Posted in back yard buffet, bird photography, First snowfall

First snowfall

2016_12_08_back-yard-birding_015

Put together the first snowfall of the season with blustery wind and very cold temperatures. Then throw in a brand new brush pile that the birds are absolutely loving, and suddenly you have open house at the Bird Buffet. The juncos, mourning doves, blue jays, sparrows, titmice, chickadees, and more all spent an exciting day gathered around the brush pile and other new additions to the back yard bird buffet. The red-bellied woodpecker made its first visit in a long time, and the downy woodpecker was enjoying the suet. Watching them was great fun. Here are just a few pictures, and there will be plenty more coming because I have pictures I haven’t even had time to process. Eventually they will make their way to the blog. I hope you will come back to see them.

Thanks for stopping by today. See you soon!
Trail Walker
Posted in back yard buffet, backyard birding, My trail walks

Hey, people, what’s happening?

2016_11_12_places_chagrin-river-park_0007

This little house finch is curious about the changes we’re making to the back yard buffet in preparation for winter weather. A new season of back yard birding is about to begin, so we purchased a beautiful new hopper feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited, my favorite store for all things bird-related. Bob installed the pole and feeder in (hopefully) a prime location, not too far from our back door (for when the snow  accumulates), but also within easy flying distance from the sheltering branches of our neighbor’s apple tree.

The apple tree is a favorite launching pad for the little chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and downy woodpeckers that frequent the Back Yard Buffet. For our anniversary last week, our daughter Becky gifted us with a few extra attachments for the pole that will provide more space and variety and hopefully keep the neighborhood birds well fed and returning for more throughout the winter. It should also provide a refuge for them in the bad weather that is sure to come our way soon.

Here are a few of the first visitors to the renovated “Back Yard Buffet”…

That’s it for now from the renovated Back Yard Buffet.
Stay tuned for future updates…
and cross your fingers for no hawk incursions!
Trail Walker
Posted in celebration, Lake Farmpark, Lake Metroparks, My trail walks

Something worth celebrating

2009_05_31_untitled_9403

Bob and I exchanged our marriage vows 57 years ago at my family’s church in Cardiff, Maryland, a half mile down the road from the home where I grew up in the very small town of Delta, Pennsylvania. So today, November 27, 2016, we were discussing how we wanted to celebrate the occasion..

  • Bob-Where would you like to go for dinner?
  • Me-It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just some place scenic  where I can take a few pictures…some place we will both enjoy. A place that is peaceful and relaxing.

So we agreed on some place photogenic, some place casual, and some place where we could get really good food, and we decided to start with a visit to the LakeMetroparks Farmpark where the animals and activities serve up photogenic 24/7 (except on Mondays).

According to the tagline on their website, the Farmpark is…”A family-oriented science and cultural center devoted to agriculture and farming.” It is that and so much more. For us, it was a beautiful and casual place to take pictures (me), talk to the animals (Bob), and enjoy our special day together.

Our first stop was the Well Bred Shed and the equine area where we visited with sheep, goats, chickens, and beautiful percherons that were  on loan for the park’s annual Country Lights festivities.

Out in the barnyard where supper time was in full swing, we watched the animals digging into their food troughs, after which they cast hopeful glances in our direction. Their expressions seemed to say, “Did you bring us anything to eat?”  Take a look at the faces I captured. Who could resist them?

The last stop in the barnyard was to visit this steer:

2016_11_27_places_farmpark_0137

He wandered right up and engaged in an over-the-fence chat with Bob, while I snapped more pictures. He is a very photogenic animal.

Back at the visitors’ center,  numerous families, many with small children, were entering for the sold out Country Lights event, but we paused so I could snap a few more pictures.

2016_11_27_places_farmpark_0161-edit

2016_11_27_places_farmpark_0158

2016_11_27_places_farmpark_01752016_11_27_places_farmpark_0176

2016_11_27_places_farmpark_0169
Sunset over a Farmpark pond

And now it was time for us to get that really good food we had anticipated when we embarked on this special day. Bass Lake Taverne in Chardon sounded good to us, so we drove there and polished off our celebration with delicious warm bread, excellent entrees, and desserts that were (as the saying goes) “to die for,” bread pudding for Bob and warm chocolate Tollhouse pie for me.

It was a wonderful ending to our special day.
Thanks for joining us for our celebration.
See you soon!
Trail Walker
Posted in family, Holiday time, Making memories

Baking Christmas cookies

2016_11_26_family_baking-christmas-cookies_0106

Baking cookies (and eating them) is a time-honored tradition in our home during the holiday season. What would the holiday be like without tons of cookies stored in tins, waiting to be consumed by family and friends? That at least was my mother’s conviction when preparing for the holiday. She was fortunate to have a large pantry off the kitchen with enough space for many cookie tins. During the weeks preceding Christmas, in anticipation of family and friends descending on her kitchen, she would marshal her baking supplies, fill the pantry and refrigerator with fresh ingredients, and rally some friends to help her with a big baking blitz.

This year, my daughters Becky and Alison decided to carry on the tradition, and Becky, Alison, granddaughter Emmy, and I gathered at Becky’s home the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and said, “Let the baking commence!”  Guaranteed to make a cookie-lover drool, here are a few pictures of the bake-a-thon.

Max, one of the resident dogs, was not too happy to be restricted to his kennel in the corner of the kitchen, where he could only observe the fun. His expression says that he would much rather be “helping.”

2016_11_26_family_baking-christmas-cookies_0113
Why can’t I help?
2016_11_26_family_baking-christmas-cookies_0084
When do I get to taste a cookie?

An occasional glance out the window convinced us that this was the perfect day to be indoors, enjoying the scent of freshly baked cookies seasoned with conversation, laughter, and fun: essential ingredients for baking cookies to share with the people you love.

2016_11_26_family_baking-christmas-cookies_0109
Outside, Lake Erie was chilly and dreary.

That’s it for this memory-making holiday event. It would have been extra fun to have our third daughter and other grandchildren join us, but they all live too far away to pop in for a Saturday afternoon baking session.

Thank you for popping in though.
Sharing the fun makes it extra special.
See you soon.
Trail Walker
PS: No trail walking was done today!
Posted in family, Memorable Moments, My family: then and now, photography

A fun photoshoot

2016_11_25_places_holden-arboretum_0011-edit
The golden willow in Lotus Pond on this drizzly November day.

Two of our grandchildren, Michael and Emmy, siblings as Emmy described them today, are home from college for the holiday weekend.  After our family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, I asked if they would be interested in visiting the Arboretum today for a little photoshoot. They agreed, so off we went this afternoon.

My goal was to replicate a photo I had taken of them fourteen plus years ago when their mother and I took them to the Arboretum. That beautiful spring day in 2002 they were about four and five years old  and the weather was perfect for playing around Blueberry Pond. Today’s weather was  drizzly  and only a couple degrees above 40,  but we proceeded with our plan anyway, and we had a lot of fun. Here are the pictures:

Michael, Emmy, and me in 2002

selected-outdoor-photos-2001-2005-265

Michael and Emmy today

2016_11_25_places_holden-arboretum_0049-edit

If the ground hadn’t been so soggy today, I was thinking of taking their picture on the little footbridge at the bottom of the hill. When I got home this evening and started digging through my old picture files, I wished I had gone through with the plan, despite the mud and slippery leaves, because…

Here are Michael and Emmy on the footbridge in 2002

emmy-and-michael-at-holden-arboretum

And here they are today overlooking the Butterfly Garden

2016_11_25_places_holden-arboretum_0060-edit

I can’t believe it has been over 14 years since that May day in 2002. Time flies by way too quickly; places change and people change also, especially children. Blink your eyes, turn around once or twice, and they are no longer little children. This is why I enjoy photography so much and treasure the pictures I have collected over the years. On this post-Thanksgiving day, they, the children and the pictures, mean the world to me.

Thanks, Michael and Emmy, for visiting the Arboretum with me today. It was cold and a little wet, but I had a wonderful time!  -Grandma

And thanks, blog friends, for coming along!
Trail Walker

P.S. I’m thinking I see a future series of blog posts. All I have to do is get the other grandchildren back to Ohio and take them to the Arboretum for a photoshoot. That might take a while, but I’ll file it in the back of my mind and maybe someday it will happen.

Gingkos, baldcypress, and other trees

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0175
Gingko tree on November 16, 2016

With all the wind, rain, and near freezing temperatures we’ve “enjoyed” in the past five days, I wondered what I would find when the sun came out yesterday and I went to Holden Arboretum to walk some of my favorite trails. My first stop was the gingko tree. I had waited for weeks, since Autumn began, for it to make the annual transition from green to golden. Last week before the wind, rain, and even a few snowflakes moved in, I finally saw what I had been waiting for. That’s when I took the picture at the top of this page. Unfortunately, here is what I saw yesterday when I rounded the curve in the trail and stood beneath its branches:

2016_11_22_places_holden-arboretum_0002-edit
Gingko tree on November 22, 2016

The weather had taken a sad toll on my beautiful tree, and I will have to wait another year to see it in all its glory. Thanks to this blog, I can see it in living color any time I want to revisit my “Color Me Autumn” blog posts.  😊

After taking several pictures of the gingko ,  I continued along the trail, pausing to take pictures of some of my favorite spots. But before I share the gallery of those photos, I want to show you another unusual tree, the baldcypress tree. It’s the only tree I am aware of that is noted for its knees. That’s right, knees. Take a look at the picture below. Do you see the knees?

2016_11_22_places_holden-arboretum_0047-edit

They are those little stubby growths that almost look like large stones on the ground to the left of the two trees. According to Wikipedia…

A cypress knee is a term used in the biology of trees to describe the distinctive structures forming above the roots of a cypress tree of any of various species of the subfamily Taxodioideae. Their function is unknown, but they are generally seen on trees growing in swamps.

Most tree roots are underground, but, in another source I read, the knees of the baldcypress tree are part of the root system that come back to the surface. You can see these trees and their knees in swampy areas where the baldcypress trees grow. Apparently no one is sure of their exact purpose. If you visit Holden Arboretum and want to see them, take the trail around Blueberry Pond and keep your eyes along the edge of the water. That’s where you will find them. Below is another baldcypress, growing at the edge of Blueberry Pond. All baldcypress trees are deciduous conifers that lose their leaves (or needles) in the Fall.

2016_11_22_places_holden-arboretum_0052-edit

If you look at the ground beneath the tree, and you will see that it is covered with orange-colored needles. I’m not sure why so many ferns are growing there, but I’m guessing the baldcypress needles have something to do with it. If someone reading this blog has the answer, I hope they will tell us what they know in the comment section. That way I can add it to what I have written here. Obviously my knowledge of these unique trees is limited.

Side note: Someone who has taken more biology classes than I have, called me to explain the reason for the baldcypress knees is that the roots of cypress trees are often (or usually) under water where they can’t get enough of the air they need to survive. For that reason, some roots will protrude out of the soil to get air. The “knees” are those protrusions.

Now let’s take a look at the other photos I captured on today’s trail walk:

That’s it for today’s trail walk.
Thanks for coming along.
Trail Walker
Posted in animal photography, Chagrin River Park, Color Me Autumn, My trail walks

A late afternoon surprise

2016_11_13_places_chagrin-river-park_0034-edit-edit
One of the big bucks in Chagrin River Park

Since we turned our clocks back to standard time, I have to watch myself or dark will descend before I am ready for it. Some days I have barely started my trail walk when some photo opps present themselves, and I don’t have enough light to get a good shot. Here is one example:

2016_11_18_places_chagrin-river-park_0032-edit
Two things went wrong with that shot. First off, I was not prepared. I was focused on a cardinal on the fence post right in front of me when this big buck dashed into the scene. I quickly changed my mind and snapped off several shots of the buck. However, while I was prepared to capture a stationary bird, I wasn’t expecting a fast moving buck, so this shot didn’t work because the light was low and my settings were all wrong. The most I can say is that I captured the moment, so I’m keeping the picture. You win some and lose some. The best thing to do is to learn from the “losers” so the next shot will be better.

The big buck pictured at the top of this post was also taken in late afternoon, but that time I was ready. I had watched him follow some does across the trail in front of me, so when he came back across the trail after giving up the chase, I watched and waited and captured this brief stare-down. Success! (Note: I wasn’t close enough to be in danger. The buck was calm,  totally disinterested in me, and I was using my long lens and standing a good distance away).

Here are a few more late afternoon photos from the past week in Chagrin River Park.

That’s all for this post. Sadly, we have nearly reached the end of my “Color Me Autumn” series of posts. I still have a backlog of photos that I haven’t posted yet, but I don’t think there will be many (maybe not any) new beautiful autumn photos.A cold wind has blown in and several inches of snow fell in the area tonight, although thankfully not in our neighborhood.

Thanks for stopping by today.
See you soon.
Trail Walker
Posted in Color Me Autumn, Holden Arboretum, Memorable Moments, My trail walks

Could we ask for more?

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0001-edit

The day dawned with fog which gradually lifted during the 2 1/2 hours I wandered the trails at Holden Arboretum. After snapping the picture above, I headed down the trail toward the gingko tree.  Eager to find out if it was finally dressed in the rich golden hue I remembered from previous years, I was delighted when I rounded the curve in the trail and saw this:

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0012

and then this:

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0010

…and my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. Could I ask for anything more than what we have already received from this amazing, colorful autumn? But truthfully, there was more, as you can plainly see.

On down the trail from the gingko, I circled Lotus Pond where I captured two more shots of the golden willow to add to the collection I posted last week, showing it from two different sides of the pond.

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0171-edit2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0166-edit

The other area I wanted to explore today was the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden. I have posted a few picture from there recently, but today I decided to spend more time in this area because it is quite large and there is so much to see. Walking along the trail into the rhododendron garden, I was confronted with some large earth-moving machines and a crew of workmen. For several years Holden has been engaged in major redevelopment projects that are ongoing, and the constant rumble of the earth-moving machinery, along with the beep-beep-beep warning sounds reminding walkers to take care, are signs that big things are happening!

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0079
Men and machines at work

While all this activity was happening on the right side of the trail, on the left the scene was very different!

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0081

Past the construction zone, the trail winds through the rhododendron and azalea beds, which will be beautiful in June. Although in November little is in bloom, I spotted a trio of wilted rudbeckias, a startling contrast to the vibrant red and orange tones of autumn.

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0115

It’s time to end this post. If you are still with me, thanks for your patience, but I’m getting weary and you may be also.  I did a lot of walking today , followed by several hours at the computer preparing this post, so instead of sharing all the images that I collected today, I will save some for another day, or maybe even two days, making this post part one of another series.

Here are two more autumn images from the rhododendron garden before I wrap up with something that was a happy and totally unexpected surprise.

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_01402016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0148

Serendipity

As I was leaving the rhododendron garden after taking the picture of that beautiful orange-red tree, I was surprised and delighted to see an Eastern bluebird perched on a limb nearby. So surprised in fact that I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course I didn’t have the best lens on my camera for catching birds, especially little birds that flit from tree to tree, but I gave it my best shot and managed to get these two pictures:

2016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_01552016_11_17_places_holden-arboretum_0150

Eastern bluebirds aren’t rare in northeast Ohio, but they are migratory birds and many (although not all) of them fly off to a more temperate climate by mid-November. These are the first bluebird pictures I’ve captured this late in the season, so I’m happy to share them with you.

See you soon for another visit to the Arboretum.
Thanks for sharing this walk with me.
Trail Walker
Posted in Fabulous Friday Faces, Friday Faces, Holden Arboretum, My trail walks

I take trail walks because…

2016_11_10_places_holden-arboretum_0078
Sheila and John, November 10, 2016
Part three of my three part series from the Holden Arboretum

My top five reasons for trail walking

  • I love to be outdoors, yes, even when it is cold and snowy (Although not so much when the weather turns hot and humid).
  • There are amazing sights to be seen along the trail…and  with so many parks and trails, there are countless places to go and things to see. Every day is different and every trail has unique features waiting to be discovered!
  • Walking the trails and taking pictures are complementary activities that can be done simultaneously, and learning to take better pictures challenges me.
  • We all need exercise, and walking is a great way to get it.

There is one other reason I love trail walking and that is because I meet many interesting people along the trail that I would never get to know otherwise. Sheila and John are a good example. I met Sheila when I walked up the trail into the Rhododendron Garden and found her sitting on a bench, waiting for John to return from his walk around the garden. According to Sheila, he walks too fast for her to keep up, so she finds a good bench and sits down to relax until John finishes his walk. (Obviously John believes in the value of daily exercise). When he returned from his walk,  John found Sheila and me sitting side by side on the bench, having what some of my photography friends from the the British Isles call a good, old chin wag. I was blessed to meet them, and as we all enjoy walking the trails in Holden Arboretum, maybe I will have the good fortune to encounter them again.

I love to take pictures of people I see along the trail. Although I haven’t posted any Fabulous Friday Faces in recent months, I have accumulated a collection of portraits I post here.

Sheila and John’s portrait was not the only picture I took on Thursday. You’ve already seen others in the first and second post of this series from Holden Arboretum, and here are the last pictures from that Thursday trail walk. The trees have lost a lot of their luster, but they are still beautiful. We have enjoyed a fabulous Fall, or to put it another way, an awesome Autumn.

Thanks for joining me in this lengthy trail walk.
That’s it for today. See you soon!
Trail Walker