A stroll in the Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary at Wolf Creek Environmental Center led us out over the wetland area via boardwalk. Along the walkway was a late-season water lily bloom, floating on dark waters in the afternoon sun. Nearby, tiny green dots of plant life float. It was warm that day but cold days lie ahead. Nature knows.
We have had a few days recently when heat and humidity-driven storms have roamed the region. On Tuesday, August 20 we saw a long line of powerful, even severe-warned, storms develop to our west. Though the line appeared to be moving at a leisurely rate, I arrived at one of my favorite observation sites with just enough time to set up before a broad shelf cloud appeared on the horizon.
The leading edge passed over my location and, as is expected with these things, heavy rain immediately followed and I retreated to my car. After a quick splash of intense rain, the precipitation stopped! I got back out of my car and shot a few photos of the areas about to be visited by the storm. One view in particular from behind the shelf cloud: from a spot spared rainfall was this view of the dark clouds overhead, curtains of intense rain drenching the area, and brighter skies being engulfed.
Ah! Stormy weather!
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.
Taking advantage of a recently-rare pretty day, we paid a visit to the Lorain County Metro Parks’ Sandy Ridge Reservation – a haven for nature lovers and, especially, birders. A long trail through swampy woods connects the reservation parking lot with a large, open wetland area. While most speedily hike the trail in an effort to get to the open area (or away from resident mosquitoes) there is much to be seen in those woods. The excitement began as we heard an unusual (to our ears) bird call — a Plieated Woodpecker noisily announcing itself as it dropped to the forest floor in search of insects in and among the decaying logs there. This particular bird seemed especially large even for a Pileated Woodpecker. We watched and photographed for a couple of minutes as it powerfully plunged its beak into soft wood, hopped from spot to spot, and then took off deeper into the woods. A Most Impressive Bird!
Along the shores of the shallow open waters of the wetland, we spied a Great Blue Heron. Expecting it to take flight at any moment, we were surprised when the heron tolerated our close approach; it was fully focused on hunting for fish. The bird, either fearless or (more likely) naive, slowly paced along the shore, wading in very shallow water, stopping when it sensed prey nearby.
This particular heron enjoyed three successes while we watched, snagging small fish and then swallowing them whole. Someone commented that the woodpecker was a beautiful dinosaur and, while that may be true, Great Blue Herons make me think of Pterodactyls every time!
The Sandy Ridge Reservation is a haven for Great Egrets; I see more of the big white birds there than anywhere else we roam. The egrets hunt, squawk at each other, fly from spot to spot, providing lovely contrast to the largely darker, more subdued wetland scene.
The wetlands of Northern Ohio with their crops of cattail reeds are ideal homes for Red-Winged Blackbirds. We enjoyed the blackbirds’ songs and raspy calls, and the shiny black plumage of the males with their colorful shoulder patches. More subtle, less visible, but wholly beautiful are the female Red-Winged Blackbirds with their streaked bodies and warmly-colored heads; they are a delight to discover.
We saw yellow warblers, water snakes, many Great Egrets, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Great Blue Herons, a nesting Bald Eagle, dragonflies, squirrels, Tree Swallows, chipmunks, turtles, and during our wood-lined exit, a little Gray Treefrog, all on our walk in the woods. It was a day full of wonder.
Due to poor timing I missed shooting a spectacular shelf cloud that passed over our area yesterday; it was an epic view, maybe not once in a lifetime but certainly an uncommon sight in this region. I felt terrible, having seen the shelf cloud in all its glory but missing the opportunity to photograph it. Today’s weather, though not as amazing, gave me another chance at impressive cloud structure and I’m feeling much better for it!