Yesterday was sunny and gorgeous and not all that cold, so I headed out for my first dedicated woods walk in a public park since moving to Ohio. (It sounds crazy, I know, but I've been so impressed with the nature in our own yard that I haven't really felt the need to explore other places.) I've been very curious about this whole Great Lake thing, so I drove up to Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve, which is right on the shore of Lake Erie. For such a small park (there was only a mile or so of trails) this place had a whole lot of things going for it, including really lovely woods, fields, marshes, and beaches, and wildlife all over the place.
A Red-tailed Hawk was soaring over the small field near the entrance right when I arrived:
At the edge of the lake, an even bigger raptor was keeping watch:
I'm fairly certain this is the closest I've been to a wild Bald Eagle. An impressive bird indeed:
Wow, what a huge beak. I wouldn't want to be a smaller creature in this bird's sights:
Ready for launch (the tree's branches got in the way of my pictures of the takeoff):
The path through the forest featured lots of small mammal activity, even with all the people walking by. Fox Squirrels buried nuts next to the path and waved their fancy red tails:
We have regular old Gray Squirrels around here too, but I see Fox Squirrels much more often -- a first for me, since I've never lived in a place with Fox Squirrels before. I definitely admire their orange bellies and tails.
This Eastern Chipmunk was keeping an eye on me, but it was much more interested in the second Eastern Chipmunk a few feet away (a grand chase began soon after I took this picture):
I was surprised and happy to see several Painted Turtles basking in one of the ponds, even though it's getting quite late in the year:
We have a different subspecies of Painted Turtle out here than we had in Connecticut (Midland vs. Eastern Painted Turtles), but I still recognize these guys as familiar friends. I love the extreme balancing act of the turtle on the far left of this picture.
I was just a footstep away from this little Brown Snake before I noticed it. It's a good thing twigs aren't usually so curvy! I took this picture then urged the little fellow off the path and out of the way of dangerous feet:
I got to meet a new (for me) bird on this visit, too. Rusty Blackbirds have been declining dramatically in numbers in recent decades and they're listed as "vulnerable" by the IUCN. A couple of these handsome fellows were hanging out with some Red-winged Blackbirds and they stopped only briefly for a picture before heading off to forage in the swampy woods:
A bunch of different ducks were hanging out in the marsh, and I was super happy to meet a pair of Wood Ducks close to the path. They were foraging behind a screen of bushes, which made picture-taking rather difficult, but it also helped them feel safe despite the person with the camera nearby. Wood Ducks are -- I think -- the most beautiful of ducks. The female was lovely (with duckweed on her bill, so cute), and I love the faint sheen of iridescent purple in her hair:
And of course the male was resplendent:
I love the way he looks against the reflected fall trees:
And boy do I wish this next picture was entirely in focus! I had no idea his wings would be so colorful as well:
As I was leaving, I met the most personable (or perhaps most tired/hungry) White-throated Sparrow ever:
This little bird kept hopping along the path I was taking, basically right next to me. It would startle up every few seconds while I walked, but then it would come back and continue foraging on my path, only a few feet away. So I did what I used to do with shorebirds in Connecticut: I walked a little ways ahead of the bird and then crouched down and let it keep foraging and work its way toward me. I've never had a sparrow come so close!
The food on this path must have been really good; this bird found a morsel every few steps:
It's nice to get a sparrow's-eye view of the woods every once in a while:
So Sheldon Marsh turned out to be a lovely place, with lots of awesome creatures. I'm sure I'll make my way back here at some point!