November sneaked up on me!

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In my neck of the wood, that is on the south shore of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio, October is the best month to walk the trails with my camera. This October was truly fantastic, and I was having a marvelous time, but then Halloween arrived, and October came to an abrupt end! With a flip of the page on my calendar, November sneaked in. A couple of chilly days with the wind whipping through the trees, and I was sure that my fall photo walks were over for the year. So on November 4th, with some trepidation, I headed to the Arboretum to see what I would find.

Starting down the trail near the sugar maple tree, I was anxious to see what damage the change in weather had done to the tree that just a few days ago had been ablaze with richly colored orange leaves. It was a glorious sight to see! Today the maple was leafless, totally nude, as you can see at the top of this post. That was pretty discouraging! However, I decided I would walk the trail that circles Corning Lake, and I soon discovered that although October had come to an end, there was still plenty of color and beautiful pictures to capture. Nature always has wonderful sights to share. I should have had more faith!

Here are just a few to get the new month started. I will post more next week. (Click on any picture to enlarge the photos).

 

See you next week!
~Trail Walker

Celebrating Autumn: an overview

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Pond in the Rhododendron Garden

The Holden Arboretum is hands-down my favorite location for celebrating the arrival of Autumn in northeast Ohio.  Every year, when the page of my calendar flips over to October, I schedule my photowalks in the Arboretum to trek the trails, camera in hand, hoping to capture some special images that announce AUTUMN IS HERE!  For this overview, I have limited myself to five stops along the trail, illustrated by my five favorite images (and only a few words). The pictures will tell the story.

Stop one: The Rhododendron Garden

The Rhododendron Garden, pictured above, is a very special section of the Arboretum, especially in June, when the azaleas and rhododendrons burst into bloom…a not-to-be-missed experience! However, Autumn, pictured above, is hands-down my favorite time for treading these trails, and I always make at least one stop in the Rhododendron Garden to capture a little of its magic.

Stop 2: Corning Lake Trail

On this particular October morning, the sun was shining in a deep blue sky as I followed the trail that circles Corning Lake. Along the way, I found a few unexpected treasures to capture with my camera, and the picture below shows one of them. There was no way I could have planned the flight of geese over the lake as I walk past the photographer’s blind. Pure and simple, it was a gift, and I stood in awe, gazing skyward. Fortunately, I remembered to point my camera in the right direction to freeze the moment in time, so I could share it with you.
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Stop 3: Along the trail

Just a few feet farther along the trail, I took my next shot of the sky. No geese this time, just multi-colored autumn leaves. Their color and grace caught my eye:

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Stop 4: Lotus Pond

Nearing the end of my morning walk, I approached Lotus Pond. Anyone who has joined me for a photo walk in the Arboretum knows that one of my favorite photo subjects is the golden willow tree on the edge of Lotus Pond. I could probably illustrate an entire blog post with pictures of this graceful willow taken from different angles, but today I paused on the far side of the pond, where I could photograph the distant willow framed by the overhanging limb of a nearby tree.

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Stop 5: The sugar maple tree

Almost back to the parking lot, we passed under the branches of a tall sugar maple tree.  The bench under this tree is a wonderful place to rest at any time; however, for a few days each October, it becomes a special place, a magical place, thanks to the full Autumn glory of this tree. If you have never visited the Arboretum in October, I invite you to come next year. Be sure to time your arrival when the vibrant colors are at their peak. You may find yourself returning year after year, just to experience the magic again.

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That has been my experience; maybe it will be the same for you.
Thanks for joining me today!
~Trail Walker

 

PS: If you are interested in more Autumn Arboretum pictures, click here.

 

Special backyard visitors…

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A pair of bluebirds made my heart happy today! I haven’t seen a sign of either one in months,  and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him sitting on top of the nesting box this morning.

And then she joined him and together they checked out the neighborhood.

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She peered into the nest, and I wondered if she would approve of what she saw inside.

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Disappearing inside to take a better look around, she inspected the box while he perched on top to survey the neighborhood, maybe keeping an eye out for the marauding neighborhood cat.

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She climbed inside the nest, leaving him standing watch on the rooftop.

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We put up this new bluebird box six months ago, hoping a pair of bluebirds would move in and raise their young where we could enjoy their family shenanigans. Unfortunately, shortly after the new box was installed some aggressive house sparrows moved in and chased the bluebirds away.

But today the bluebirds returned for another look at the box. After Mrs. B. completed her inspection, they both flew away, so I have no idea what her decision was. For now, I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed, hoping they will return. Meanwhile, as I said, it made my heart happy to see them in our backyard today.

That’s all the neighborhood news for now.
See you in a few days.
Trail Walker (aka Skip)

Almost Autumn

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Today’s temperature hovered around 90 degrees as I headed out for a trail walk in Holden Arboretum. Although most of the trees along the trail are still green, a few, like the beauty above, are definitely announcing the arrival of Autumn. Am I looking forward to cooler temperatures? You bet I am! Hands down, Autumn is my favorite season, and I’m anticipating some colorful trail walks during October…and into November.

Here are the first pictures for my Autumn album:

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And finally, one of my favorite trees: the sugar maple. Every year, I photograph the transition of this magnificent tree from summer into autumn and eventually winter. Here’s the first picture, still dressed in green garb, but preparing for the dramatic change coming in the months ahead.

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That’s it for week one of this year’s Autumn Album. If you are a trail walker who loves Autumn, come back next week when I will share more Autumn images.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Backyard birds online again

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Since early June I’ve been off the trail more than on it! Two months have passed in what  has been a very busy summer, and I have chronicled very little of it. Shame on me! So to get started again, I am posting a few pictures from my backyard birding collection, starting with a few hummers who stopped by the feeders yesterday:

Like the hummingbirds, the pileated woodpeckers, both male and female, have visited every day for weeks, early morning, again at lunchtime, and finally in the evening. Take a look:

And yesterday the bird featured at the top of this post and also below made an appearance. The bluejay I recognize, by sight and sound, but the other bird is not a regular at my backyard feeders, so I’m not sure what it is. Can someone please tell me?

That’s all for today, Trail Walkers.
See you soon!

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

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