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!
Not long ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed called me to the window. “There’s a hawk up there,” she said, “and he’s eating something!” I took a look and, sure enough, perched on a low branch was a big bird pulling at something it had caught. I grabbed my camera, put on the big lens, and returned to the window. There, in graphic detail, I could see a Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) pulling, dismembering, and eating a bullfrog it had captured by our pond! I shot a number of photos: the hawk standing, the hawk with bits of meat in its sharp beak, the hawk pulling at guts. I normally don’t publish such graphic photos here because, well, it somehow doesn’t seem right. I know, hawks are birds of prey, beautiful, though natural-born killers, and what they do is how they live. I may add a photo later showing a bit more of the action though, over the past week, I’ve reconsidered several times. For now, I’ll post the photo shown above — the beautiful hunter with just a bit of the carnage — and leave the rest to your imagination.
This Sunday afternoon was chilly but the sun shown brightly, so I ventured out on a photo walk. I was seeking Sand Hill Cranes that had been sighted at the wetland restoration area of Buckeye Woods Park, Medina County, Ohio. I saw no cranes but did enjoy a flyover by a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a loud concert by Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata), and the sight of a tree full of migrating Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). A nice way to spend an April afternoon.