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

Monday musings

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My calendar insists that today is March 4th. In sixteen short days, we will observe the spring equinox, the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; in other words, the first official day of spring! Here in Ohio, we will “spring forward” next weekend, turning our clocks an hour ahead for the beginning of DST or daylight saving time. Not that it really saves any time, and sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t prefer leaving my clock on standard time all year round. Nevertheless, I will conform and save myself from the confusion of never arriving anywhere at the “right time.”

So there you have it; spring is almost upon us, but, oh, how I wish it felt (and looked) more like spring! That won’t happen here on the south shore of Lake Erie until sometime in April, if we’re lucky. But here’s some good news. The birds have begun their spring migration. And I saw undeniable proof this week: a redwinged blackbird appeared in my backyard. No, I didn’t capture his (or her) picture, but I saw it. Truly I did, and that made me smile. Maybe if I carve out time this week for a trail walk in the arboretum, I will discover some tiny snowdrops, another sure harbinger of spring. Meanwhile, a bevy of birds were active in my backyard today, and they were willing to pose for some photo opps. Here are a few that I captured through my kitchen window: First, the blue jays:

Here’s another junco, like the one at the top of the post. They don’t linger once spring arrives, so they will soon be on their way to their summer home. For that reason, they are sometimes called snowbirds.
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A cardinal and an American robin also made a visit. All of these birds, even the robin, live year round in our neighborhood. I’m not sure how  robins got the reputation for being one of the first signs of spring because they don’t deserve it. We see them all year round, although it is true that we see more in warmer weather. (Although I’ve never actually counted, so that could be inaccurate.)

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My favorite little birds have been hanging around recently. Despite their reputation as summer birds, they also appear in the winter. I was shocked the first time I saw a bluebird in the middle of winter. But here they are. (Click to enlarge).

The two on the right are males. I’m not positive about the one on the left with the more subdued color, but I think it is a male too. I do know they enjoy perching on top of the “rabbit” that watches over the garden.
And, as always, the “not-a-birds” have been busy scampering around the yard and up and down the trees, “stealing” food from the feeders. They can’t fly, but their agility is amazing as they climb the pole to get to the hopper feeder.

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That’s it for today’s bird count. You can be sure I will keep my eye out for that redwinged blackbird. Maybe I will hear him before I see him. That’s often the way it is with the redwings. Every spring, their loud, distinctive call announces their arrival. Come back soon to see what I find in the backyard or along the trail.

Thanks for stopping by today. I always enjoy your visits!
Trail Walker

Weather report

Although the calendar indicates that we should be enjoying Spring, Mother Nature has refused to cooperate. In the weeks since the reportedly “gentler season” officially began on March 21, we have experienced mostly cold and/or very damp weather…the kind of weather that does not draw me out for trail walking with my camera. As a result, even though the birds have been out and about, this trail walker hasn’t been!  Consequently, three weeks into the month, I have a very meagre collection of April images to share; however, here are a few birds that agreed to pose in the middle of their daily activities:

After momma great horned owl, pictured above, another regular to show up was my favorite, the red-bellied woodpecker:

 

 

Following Mr. Redbelly, is another woodpecker, the little downy, but he didn’t pose for long, and, as light was leaking out of the afternoon sky,  I only captured one image of him.

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Other regulars willing to pose, despite the cold, were the perennial popular cardinals and blue jays:

 

 

Last, but of course, not least, even though they are the smallest, is the black-capped chickadee.

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Believe it or not, he had just walked through that arch on the fence post.
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And came out with a large piece of peanut.

Daylight was vanishing, so I decided to close up my camera and head home for supper. On this chilly April afternoon, I was glad to be leaving the park with a few pictures captured on my memory card. Hopefully, the weather will improve soon, and I will have more pictures to share.

Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.

Here’s hoping our weather (and other things) soon improve!
Feel free to leave comments. I love to chat with you.
Trail Walker

New day—New trail walk

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Good morning, Trail Walkers. I hope you’re ready for another trek along the trails in Chagrin River Park. It never get monotonous for me when I’m out on the trail, but recently I’m seeing the same birds day after day. Here’s hoping that the coming of spring will soon bring some migratory birds back to the  trails.  My photos from yesterday are all birds, but I was drawn to the image at the top of today’s page because it shows more of the meadow. I hope you like it. Here are a few more regulars that posed for a photo  opp yesterday:

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Blue jay
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He’s happy to find a peanut!

There was plenty of titmouse action this morning. These little birds make me smile because they are perpetually perky, or at least they seem to be. They even sound perky.

The red-winged blackbird is one of the earliest signs of spring in Northeast Ohio. Long before other noticeable signs and sounds of spring appear along the trails, the harsh nasal voice of this bird tells a trail walker that spring is coming. It’s always a good sound to hear, even though experience reminds me that the trees won’t be budding and blooming any time soon… at least not here along the south shore of Lake Erie.

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Let’s end today’s trail walk with a perennial favorite. Everyone recognizes this bird. The state bird of Ohio and several other states, the cardinal lives here year-round, and looks especially beautiful when I spot it on a tree branch, surrounded by freshly fallen snow.

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I’m thankful there wasn’t any snow along the trail yesterday.  I’ve had enough for this year. True spring can’t arrive soon enough for me!

Thanks for stopping by today.
See you in a few days.
~Trail Walker

Taking Mabel on the trail

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Bob was taking Mabel for a walk in the park, so, even though it was late afternoon, I tagged along. Mabel, our daughter and son-in-law’s dog, is temporarily our house guest. They sold their home and are planning to relocate as soon as they find the right house or property. Meanwhile, we are back to having a dog in the house, and a very large dog at that! She has adapted well to her temporary home, and we have adapted to having her around. Mabel’s a good girl, and we are enjoying her company. Bob is supposed to take daily walks, and having Mabel as a walking partner is a good incentive. Although the arrangement is only intended to last until they move into their new home, we have reminded Alison that our buddy Gulliver, who was once their puppy, came to stay with us temporarily many years ago and never left. He was our buddy for 15 years, until he died last September.

Today, while Bob and Mabel walked the stairs at the sledding hill, I took a short trail walk and photographed some birds. The red-bellied woodpeckers were plentiful:

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…and a titmouse  and cardinal also stopped by, hoping for a peanut.

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I couldn’t forget to visit the owl tree, and this time I caught Momma Owl with her eyes open, Today she was just as sedentary as the last two times I stopped for a photo opp. Being a momma owl, responsible for sitting on the nest  hour after hour, must be very tiresome.

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That’s it for today’s blog post. See you in a few days.

Thanks for taking a look!
Trail Walker

A late afternoon trail walk

On cold days, I’m not always excited about putting on all the winter paraphernalia yet another time, especially as the sun is slowly sinking behind the trees; however, today I pushed open the door of my comfort zone and headed out for a chilly hour along the trails in Chagrin River Park.

My first goal was another look at Momma Great Horned Owl, so I chose the trail that led to her dead tree. From my vantage point, a fair distance from the tree, I could see that she was enjoying an afternoon nap, carefully camouflaged in her cozy nest.
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Unfortunately the light was too low to capture a clear picture with my Nikon, so I shot a few photographs, turned away and went in search of other nearby birds. Flitting in the treetops along the trail was a black-capped chickadee that was kind enough to pause for a little portrait shoot.

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When I reached the fence post at the juncture of two trails, I was happy to find the lady cardinal was still willing to pose…

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…as were the blue jay and red-bellied woodpecker…

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From a tree that overhangs the split-rail fence, a white-throated sparrow flew down to grab some peanuts; a pre-dinner appetizer perhaps:

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By this time,  my hands were thoroughly chilled, so I decided it was quitting time. “Tomorrow will be another day,” I said to myself, and hopefully the sun will shine.  Walking back to my car, I took the trail that skirts the bog and paused to watch a few mallards that hadn’t gone in for the night.

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By now it was really time to leave the trail and go home to download my pictures and get supper on the table. I’ll come back in the morning. Hopefully the light will be better!

I’ll look forward to seeing you then!
Trail Walker

Introducing my newly refurbished website and two new Fabulous Faces

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If you follow my blog, you probably remember that I especially enjoy taking pictures of people and dogs when I meet them on my trail walks. I met Cindy and Lynn, two fabulous and friendly trail walkers, in Chagrin River Park this morning, and after a brief conversation, I asked if I could take their picture for my Fabulous Faces gallery. You can read about it here and see the many faces, human and canine,  I have photographed over my years of walking along the trail. Meeting Cindy and Lynn was truly the highlight of my walk today.

About my website and blog

I have a website, hosted on the SmugMug platform and a blog, hosted by WordPress. Both are named Seen Along the Trail because they are based on my frequent trail walks and the photos I take along the trail.The website and blog work in tandem. I take my camera with me on my trail walks and capture pictures of things I see along the trail.Then I bring them home, remove them from my camera to my computer, and upload them to my website where they stay until I am ready to write a post for my blog. Four or five times a week, I choose the photos I want to write about, write the post, and share it on the blog. (An analogy for this is the process you follow when you prepare a meal to share with your family or friends. You go to the store, buy good food, bring it home and store it in your refrigerator. Then a few days later, you take it out of the refrigerator, process it (i.e. prepare the meal) and serve it to your guests).

Refurbishing my website

For the past month I have been hard at work reorganizing my galleries and refurbishing my website to give it a fresh look and a design that is easy for visitors to navigate. I drew up the design, chose the picture galleries I want to share, and wrote the text. Then I began to build the site. Some parts of that process were easy, but sometimes I couldn’t make the pictures and text display on the screen the way I wanted them to. When that happened I called my granddaughter. Carrie is a web-developer with a company in Memphis, and she was a huge help to me. Just for example: One big problem I couldn’t resolve was how to get the images of the four seasons  to display in a row on the home page. Nothing I tried worked, so I told Carrie what I wanted to do, and she wrote the code that made it happen. Now they are lined up just as I pictured them. So with Carrie’s help on the technology end, and advice on layout from my daughter Becky,  the site was finally finished last night. Carrie and I gave each other a virtual high-five, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The website is “live.” You can visit it here, and I hope you will return for frequent walks down the trail with me on both my website and my blog.

How’s the experience from your perspective?

If you have any questions or comments for me, including about how the site looks on the device you are using to view it (desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone), just send an email my way. The contact form is in the menu at the top of the website’s home page.

Finally, a few pictures from today’s trail walk

Thanks for joining me for today’s trail walk.
I would welcome feedback on the website from your perspective.
See you soon! ~Trail Walker

I couldn’t believe my eyes!

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The clouds parted and the sun appeared in a beautiful blue sky this morning, and I truly couldn’t believe my eyes! What a difference a day can make! After trudging down the trail yesterday under completely overcast skies, with wet snow blowing in my face, I didn’t think I would see the sun today. And maybe not for the rest of the week! Or maybe not until April! So when I suddenly realized it was shining through the window where I was sitting in front of my computer, I felt like someone had handed me an unexpected and very special gift, beautifully wrapped and just waiting for me to tear off the wrapping and reveal the beauty inside.

Dashing around the house, I assembled everything I needed for my trail walk. Camera? Check! Boots? Check! Heavy jacket, hat, and hand warmers? Check-check-check! And in no time I was in the car and headed to the park where I spent ninety blissful minutes walking the trails with my camera. For today’s post, I thought I would let the titmouse, nuthatch, and cardinal show you how happy they were to see the sun. I’ll save the robin, chickadee, and other pictures for later this week.

Thanks for joining me on the trail this morning.
See you soon!
Trail Walker

Take off!

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I’ve been using manual mode a lot these days, trying to get the look I want in my shots. I like the results this time…a little blur, but still clear enough to tell what is happening as the cardinal flies away with the “bark butter bit” he has just grabbed off the post. The blur may be off-putting to some, especially those who prefer a tack sharp image, but I’m okay with it. I would love to know what you think.

Settings: Shutter speed:1/400 second; aperture: 7.1; ISO 200

See you tomorrow, somewhere along the trail.
Trail Walker

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