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

Rainy days

Rain, rain, go away
Come again some other day.
Little Johnny wants to play.

Running through my head repeatedly, that rhyme, remembered from my childhood, couldn’t be more true to the way I feel about April…and now May! Little Johnny and Little Sally would like the rain to stop and the temperature to warm up so they can put on their shorts and sandals and go out to play. And Little Carolyn would like to get outside to take trail walks and play with her camera.

We have had so much rain recently that the ducks and geese have turned our swampy back yard into their personal swimming pool. Mowing the rapidly growing grass has been almost impossible, but the geese and ducks are loving it! Take a look!

First a pair of geese landed. Together they wandered through the wet grass.


And if it’s possible, the mallards are even happier than the geese. They wander through the grass, swim in the large puddles, and don’t mind the mud at all. I didn’t get any pictures of the actual swimming yet, but trust me, it really happens, and they love it. Every year this pair of mallards returns to our neighborhood, and we smile to see them. It’s almost as if they are coming back to their favorite vacation resort: plenty of water for swimming, green grass galore, and no lack of tasty food. We provide everything a duck would love. Is it any wonder they return year after year?

That’s it for this blog post.
Thanks for stopping by to catch up on the backyard news!
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

 

Three of a kind

I’m always surprised when the pileated woodpecker appears at the backyard feeder. His visits haven’t been very regular since last fall when we had to cut down the tall tree he liked to land on when he flew in. After landing on the tall oak tree, he and his mate would often fly across our backyard and stop on the fruit trees in our neighbor’s yard, close enough for a really good photo opp. Unfortunately, our neighbors had to cut down both their apple and cherry trees a few years ago, which is probably why we see the pileated pair less often.  Some people refer to the pileated as the Woody Woodpecker bird because he looks just like the cartoon bird. He likes suet, as he is demonstrating here. He also likes the large (woodpecker-sized) seed blocks, and sometimes he will fly in and land on top of the hopper-feeder.

The pileated, a very large insect-eating bird, is native to North America and is described as “a mostly sedentary inhabitant of deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific coast.” Some of my blog readers may have seen them in their backyards. (If you have, please let us know in the comment section). The bird in today’s picture is a male, easily identified by the red mustache on his face.

That’s it for today’s post.
Hope to see you soon.
Trail Walker

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

 

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