must be a 2015 hatchling to be so tiny. The bird may have been small but it showed the behaviors of an experienced and aggressive hunter as we watched from the path. For the most part, and typical of herons hunting, the bird stood very still and stared at the lily pads and surrounding water; it jabbed once or twice catching some tiny creature for sustenance. Suddenly something on the far canal bank caught the heron’s eye: it stretched out its long neck, jerked its head around, and stood up its crest — the first time I’ve seen such a display by a Green Heron! The crest went down. The crest went up again and our little guy popped into the air, alighted in the water at bank’s edge, and a frog flew off the bank, over the alighting bird, and safely into the water! A missed meal for Green but froggy lives to see another day!
I spent some quiet time along the Ohio & Erie Canal in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park late Sunday morning watching the herons. I was surprised at how many Green Herons I spotted — at least four — and how close I was able to approach two of them. The first of the greens was perched on the trunk of a tree that had long ago fallen into the canal. From the wooden perch the smallish bird watched for prey, preened, and even messed with a twig it picked off the trunk! A little farther down the canal I watched a Great Blue Heron as it struck a typically statuesque pose studying the water for signs of fish. After a while the blue struck and caught a small, wriggling fish. I shot a good number of photos whilst standing or sitting and watching the green and blue herons but the best part was just quietly being there.
The weather was splendid today, if slightly cool for August in Northeastern Ohio. We took a little jaunt down to the Ira Road area of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to walk the wetlands boardwalk portion of the Towpath Trail. It wasn’t long before we spotted the first, and boldest, of three Great Blue Herons. This big guy was perfectly happy to stand in the shallow waters of the abandoned canal stalking prey as we watched from the nearby trail. I’ve a wonderful set of shots of the big bird staring, preening, and yawning. This closeup, however, is my favorite and possibly my prettiest shot of a heron yet.
The heron was, however, all about making a living and we as we watched it spotted something between the lily pads and, with lightning speed, struck at its prey full-force. Whatever the would-be lunch was, it got away this time, leaving the heron thrashing in the water, even appearing embarrassed as it flapped up to a log to shake off water and shame.
Within sight of the big bird I thought I saw something much smaller and less familiar but I wasn’t sure. Was it an upturned lily pad or, yes (!), a Green Heron! Typically skittish I fully expected the little thing to rocket skyward as I approached on the trail. Like it’s giant cousin, however, the Green wasn’t shy and went about its business with us watching. It had been about two years since I’d last seen a Green Heron and this was a welcome sight.
It was a great day (and photographically productive) in the soft sunlight and fresh air spent stalking the stalkers!
I decided to take some time to see if I could capture a better portrait of the skittish Green Heron I watched the other day. So I revisited Medina County’s Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary. Today I arrived armed with my wonderful 400mm telephoto lens and began stalking heron. I looked along the boardwalk, no heron. I checked the banks of the wetland and in the trees… nope. Red-winged Blackbirds aplenty but no heron. I looked around the smaller pond above the wetlands and still found no little heron. Oddly, this day very few dragonflies were visible either. Disappointed and about to give up hope, I spotted “Little Green” on the banks of a very small and shallow pool near the large wetlands. The heron was scuttling along the edge of the water, apparently looking for prey from upon the muddy banks. He hiked up and across a fallen tree branch that formed an arch, then back to the mud. I managed to squeeze off a few shots but then my quarry took off. No, I hadn’t spooked it… another Green Heron was flying over and mine gave chase. I stuck around for quite a while after that but the birds did not return. So I took off, myself.
It was a fine early summer day! A weather front came through the region last night and pushed away 90+ degree heat and high humidity. Sunshine, fresh breezes, puffy clouds, and comfortable warmth ruled! With the day off I decided to pay a visit to the Medina County Parks’ Wolf Creek Environmental Center and go hunting for dragonflies. I bagged something more than expected.
As I wandered the grounds I enjoyed viewing the small ponds dotted with blooms of water lilies and buzzing with dragonflies. Red-Winged Blackbirds scolded each other and me from their treetop perches. I made my way towards the extensive boardwalk that extends into the area’s largest pond when a bird shot into the sky and made its way into more distant trees. At first I thought it was an unfamiliar type of duck but no, its beak was long and sharp. Once it perched, I studied it as best I could through my camera’s 200mm telephoto lens and wished I’d have brought the 400mm! Is that a duck? A Kingfisher? No… A Green Heron?! The bird let out a shrill cry and took off into the woods. I thought I’d seen the last of it. More enjoyable dragonfly hunting followed with lily flower photography thrown in for good measure. I wandered back to a smaller pond but heard that odd call in the trees ahead — the mystery bird had returned! So as I continued my stroll I paid attention to the infrequent screeches and when I saw that same feathered friend dart down towards the board walk, I knew that I, too, would go there again.
I crept down the path and on to the wooden walkway, all the while watching the shallows for my quarry. Seeing nothing I continued until I spotted it and froze where I was. The bird, smaller than I’d expected, was also strolling along on the boardwalk ahead of me and around the bend! Suddenly it struck into the water just off the deck and, thrashing, bounded back up with a sunfish in its beak. That bird was using the boardwalk to extend its fishing range!
I followed the little guy for a while, being very quiet and slow in my movements. By now I knew it was, in fact, a Green Heron — smallest of the herons and renowned for its intelligence. I squeezed the shutter release regularly and the bird seemed to grow accustomed to my presence. I’d never photographed a Green Heron before and I wanted to get the best images I could. The skittish little smarty would, however, only allow me to get just so close. When I was satisfied I’d gotten the best shots I could from where I was, I tried moving even closer — the heron walked farther away. Rather than spook the bird and spoil its hunt, I turned heel and headed off the boardwalk.