The Red-Winged Blackbird announced itself from the branches of a small tree nearby. He allowed visitors to approach only so much, then flew off. Repeating.
Sunday, October 12, presented us with beautiful autumn weather so we set off to check out an historical open house in western Medina County. The drive out was excellent but the open house itself was a bit disappointing. Heading back along our earlier track we stopped to explore a place She Who Must Be Obeyed noticed earlier: the Chippewa Inlet Trail North Trailhead, a property of the Medina County Park District. As we exited the car in the parking lot we noticed the distinct silhouettes of four vultures on the fish scale roof of an ancient barn. As I shot photos of the birds I could see that something was different… these were not the Turkey Vultures we so often see around here. The birds danced and squawked along the ridge of the roof and I moved around the barn to see the birds, not as shadowy shapes but lit by the sun. Grey heads and legs, white wingtips on the underside; nope, not Turkey Vultures! Happily, I had my iPad with me and a copy of the Peterson Field Guide: Birds of North America. I quickly learned the dark quartet were Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), and rarely sighted in Northern Ohio! We walked around trailhead area and its beautiful shallow ponds, enjoying the sun and soft breeze. What really made my day, however, was the sight of the Black Vultures against blue skies.
On a frigid morning hike in the Allardale Park, Medina County (Ohio) Park District this morning, I happened across a touching sight. There, on the snow-covered seat of a park bench, someone had earlier used a finger to draw a “love heart.” Sweet enough, I suppose, but then we see that the bench was dedicated in someone’s memory; now this becomes a poignant scene. It turns out the person named had died six months earlier, at age 90. This will be the first winter, the first Christmas, his relatives, friends, and the parks will see without him in a long, long time. That he was loved and is missed, shown in the outline of a Valentine in snow.
Visiting the Hubbard Valley Park of the Medina County (Ohio) Park System today, we walked the woodland trail. The woods were lovely, dark, and deep, as has been restated by many. Among the beautiful sights was a rotting log hosting sun-spotlighted fungi. Philosophers, have at!
Dragonflies are creatures of two worlds. Both phases were on display at the Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary in the Medina County Park System today. Dragonflies hatch from eggs and live the first portion of their lives as nymphs –aquatic creatures– six legs of predator seeking prey underwater. When, in the fullness of time, they reach maturity, dragonflies haul their alien-like bodies out into the air and grab hold of a leaf or twig. Then the nymph body is split open from the inside and the next phase of life begins … life as a creature of flight. In the air dragonflies seek prey and mates. The females dip their abdomens into still waters of ponds and marshes, lay their fertilized eggs there, and the cycle continues. No, that dry husk isn’t a dead insect … it has simply moved on.
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.