Our wanderings today took us close to my beloved Lake Erie shoreline. The sky near the horizon was dark but the lake reflected a mystical light of green-blue. A few minutes well-spent gazing upon the mystic lake waters.
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.
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.
Late in January we had a bit of a break in the weather. Yes, it was still cold but the sun was shining and the temperature was in the double-digits. We paid a visit to the Lake Erie coastline.
At Lakeview Park, Lorain, lake ice, pushed onshore by winds and waves, lay in piles dirtied by flotsam also thrown up by Erie.
Gulls rode ice floes in the open waters of Lake Erie off Lorain, Ohio, as the lighthouse stood watch. One ring-billed gull, on a chunk of ice of its own, seemed pretty relaxed; it yawned widely as we watched.
A little more than a year ago, we visited Vermilion, Ohio and its little Lake Erie lighthouse. That December, we learned the lighthouse was without light – it did not even contain its beautiful fresnel lens! Underway at that time was a community effort to raise funds and restore the historic landmark to operation. The goal was $40,000.
On New Year’s Day 2017, we ventured out on a beautiful afternoon and revisited the lakefront city. To my surprise and delight I spied something new in the little lighthouse: a brand-new fifth-order fresnel lens! The fundraisers had succeeded and commissioned construction of a hand-made lens that could project light far out over the Great Lake’s waters.
It turns out the glasswork had been raised, with help from the fire department, to the top of the tower and installed September 11, 2016. An official lighting ceremony took place the evening of September 15.
And so after going dark a decade ago, losing its lens to a museum move, the Vermilion light once again marks land’s end.
November ushers in the change of seasons. Autumn is ending. Winter is beginning. We transitioned from warm and sunny conditions one day, to cold and snowing the next. Overnight we received about three inches of wet snow in Medina, Ohio. Wanting to get out, we ventured north to the shores of Lake Erie. Call me crazy but I find exhilarating the wild weather often experienced at the edge of our Great Lake. Today, with steady northwest winds of about 20 miles-per-hour, the lake offered plenty of action — and it was mighty cold! The air temperature of about 34 degrees (F) equated to something in the 20s, and as I explored camera in hand, those hands and my ears quickly began to ache. Now that I live farther inland, my visits to Lake Erie’s coast are less convenient and less frequent; they are no less exciting.
A quick house hunting trip to Vermilion produced no new home June 6; it did, however, produce the opportunity to photograph a storm moving in across Lake Erie. I love the beautiful scenes the lake produces and that is, primarily, why living near the coast is something I think I’d like. Sun, clouds, and water are constantly changing and when a storm is involved those changes happen rapidly.
I (stupidly) didn’t have my DSLR gear with me but was carrying my trusty iPhone 6SE with its tiny but mighty internal camera. As winds rose, I was able to make a panorama of the lake scene (above) and a nice portrait of the Vermilion Lighthouse brightly popping against the darkening sky.
I’ll try and remember to bring the “big guns” with me from now on as we seek a new home out there, somewhere….
A favorite place of ours and of many actual birders is Sheldon Marsh, a spit of land that extends from the south shore of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio. A paved pathway runs from the parking lot nearly to the beach – a protected natural area. The preserved environment serves as a place for migrating birds to rest and refuel, and as permanent residence for others. With little breeze Sunday, the open water areas were mirror-smooth. It was pleasant to once again hear the sounds of birds from the still-bare trees. Canada Geese occasionally had raucous disagreements and small flights of Mallard Ducks could be heard “squeaking” overhead. Heard from surrounding brush were Red Winged Blackbirds with their raspy and warbling calls. Downy and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers could also be seen and heard. Now the wetlands just south of the lake are relatively still, though the population and activity will steadily rise as spring and its birds return.
Taking advantage of a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon, we made a quick trip to the shore of Lake Erie. The shoreline was piled with snow-covered ice, in wave-shaped mounds parallel to the coast. Ice that formed on a guard rail made glistening caramel-colored curtains, even walls, joining the steel tubes of the framework to each other and to the ground. And a stream flowed beneath a bright, snowy ice layer, visible sometimes, down a rocky fall and, under cover ice once again, to the lake. Nice to see the lake again.
It sounds crazy, a lighthouse without a light, but it’s true. The lovely little landmark on the shores of Lake Erie in Vermilion, Ohio is a 34-foot “private navigational aid” with a lineage that reaches back to the 1800s.
The original wooden tower was replaced in about 1877 with a steel structure and stood as a warning to sailors until 1929. The tower was seen to be in danger of falling over and so was promptly removed. A valued piece of scenery, a reminder of Vermilion’s history was gone.
Members of the community put together enough funds that in 1991, construction of a new lighthouse was commissioned for the city. The light, with a Fresnel lens installed, was dedicated on June 6, 1992. For many years a steady red beacon shined out over the lake until fate stepped in again. The lens, owned by the Inland Seas Maritime Museum that shares the shoreline property with the little lighthouse, was removed when the museum closed up shop recently and moved to Toledo.
The treasured lighthouse is now dark.
Citizens have formed a Lighthouse Preservation Committee, dedicated to preservation and upkeep of the Vermilion Lighthouse and central to their mission: replacement of the Fresnel lens and return of light to the lighthouse.
Here’s hoping the coming year brings quick success as the Committee seeks to raise $40,500 for a new lens!
Donations can be mailed, payable to:
Main Street Vermilion
Attn: Lighthouse Preservation Committee
685 Main Street
Vermilion, OH 44089
Note: Online donation is possible but I did not see a way to earmark donations for the lighthouse project.
Main Street Vermilion