After a long absence, we returned to Sandy Ridge Reservation, a notable area for birders in the Lorain Metro Parks System, and were richly rewarded. We spotted and watched a Sand Hill Crane family as they explored the waters’ edge for food: the impressive adults escorted their colt (that’s what the young are called) watching humans watching them from the nearby path. The colt was allowed to explore a bit on its own but the mated pair were never far away. It was thrilling to see the family and a first for me; a wonderful surprise.
As we watched the Sandhill Cranes, Great Egrets, and dragonflies, an American Bald Eagle soared overhead. We could not see the eagle’s nest but behavior told us it was on hunting flights, probably feeding its young in the hidden nest.
It is unusual for our area to see discrete thunderstorms — individual storms visible against otherwise clear skies — so we miss out on some thrilling sights. The anvil or thunderhead of a strong storm usually happens above a lower cloud layer in our region, hidden from those of us who appreciate such things. On July 20, 2022 a severe thunderstorm rolled right overhead. I’ve rarely, if ever, heard so many cracks of thunder so close by. I was indoors, did not see the mammoth bolts directly above my roof, and was actually getting concerned the house, or my tall flagpole, would be hit. I was close to being afraid of the lightning, and that’s very unusual! The storm passed, as storms do, and I took a peek through a window. To the west the sky was clearing as the clean edge of the thunderstorm moved east but then the thrill: mammatus clouds! Technically, mammatus are not rare phenomena, often hanging from the anvils of thunderstorms, but we rarely see them here for the reasons given above — we rarely see the anvils. The sky was full of them! I grabbed my iPhone (nearest camera) and hurried outside. Though I feared it would end quickly, the display went on til after dark. Here are a few views…
I stayed up late, anticipating the arrival of a powerful storm system the night of June 13. The MCS (mesoscale convective system) tracked to the south of its predicted path, leaving me at the northern end of storm activity. I thought I was out of luck but saw some lightning and decided to try for some photos. My persistence and resulting sleep deprivation was rewarded. I witnessed several impressive displays of “anvil crawler” lightning — cloud-to-cloud discharges along the cloud base — but missed a couple. At midnight, however, this amazing crawler filled my visual field and the view from the camera. The strong horizontal bolts steal the show but look closer. Even in this reduced-resolution web version of the photo, streaks of lightning reach up and down across the bottom of the storm cloud. I remember seeing the motion of the light, almost like an advertising sign, luminescence racing along those fine lines. The MCS blasted across our region, downing trees and utility poles along its path. Here, the storm passed dropping only a little rain here with virtually no wind, allowing me to make this capture (a single exposure). The local newspaper surprised me by using the image — full-frame, in color — huge on their front page! It’s hard for newspapers to hold the finest details in print but the e-version looks pretty good.
I was able to record the approach of a massive mesoscale convective system (MCS) with its shelf cloud early in the afternoon of August 25 — this panorama I assembled shows most of it. I posted a panning video I shot of the storm and it was discovered by a producer at Accuweather. The cable weather channel requested permission to use the “footage” on-air but I denied the request … I feared their use of my drone video, myself not yet a certified professional drone pilot, would violate FAA regulations. I was later told by a flight instructor that I could have granted permission, even sold the video to a willing buyer, since it was created for recreation and not on assignment or with the intent of commercial use. I still sigh thinking about that one. Mebbie next time!
By the way, I have a lot of experience with this type of weather phenomenon and was even checking radar as the storm approached so I knew when to land to avoid rain and strong winds.
One of many Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies we spotted this afternoon at theMedina County Park District’s Alderfer-Chatfield Wildlife Sanctuary. These red beauties are usually the last dragonfly seen each year with a flight season that begins in July and which can extend to mid-November if there aren’t heavy frosts, according to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association.
A line of thunderstorms was bearing down on our area the night of July 24 and it looked like it might be interesting — it has been a while since I’ve made any lightning pictures. The storm progressed slowly from Southeastern Michigan and Northwest Ohio and across Lake Erie finally beginning its arrival here around midnight. As the storm overran the area, I watched it for lightning potential. Ducking outside and looking up at one point, I was treated to a beautiful “anvil crawler” display nearly overhead!
I rushed to my office and quickly assembled my gear: Canon EOS 6D Mk. 2, wide-angle lens, and tripod. First to the northern side of the house. After some waiting and a couple of “teasers” the storm let loose a magnificent crawler — brilliant lightning crossing the cloud bottoms, branching off to the sides. Turns out, that was the shot of the night though I didn’t know it at the time since I was unable to preview my images. Light rain began to fall and with not enough shelter, I moved to the south side of the house.
It took a while for the storm to progress southward enough for me to see the dwindling cloud-to-cloud lightning flashes but they eventually came. I spent maybe 90 minutes watching the storm, aiming the camera, waiting for the automatic trigger to capture the ephemeral brilliance. Thunder, this night, rolled across the dark countryside for many seconds after each flash before fading away — something I’ve not experienced in quite some time. It was lovely. My sheltered spot on the south side kept camera, lens, and photographer dry throughout, which isn’t always the case. Rain prevented me from aiming the camera as high as I’d have liked. Just a few drops on the camera lens, combined with a bright lightning flash, produces an unusable image.
The storm petered out so, sometime around 1:45 a.m. I went back indoors, and reviewed the images via the camera’s display. Yes! Beautiful stuff! Editing the photos after sleeping for a few hours was the highlight of my Sunday morning.
In future I really need to find a sheltered place, or at least a place where I can park and shoot from my car at night, a spot that has an open view of the countryside and/or town. In the mean time, results from the Saturday night storm were worth the sleep deprivation.
It has been a fairly quiet (visually) storm season for me this year but there has been some drama. Here are several shots, from two storms, that took place in July.
Views of the July 7th’s approaching storm: the most active portion was behind me producing low rumbles of distant thunder. Except for light, cooling gusts of wind and these beautiful clouds, nothing remarkable happened where I stood. Not even a drop of rain.