Working on my annual photo calendar for family and friends, I realized I missed posting here a few shots I love from 2018. This shy male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) we spotted in the wooded shallows near the path in the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Huron, Ohio. The bird soon paddled deeper in the wetland wood disappearing completely from sight. September 2018.
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.
The weather hasn’t been very conducive to nature walks of late, that is if you don’t like getting stuck in mud! Over several recent days, however, there has been enough break in the rain to make trails more passable and skies a bit more cheerful. On a walk on the Buckeye Woods Park, Chippewa Inlet Trail we heard and encountered a number of birds I’d not seen before; most escaped my lens. My shot of the day, however, didn’t bear wings: it was a common American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). I was delighted by the position of the frog amongst wetland reeds and how the scene led from light to shadow — a beautiful arrangement. The frog, perhaps to avoid being noticed, held perfectly still while I photographed. I’m quite pleased with the results.
On Memorial Day we visited the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve — a spit of land in Huron, Ohio that extends into Lake Erie. Wetlands line the paved trail and the area, though small, provides habitat for many varieties of bird, and a rest and refueling stop for migrants. Bird songs filled the woods, and wildlife was easy to see, including two snapping turtles laying their eggs in holes they excavated along the paved footpath! My shot of the day at Sheldon Marsh was a beautiful female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus). The bird alighted on a low bush and furiously shook and preened itself while I watched and shot photos. Then, all sorted off, the blackbird shot into the woods to go about her business. It was wonderful, in the truest sense of the word, to get out and explore everyday natural beauties.
A favorite place of ours and of many actual birders is Sheldon Marsh, a spit of land that extends from the south shore of Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio. A paved pathway runs from the parking lot nearly to the beach – a protected natural area. The preserved environment serves as a place for migrating birds to rest and refuel, and as permanent residence for others. With little breeze Sunday, the open water areas were mirror-smooth. It was pleasant to once again hear the sounds of birds from the still-bare trees. Canada Geese occasionally had raucous disagreements and small flights of Mallard Ducks could be heard “squeaking” overhead. Heard from surrounding brush were Red Winged Blackbirds with their raspy and warbling calls. Downy and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers could also be seen and heard. Now the wetlands just south of the lake are relatively still, though the population and activity will steadily rise as spring and its birds return.
Today we revisited a couple of places favored by birders: Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve, and Old Woman Creek Nature Preserve, both near Huron, Ohio. Sheldon Marsh was quiet, with Northern Cardinals peeping about, and a Great Blue Heron, nearly invisible as it stalked through tall reeds. The place was lovely to visit and gave us pleasant, green, shady wooded walking, but a bit too quiet. Later, we visited Old Woman Creek and a wonderful vantage point over a wide, open wetland. After some patient waiting, Great Blue Herons and a Great Egret provided some photo ops. Of course there are always the “ones that got away.” Still, I got a couple of “keepers.”
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website, “Old Woman Creek is one of the state’s few remaining examples of a natural estuary. As a transition zone between land and water, the site contains a variety of habitats including marshes and swamps, upland forests, open water, tributary streams, barrier beach and near shore Lake Erie. The Reserve supports a diverse assemblage of native plants and animals representative of freshwater estuaries. Old Woman Creek Reserve is managed as a cooperative partnership between NOAA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Old Woman Creek is also an Ohio State Nature Preserve.”
Too quick for me was a Kingfisher’s dive into the open water to emerge and shoot into flight with a good sized fish in its beak. I got a couple of shots of the little guy speeding off with his lunch but nothing good enough to show here. The heron shown above also managed to make good its escape without my properly documenting it. Dang! Must… go… back! Will do so in another month or so.
We spent Sunday afternoon on a lovely nature walk in the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve outside Huron, Ohio. Public access is along a paved drive flanked by woodland paths that heads straight out into Sandusky Bay. It’s a prime birdwatching spot in the spring and autumn: birds use it for rest and refueling for the hop across Lake Erie between the US and Canada. The wetlands also provide habitat for longer-term residents making the preserve an excellent place for nature-loving hikers all year ’round.
Along the way we discovered and usually photographed many scenes, both still-life and wildlife, including ducks, a Baltimore Oriole, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles, snakes, and a Great Egret (Ardea alba). The egret was hunting in the shallows of the preserve’s beach area, along a wooded shore. The big bird knew where to find fish and I watched as, in rapid succession, it caught and quickly swallowed two. At some point it decided to move closer to shore and that’s when I got a few images of the egret in flight.
Redwinged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) have marked my springs and, especially, summers for as long as I can remember. Their jet-black plumage accented with large red shoulder spots, their aggressive nature and raucous calls, make for an interesting bird to watch and listen to. There were many redwings in the preserve, darting in and out of the wetlands’ tall reeds — presumably nesting there. Occasionally there were territorial disputes, raucous and aggressive as would be expected. I spotted one bird picking at seed dropped by a visitor on the walkway. As I drew closer, the bird popped up into a neighboring tree. The redwing warily watched as I came a bit closer and shot a few photos of it perched on a branch. I stayed a bit too long so Mr. Redwing flitted into the woods.
I had been looking around mostly at birds and (wet)landscapes and hadn’t really noticed but we were, it seems, surrounded by snakes! An enthusiast, accompanied by his family, was spotting snakes sunning themselves among the rocks of a breakwall. He would hop on to the stones and deftly grab resting snakes! At first I worried he might do the reptiles some harm but he seemed mostly out to admire them, maybe prove his courage and skill, and then safely release. Once cued in, we began seeing the snakes. We spotted and photographed a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) apparently ready to molt and, later, a Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) along the breakwall.
We had a fine, relaxed time enjoying nature, a lovely day, and a walk at the marsh.