Thursday, August 25, 2016

On the Hunt for the Elusive Otters...


 A Blue Jay watching a flock of humans...very confusing...
"Uh, excuse me! Anyone got any seed?"

SO, there we were...creeping down the trail at Pond Brook Conservation Area...quietly...scanning through the scrub..looking for movement  along the brook...shhh...we're hunting Northern River Otters...there's a family of them living here...hmmm...WHAT'S THAT?!...oh, just an Eastern Chipmunk making more noise than he has to, must be related to Bobb...

I've been out here at least once every other week searching for otters...and birds of course. I have seen some great birds, Blue-winged Warblers, Barred Owls, even a grand flock of Trumpeter Swans flying over...no otters...yet...

...to be continued...

I was there early and met up with Janeen, an excellent naturalist with the Summit Metroparks. Tonight she was leading a walk through the preserve to search for the River Otters and teach folks about habitat restoration and the animals that live among us. I was expecting a dozen or so folks to show up on this gorgeous and warm evening. Much to my surprise, and possibly Janeens, there were about fifty people crowded around her to listen and learn about these wonderful animals and this outstanding area.

She led her group from the parking area down a short path and described more of the otters habitat and habits. You know me and crowds...I quietly slipped away after giving a camera demonstration to an inquisitive 4 year old...a future birder I hope! I was on the hunt!

 LOTS of people!

 A samll portion of Pond Brook that was visible from the trail.
The wildflowers and scrub has really taken over this summer.

 Getting close to dusk and quite a few Cedar Waxwings were flying in to watch the humans.

 The first stop for the group was this definite sign of the otters!
SCAT!
No, don't leave!
It was otter poop...more politely called "scat."
When Janeen and I were looking around she spotted it along the bank of the brook...by a picnic table of course!
 I needed some poop pics for my collection of things FROM behind...or things left behind...or things LEFT from behinds...or something...

 Anyway...if you look closely(hopefully you've already eaten) you'll see the fragments of past meals.
They eat anytihng from shellfish, fish, turtles and frogs and even mice, buirds and eggs if they can catch them.
Lots of shells and that curious leg and claw in the center.
I think lizard was on the menu.
The eat there meals "sushi" style, whole and uncooked.
No thank you.

 Onward down the trail...peeking through the undergrowth whenever I can to look for movement in the brook.
Lots of American Robins are searching too...

 Flycatchers were out catching their evening meals.
The mosquitoes were out en masse this evening.
Luckily, like some people, they don't like me!

(By the way, I think that was an Eastern Wood-Pewee as I heard many calling throughout the walk.)

 At first I shrugged off this whining little bird as a European Starling, but when I got home it looked a lot more like a very young American Robin...hmmm...

 Did I mention all of the Cedar Waxwings along for the walk?
Larry, Curly and Moe looking in all directions for what, they're not sure of...

 This Hairy Woodpecker was wondering what all the hub-bub was down below...
 
 This White-breasted Nuthatch was "honk-honking" at the noist humans.
"How do you expect to find the otters?! Shhhh!"

 Squeezing my way slightly off the path to have a peek in the brook I saw all these beautiful wildflowers...but no otters...yet!

 Taking photos at dusk with a 500mm lens is not one of smarter moves...fortunately, my camera is smarter than me and can figure it out...

 One of these days I'm gonna get a wildflower field guide...and look at it...

WAIT! WHAT'S THAT UP AHEAD IN THE WATER?!!!!

Nope, it wasn't the river otters, just a frog hopping along on his merry way...to dinner for an otter!
The only River Otter I saw tonight was this taxidermy buddy of Janeens.
He was good at posing for me. Very dramatic, eh?

My search will continue. I'll go back Sunday morning and every week or so until I find a live one...
When you think about what this area once was, a veritable wasteland, completely  polluted and desolate, and the wonderful place to walk and bird it has become, it gives you a little hope that people will bakc local parks and help in conserving our precious habitat.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Birding...


 Oboy! An American Goldfinch sitting kinda still!

 ...and of course, just when I start to focus...zoom!
Jerk Goldfinch...
One of these days...

So, where were we? Oh yeah, out birding! I'm not really caught up. These are from this past weekend at Pond Brook, my new favorite place to escape to. I wanted to post more pics from last month, but my computer crashed and I seemed to "misplace" my photo files...I even have a back up drive and that now appears empty...oh well.At least the latest are still there...

So...at Pond Brook...all to myself! I still don't understand why there aren't more folks out here...I had the place all to myself again! Butt I won't complain. I can be free in nature!

Summer birding...a little slow as everyone likes to say. But, if you look closely, there's always something to see! (Like me if you're not paying attention!) There's birds quietly feeding, preening and going about their days. There's always a few fledglings and juvenile birds skulking about, begging for food or learning to feed themselves. Soon the American Goldfinch's will start fledging.

And then there's all of the insects flying around your head! We won't count the deer flies and ticks and mosquitoes, oh my! But butterflies abound this time of year when the weather is warm and sunny and the wildflowers are in bloom. We're in a drought in northern Ohio, the pickings are a little slim this year. Because of the mosquitoes this weekend, I avoided the drying up wetland area and the hoards of dragonflies...maybe next week.

Anyway, get out and get busy! There's ALWAYS something to see in nature!
 
 Black Rat snakes always seem to come out to say hello when I'm out.
They are harmless...unless you're a rodent...

 The only folks I saw this day where an older couple heading for the lone picnic table for lunch.
They asked what I was looking at...
I said "Just a little nature!"
The snake was heading their way...
I wonder if I should have told them.
Nah.

 The only Black Swallowtail I saw was deep in the undergrowth.
I was determined to get a shot anyway...

 Silly Cabbage White butterflies never sit still long enough for me!
And when they do, they try to turn invisible.
When I turn sideways the same thing happens!

 I believe this to be an Eastern Wood-Pewee fledgling....very shy too!
I told him not to worry, I could hear his parents calling close by.

 He felt better then.

 This Eastern Carpenter Bee is enjoying the pollen on this milkweed.

Eastern Chipmunk.
Not Bobb.
Bobb doesn't go out much anymore.
Poor Bobb.
One day I'll let Bobb out to play again.

 Like so many butterflies this time of year, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a little worse for wear.
Their wings are very delicate and get scraped in the scrub, or picked at by hunger birds that are bad shots.

 Of course, when you see a flock of European Starlings, they have to pose on a dead tree.

 So,"Hey! Mr. Northern Flicker," I said,
why do they call you "yellow shafted" out here?
I thought maybe they were scaredy cats in a detective movie or something...
Nope, he showed off his yellow shafts on his feathers.
Oh, NOW I get it...

 Being sorta color blind, I'll have to take your word for it...
A "Red-spotted Purple" butterfly...okay...I guess so.

 I think I offended him...

 More babies!
This young Song Sparrow was cheeping and begging...and being ignored.

 Only an inch and a quarter or so...these Summer Azures are tiny and fast!
I wandered all over trying to follow these guys as they zig zagged in and out and across the paths.
This was the only one that sat still long enough.
I really need to carry my macro lens for these shots...it's hard to track something so small with 500mm's of Canon!

 It wasn't until I looked at this shot of an obnoxious Tufted Titmouse that I noticed the unkind jesture he flashed me!
You can just barely see his right foot.
Rude little guy!

Today I will leave you with a butterfly butt!
That's where their name REALLY came from you know!
This is a Viceroy, very similar to a Monarch.
The Viceroy has that black line going through their hind wing.
There, you learned something today and I can go now.

See ya next week!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge...still catching up!...


 Mandatory for every visit to Ottawa...one dozen Bald Eagles.

Jeez...what month is this anyway? Yes kiddies, I'm still behind in editing and posting photos. I suppose I could do this twice a week...but I think that would be cruel and unusual punishment...for you, not me. We'll catch up one of these days...Meanwhile...back in birdland...

I took a drive out to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, not to far and very close to Magee Marsh(they'll be another day...) This little journey was at the end of May, the 29th to be exact, a very warm day with only a few folks wandering around. For the most part they were on the trails up front, only crazy people like me hike all the way back to the lake to fight off the insects and to search for anything that moves, then sits still for a second!

Birding with groups can be fun and I did walk with two nice woman for a bit and pointed out a few birds for them and they told me of their birding travels across the US. Birders are always friendly folks! But, I really like to get out alone in the peace and quiet of nature and just wander and listen. There's so much out there if you're silent and pay attention to the world around you.

Try it, you may get hooked!

 Did I mention the dozens of juvenile and adult Bald Eagles out there?

 When I was speaking to the other birders, we saw this Black-crowned Night-Heron in one of the ponds...of course before I could remember how to push the buttons, he flew off.
The memory is a terrible thing to, uh...uh...never mind...

 Later, as I was wandering at the far end, guess who I spotted in the tangles?
Yep, the Black-crowned Night-Heron found a nice fishing spot!
And I found a gap in the trees and shrubs.

 As always, the Canada Geeseses were leaving their "marks" all over the trails.
Fortunately, the goslings don't mark as much...yet.
Keep your shoes on.

 The turtle on the left is a Common Map Turtle, for something "common," I've never seen one before.
His log mate in a truly common Midland Painted Turtle.
I need to start looking closer at these guys!

 No, no, no...this isn't a politician running for president(take your pick.)
It's an Eastern Garter Snake in the grass...

 Though, like a politician, he couldn't make up his mind which direction he wanted to go.
(This is the end of my political rant. Thank you.)

 Eastern Kingbirds always know what they're looking for!
MORE BUGS!
(And not the ones hidden in someones office...sorry, I'll stop now.)

 Um, Great Blue Heron. In the marsh. Standing still.
(I ran out of smart a$$ed remarks. Good thing, eh?)

 This Killdeer must have had a nest nearby.
There was a pair, one flew off screaming while this one wandered slowly into the grass, squatting down, then moving slowly, all the time watching me carefully.

 A nest of unknown ownership.
It looks similar to a Marsh Wren's nest and they do breed here.
Hmmm...any ideas out there?

 Aw! Ain't they a bunch o' cuties?
Love them lil Pied-billed Grebes...all stripey and fuzzy...

 The adult kept a very close eye on me, making quiet sounds to keep the kids at a safe distance from me.

 This guy seemed to have a difficult time getting his buoyant butt under water...
Must be a poor diet...more roughage little buddy!

 Purple Martins find it difficult to knock on doors without arms and hands.

 Well, at least the Red-winged Blackbirds laugh at my jokes...

 Oh yeah! Redheads are hot!
Oh, wait...uh...never mind...oops...
This is a Redhead duck.
Different.

And now we shall have an Egret Interlude...

 That's a male Snowy Egret in the center trying his hardest to impress the babe on the left with his fluffy feathery fierceness.
It didn't work by the way.
Oh, I almost forgot, that tall handsome guy on the right?
No, not me, it's a Great Egbert...no, EGRET, yeah, that's it.

 Mr. Smooth gave up on the females and decided to get something to eat.
Not unlike myself.

 Just chillin' out on a muskrat lodge.

 ...still looking for something to eat.
Seems this guy is really striking out today...
(Watch it! No jokes there!)

 And like me, he's showing off his graceful strides!
You try walking in that muck!

 Interlude is over...back to our regularly scheduled program...

 It's a little Song Sparrow trying to hide from me!
I can always spot you guys!

 You know that corny over done photo of the two swans with their necks intertwined to resemble a heart?
Yeah, well this is my version!
So there.

 Oh, they're Trumpeter Swans in case you were wondering.
Hard to tell from the butt shot.
Lots of minerals in the water here!

 Why it's a Warbling Vireo warbling!
Who'd have thought?

 Okay, name that Empidonax Flycatcher!
Oh look! He has a leg band too!
I f could make out the code from here, I would call and check.
But I can't, so I won't.
Oh well.
Looks kinda like a Willow...maybe...

 HEY!!!
I know this one!
He's a Yellow Warbly!
Yea!

 This was the only shot I got of this Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
They're hard to find...and when you do, poof, they disappear!

One last Snowy Egret before I go!
It's so rare to get close enough to get good photos of them...at least for me.

Thanks again for putting up with my silliness!
Until we meet again...