Posted in belted kingfisher, bird photography, My trail walks

The right place at the right time!

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After visiting the Horned Owl family the other day, I headed for the pedestrian bridge to cross the Chagrin River. I had heard of some good migratory bird sightings on the other side and wanted to check them out for myself. Just starting to cross the bridge, I glanced to the right (downriver) and spotted this little belted kingfisher. It has been years since I last saw one, although I know they’ve been around. Was I excited? You bet! And this fellow posed there long enough for me to get several shots. Here are a few:

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His perch, on that branch overlooking the river, was no accident. He was fishing for dinner, and his next meal would very likely swim downriver, right beneath his perfectly situated perch. And, as I watched, that is exactly what happened.

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Watching the river.
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He spotted something in the water…and dove off the branch.

These clever little “fisherbirds” are fast and accurate, so hopefully he came up with something tasty for supper. Unfortunately, his dive off the branch was so sudden, I didn’t catch the end of the drama. Still, it was exciting to watch, and I walked on down the trail thinking how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time to get these shots.

Thanks for walking with me today.
See you soon! ~Trail Walker
Posted in back yard buffet, backyard birding, pileated woodpecker

He’s still here, and guess what…

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…He’s not alone! He brought a friend.

Yesterday morning I heard the distinctive call the pileated woodpecker makes when he swoops in for a landing at the backyard buffet. So of course I picked up my camera and headed for my post at the kitchen window (It actually makes a good bird shooting blind, although I do my shooting with a Nikon D7100 instead of a gun). Sure enough there he was at his favorite suet feeder, and for the next 10 minutes, I tracked him from feeder to feeder and even over to our neighbor’s apple tree. I shot lots of pictures! Here’s a sampling:

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Next to the oriole feeder
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On our neighbor’s apple tree
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Scanning the neighborhood from the top of the hopper feeder
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Still scanning
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Leaning over to grab a bite of suet
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Hanging on the trunk of our tallest tree
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Swinging from the feeder on the old swing set

Now how observant are you? Can you tell which bird is our usual P.W. and which one is the “friend?” Here’s a hint: the friend is a female. Take another look at the pictures. Three are of the female friend. Can you pick them out?

Here’s another hint: the male has a red mustache and a full head of red hair.

Are you an expert on pileated woodpeckers or were you as surprised as I was to discover that our guest is actually two different birds? (The female is sitting next to the oriole feeder, hanging on the trunk of our tallest tree, and swinging from the feeder on the old swing set.) S/he had me fooled! What a surprise.

Hope you enjoyed this visit to our backyard bird buffet.
See you soon. ~Trail Walker
Posted in Great Horned Owls, Lake Metroparks, My trail walks, nature photography

Three owls-awake today!

Yesterday I posted a picture of the Great Horned Owl and her two owlets. Typical of babies, the little owls napped right through their photo opp, but when I returned to check on them this afternoon, they were awake.

Their nest is at the top of a broken off tree, and it doesn’t look very cozy to me, but it is perfectly camouflaged for the little family. As you can see, the babies are growing rapidly, and it’s a tight squeeze for Momma and the two owlets to sit side-by-side.

Here’s a closeup of the larger owlet. He really takes up more than his share of the space in the nest. Maybe Momma will be relieved when they have fledged. What do you think?

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I thought the owlets would be cute, and I was surprised at their features. They look almost human, in a weird sort of way, but I wouldn’t call them cute. What do you think?

Thanks for taking a walk down the trail today.
See you soon. ~Trail Walker
Posted in bird photography, Color me Spring!, My trail walks

Three owls

Look closely! Can you see all three great horned owls?

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There’s Momma Owl on the left, and next to her are her two owlets taking their naps. I’m not sure how old the babies are, but rumor has it that they were first spotted by a sharp-eyed birder a week or more ago. But that is just rumor, so I will have to confirm it. I only heard of them two days ago. This nest is about a mile from our house, on one of the trails I frequently walk. With these owls, the recent “big bird” sightings in our neighborhood has increased by three: the eagle and pileated woodpecker I posted last week and now a great horned owl and her owlets. It’s been a banner week for big birds. I wonder what will be next?

See you soon!
Trail Walker
Posted in Color me Spring!, Holden Arboretum, My trail walks

Back to my search for spring

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Marsh marigold

Lisa and I were trailwalking in the Arboretum, in search of more early signs of spring. Treading through a marshy area on our way to Blueberry Pond, we spotted some marsh marigolds. The vibrant yellow of this early bloomer is pretty hard to miss. Then, when we reached our destination at the top of a grassy hillside, we paused to appreciate the beauty in front of us.

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Blueberry Pond

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As you can see, few of the trees display any greenery. That easily visible evidence of spring is another 7-10 days in the future, depending on the temperatures in the week ahead. Our location, so close to Lake Erie, delays the in-breaking of spring, which is probably why the search for spring looms large in my mind from February onward, until true spring finally arrives.

On today’s trail walk, we saw some early wildflowers. Although she is a pediatric dentist, Lisa also has a background in horticulture and was able to identify the beautiful Lenten rose, and in the same area we spotted the ferns, just beginning to unfurl.

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Continuing along the trail, we came to the clump of white birch trees, where I took a picture of Lisa sitting on the lowest limb. It looks to me as if that limb was created for that very purpose, and this isn’t the first time I’ve paused to take a picture of it. Finally reaching Lotus Pond, we each posed beside a pink magnolia hybrid with the pond in the background.

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Lisa and the white birch tree

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Because the person carrying the camera rarely gets her picture taken, here is one Lisa snapped of me.
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As we circled Lotus Pond, we watched the birds skimming over the surface of the water, apparently hoping to catch some insects (another sign of spring)! Although I didn’t see any insects, apparently the birds were on to something…or it is an annual spring rite of the swifts, purple martins, or whatever they were. They were flying way too fast for me to identify them with any certainty.

Although I have a few more pictures from today’s trail walk, I am going to stop here because this post is already a little long. I will post the others in a day or two. Meanwhile, even if the weather isn’t sunny and warm, and even if it isn’t spring where you live, I hope  you all enjoy a beautiful weekend.

Thanks for joining us on this walk in the Arboretum.
See you soon!  ~Trail Walker
Posted in Back yard bird buffet, bird photography

A guest for lunch

One of our neighborhood big birds, the pileated woodpecker, came for lunch today. He swooped in for a landing on top of the hopper feeder, and Bob spotted him feasting on the suet cake that is right below his “landing pad.” Leaning over the end of the feeder, he would grab a bite of suet, take a look around the neighborhood, then grab another bite. He was in no hurry to leave, and I had time to take a lot of photos.

 

He’s almost prehistoric-looking. Check out that beak and those claws. I wouldn’t want to get between him and his suet because he obviously loves it. Finally satisfied, he flew away, moving unbelievably fast! Maybe next time I’ll be quicker with my finger on the shutter button and get a better shot of the takeoff!
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That was today’s excitement, but I’m betting he’ll be back!
Trail Walker
Posted in backyard birding, bird photography, My trail walks, nature photography

Big birds in the backyard

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To my delight the sky cleared this afternoon, and I was even more delighted when I heard a familiar sound in the neighborhood. I hurried to the window and, sure enough, the pileated woodpecker was in our backyard. It didn’t hang around for long, but before it swooped through the air to land on a tree farther away, I was able to grab my camera and get off a shot.

A visit from the big Woody Woodpecker look-alike is always a joy, and I thought to myself that I had my big bird photo opp for the day. But a little while later, Bob came home from his walk with Gulliver, rushed in the house, and announced, “Get your camera, and let’s go. The eagles are both at the nest.” So we took off for Bruce Yee Park, just a mile down the road from our backyard, where a pair of bald eagles have recently set up housekeeping. My longest lens really isn’t long enough to get great shots from much distance, but it was a delight to see this pair, Mama sitting on the nest and Papa standing guard in a nearby tree.

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I couldn’t get a clear shot of Mama.
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But Papa sat straight up and let me take multiple photo opps.
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They seem to be taking parenthood very seriously.

Our recent weather hasn’t been conducive to photowalking, and I haven’t added many shots to my trailwalking gallery nor posts to my blog, but this afternoon’s two unplanned and unexpected photoshoots …both without leaving the neighborhood, made up for my recent photographic dry spell. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Thanks for stopping by to see my big birds.
Trail Walker
Posted in backyard birding, Color me Spring!, nature, spring

A sure sign of spring!

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Spring has been wearing its fickle face recently, bringing lots of rain, wind, and even a few rumbles of thunder. Thankfully we haven’t had any severe storms, although at times the rain was heavy enough to create a large pond in our neighbor’s backyard. This happens every spring, of course, and, without fail, when the spring rain comes, this mallard couple comes with it.

A year or two ago, they were joined by several other male mallards, but that didn’t go so well. There was an outbreak of territorial jealousy accompanied by noisy quacking and threatening posturing. With multiple male mallards and only one female, peaceful coexistence was not a possibility. Watching their antics, I harbored a suspicion that the lady mallard was enjoying the ruckus…and maybe even egging the guys on! This afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Mallard returned for their annual visit, and happily it was just the two of them!

Posted in Color me Spring!, Holden Arboretum, My trail walks

Continuing my search for spring

Rain and thunder  through the night and into the morning hours convinced me that this would not be a good day for another trail walk. Instead I will continue with part 2 of yesterday’s post: Searching for Spring in the Arboretum.  I ended that post when we reached the entrance to the Rhododendron Garden, so I will pick up there and return via the Blueberry Pond trail to the Corning Visitor Center, where we parked the car.

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We won’t take time to visit the Rhododendron Garden on this walk because its most important features, the Canopy Walk, Emergent Tower, and the rhododendrons themselves, aren’t on display this early in spring. The Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower open for the season on April 1, and it will be June before the rhododendrons and azaleas burst into glorious full bloom. We will need to be patient and return on future trail walks to see them.

But there is still more to see from yesterday’s walk, so we will follow the sign post and wend our way back to our starting point at the Corning Visitors Center.

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The view from a bench along the trail

Imagine you are sitting beside me on a bench where I paused to soak up a little solitude (and take a welcome rest). Gaze into the distance, and you might notice, on either side of the trail, small green leaves just beginning to unfurl on the trees. That’s a welcome sign of spring that wasn’t visible a couple of weeks ago. Another early sign of spring here in northeast Ohio is the sound of the spring peepers.

Because we’ve had a lot of rain recently, the vernal pools along the trail are filled with these tiny frogs in full voice. Even in full daylight I have been treated to their song as I walk along the trail.

As we reach the end of the woodland trail, we can see the entrance to the wildflower garden (another future blog post). Up the hill to our right is Lotus Pond, but right now we will take the trail to the left, skirt the edge of Blueberry Pond, pass the white birch trees on the left side of the trail, and stop for a good look at the pond.

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White birch trees along the Blueberry Pond trail
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Blue skies over Blueberry Pond
A feature I find fascinating near Blueberry Pond is these bald cypress trees perched right at the edge of the water.

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From the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) website…

The Baldcypress is “native to wet areas of the lower and middle Mississippi Valley drainage basin, the south Atlantic and Gulf Coastal states, and especially Florida of the south coastal states,” but it has been planted extensively in other areas, including Ohio.

“As a deciduous conifer, the leaves of Baldcypress drop off in autumn, and its cones are round balls that release their seeds in autumn and winter. Trees in Ohio may reach 80 feet tall by 30 feet wide when found in the open. As a member of the Baldcypress Family, it is also related to Dawn Redwood and Giant Redwood.

Not far from the Baldcypress trees, stands this tall, majestic Dawn Redwood, another deciduous conifer mentioned on the ODNR site,

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Dawn Redwood tree, Holden Arboretum, August 2014

Whoops! Sorry! I’m a little bit off the trail here…actually more than three years off. Because I didn’t stop to take a photo of the Dawn Redwood on this visit to the Arboretum, I decided to dig into my archives and find one to include in this post…a detour relevant to the topic of today’s walk, although definitely off the trail.

Back to the trail…

From Blueberry Pond,  it’s only a short walk down the hill to reach this footbridge that will lead us to the stairs and back up to the parking lot. The sign points back toward Woodland Trail, which is the trail we followed until we reached the Blueberry Pond trail. Now we are going to leave the Blueberry Pond trail, cross the little footbridge, and climb the stairs leading to the parking lot.

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It’s time to go home! I hope you have enjoyed this trail walk.
Thanks for coming along! ~Trail Walker
Posted in Color me Spring!, Holden Arboretum, My trail walks, Northeast Ohio

Dreary…AGAIN!

Part one of a two part post in which we continue our 
Search for Spring in the Arboretum.

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Thunder, buckets of rain, and puddles deep enough for ducks to take a swim! That’s today, drowning in dreariness,  but yesterday was beautiful…a great day for a trail walk at Holden Arboretum. That’s where we will continue the search for more signs of our elusive spring.

Let’s start  at Lotus Pond where daffodils bloom in the foreground and no ice remains on the surface of the pond, ice that was still visible on our last visit a week ago. That’s definitely promising.

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Lotus Pond without ice

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Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a few tiny clumps of netted iris. These irises are early bloomers, so they have passed their prime by now, but they are still lovely with their delicate shades of soft blue and yellow. I hope you agree!

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Netted Iris…past its prime

We will end today’s walk, on the trail that leads into the rhododendron garden.

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Entering the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron garden
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The Overlook, a recent feature in the rhododendron garden
That’s it for part one of this walk in Holden Arboretum.
Come back tomorrow to continue our search for spring!
~Trail Walker