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

Idle observations at the hopper feeder

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When the pileated woodpeckers visit the backyard buffet, they are mostly ignored by the other birds. Despite their size and fearsome-looking beak, they don’t seem to be feared, but they are certainly not included in the community activities. They operate solo! The pileated pictured here is a male who is interested in food, but isn’t looking to enjoy a friendly meal with his neighbors.

On the other hand, the smaller birds like the sparrows and finches are more community-minded (although not always friendly). At least as far as I have observed. Here they are, during their social hour at the hopper-feeder on a sunny morning:

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Now don’t take this seriously, but do you know any people who act like that? Are any neighbors in your community isolated or do they all share the communal space? Are they accepting of strangers or openly hostile? Do you see any familiar behavior in these pictures?  This is just a non-scientific, layman’s observation, based on the body language and the expressions on some of those beaks, but I’m wondering if, like some humans, not all little birds are friendly and welcoming during their social gatherings. Can we learn anything from the birds? As I said, this is strictly non-scientific, so don’t take it seriously! Just have fun watching the behavior of the birds in your neighborhood.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

 

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

 

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

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

Confused by the weather

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Since the beginning of the year, our weather has been unsettled, or maybe I should say unsettling. We’ve had snow, extreme cold, and now rain. Glancing out the kitchen window this morning, I noticed an empty hopper feeder. Slipping on my jacket and boots, I sloshed out and refilled the feeder. A short while later, I spotted this little critter on the tree stump enjoying a feast.

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As you can see, the squirrel is not on the hopper feeder, but on a nearby tree stump. It makes no difference to him, just as long as someone treks out to refill the food supply, and I imagine he is pleased to find his snack on the stump, instead of in the puddles that surround it.

Two weeks ago, the stump was covered with snow and the backyard looked like this.

Snowy Sunday

When Bob carried out the bucket of birdseed to refill the feeders, he had to sweep off the top of the stump before scattering the birdseed and pouring seed in the feeders. That was on January 27th.
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For a few days, a joyful crowd of sledders, had a grand time on the hill in Chagrin River Park (See my recent post “When the Snow Finally Fell”). Unfortunately, a few days later, during the first week of February, our temperatures topped out in the sixties, with 63 degrees on February 4th, and 61 degrees on February 7th. The snow melted, and the sledders vacated the now-barren sledding hill in the Park. Then, on February 9th, when the high temperature once again plummeted to 21 degrees, our brief taste of spring ended; the rains came; and the river almost reached flood stage, prompting warning calls from the authorities who keep a watch on such things.

Currently we are in a holding pattern. I can hear cars splashing through the puddles as they drive past our house, and I have no incentive whatsoever to take my camera to the park or the Arboretum for a trail walk. Who knows when spring will actually put in a real appearance. After all, it is still February. In Cleveland, we don’t hold out much hope for sunshine and flowers until at least April…or maybe sometime in May???

Cross your fingers fellow trail walkers.
And don’t put away your boots yet!
~Trail Walker

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