Photo hikes in nature can present one with surprises. We visited the Lorain County MetroParks’ Sandy Ridge Reservation hoping and expecting to see an assortment of birds native to that wetland. What we did not expect to see along the way is, well, what you see here: a couple of small snakes literally hanging from and on trees! The first was a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) stretched out along the skimpy branch of a tree along the trail. When we first saw the dark-colored reptile, a spot of sun was shining on it from between the trees; perhaps it was catching some rays to warm its cold blood. The snake allowed fairly close approach and did not move at all during the “photo session.” On the way back from enjoying the birds — there’s a long hike through a heavily-wooded area between parking lot and wetland — we spied another little snake. Snake number two had hung itself vertically on the trunk of a tree, head curved out parallel to the ground. The tree-hanging Butler’s Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri), like the water snake, held perfectly still during our entire time watching and photographing it. Snakes alive, what a surprise!
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I took a walk around town for the sake of fresh air and exploration. In my meanderings I happened to cross a railroad spur where some rolling stock was parked and made a few images.
Spring is really just taking hold around here so at Hinckley Lake, in the Cleveland Metroparks, things were fairly quiet on this warm day. I did a walk around the lake shore as more to get out in the fresh air and sunshine as anything. Along the way I enjoyed views of fresh greenery popping up from the leaf litter in the woods, the calls of many birds, and regular encounters with the many people who were also out to enjoy the day. Puffy clouds floated across the sky, casting spotlights upon trees flushed with colorful buds and new leaves, and highlighting them against shadowed wooded backgrounds.
The natural surroundings may have been quiet but if examined close enough, there were things other than plants to catch one’s eye. I stopped for a while and watched the single Great Blue Heron on Hinckley Lake as it fished; from the distance I saw it catch a couple, too! I watched a Common Water Snake swimming in a wetland adjacent to the lake.
I spied a Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera), my first in the wild, when it made a little move in shallow water. I shot a couple of photos of the turtle as it watched me, only its head above water. The softshells grow to be among the largest turtles in North America though this one looked to be more medium-sized.
On the walk back to the parking lot a beautiful little blue bird flitted from branch to branch in the trees and shrubs lining the path. I’d seen this bird (or another of its kind) in the general area before but hadn’t gotten a photo of it. Today I was a little quicker or the bird was a little slower, anyway I captured a few images of the little guy, one of which was good. Looks to be a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea). Delighted to have met! Back at the parking lot a man, just arriving, stopped and asked me if I got any good photos, saw any birds? I mentioned the heron but forgot the delightful gnatcatcher. Then again, it might have sounded a little too “birdwatcher-y.”
Yes, a fine day to get out and hike with a 20-pound camera pack on your back! It was really about the walk. Really!
Water Wheel: It wasn’t supposed to be there — that discarded and rusty piece-of-junk automobile wheel — in the middle of a shallow, quiet-running stream. Still, there the thing was, and it turned out to be beautiful from a pictorial viewpoint, at least. In fact, the “water wheel” was my shot of the day! Prints of this image are available at: http://www.guilfordphoto.com
After a gloomy Saturday and a night that featured about four inches of heavy, wet snow, Sunday brought blue skies and sunshine. We took advantage of the gorgeous day and made a little trip to Summit MetroParks’ Nature Realm. The park’s paved pathway allowed for a nice photo walk without a slog through snow-covered mud. Bird calls filled the air as we took in the sights. Not a lot of photos to show for our casual trip but it was great getting out in the mild, fresh air, and feeling the sun shine on our faces. It has been a long, hard winter that seems not to want to end, and we’re looking forward to spring. Real spring.
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!
A vigorous walk around Hinckley Lake this morning provided plenty of “photo ops.” I got images of at least three Great Blue Herons, a macro shot of a slug (actually kind of pretty), some flowers, a butterfly, and fish thrashing about in the water apparently in the throes of spawning. The shot that was a standout, however, was also something of a surprise. I liked the way the morning sun was playing across some lily pads floating at the edge of the lake. Some of the pads had beaded puddles of water on their waxy tops and the sun outlined them in silver. The camera, set to automatically select a shutter speed appropriate to the light level, saw all that light and darkened the scene: the pads turned black, the puddles showed textures, and the pads seemed to levitate above the glowing surface. The scene, overall, looked somewhat foreboding. Perfect. The title sprang to mind and I couldn’t think of anything better… “Death Pads!”