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

Birding in Chagrin River Park

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A male northern cardinal

Packing my camera and a pocket full of peanuts, I  left for a trail walk on this sunny, but cold, morning. I had forgotten to bring my hat, but I decided to take a short walk anyway…just to stretch my legs and capture a few bird pictures. Setting the timer on my watch for 35 minutes I headed down the trail. When the timer went off, I was have too much fun to go home yet, so I tapped “repeat”  and continued down the trail. Here are a few of the birds I saw:

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Bluejay
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Female northern cardinal
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She willingly posed!
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A white-throated sparrow

As I wrote in recent blog posts, my intention is to resume my habit of daily photo walks, combining my two favorite hobbies: photography and trailwalking. I only walked for about a mile and a half today, but that’s a start.

Join me again soon for another trail walk.
Don’t forget your camera. You never know what we will see.
Trail Walker

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

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

Another Friday Face: Bob

The first day of May, a Friday, was the day we had waited for all winter. Sunny blue skies, warm air, and soft breezes drew lots of visitors to Chagrin River Park. I was one of the visitors, carrying my camera with two goals for the morning’s photo walk:

  1. The first goal was to find another park visitor, a stranger to me, who would be willing to let me take his or her picture for my Friday Faces gallery. I was standing near the bluebird nesting boxes, hoping to see a pair of bluebirds, when I noticed a man standing nearby who seemed to be just as interested in the bluebirds as I was. After awhile he began to ask questions about them. He said he used to pay no attention to the birds but recently has discovered that they are fascinating to watch. That started a conversation and allowed me to ask him if I could take his picture for my Friday Faces project. With no hesitation and only a slightly surprised look on his face, he replied, “Sure!” So here’s Bob! Thanks, Bob, for the photo opp. I hope you like your picture.

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2. My second goal was to get a good picture of a bluebird. In all my walks to the park in April, I hadn’t even spotted one, let alone taken a good picture of it, but today, I was in luck on both of my quests. I found a great new Friday Face for my gallery, and the bluebirds were out and about. Here’s one that posed especially nicely for his picture:

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For the Record

  • Weather-As I said above, it was a gorgeous morning, a great day to be in the park, a great day to meet an interesting new person, and a great day for bluebirds.
  • Exercise-I had time for a long walk, but have lost the little slip that said how many steps I walked. I know for certain that I didn’t reach my goal of 7200. I’ve got a long way to go to achieve that goal.Today I will have to be satisfied with achieving two of my three goals.
  • Thanks for visiting. If you want to leave a comment, please do. I look forward to connecting with other bloggers, and if you like bluebirds, that’s a bonus!

Rainy day blues

Have you ever thought about how inaccurate that phrase is? The rainy day grays would be a better description in my opinion. Sitting at my computer this afternoon, I glance out the window above me, and what I see is gray, not blue. Gray is the color of rainy days, and a very accurate description for today. Two days ago, we celebrated a perfect, sunny-blue-sky day with the temperature topping out at 80 degrees Fahrenheit…our highest so far this spring. It seemed almost like summer, and a marvelous antidote to our long, snowy, and record-breaking frigid winter. A mere 48 hours later, we have plunged back into mid-March. That is to say: wet, chilly, overcast, and basically gray.

However, and this is my point here, despite the grayness of the weather and sky, I’m feeling sunny-blue-sky joyful. Although that may seem contradictory, my mood isn’t determined by the weather. Four things happened today that have me feeling sunny-blue-sky joyful:

  1. A good friend needed a ride to a doctor appointment. Taking her there got me out of the house, and we thankfully escaped the worst of the wet weather…driving between the cloudbursts. While I waited for her to finish her appointment, I encountered another patient who was waiting for a ride home. My conversation with this amazing 94-year-young stranger warmed my heart. That’s a story for another day, but I just hope our conversation blessed her as much as it did me.
  2. Out of the blue (a much better description for today), another good friend called with the news that she had made a big pot of chicken rice soup and wanted to give me some…my second mood brightener of the day, and a very tasty lunch when I arrived back home.
  3. The third source of my joy was the birds that visited my back yard “bird buffet,” 10 different species in all, and I got decent pictures of eight of them. They seemed positively energized and delighted by the falling rain and new bird seed waiting for them at the buffet.
  4. And to top it all, a hummingbird stopped by to sip fresh sugar water. It’s our first hummer of the summer (forgive me for being a little silly, but hummingbirds have that effect on me). Here he is. Doesn’t he look happy? These are far from the sharpest hummingbird photos I’ve ever taken, but capturing tiny, quick-moving birds is one thing cloudy gray skies don’t do well.

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So that’s my day.  For the record:
  • Exercise: No walk today. Too much rain and too little time!
  • Weather: In a word, wet. Another word: cool.
  • It has been a day full of blessings for which I am thankful.
  • If you want to see the other bird buffet visitors, click here. They are posted on my nature blog.

Thanks for stopping by!

Skip aka Carolyn

It’s spring migration time!

Living only a mile south of Lake Erie has both advantages and disadvantages. Today I experienced both. The lake was almost 100% covered by ice this winter. We experienced the coldest February on record when the temperature hovered in the single digits for many days. As a result, spring has been very slow in arriving. We had a taste of it last week and hoped it was here to stay, but it waved goodbye this week with high winds and temperatures falling to near freezing at night and only reaching into the mid-forties during the day. The advantage of living here is that we are located on the flyway taken by many birds on their spring and fall migration. Many Canada-bound birds that don’t live here year round pause in our parks and neighborhoods to rest and refuel before flying across Lake Erie.

Early May is the  peak of the warbler migration through our area. Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, west of Cleveland on Lake Erie, is dubbed the warbler capital of the world! I drove out there one year with my daughter on “International Migratory Bird Day” and was amazed by the number of birds and birders. It was fun and exciting, but also very crowded.  It was a challenge to walk 20 steps without colliding into someone with their eyes to the sky or the tree tops.

Due to the cool weather, the migration is not yet in full swing, but on my walk in the park today I was lucky enough to come across a ruby-crowned kinglet and to actually get several photos of him, including one that shows the ruby spot that gives him his name. He is the second smallest bird in Ohio, a lovely little bird. Take a look (Click a bird to see the larger version).

That’s all for today. Despite the chill in the air, I was glad I took a walk in the park.

See you soon.
Carolyn aka Skip

A moody morning

Spring is so fickle. Today it can’t decide if it wants to rain or if the sun will shine. Will it be sunny and warm or windy and chilly? So far, it has offered up some of each, changing its mind every half-hour or so. Before the rain started this morning, I headed to the park for a photowalk. We are still experiencing early spring here on the south shore of Lake Erie, so I don’t have much to show you in the way of blooming flowers or blossoming fruit trees, but the birds were active, so a gallery of bird portraits  is what I will share with you today. I hope you enjoy them (Click on a picture to scroll through the gallery).

For the record

  • Weather: The high temperature was 68 degrees, but that was this morning before the cold front moved in. Apparently we are going to have a lot of cool and wet weather this week. Ergh!
  • Exercise: I walked 3,275 steps or 1.5 miles. At that rate it will take me forever to reach 7500 steps, but I plan to persevere!

Thanks for stopping by today.

Carolyn aka Skip

The black dog syndrome

Taking a good picture of something black…something deep, rich, unadulterated black…is a challenge for any photographer, but especially for an inexperienced photographer. It’s enough of a challenge that it even has a name:The black dog syndrome. While I wouldn’t consider myself inexperienced, I’m far from being an expert. Some things I get right. Some things I don’t. Photographing black objects is in the latter category. Today my challenge was getting pictures of red-winged blackbirds that included the right amount of detail in the darker tones. Take a look at the photo gallery below, and you will see what I’m talking about (Click on any picture to scroll through the gallery).

The pictures were taken with a Nikon D7100 and processed in Lightroom 5. If you have any suggestions for improving them, especially the blackbirds, please  reply below. All comments are appreciated!

That’s it for today! Thanks for stopping by.

Carolyn aka Skip

For the Record
  • Weather: The high temperature was 61 degrees. The morning was overcast and the afternoon was drizzly.
  • Exercise: According to the app on my phone, I walked 6133 steps or almost three miles.
  • Yahoo! It’s no wonder I’m tired tonight.

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