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.