For wildlife, springtime is usually when family life begins. The hard winter is nearly gone, spring’s warmth is moving in, and the hope of a summer plentiful with food is ahead; so it is with the Great Blue Herons. Large numbers of herons annually nest together at their rookery in Cuyahoga Falls, at the edge of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The big wading birds build nests of twigs and some surprisingly large branches, pair off, and raise their young. On Sunday, the herons were mostly quiet, little mating, nest building, or flying, and no vocalization at all. The sky was milky white with cirrus — not the best conditions for bird photography. Still, a silhouette can tell a story of the ancient rite of spring,
I had been told there was a Screech Owl resident within sight of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s (CVNP) Towpath Trail. I’ve heard about the bird for at least a couple of years. I had even been told where to look for the owl on previous hikes but never saw it or its hidey-hole. Though I wasn’t seeking the bird Sunday, I was on a little hike to see if anything was happening in the CVNP’s Beaver Marsh area north of the Ira Road Trailhead. As I began my walk, a returning couple said, “The owl is out today!” So now I had something to look forward to! Farther along, I could see a group of people stopped on the path, looking westward and off-trail … right about where I knew the owl was said to live. “Yes,” they told me when I reached the group, “there he is!” They pointed. They described how the owl could be seen: “see that snag? Now look for two trees behind it, and it’s about three trees over that way.” Directions like that didn’t help me much; it’s a heavily-wooded area! Finally, however, a patient woman let me stand behind her as she described the location and pointed… and there, at last, was the owl! The little bird was sitting at the bottom of an elongated opening to the hollow in a tree. From the trail, the owl’s plumage made it look very much like a part of the tree. Excellent camouflage. Far away. Darned near invisible! I was carrying my camera with a 400mm telephoto lens attached (~600mm with sensor cropping) and shot a few images. The owl never moved that I could see but the light changed as time passed. I could get only one clear view of the bird — fairly thick woods — but that was enough. So I captured my first images of an owl in the wild as it enjoyed the afternoon’s weak sun. Making the hike was a wise choice.
The annual Medina, Ohio Ice Festival got off to its traditional start with the lighting of their Fire and Ice Tower on Public Square. On Friday, a hollow tower is built from blocks of ice and filled with firewood. Friday night sees the city’s fire department set the wood ablaze. An estimated 2,000 people were in attendance to enjoy the ceremonial lighting and to stroll the Square looking at ice carvings made earlier.
As it turned out, Friday night was likely the best time to view the displays as Saturday and Sunday brought temperatures in the 60s, playing havoc with sculptures made of ice!
The promise of sunrise beckoned me out of the house and into an unseasonably mild January morning. There was light fog around, lending a melancholy or mysterious mood to the scenery. Walking a bit, I gazed out across a small lake and watched geese warily watch me. I strolled through a nearby cemetery as the sun slipped nearer the horizon. A small pond reflected colors left over from autumn, tree branches, and grass green from recent warmth. The sun began to shine through bare trees and the fog burned off. The fog-touched morning magic was gone.
With snow on the ground, holiday lights lit, in a new town to explore, I set out tonight to see what images I might collect. Medina, Ohio’s Public Square and its surrounding storefronts took on a special feeling all decked out for Christmas. Special attention is paid to the city’s ornate gazebo which now is wrapped in glorious lights. Buildings downtown are outlined in white lights, and even the street lights added to the scene. I walked around the square stopping, now and again, to set up and shoot another view; I did that until my hands hurt — too cold (28F) through thin gloves — and I headed home. Here are two of my favorite shots from the night.
November ushers in the change of seasons. Autumn is ending. Winter is beginning. We transitioned from warm and sunny conditions one day, to cold and snowing the next. Overnight we received about three inches of wet snow in Medina, Ohio. Wanting to get out, we ventured north to the shores of Lake Erie. Call me crazy but I find exhilarating the wild weather often experienced at the edge of our Great Lake. Today, with steady northwest winds of about 20 miles-per-hour, the lake offered plenty of action — and it was mighty cold! The air temperature of about 34 degrees (F) equated to something in the 20s, and as I explored camera in hand, those hands and my ears quickly began to ache. Now that I live farther inland, my visits to Lake Erie’s coast are less convenient and less frequent; they are no less exciting.
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.