My current challenge

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To achieve my goal of improving as a photographer I like to set challenges for myself, and currently I have challenged myself to capture sharp, well-composed, and exposed pictures of the birds I photograph…not when they are sitting still, but when they are in action, grabbing a bark butter bit and making their escape so they can sit down somewhere to enjoy it. It’s not easy, and today it was a real challenge because the light wasn’t good. Good light,i.e. sunny days with blue skies, makes it easier to catch the action and get good details. Today was overcast, just about to start drizzling, and I didn’t get to the park until late afternoon. Not the greatest planning on my part. Nevertheless, I captured some action. In addition to the titmouse at the top of this post, here are a few others:

I had to set my ISO and shutter speed really high because of the dusk and threat of rain. Maybe we will get some fair weather one of these days. This just doesn’t seem like May, and I’m looking forward to a change!

Thanks for joining me on the trail today.
Trail Walker

A battle for the bark butter bits

Mr. Red-bellied woodpecker thought he had possession of the old fence post and had deluded himself into thinking the bark butter bits would all be his. Suddenly, to his shock, another RBW, this one a female, came swooping onto the scene to challenge him.
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His total control of the post was only temporary!  Facing him across the top of the post was the female RBW, and she was gripping one of the treasured bark butter bits in her beak!

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This could have led to a full-fledged “bark-butter-bit-battle, but for some reason the lady decided to take her little B.B.B. and retreat to a nearby tree top, leaving the bemused male once again in full possession of the fence post.

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However, if you are thinking her sudden retreat is an indication she intends to leave him in complete control of the territory (and the cache of bark butter bits), you are even more deluded than the hapless male RBW. She’s just hanging around in the wings, so to speak. You will see her again (and again and again).

Thanks for joining the RBWs and me today.
See you soon for another tale from the trail!
Trail Walker


I watched in amazement as a drama unfolded in the bog this afternoon. I was too far away to capture good quality pictures, but decided to share the action anyway.

Sitting peaceably on a branch high in a tree, the red-tailed hawk wondered what hit him…

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…and then hit him again.

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And a few more times for good measure!

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As I stood there, eyes glued to the action happening above me, that little blue jay dive-bombed the large hawk, again and again, making his escape before the hawk knew what had hit him.

Each time the blue jay slammed into him, the stalwart hawk just held his ground, or rather his position on the branch, and made no effort to retaliate. After five or six (or maybe more) direct hits and glancing blows, the red-tail changed his position so he could keep a better eye out for his adversary.

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Eventually he apparently tired of the drama, or maybe it was the physical assault on his feathers, spread his wings and swooped away to the other side of the bog. The excitement was over for the afternoon, but it was an unexpected and fascinating drama while it lasted.

That’s it for today’s tale from the trail.
See you soon.
Trail Walker

I never know…

Fabulous Friday Faces

You can find other F.F.F. blog posts here and my original gallery here.

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Bill, Ken, and Tom

I never know what I’ll see or who I’ll meet when I set out on a trail walk with my camera. I don’t actually plan these blog posts, they’re usually just centered around the things I see and the people I meet along the trail. While most of the posts in my blog are nature-related (you’ll see a lot of birds), I also like to post other subjects. If you have been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that one of my favorite subjects is taking informal portraits of people I meet in the park. When I first started trail walking (after I retired from teaching writing to middle school students), my main goal was to improve my photography by taking pictures of birds, deer, and landscapes. Simple things like that. I rarely engaged in conversation with strangers along the trail. Then, about three years ago, I had an epiphany. Chagrin River Park, the most popular park in Lake County, is filled with people (and their dogs), and because I was blindly walking past those people, never thinking to lift my camera to ask if I could take their pictures,  I was missing out on some wonderful photo opps.

That was the beginning of a project I call Fabulous Friday Faces. The picture at the top of this post is the most recent addition to my F.F.F. gallery. When I stopped to say hello, the three fishermen pictured, Bill, Ken, and Tom, told me that they are from the Cincinnati area and had spent the last three days fishing different rivers in northeast Ohio. I’m not sure how many fish they caught in those three days, but I’m pretty sure they had a great time. Their question to me was, “Where is a good place to get lunch (and a beer) in Willoughby?” Later in the day, when I was walking in the park with my husband and springer spaniel Gulliver, they were just packing up for the day and planning to head back to Cincinnati on Saturday morning.

A few minutes later, as I followed another man along the narrow trail, a young (and reckless) bike rider flew past. If either of us had stepped an inch or two to the left, things might have gotten messy. I think I am an easy-going person, but one of my pet peeves is bike riders and runners who come up from behind without giving any warning of their approach.  I don’t appreciate being surprised like that. The bike rider flew on down the trail, while the other walker and I paused to reflect on our close call. I learned that his name is Dan Just, and he was out for the exercise.

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Dan Just

We agreed that a pleasant walk in the park shouldn’t include the prospect of broken limbs or bloody bodies. Nevertheless, today’s encounter turned out to be a blessing for me. Not being one to pass up an opportunity to add another face to my Fabulous Friday Faces gallery I also asked this stranger if I could take his picture. Two pictures, four new faces for my gallery. I was having a good day!

As I have written on previous blog posts, creating the F.F.F. gallery was a turning point in my hobby as a photographer. Since then I have met many interesting people along the trail. I am no longer driven to “find a new face” every week, but when I meet someone new along the trail, I take that as an opportunity to say hello and ask them for a photo opp. I never know who I might encounter along the trail, but I’ve met many interesting people and have even made new friends that I see time and again along the trail. Asking strangers for a photo opp has definitely enriched my trail walks. Thanks to Dan, Bill, Ken, and Tom for enriching my trail walk today.

(Note: If you have been featured as a F.F.F. and would like a copy of your picture to print, you can contact me at

See you soon for more tales from the trail.
Trail Walker



Life along the trail

A little mystery and a near altercation

This morning when I headed down the trail to check out the nesting boxes for signs of new life, I think I detected a chorus of little chirping sounds from inside one of the boxes. As I watched, a swallow flashed out of the box, way too fast for me to capture a picture, while another stood sentinel on top of the box.

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I observed some preening that involved a lot of flexible contortions…

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And then another swallow landed next to the first one.

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Is it my imagination, or is that a male that flew in to give the female a good look? Is a little swallow romancing going on here? I’m no expert, and all swallows look alike to me, but this looks suspiciously like a prelude to mating. But then, who was making the chirping sounds I heard from the box? I guess we’re seeing a little mystery here, so I will have to keep you posted if anything changes.

One more piece of news before we leave the park today. There was a near-altercation between a red-bellied woodpecker and a redwinged blackbird. Take a look:

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Unfortunately my camera was zoomed in a little too tight to get all the action, but it looks like a serious fight might ensue. However, the RWB took off, leaving a surprised red-bellied woodpecker in temporary possession of the fence post, so a full-fledged fight was avoided.

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That’s all the excitement for today. Come back tomorrow. There’s always something new happening along the trail.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

A little fast action

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Mr. Red-bellied Woodpecker discovered a cache of bark butter bits in the old tree stump and wasted no time flying in to get his share before they were all gone. I was standing nearby, hopefully out of sight, because I have been trying to learn the best settings on my camera to get action shots of the birds. It is a lesson that I am not learning fast enough for my liking. I have hundreds of near misses, but very few that I really like enough to share.

So there I stood, watching Mr. RBW feast on his treat when he suddenly took off, and this time I was ready. Zoom…and there he went. Obviously he has been taking classes in aerodynamics and knows just how to take off without losing the bark butter bit grasped in his beak. I wasn’t sure I got the picture until I opened it up on my computer. Learning is a slow process, and practice doesn’t always make for perfect results, but this time I am smiling at the outcome. His takeoff photo is even sharper than the shot of him hanging onto the post. I think I was a little shaky with the camera as I waited to see what he would do.

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Thanks for stopping by today. See you soon!
Trail Walker

A ducky day!

2016_04_18_Trailwalk_Chagrin River Park_0013Today was definitely a ducky day because I captured several good pictures of a Blue-winged Teal, a small dabbling duck. Yesterday two birders, walking along the edge of the bog in Chagrin River Park, told me where they had spotted the Teal. I looked and looked, without success, but today, when I wasn’t even looking for it, there it was, or rather, there they were: a pair of Blue-winged Teals, practically right under my feet and just where my birding friends saw them yesterday.

My iBird app says that Blue-winged Teals “prefer ecosystems that are moist or wet, such as wetlands, intertidal, coastal, or supra tidal marine areas, or wet grasslands areas.” The bog in Chagrin River Park, although not large, definitely fits the description of this bird’s preferred habitat. I also read that the global population of the Blue-winged Teal is estimated at about 6,100,000 individuals. I only saw two Teal, but it was enough to make my day.

A group of teal can be called by many names, including a coil, topping, knob, paddling, and a spring of teal. Someone with a good imagination must come up with those names. Here are a few more pictures of the Teals:

Thanks for joining me on the trail today.
Tomorrow I will post something that surprised me today.
Trail Walker

Landing gear down!

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I was in the park early today, hoping to see bluebirds. That didn’t happen, but it was such a beautiful morning, I didn’t mind. It was just great to walk the trails and watch for the signs of spring that are popping out all over the place. The fishermen were out in full force and lots of families with children hanging out at the playground. It was a busy place, full of people enjoying another sunny spring morning.

Here is another picture I took in the bog, and, yes, it is another red-bellied woodpecker. The RBW is a very photogenic bird! In case you are interested, the first RBW is a female, but (I think) the second one is a male. The ladies have grey on top of their heads, but the male’s red cap goes from the nape right up to his bill. Some of the guys wear “caps” that are brighter red than this one, however, so I’m not positive I got the sex right.

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It’s time to get supper ready, so no more birds for today, but I’ll be back for more trail walking in a day or two.

Thanks for joining me today.
Trail Walker

Angry bird

Walking back to my car today, I spotted a grackle at the edge of the bog struggling to pick up a large strip of plastic that repeatedly slipped out of his beak and slid back into the water. He persisted for a while, but finally gave up in disgust. From the look on his face, I’m thinking he muttered a few choice words to voice his frustration.

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Grackle found a treasure!
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He struggled with it, but it slipped out of his beak.

It was obvious that he was irritated that it (whatever it was) wouldn’t cooperate. I’m not sure what he what he thought it would be good for, but he was visibly and verbally angry that he had to give up on his project.

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It was a quiet morning in the park. The futility of Grackle’s project was the biggest drama I saw on the trail today. I can’t wait to see what turns up tomorrow.

Thanks for joining me on the trail today.
See you soon.
Trail Walker

Everybody likes a cardinal

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That may be a bit of an exaggeration because I don’t suppose everybody likes a cardinal, but it is no stretch to say that he gets his share of attention, both in the park and on my blog. So he is the headliner today. He really did pose beautifully, so I suppose he deserves that status, but there are two other birds I want to share today.

I saw the yellow-rumped warbler for the first time this spring. I was standing by the bog in Chagrin River Park, talking to another photographer about how there didn’t seem to be much of any interest to see today when this flashy bird landed on the tree right in front of us. Wrong! We were wrong. And we were both glad. He is a common warbler, but I actually had to google him to get his name. Hopefully I’ve got it right. If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will let me know. Some people call him “butter butt” because of the bright yellow feathers on his rump.

The downy woodpecker was posing today too, so I took his picture, but when I got home and took a closer look, I realized another bird, the yellow-bellied sapsucker, had photo-bombed the downy. My camera caught him, but I didn’t realize it until I looked at the pictures on my computer.

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That’s it for today. Two surprise birds makes for a pretty good trail walk, and proves that spring is actually here, despite the cold weather and the snow we had last week.

Thanks for joining me on the trail today.
See you soon!
Trail Walker

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