This disheveled-looking creature is a young male Northern Cardinal. I was waiting for a chickadee to show up on a sign post beside a trail in the Summit Metro Parks’ F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm. I heard a light rustling of wings nearby and to my left. What should I see but a bright red cardinal perched on branches only a yard away! I slowly turned and aimed my lens at the bird as he looked around, then preened, and looked around some more, allowing me an extended photographic opportunity before he apparently figured I had no food for him and he flitted off into the brush! This is my favorite shot of the bunch … the youngster briefly interrupted his preening to, it seemed, look right at me. The chickadee? Yes, it showed up too!
A visit to the Summit Metro Parks’ Nature Realm helped lift me from my dark mood today; sometimes getting out into a serene natural area can help. Rains last night had wet the woodlands of the park area, subdued light, and absence of park visitors — along the earthen trail — made for a soothing environment. Birds sang their songs in the canopy of trees whilst, in the understory, chipmunks and squirrels scurried about. The warm damp provided perfect conditions for varieties of fungi to grow on fallen tree trunks. The peace and beauty of the place crept inside, imparting some relief from the disappointments humanity has dished out over the past few days in national and world news.
In the dark woods I tried some experiments employing my camera’s high ISO capability. My image of a Harvestman (“Daddy Longlegs”) on a shelf fungus was shot, handheld, at ISO 8,000 at 1/125 second! Viewed at 100 percent, grain is easily visible in the photo but smooth and subtle enough to make for a good photo at smaller sizes. The “Green Wood” picture took advantage of pond water that was already a seemingly unnatural green reflecting the green of shore plants around a submerged chunk of wood — a picture I’m very happy with. That was at a more conservative ISO of 250.
Surprise! Instead of a cloudy and cold day, we received a cloudless and mild (~ 30 degrees F) Saturday! It was a fine occasion for a little walk at Akron’s Nature Realm park. The woods were loaded with Black-Capped Chickadees that were being hand-fed by some visitors. I was most fascinated by snow and shadow. What, to my eye, really stood out was a pinwheel of decaying wood capped with lichens and snow — an amazing touch of color in a seeming monochrome landscape.
It was a pleasant afternoon for a photo-hike at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm of Summit Metro Parks in Akron, Ohio. We chose to take a 1.6-mile earthen trail that traverses woodlands and gullies. I shot a good many photos but not many good photos this time — I really must take a tripod when I do these things! If, however, the journey is the destination, we accomplished what we really came for — a time in nature, paying attention to the world around us. It was time well spent.
The world around us seemed obsessed with finding “Black Friday” deals. Shoppers camped out at the doors of discount department stores and big electronics retailers around the area and across the country. Shopping mall parking lots were packed with cars. Everywhere a seeming retail feeding frenzy as customers sought amazing savings on items they wanted … most likely not as holiday gifts. In our area the sky became cloudless and intensely blue and the temperatures moderated into the upper-50s (F), an astonishingly beautiful day following on the heels of typical wet and chilly November weather. On our post-Thanksgiving holiday day off, we saw far greater value and sense in visiting the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm. It was heartening to see many families sharing our appreciation of the beautiful day outdoors, rather than under the roof of a shopping mall. It may have been a big day of shopping for many others but it was no Black Friday here!
On the morning of Veteran’s Day we decided we could not stay indoors all day, effectively “wasting” a day off. The day promised to be steamy-hot and we were unprepared for that. So we took a little drive to Summit Metroparks’ Nature Realm preserve in Akron. One of our favorite places, the park features natural areas with marked earthen trails and formal gardens with paved walkways. Plants and animals are all around and offer many photo opportunities! This day I made 100 exposures and, though threw away some promising but ultimately disappointing shots, got some really good pictures. An iris blooming in a boggy wetland spot is my favorite of the bunch. After some time, and as the muggy air began to take its toll, we headed out to lunch and ultimately home. A pleasant time in nature’s realm.
This morning we visited the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm property of Summit Metro Parks. It's a beautiful, 104-acre property preserving natural plant and animal life of the area. It's also at the north end of the Akron metropolitan area. Always a surprise and pleasure to see not only green space but forest land preserved so close to a city. We chose to take one of the hiking trails on what is now, for us, a regular event: a photo walk. The rolling 1.3-mile Seneca Trail took a while to cover as we would walk a bit, stop and photograph something or other, walk some more, stop and photograph… well, you get the picture and, of course, we got lots of 'em. At some point past the half-way mark I spied a bright object floating in a clearing between trees. At first I thought it was a brightly-colored autumn leaf caught in a spider web. Nope, it was a spider hanging from a high, vast web and it was a very large spider at that!
Fortunately I had been using the nice macro lens on my camera so I was able to step right up and try and photograph the colorful beastie. I don't really want to know how close I was to this one. It was very large and, appropriately enough for the approaching Halloween and harvest sesaons, bright orange like a pumpkin! As I attempted to shoot close-ups of the hanging spider it apparently figured the giant a few inches away might be a threat and began lowering itself to the ground and the bed of autumn leaves below. Between the necessary manual focussing, wind, and a determined escape plan, I was only able to squeeze off two shots and only one was in good focus.
Spidey dropped to the ground and headed into a tent of curly tree leaves. I couldn't just give up so I crouched down on my knees and elbow to spider-eye level to get some more shots. The spider, now ensconced in a leaf tent, held still for my new attempts at a portrait. I got several shots, a couple of good ones, and my favorite of the bunch is shown here. My, such pretty eyes you have… and so many of them!
By the way, for those who may be interested in such details, our arachnid friend is an Araneus marmoreus or Marbled orb-weaver. Some may, however, refer to the commonly-heard names: "creepy crawler," or "eeeeeeek! "
The autumn woods were looking, feeling, smelling, and sounding of the coming onset of winter. Everywhere there are lovely leaves on the ground and the trees are looking naked. There was a definite chill in the air and blustery winds that reach to the understorey. The sweet smell of decaying leaf matter hangs in some areas, strangely not everywhere. And bird calls are becoming less common with less variety, the whole woods are quieter.
Our trail exited into a beautifully landscaped garden area with water feature near the park entrance. Looking at the surface of the water I was taken by a tiny surprise, actually thousands of little surprises. I don't know why I hadn't considered that tiny aquatic plants might change leaf color with the seasons just as readily as the large terrestrial variety. There, floating on the pond, were miniscule, square plant leaves in colors ranging from green to red, all beautiful on the syrupy-looking dark water.
We're sure to visit Nature Realm again, perhaps soon, having added it to our short list of favorite nearby places.