At Lorain County MetroParks’ Schoepfle Garden last Sunday, I spied two snakes sunning themselves on the bank of a pond. The snakes became aware of me but unpanicked, moved into the water and away at a leisurely pace. As they submerged and wriggle-swam, the pair changed from dark and dusty — nearly black — to their true shades of brown, revealing beautifully-patterned skins. As the larger of the two reptiles turned to meet its (apparent) mate which had gone in the opposite direction, it passed by a large bullfrog. Wary of the possible danger the frog, though too large to be swallowed, held perfectly still as the water snake passed.
Walking in the Hinckley Reservation of Cleveland Metroparks today, the first day of summer, I spotted a group of visitors looking at something along the path ahead. As I drew closer I discovered they were watching and photographing a hawk! The bird was perched upon a signpost and did not appear to be bothered by the attention of nearby humans. Carrying my DSLR fitted with a 400mm telephoto lens, I was able to capture especially close-up images of the beautiful raptor at it watched for people and potential prey.
At one point a cicada flew within a couple of feet of the hawk and the bird turned to watch. Fortunately for the insect, it was just a bit out of reach for the hawk and, for its part, the bird seemed to think pursuit wasn’t worth the bother.
I left after several minutes of photography, moving around and a bit closer to my subject. Not wishing to spook it into flight, I left the hawk still on its perch from which it could see and be seen.
March 29 was a beautiful day and inspired me to pay a visit to a very active heron rookery in the Summit Metro Parks system, immediately adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) at the north end of Akron. I was pleased to discover that the resident Great Blue Herons were still working on their nests, providing me with plenty of “photo ops” for catching them in flight.
The trees that support the heron nests are part of an open wooded area, affording the birds access to fallen twigs and other materials with which to build and maintain their nests. Every so often a bird launched from a treetop, glide away, and circle down to the ground. Strolling around for a while, the heron would find just the right stick needed and, grasping it in its stiletto-like beak, lift from the brush. High into the air, the bird would soar, circling around for the right approach, and ever so gently alight near its nest. Mates, if on the nest, exchange greetings and the stick may be handed off.
Because the woods are full of herons, smaller birds and animals, raptors are also present. I had been told about hawks and eagles being around and occasionally spooking the Great Blues but I hadn’t seen them. This evening, however, was different. First one motorist, then another visitor flagged me and described where a Bald Eagle was perched. The first site was distant, in the shade, with strong backlighting — none-too-photogenic. The second site, however, put the eagle in a fairly decent position for photography: well-lit with the sky behind.
Up til now, the only Bald Eagles I had seen in the wild were either perched far away or flying away from me but not this bird! Apparently a young adult (four to five years old), the eagle watched the rookery from across a road! The eagle’s tree-top spot allowed it to see the main rookery, a secondary nesting area, and an open field; an excellent location for passive hunting. I got some decent shots, even if partly obscured by tree branches!
Sunset was approaching and I wanted to check out a nearby portion of the CVNP called Beaver Marsh, so I packed up and headed down the road. The wetland offered open waters and open sky to the west and the possibility of some nice evening views. A few visitors were on the boardwalk watching native beavers go about their business. Robins and other birds were singing their evening songs. And Canada Geese were noisily settling in for the night.
As I watched, a small group of geese began to fly over the spot where a pair had set up for the night. One of the floating birds looked up and squawked loudly as if to say, “Go! This is ours!” The birds overhead kept flying, leaving those below swimming on rippled waters lit by setting sun.
I really didn’t want to leave — the sky, the water, and the sounds were so beautiful — but it was getting cold, and I was expected home. I do plan, hopefully one day soon, to return “after hours” to enjoy evening’s wings.
We paid a mid-winter visit to Lorain Metro Parks’ wonderful Sandy Ridge Reservation on Saturday, February 6. Usually, when we visit the wetland area, we are treated to an abundance of waterfowl and other birds. Indeed, we saw plenty of Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and even a rather clumsy Red Tail Hawk (more on this one soon).
The only resident mammals we generally see at Sandy Ridge are Gray Squirrels and assorted Chipmunks, though we certainly have seen some signs of Beaver activity! This day was different. We stopped on the path out of courtesy to a fellow photographer who was staring at the grass at the edge of the path. We watched to see what he was looking for and suddenly there was a stirring in the brush.
Out popped a long, dark brown, very wet critter who quickly loped on to and across the sandy path, then into the grass on the opposite side! It was carrying something … a fish! And that was it. Gathering some groceries was a Mink, I think!
Driving back from a car service appointment, I paused for a while to enjoy the quiet beauty of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Hinckley Reservation. The only camera I had with me was in my little iPhone 5s but I got a couple of nice shots out of it; this is my favorite.
February started off cloudy and gray, as many days have been of late. During an errand to Medina, Ohio some blue sky and sunshine appeared through gaps in the rolling clouds; we headed to the Medina Woods Park and its Chippewa Inlet Trailhead. Strolling along the trail encircling a major wetland restoration area. Weather has been cold enough to maintain a thin layer of ice on areas of open water. Geese, ducks, and a pair of Trumpeter Swans stood on the ice, eyeing us warily.
Patches of sunlight shifted across the scenery, now and then illuminating an ancient barn on the property and bringing out colors in pond ice.
As we headed back to the parking lot, gaps in the cloud cover closed and overcast saw us off. Changeable skies, indeed.
The evening light falls through bare branches to the forest floor, illuminating the few remaining leaves that are not on the ground. Soon darkness will fall. Soon the leaves will fall. So ends the day.