Nothing better than a walk in the woods!

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Another overcast day, but even so, a walk in the woods is a good way to while away an hour or two, and a much better use of my time than lounging in an easy chair reading yesterday’s news in the Plain Dealer (or today’s news for that matter). Even though the dampness may turn to drizzle at any moment, I find trailwalking preferable to the alternative.

So down the trail I trod, avoiding the puddles and slippery mud, curious to see what I will find along the trail today. I hadn’t gone far before I heard some mysterious munching, and, following the sound, I spied this little long-tailed critter enjoying a feast.

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A chipmunk enjoying her breakfast.

In my opinion, a chipmunk is a cute critter, although some people won’t agree. They are  small but destructive, and, if one finds a secret entrance into your house, its ability to create havoc far outweighs its size. Many years ago, at the beginning of summer, one chewed on the wires and totally destroyed the AC in our daughter and son-in-law’s home. That was a hot (and very expensive) experience, so chipmunks are not welcome anywhere in their neighborhood. However, I will categorize them as cute, IF they stay outside and I only see them along the trail in the park.

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Farther down the trail, I spotted this chipper.

Some movement off the trail to my right led to the discovery of a much larger and very familiar critter that was also enjoying her breakfast.

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Whitetail deer are native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. I didn’t realize how extensive their range is until I looked it up. I just knew they are common critters in northeast Ohio, so common that it is not surprising to look out the kitchen window and find one standing on the other side of the window staring in at me. (And, incidentally, nibbling on the expensive seed cylinders we hang out for the birds). The whitetails are another animal I prefer to see in the park, but they have no trouble crossing the road and wandering through our neighborhood. In this recent blog post I wrote about a fawn I spotted in our backyard, apparently left there temporarily by a doe that went off exploring for a few hours.

The tiniest critter I photographed along the trail today was spotted by Bob, who, along with Mabel, was leading our walk today. (You can read more about Mabel on this blog post. This critter, a daddy-longlegs, is so common I would have walked right past it, but Bob thought it deserved a mention in today’s blog, so here it is.

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In my brief (online) research to clarify the name of this critter, I learned that they are not poisonous and apparently do not bite humans. I also learned that there are several variations of these long legged critters and that one common name for them is “harvestmen” and another is “cellar spiders” because they can be found in cellars. If you are curious and want to know more, you can start your research here. You might even decide to become an arachnologist (a scientist who studies spiders and other arachnids), but personally, my skin is already crawling, and I’m ready to move on to another common variety of woodland critter: birds.

The birds in Chagrin River Park are regularly featured on my blog, and today I saw a cardinal, a catbird…

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Northern cardinal
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Catbird

…and a wood thrush, which was so cooperative I was able to capture several pictures of it. The wood thrush, which is the official bird of the District of Columbia, is closely related to the American robin, and obviously eats worms. Click on one of the pictures below to take a look at a larger version to see if you agree that it is a beauty.

 

 

That’s all the news and pictures from the trail for today.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Mabel’s Morning Walk

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We woke up this morning and it wasn’t raining…finally! So after breakfast, we put Mabel on her leash and drove to Chagrin River Park for a morning walk. The first stop was  the deck overlooking the Chagrin River, just to see how high the water was after yesterday’s rainfall. It wasn’t flooding, but it was pretty high, and it looked like this:
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On the path to the deck, there was a little excitement when Mabel caught sight of a rabbit, but to her disappointment it hopped away and disappeared in the underbrush. Unfortunately for Mabel, she was attached to a leash and the other end of the leash was firmly gripped in Bob’s hand, and he wasn’t about to chase a rabbit through the weeds.
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So they headed down another trail…
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…where they encountered a lot of dogs. That could have been fun, but Mabel absolutely isn’t allowed to have meet-and-greets with strange dogs for fear she will be r-a-m-b-u-n-c-t-i-o-u-s. Things could get out-of-control you know!  So, to Mabel’s dismay, every time a new dog came along, Bob stepped off the trail and took Mabel with him…until they went past. In Mabel’s opinion, that was no fun!

But then, something really exciting happened!  A huge group of cross-country runners came dashing down the trail toward them, and one of the boys paused and leaned over to greet Mabel and scratch her ears, and, as they ran past, one of the girls called out, “Your dog is SO CUTE.”

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That, Trail Walkers, was easily the high point of Mabel’s walk this morning.

Near the end of the trail, Mabel spotted her friend Louie…
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but to Mabel’s disappointment, Louie’s owner didn’t stop for their usual meet-and-greet. And to Mabel’s further disappointment, Dave, the friend Bob would always stop and talk to, sometimes for a very long time, wasn’t anywhere to be seen on the trail.  Dave doesn’t walk a dog, but he always pulls a treat out of his pocket for Mabel. As you may know, Mabel is on a diet (not her idea), so her quota of treats is really low, and that makes  Dave one of her favorite park people. Not seeing Dave, and not getting a treat, was a double disappointment!

Finally, it was time to head back to the parking lot for the ride home, but to Mabel’s delight, Bob decided they needed a little more exercise. Consequently, he headed to the big stairs that lead to the top of the sledding hill. Mabel loves to climb the stairs because she gets to be the leader as they charge up the hill, and Mabel especially loves to be in charge…at any time and in any place! On really good days, Bob will climb the stairs two or three times, which, in Mabel’s book, is really fun and a great way to end the morning walk.

 

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So that’s it for today, Trail Walkers. We’ve reached the end of the trail. Things look a little different when you traverse the trail on four feet and closer to the ground. I hope you’ve enjoyed Mabel’s version of the morning trail walk.

Signing off for today…
Trail Walker…and Mabel

Correct me…

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If I’m wrong, please correct me, but I’m guessing this is a male American Redstart. I found a hot-spot for migratory birds along the trail today, and this colorful bird was among the crowd. A later spring migrant in northeast Ohio, redstarts arrive around mid-May. It is a medium-sized bird with bright orange patches on its wings and tail that it flashes to attract insect prey so it can capture them. It definitely attracted my attention, and I was able to snap a few pictures of the male and one less colorful female.Here are the others:

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Male American redstart
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Male American redstart
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Male American redstart
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Female American redstart

Trying to grab a few pictures of these small, quick-moving birds was a fun challenge. I was delighted that I captured this many pictures. The spring migration is in full swing here in Ohio, so a walk in the woods can be an exciting experience for this amateur photographer, as well as a lot of fun. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I’ll head down the trail to check out this hot-spot again.

See you soon I hope!
Trail Walker

Warblers have arrived

As you may be aware, this handsome red bird is not an unusual visitor to my blog. All birders in northeast Ohio, as well as many other states, are familiar with the Northern cardinals, which are year-round residents of this area. So while I was hoping to find some migratory warblers on my trail walk today, and the cardinal doesn’t fit the bill, I couldn’t resist posting his picture because he almost looks like royalty in his wonderful red plumage.

With that said, and the cardinal given his due, below is the yellow warbler, the first one I spotted this spring, which makes it special in my book!

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Take a close look at his beak and you will see that this little yellow, a male, as indicated by his streaky breast, has been successfully foraging for insects for breakfast. A nimble little bird, he probably picks the insects off the foliage or possibly even captures them as they fly by. His typical prey is midges, caterpillars, beetles, leafhoppers and other bugs, and wasps. It may be my imagination, but I think he looks rather proud of his catch!

Although the weather forecast for the next couple of weeks isn’t very promising, with only one day predicted to have temperatures above 70 degrees, I hope to get out and find more warblers. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

See you soon along the trail!
Trail Walkers

 

Chilly morning in Chagrin River Park

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Spring is here! The red-winged blackbird has been announcing if for the last few weeks. Still, you couldn’t prove it by today’s temperature which hovered around 42 degrees when we set out for our morning walk. Nevertheless, cold or not, Mabel was ready for her walk, so there we were, Bob, Mabel, and I trotting down the trail. Mabel doesn’t saunter, she trots, so she sets us a lively pace until we have gone at least a mile. Then she may slow down to a reasonable speed.

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Mabel pulling Bob up the steps to the top of the sledding hill
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Catching their breath at the top of the hill

Despite the morning chill in the air, one red-bellied woodpecker persistently posed, flying from tree-to-tree, and stopping just long enough for me to capture these pictures. (Click on a picture to see the larger versions).


He looks like a young woodpecker to me. Although I’m not a woodpecker expert, I could tell he was having fun.

In addition to the woodpecker, a tiny titmouse posed too…
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…as did Mr. and Mrs. Northern Cardinal. The male showing off his flashy red coat and Lady Cardinal posing in her rich golden hues.
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My last bird portrait today was a bluejay…
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Before heading home, I paused at the top of the sledding hill and took a couple of landscape shots. Our proximity to Lake Erie dictates that spring will usually be late arriving in Northeast Ohio, and this spring has been true to form. When spring does finally arrive, I can’t resist capturing some pictures of the fresh, vibrant green of new grass and budding trees.
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And when the steelhead trout begin their run on the Chagrin River, I always try to capture a shot or two of the fishermen in action.

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Watching them makes me wonder why on earth anyone would stand in the river holding a fishing rod for hours on end in such cold weather. Then I remember that I have been shivering as I wandered along the trails, camera in hand. My conclusion: We’re all a little crazy when it comes to our hobbies.

Thanks for visiting today’s blog post.
I hope you stop by often.
Trail Walker

Another morning trail walk

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Today’s first discovery showed up before we reached the park when I spotted this bluebird in the backyard. He appears pretty regularly in the morning, right about breakfast time. Often I don’t see him again until the next morning, but it is still a treat to get a daily visit.

In the park, I was delighted to discover a beautiful brown thrasher scrabbling around in the leaf litter along the trail. He was hard to spot because he blended so well with the dead leaves, and he was even harder to photograph because he wasn’t interested in posing. He was way too busy searching for tasty tidbits for his breakfast. I’ve read that these brown thrashers are the only thrasher species east of Texas, and they are known to be exuberant singers with extensive repertoires. Click on one of the pictures for a closer look.(Sorry I can’t include the song, but this bird was too busy rummaging through the leaf litter to treat us to a concert this morning).

After watching the thrasher for a while, I paused near the fence rail where I photographed a white-throated sparrow and a male cardinal.

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White throated sparrow

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Northern cardinal

I would’ve liked to continue on down the trail, but my companions, Bob and Mabel the sheepdog, wanted to head home so they could share a piece of toast and get started on the morning’s agenda. (For Mabel, that would be a nap!) So that’s it for today trail walk.

See you soon, fellow walkers! Thanks for joining me today.
Trail Walker aka Skip

 

Wet and windy!

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The windy, wet, 38 degree day is definitely not what drew me outside for a trail walk in Chagrin River Park this morning. No Way! What got me out was what I have written about in previous blog posts: my intention to be more active and my determination to increase my stamina and energy. So after breakfast, when the rain had let up, Bob, Mabel (the sheepdog) and I took to the trail.

There wasn’t much to see, but I did capture pictures of a few little birds:

If the birds look a bit bedraggled, that’s exactly how I was feeling. Frozen fingers and wet feet aren’t appealing; however, I am determined to log more miles/steps every day, and Mabel can be pretty demanding if she doesn’t get her morning walk, so out we went. Windy, wet, and bedraggled, but proud of the progress I am making in keeping up with my intentions. (For more about those intentions, read this earlier blog post.)

See you soon, trail walkers.
Keep those fingers crossed for “springier” weather!
Trail Walker

An early Spring morning

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Join me for a little early morning birding on the first truly beautiful spring day. The morning dawned cool and hazy and got better as the day went on. By evening, under sunny skies, the park was filled with people…and birds… enjoying our first real taste of spring.

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red-bellied woodpecker
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white-throated sparrow
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northern cardinal
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reflections on the bog
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Bluejay
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Bluejay
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Red-bellied woodpecker with a peanut

I don’t have anything else to say. I just wanted to share the beauty of this morning walk.

See you soon for another stroll in the park.
Join me for a walk and be sure to bring your camera.
Trail Walker

Not much to see…

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Red-bellied woodpecker, one of my favorites

As I walked the trails in Chagrin River Park this week, I didn’t see too many signs of spring; however, I am remaining true to the intentions I wrote about several weeks ago in this blog post.

The most interesting thing I spotted today was this bird …

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…an Eastern towhee

The towhee is not a rare bird, but I think it is a beauty, probably because I am partial to the combination of black and rusty orange. They are described as “sometimes secretive, but often common,” and they like to scratch in the dirt and leaf litter for insects, seeds and berries. I read that in the nesting season the males become bolder, often singing from high perches. I guess it isn’t nesting season yet, because so far this spring I’ve only seen them scratching on the ground.

Here are a few more bird pictures I’ve captured this week:

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American goldfinch
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Mallard duck
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Windblown grackle (I think)
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Song sparrow
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I’m not sure…If you can help, please let me know in the comments.

And finally, here’s an update on my intentions to increase my time spent on the trail. I have been pushing myself to get out on the trail whenever the weather is reasonable, i.e. not pouring rain or snow. Today the temperature was only 43 degrees, but I’ve walked 3.2 miles so far (7,914 steps). I realize that isn’t the recommended 10,000 steps, but I’m patting myself on the back anyway. My current goal is 5000 steps for each day on the trail, and I am exceeding that on most days.

That’s it for today, trailwalking friends.
See you soon for another update…
and more pictures from the trail.
Trail Walker

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