Monday, November 29, 2010

Tall trees

Yesterday we enjoyed another short but greatly satisfying hike in Ohio, this time at Goll Woods in Northwest Ohio. Goll Woods is the least disturbed woodland in the area and includes some of the tallest trees in Ohio. It's rather surprising to discover this place amid the pancake-flat agricultural fields of this part of Ohio. But the Great Black Swamp used to be located here, along with many habitat types and many deciduous trees. Thankfully the Goll family protected these big woods in the 19th century.

We hiked the one-mile bur oak trail from the east parking area. The 200 to 400-year-old oaks themselves were spectacular--stretching more than 120 feet into the sky. We saw several birds--both kinglets among the highlights, including a golden-crowned kinglet that landed just a few feet away. But the faunal highlight had to be the squirrels. We saw and heard red squirrels soon after arriving on the trail, then we saw a fox squirrel. Next we saw a black squirrel. For a moment I believed we recorded a rare sciurid sampler, but I'm pretty sure it was a black form of a fox squirrel--not a gray squirrel. Still, this area likely falls into the section of the country that includes these three tree squirrels.

All in all, another unexpected gem, which is the best kind of gem there is.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter walk

Yesterday we discovered a gem of a natural area close to where I spent my childhood in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Metroparks' North Chagrin Reservation straddles the escarpment that delineates Ohio's Lake Plains region and the Glaciated Allegheny Plateau. I've visited the park many times before, but until yesterday hadn't been to the 1-mile White Pines Loop trail. The trail splinters from a busy parking lot called Strawberry Lane. It was cold and windy yesterday, 29 degrees as we left the parking lot. It was pleasant, though, with puffy clouds and some blue sky. The trail winds along a lobe of a ridge that is surrounded by steep ravines on three sides. The ridge is dotted with hemlocks and beeches. And white pines--about 15 that are the only virgin stand in the area, perhaps protected by the rugged terrain. The pines reach 140-feet in height. To complete the wintry tableau, chickadees, titmice and white-breasted nuthatches were hanging around the trail. (Note: the photo above is of the nearby Chagrin River Valley. The headwaters of some tributaries are very close to the White Pines Loop.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mighty Fitz

Today is the 35th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The legendary ship sank on a trip from Superior, Wis., to Zug Island, Mich. (and eventually Cleveland). I am commemorating the event again by sipping a snifter of brandy and turning up the gas fireplace extra high tonight, even as we have unseasonably warm temperatures. I am adding to the tradition by playing the song in full on the guitar, capo on the second fret.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yawning void

For whatever reason, I've historically spent little time at Montrose Point in November. So it was nice to get out today and explore at this time of year. One of the first things we noticed was that, like on our block, there's a surprising amount of greenery around. Many trees and shrubs have green leaves even though it's the first week of November.

The prairie at Montrose continues to be bursting at the seams like never before--the grasses and forbs and other plants are incredibly tall and dense, overrunning trails in places. The dunes are always changing, and this was evident again today. The tallest of the dunes continues to get taller. There are more grasses than ever--marram grass, and I believe little bluestem. There are dense stands of equisetum in one of the swales. And the cottonwoods and willows appear to have grown. Not to mention the black oaks that were planted last year.

There wasn't a whole lot of bird activity, save for a flock of goldfinches looking more like grayfinches at this time of year. And a group of herring gulls and ring-billed gulls, including the first-year ring-bill pictured with its tongue out. There are a few other pictures here.