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Spring Migration – May 2019.

June 1, 2019

For most birders, spring migration is the highlight of the year.  Brightly-colored birds, ready to nest, flood north from southern areas, an exciting end to the cold season.

Spring migration takes place in March, April and May.  March sees Waterfowl on the move heading north and early land bird arrivals such as Eastern Phoebes.  April adds on many more land birds, especially Sparrows heading north.  But it is May that is the jewel in the crown of spring migration.  This is when most Warblers- those colorful neotropical migrants- pass through (and come to stay in) Ohio.  The beginning of May usually sees the leaves on the trees start to come out, and this is where the Warblers look for their meals- insects.

Traditionally, the first 3 weeks of May is the core of my spring migration experience.  By late May, the Warblers are slowing down significantly, and most migrants have migrated.  The leaves and undergrowth are fully deployed in their summerish dense glory, making it hard to see our feathered friends.

So, I thought I’d post what the first 3 weeks of May 2019 were like for me- where I went and what I saw as a birder (not forgetting other sights such as wildflowers).  This is a big post but I wanted to show how big the month of May can be!


May 1st, Indian Lake State Park (Logan Co)

I started off on a hunt for a rare shorebird up at Indian Lake

It’s still the off-season, although by the end of the month there will be a good amount of folks out in the parks

Here was the bird I was looking for- a Piping Plover.  Looking somewhat like the common Semipalmated Plover, this bird is rarer here, and was passing through Ohio on shorebird migration.  Note the blue band on its left leg.  A life list bird for me!

This female House Sparrow was nesting in the top of a restroom building.  May is a big month for birds raising young.


May 4th, Prairie Oaks Metro Park (Franklin Co)

Prairie Oaks Metro Park is one of my favorite places for nature walks- it’s not as busy as some places, being out on the western edge of Franklin County.  It has a variety of environments, and is good-sized: you can walk for miles on the trails.

Wintercress is a prominent spring wildflower, one of three common yellow plants you can run across this season in Ohio.

Here’s a Buckeye- Ohio’s state tree- blooming.

Red-Winged Blackbirds are on territory, singing their ‘gurgle-ee’ song.  They often chase other birds away from their territory.

Another bird often seen hanging around this month are Brown-Headed Cowbirds.  These parasitic birds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, allowing others to raise their young.

This is a Warbling Vireo, not much to look at but a vigorous singer that sounds a bit like a tape recorder sped up and running in reverse.

A pair of Tree Swallows at a nesting box.

A male Orchard Oriole keeps an eye out while his mate searches for nesting material.

A female American Redstart- a fairly common Warbler seen during migration.

A male Common Yellowthroat- one of the most common Warblers that nests in Ohio.  It likes fields with shrubs and nearby trees.

A male Yellow Warbler.  Another very common Warbler that nests in Ohio, it likes shrubby areas near water, and Prairie Oaks has plenty of both.  I blogged about the Yellow Warbler frenzy at Prairie Oaks 5 years ago.

I spotted this broken Robin egg.  There’s a lot of nesting going on.

This Robin wasn’t far off.  When you see birds carrying food, they are most likely feeding their young.

I ran across a Killdeer, central Ohio’s most common shorebird.  They love grassy and gravelly areas.

This bird is pretending to be injured to lure me away from their nest.  I blogged about a similar incident years ago.

Can you spot the nest?

Here’s a close-up of the 4 eggs neatly placed together on a gravelly area.  Killdeer place them upon a sparse nest of sticks and grass.  When the young are born, they quickly are up and running.


May 5th, Blendon Woods Metro Park (Franklin Co)

Blendon Woods Metro Park is a very popular birding spot in Franklin County.  The park isn’t the biggest, but it draws in a great amount of Warblers and other birds during migrations.  Plus it is well-known for its substantial Wild Turkey flock.  It is a must-visit park in May.

Here’s one of the many Wild Turkeys.  They get along with people well enough.  I blogged about an encounter with them 7 years ago.

Blendon Woods contains Walden Pond within its boundaries, a fine place to see water-friendly birds such as this Great Egret.  There are 2 bird blind cottages to see them from.

This Gray Catbird sings vigorously from a bushy area.  I see perhaps the same bird every year in the same place…I’ll have to blog about that one day.

And now, a few of the Warblers seen…

A male Black-Throated Blue Warbler singing

A Black And White Warbler

A male Blackburnian Warbler in all his glory.

May has a profusion of bushes blooming, such as this Elderberry.  More about it here.

Butterweed is a common May plant in wet fields.  Whole fields of it sometimes takes one’s breath away.

Chipmunks were common in the May woods.  Sometimes they hold very still, allowing a decent picture 🙂

A young-bird encounter- 2 juvenile Carolina Wrens beg for food from a parent.  These birds are quite loud for their tiny size.  Young birds can often be identified by their colorful mouths- this triggers a parents’ instinct to feed them when they open wide.


May 5th, Dillon State Park (Muskingum Co)

A birding buddy and I overnighted at Dillon State Park at a cabin.  The great thing about the cabin area is that it was surrounded by woodland, so we could birdwatch right from our deck!

A male Eastern Towhee

A Red-Eyed Vireo

A Hooded Warbler singing

This patch of Bluets grew next to our cabin.


May 6th, Blackhand Gorge state Nature Preserve (Licking Co)

Blackhand Gorge is another well-visited birding hotspot, east of Columbus.

The name “Blackhand” originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph that was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river. The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpaths and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river.

There’s a lot of interesting sandstone geology in the area.  A railroad cut was blasted through this area in 1851.

Cerulean Warblers sang in the forest.

White-Eyed Vireos, with their striking songs and white eyes, liked the area.

Quite a few Acadian Flycatchers- another forest bird- were around.  They chased each other through the forest.

This Yellow-Throated Vireo came down for a good look at us birders.


May 7th & 8th, Buck Creek State Park (Clark Co)

One of my favorite state parks is Buck Creek, near Springfield.  It has a large reservoir, miles of roads through woods, recreational areas, cabins and campgrounds, even a beach.  The Visitors Center (run by the US Army Corps of Engineers) is worth a stop- one of the staff members is a birder and likes to talk birds.

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I stay in one particular cabin that has the best view of the reservoir.

I chatted a bit with a lady mushroomer- she’d found some impressive specimens in the area.

Spring Beauties, a classic spring ephemeral, like some shade.  Read more about them in an old blog post.

This Black-Throated Green Warbler posed nicely for me.

Tennessee Warblers sang loudly…

…while Blackpoll Warblers made very soft high-pitched calls.

This male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak sang in a tree, not overly concerned about me taking pictures of him.

Baltimore Orioles were numerous, collecting nesting material and squabbling with each other.

This Eastern Phoebe was near my cabin- they love nesting on human structures.  Here’s a post I did about them long ago.

Some of the deer near my cabin seemed curious about me.

This Raccoon was trying to grab something in a hole in a tree, probably bird eggs

A cat hung out in the cabin area- it ignored me but finally began meowing at me afterI talked to it for a while.  My guess is that somebody was feeding it!

I saw many nesting birds, such as this Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and others


May 11th, Howard Marsh MetroPark (Lucas Co)

I went up to Lake Erie during Big Birding Week.  Howard Marsh Metropark is a great place to find a variety of birds, including rarities.

A buddy and I went up during the Biggest Week in American Birding.

This park has a small resident population of Horned Larks that you can get fairly close to.  It’s hard to get them to pose for pictures like this elsewhere (at least in my experience).

A highlight of this visit was getting great pictures of one of the 3 Yellow-Headed Blackbirds in the park.  These birds are rare enough in Ohio, much more common out west, but they were associating with a large flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds and were singing.  Top males have a harem of females.  Their song is not pleasing to the ear, but they are gorgeous birds!

Another bird highlight was this Black-Necked Stilt feeding in the marsh.  This bird is rare in Ohio, being typically found along either coast or out west.  They are very territorial when nesting, and have even been known to strike at people with their legs from behind the intruding human.  They are also gorgeous!


May 11th, Magee Marsh Boardwalk (Lucas Co)

Magee Marsh Boardwalk is the mecca of Ohio birders (and one of the most visited birding places in the eastern US).  I’ve blogged about a visit I made there 2 years ago.

It’s fun looking at the many vehicles in the parking lot.

The boardwalk is crowded this season.  This male Red-Winged Blackbird walked down the boardwalk in between all of the birders!  What the heck was that about?

And now, on to the Warblers- I got some good photos this visit-

A male Magnolia Warbler

A singing Northern Parula Warbler

A Chestnut-Sided Warbler

A Yellow Warbler collecting nesting material

A singing Bay-Breasted Warbler, always good to get a solid picture of them

A male Cape May Warbler who posed for us for nearly a minute!

A male Yellow-Rumped Warbler

While not a Warbler, this male Scarlet Tanager was just as beautiful.


May 14th, Tecumseh Trail (Clark Co)

The Tecumseh Trail is in New Carlisle Ohio, west of Springfield.  It is host to a rare Warbler this May.

Birders went off the main trail a small ways on an animal path in the Honeysuckle bushes, looking for the bird…

…a Swainson’s Warbler.  This bird was somewhat hard to see, singing in the brush and from hidden perches.  As far as I know, it is still there singing- perhaps trying to set up territory?  Another life list bird for me.

Within sight of the Swainson’s Warbler was a Red-Shouldered Hawk nest in a large Sycamore Tree.

I spotted this patch of Wild Columbine along the trail- gorgeous and uncommon wildflowers!

A Great Crested Flycatcher flew across the path.  This trail is a good birding spot!


May 16th, Little Darby Preserve (Madison Co)

This remote hidden gem of a nature preserve is west of Columbus in the county I grew up in.  It has plenty of fields, dense brushy areas, and woodland along Little Darby Creek’s shores.  I talked to a maintenance guy mowing the paths and he agrees that there’s not lots of people visiting, but that’s fine- nature flourishes there.

A female Summer Tanager searches for insects- she has a very robust bill.  Her male counterpart is completely red.

A Willow Flycatcher sings from the top of a bush out in a field.  This is perfect habitat for them.

Red Admiral butterflies were a common sight.

Fleabane is a common May plant- I blogged about them years ago.

Sweet Cicely is a woodland wildflower that blooms mostly in the month of May.

Virginia Waterleaf is another May flower seen in moist woods.

Wild Geraniums are late spring woodland wildflowers, sort of the last of the spring ephemerals.


May 22nd, Kiwanis Riverway Park (Franklin Co)

Kiwanis Park is a local haunt of mine, a hidden gem of a place that I’ve blogged about before.  It was a fitting place to wrap up the month’s birdapalooza.

A Starling parent is ready to feed this juvenile.  Starlings like to nest in tree holes.

Up above, a Turkey Vulture soars.

A Northern Flicker

A young Cardinal hiding in thickets.  These birds are secretive and don’t like to show themselves.

Dame’s Rocket, the last of the common spring flowers to bloom.  Of course I’ve blogged about it before.

Vines such as this Wild Grape were swiftly increasing.  By now the foliage is very summer-like.

This Canada Warbler peeking at me in the trees was a fitting end to the late May warbler season.  This species tends to migrate late, and its appearance means that the May Warbler show is drawing to a close.

I hope you enjoyed some of the results of my hectic month!


Nature In Your Yard – Fodder Plants.

May 4, 2019

White / Alsike / Red Clover

Black Medick

Birdsfoot Trefoil


Back before World War II, you expected to see a certain variety of plants on your lawn.

You’ll certainly recognize Clover, which grows on quite a few lawns worldwide.  It is mostly looked upon as a troublesome weed today.  But decades ago, Clover seed was actually mixed in with lawn grass seed.

How did we get here?

Before World War II, things looked more…natural, I guess you could say.  Since then, the growth of chemical herbicides has enabled many a homeowner to take up the Quest For The Perfect Lawn.  The perfect lawn being one that only has one type of grass upon it, which looks pleasant.

But there was a reason why fodder plants were so widespread in the past.  Two big reasons, actually.

The Benefits of Lawn Weeds provided me with a good amount of the following information.

1) Fodder plants feed livestock and pollinators

Fodder, a type of animal feed, is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock, such as cattle, rabbits, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs. “Fodder” refers particularly to food given to the animals (including plants cut and carried to them), rather than that which they forage for themselves (called forage). Fodder is also called provender and includes hay, straw, silage, compressed and pelleted feeds, oils and mixed rations, and sprouted grains and legumes (such as bean sprouts, fresh malt, or spent malt).

Before farms were something far away from most people, they covered much of the land.  Feeding farm animals with inexpensive drought-tolerant plants was just common sense.  Fodder plants such as Clover spread over most of the world for this reason.  A side-benefit of them is that they help keep the soil from eroding.

Pollinators such as bees use fodder plants as a source of nectar.  There is so much Clover that it is a significant source of reliable food for them.

2) Fodder plants add nutrients to the soil

These plants not only feed our livestock, but fertilize the soil by themselves.  This is a very important process that enriches the soil so that everything has more nutrients to grow better.  This process is called nitrogen fixing.

Nitrogen-fixing plants are those whose roots are colonized by certain bacteria that extract nitrogen from the air and convert or “fix” it into a form required for their growth. When the bacteria are done with this nitrogen, it becomes available to the plants, themselves. It is an example of a symbiotic relationship (between plant and bacteria), and the name for the process is “nitrogen fixation.”

Landscapers, gardeners, and farmers value nitrogen-fixing plants for their ability to contribute an essential plant nutrient (namely, nitrogen) to the soil. Nitrogen is one of “the big three,” being the “N” in NPK, the three letters that form a virtual stamp of approval for a complete fertilizer…By exploiting the process of nitrogen fixation, you can obtain this plant nutrient for your soil without resorting to chemical fertilizers.

So, have a little more respect for these very useful weeds!

Here are some common fodder plants I see here in Ohio.

White Clover

This is n abundant fodder plant, famous for its 3-leaved ‘shamrock’ clusters.  Probably the most common ‘weed’ on your lawn (after Dandelions).  It is very hardy and has been described as the most important forage legume of temperate zones worldwide.  Boiled, it’s even good for salads.

Red Clover

Red Clover is a taller and larger plant than its white cousin.  Its 3-leaved clusters have a distinctive light pattern upon them.  It’s acceptable to many gardeners as an ornamental plant, and is used in traditional medicine.  I often see them along paths in warmer weather.

Alsike Clover

Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, mistook Alsike Clover as a hybrid between White and Red Clover.  It isn’t, but it surely looks like it- pinkish and taller than White Clover.  It can often be seen in fields and waste areas.

Black Medick

There’s those 3-leaved clusters again, but the blooms are very small and yellow.  Look closely in grassy areas with poor soils, and you’ll often see these tiny flowers.  It’s easy to miss, but there’s a good amount of it around.

Birdsfoot Trefoil

This plant is from the Pea Family, unlike the Clover Family plants we’ve seen so far.  It has 5-leaved clusters, though only 3 of the leaves are prominent, earning it the ‘trefoil’ name.  This invasive species is a favorite of honeybees and its curiously-shaped flowers are pleasing to look at, which earned it the name of Butter And Eggs in Britain.  I see it along roads and paths out in open areas.  I don’t think of it as a weed at all!


This legume plant is a very popular fodder plant today, having been used as animal feed since the ancient Greeks (often in the form of hay).  Its deep root system helps discourage erosion as well as fertilizing the soil with nitrogen.  And I think we can all agree it is pleasant to look at.  It too has 3-leaved clusters.  You can see whole fields of it planted as a crop, but I usually see it here and there in waste areas and along sunny fields.

Northwest Ohio Tour – Fort Defiance, the Maumee River, and Fallen Timbers.

April 6, 2019

Fort Defiance Park

The Maumee River

Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument

Last autumn, I spent a few days traveling around northwest Ohio.  I was seeking out birding spots and historical sites, playing the tourist from Columbus.  I had a good time- here’s some of what I saw.

I stayed a couple nights at a small cabin at Grand Lake Saint Mary’s State Park in western Ohio.  This was my base of operations for traveling through northwest Ohio up towards Michigan.

Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is a public recreation area located on 13,500-acre Grand Lake in Mercer and Auglaize counties, Ohio.  Grand Lake is the largest inland lake in Ohio in terms of area, but is very shallow, with an average depth of only 5 to 7 feet. The state park is open for year-round recreation, including boating, fishing, swimming and hunting. The park consists of the lake and park facilities scattered all around the shore intermingled with private property and a facility operated by Wright State University.  It is west of St. Marys, and south-east of Celina.

Northwest Ohio contains a lot of flat cropland- this is the till plains (and lake plains) region of the state.  Western Ohio is largely farmland, while eastern Ohio has a good amount of forested hills.

As always, I enjoy the backroads and visiting small town Ohio.  I spent a lot of time on Route 127, which went south-north through the area I was visiting.

Here’s Paulding County’s courthouse.  I’m going to do a post on Ohio’s county courthouses some day- they are excellent studies of 19th-century architecture.

Occasional industrial facilities dotted the rural flatlands.  Lima’s oil refinery was of particular interest.

Paulding and Wan Wert Counties had large wind farms out amidst the farmlands.  It’s hard to get a feel for how tall the wind turbines are without being directly under them.

Halloween was on the way, and occasional houses were well-decorated to suit the season.

This Red-Tailed Hawk perched on a power line.  I was in full birding mode!

I stopped at a few reservoirs along the way, looking for waterfowl and shorebirds.

One of the highlight stops for birds was the Black Swamp Nature Center in Paulding County.  I saw some Yellow-Rumped Warblers and Rusty Blackbirds there.

Up in the very northwest corner of Ohio is Williams County.  I visited George Bible Park there, and noted that the trees were more colorful there than the trees in central Ohio at that time.

Fort Defiance Park

One of the highlights history-wise of my trip was a visit to Fort Defiance Park in Defiance, Ohio.  As you can see in the above pictures, only the fort’s earthworks are visible now, but the park has lots of signage to give you information about the site.

If you remember my post about historic Fort Recovery Ohio, you’ll be familiar with the earlier part of the story of Fort Defiance.  General Wayne and his Legion of the United States, flush from victory at Fort Recovery, moved up towards the Native American stronghold area near the British Fort Detroit in 1794.  He built Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers.  He used Fort Defiance as the jumping-off point for the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers further north, which was the battle that claimed the Old Northwest Territory for the fledgling United States.

There are plaques at every location in the fort where a room or feature used to be.  I was glad to see this documentation, it made the fort more real for me.  I was slightly surprised that the fort was as small as it was.

Here’s where the Maumee and the Auglaize Rivers meet- at the heights where Fort Defiance was built.  It is a solid strategic location for defense and control of movement and trade.  The Ohio Territory wouldn’t become a state for another 9 years.

The inscribed stone above is a bit hard to read, but it commemorates the Native American Peoples and the herds of buffalo that originally lived in the area.

It’s hard to believe that there were such things as wolves, elk and buffalo in Ohio at least up until the early 1800s.  It is also amazing to think that White-Tailed Deer were once nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.

Here’s an example of wildlife living in the park today- a black squirrel (a recessive coloration of an Eastern Gray Squirrel).  There is a theory that all Gray Squirrels used to be black when forests covered most of Ohio centuries ago, and that their current gray coloration is more adaptive to the current environment.  I mentioned this in my post about black squirrels years ago.

Defiance’s Public Library sits next to the park- it’s a nice building in its own right.


Maumee River

A nice view of the Maumee from Fort Defiance.

The Maumee River gets its name from the Miami tribe of  Native Americans; the river used to be known as the Miami River for that same reason.  Pronunciations by the settlers of Native American words was usually a bit off.

A view of the river a few miles away from Defiance.

The Maumee River is the largest watershed of any river feeding the Great Lakes, traveling through the breadbasket of Ohio from its origins around Fort Wayne Indiana.  From Fort Defiance, I followed the river up towards its terminus in Lake Erie.

Here’s the Weir Rapids area of the Maumee.  One can imagine the canoes of Native Americans, French Woodsrunners, and British and American traders plying this area like they did for centuries.

Ring-Billed Gulls and Dunlin shorebirds hung out in the shallows.

Much of the area of the Maumee watershed used to be the Great Black Swamp, a large area of glacially-fed wetlands in northwest Ohio.  It was drained by the late 19th century and provides rich agricultural soil.  This ended the serious problems with malaria the area had had for thousands of years.


Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument

As the Maumee River gets close to Lake Erie in the greater Toledo area, there is the Battle of Fallen Timbers Monument, recognizing General Wayne’s greatest victory over the Native American Confederacy led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle.  This decisive victory by the forces of the young United States opened up the Ohio Territory and ultimately the Old Northwest Territory to American settlement.

The park is long but fairly narrow.  From the parking lot you walk towards a cluster of plaques, monuments and statuary.

The Battle was at a place called Fallen Timbers, where a tornado had jumbled up many fallen trees.  A description of the battle can be found in the book Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the US Army and the Invasion that Opened the West by William Hogeland.  The battlefield is a quarter of a mile north from the monument.

The statue shows General Wayne with a frontiersman and a Native American.

Turkey Foot Rock was the location where Me-sa-sa, an Ottawa Indian chief, died during the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Me-sa-sa was one of the principal leaders of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. General Anthony Wayne and his Army of the Northwest marched against Indian forces in northwestern Ohio along the Maumee River. The Indians prepared to attack him in an area known as Fallen Timbers. It was a place where a tornado had knocked down many trees, and the natives intended to use the fallen trees for protection. Although the Indians used the fallen trees for cover, Wayne’s men quickly drove the Indians from the battlefield. As the Indians were retreating, legend has it that Chief Me-sa-sa jumped on top of a boulder at the base of Presque Isle Hill, hoping to rally his forces. At the time of the battle, the rock was supposedly more than five feet in length and at least three feet high. According to surviving accounts, Me-sa-sa was immediately shot and died next to the boulder. His attempts to rally the Indians failed. The white Americans had thirty-three men killed and roughly one hundred wounded, while the Indians lost approximately twice that number. The fight became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Following the battle, the boulder where Me-sa-sa was shot become a shrine in his memory. Locals routinely found offerings, such as beef, corn, and trinkets, on the boulder. Indians had left these offerings to honor their deceased chief. The boulder became known as Turkey Foot Rock. It remains unclear why the rock was named Turkey Foot Rock. One possible explanation is that whites called Me-sa-sa Turkey Foot. A second explanation is that the rock had carvings on it in the shape of a turkey’s foot. Some accounts claim that these carvings existed on the rock before Me-sa-sa’s death, while others claim that Indians made these carvings to honor the deceased chief. The boulder and some of the carvings is still visible today at the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

A Fox Squirrel watched me closely from a nearby park bench.

Autumn wildflowers- Calico Asters- were blooming.

I walked across a pedestrian bridge over a highway just to the north and looked at some of the land that the Battle of Fallen Timbers was actually fought upon.

Eventually it was over the river and through the woods back to the cabin.  I visited a couple other places that will have to be given their own blog posts eventually.  Stay tuned!

A West Coast Bird in a Cleveland Cemetery.

March 2, 2019

Varied Thrush

Lake View Cemetery

At the beginning of 2019, a friend and I piled into his SUV and went on a road trip one Sunday, from Columbus to Cleveland Ohio.  A rare bird had been sighted regularly there, and this life-lister would be worth the 2.5-hour drive.

Road trip!

Cleveland’s skyline

Passing Cleveland steel mills

Progressive Field, the ‘new’ sports stadium

East Cleveland at last!

I always have an eye out for interesting architecture…

Case Western University district

And suddenly we were at our destination- Lake View Cemetery.

Lake View Cemetery is on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, along the East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights borders. More than 104,000 people are buried at Lake View, with more than 700 burials each year. There are 70 acres remaining for future development. Known locally as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum,” Lake View Cemetery is home to the James A. Garfield Memorial, Wade Memorial Chapel, which features an interior designed by Louis Tiffany, as well as an 80,000,000-US-gallon  capacity concrete-filled dam.

Lake View Cemetery was founded in 1869 and sits on 285 acres of land. The cemetery is so named because it is partially located in the “heights” area of Greater Cleveland, with a view of Lake Erie to the north. It was modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian-era England and France. The Italian stonemasons brought in to create the Cemetery founded the Cleveland neighborhood of Little Italy just to its southwest.

One thing I noticed was a fair amount of Egyptian symbols upon century-old gravestones.  Back in the 1920s, Howard Carter had sparked an Egyptian antiquity craze by discovering King Tutankhamen’s tomb.  The interest was plain to see.

Cemetery symbolism is a fascinating subject.  Take, for example, the draped urn.

The widely used draped urn is one of the many symbols that humans have used to represent their views towards death and the immortal spirit. The urn itself represents a classical funeral urn used for cremains. A revived interest in classical Greece led to the prevalence of the draped in urn in cemetery symbolism, even though cremation was not terribly popular at this time ( mid to late 1800s). The urn was also thought to stand for the fact that we all return to ash, or dust; the state from which God created us.
The meaning of the drape on the urn can mean many things to many people. Some feel that it symbolizes the final, impenetrable veil between the living and the dead that awaits us all. To others, it symbolizes the human shedding their mortal body and trappings to join God in Heaven. The drape can also stand for the protective nature of God over the dead and their remains, until the Resurrection occurs. 


Mausoleums dotted the cemetery.  This particular one was near where the bird we were seeking slept at night.

The most spectacular sight in the cemetery was the James A. Garfield Monument.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the James A. Garfield Monument is the final resting place of the 20th President of the United States. The monument is open daily, April 1 through November 19, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The building combines Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles of architecture. Our staff will discuss the President’s life, and the beauty and history of the building. Items- from post cards, posters, puzzles and books- are for sale in our gift shop.

The architecture was truly a visual feast.

This scene is apparently Garfield on his death bed after being struck down by his assassin.

Unfortunately, it was winter, and the interior was closed for the season.  I very much would like to return and see the inside.

English Ivy is not an uncommon vine found in cemeteries.

Birds included White-Throated Sparrows

Downy Woodpeckers



A Fox Squirrel kept an eye on us from a tree-trunk

Berries could be found on bushes- this is what kept our rare bird fed

Birding tip- always look for other birders to see if they see anything.

Suddenly, we all saw something in some berry bushes…

Sure enough, it was a Varied Thrush, a bird usually seen on the West Coast!

The Varied Thrush lives in dark, wet, mature forests in the Pacific Northwest. In its breeding range, which covers Alaska and tapers as it extends south to northern California, it inhabits forests dominated by coastal redwood, Sitka spruce, red alder forests, western hemlock, western red cedar, western larch, or Douglas-fir. In winter it may be found in a broader range of habitats, including parks, gardens, lakeshores, and riparian areas where fruit and berries are abundant.

During breeding season, Varied Thrushes eat insects and other arthropods from the leaf litter; in winter they eat mostly berries and nuts. They forage by seizing dead leaves in their bill and hopping backward to clear a spot of ground before examining it for prey. In fall and winter, they switch to fruits and acorns, forming loose flocks around their food. Some of their typical fruits are snowberry, apple, honeysuckle, madrone, mistletoe, manzanita, toyon, ash, salal, cascara, dogwood, blueberry, huckleberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry.

The bird- a female- hopped through bushes and trees, even spending some time upon the ground.  It was amazing to see a bird so far from its western home.  But then again it’s been known to do this:

It is well known for individual birds to fly eastward in winter, showing up in just about any state, then returning to the west coast for breeding…This species is an improbable transatlantic vagrant, but there is an accepted western European record in Great Britain in 1982.

It was wonderful to see such a bird so far from home- may she get back safely!


Pictures from 2018 – Birds.

February 2, 2019
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It’s time for the 4th annual bird photo highlights, 2018 edition!

Here’s bird highlights from 2015 , 2016 and 2017 if you’d like to take a look.

This year I’ve decided to go with more ‘dynamic’ shots, and photos with stories…

This American Kestrel (Sparrowhawk) has caught a chunky rodent- it took off as soon as it saw me, carrying its meal elsewhere.  As in most of my photographs, I can remember where I took it- at the entrance of Glacier Ridge Metro Park.

This male Summer Tanager was right above me at Blendon Woods Metro Park- I think this is the only decent shot of this species I got all year.  They are lovely birds, completely red with a good-sized yellow beak.

This male Eastern Towhee was really belting out his song in the early spring.

This is probably the best photo I’ve ever taken of a migrating Fox Sparrow, last April at Sharon Woods Metro Park.

If you look closely at this little Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, you’ll see a tiny red spot on the crown of its head.  When they get agitated, they flash their red crown when they raise their feathers on their head.  I had a heck of a time getting a decent shot of this swiftly-moving bird at Prairie Oaks Metro Park last spring.

Speaking of smaller fast-moving birds…this Tufted Titmouse is also in that category.  I get a lot of blurry bad shots of them.

This Brown Thrasher was one of a few at Sharon Woods last spring singing its heart out, claiming territory in a large brushy field.

This male Downy Woodpecker posed nicely for me- he may have been courting a female at Kiwanis Park.

An Osprey (also known as a Fish Hawk) looking for prey above me at Alum Creek State Park.

This beautiful Great Egret was one of several at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park.

This Eastern Bluebird was one of a flock of 7 that was foraging for berries on a single-digit temperature day in January last year at Kiwanis Park.  Its brilliant colors brightened up a drab brown winter landscape.

Eastern Flickers commonly feed on the ground, unlike other Woodpecker species.  They like ants.

An American Robin peering intently for food.

A few female Wild Turkeys, part of the locally famous flock out at Blendon Woods Metro Park.

A Song Sparrow peers straight down.

An unusual view of a Red-Eyed Vireo I saw out at Battelle Darby Metro Park.  This bird came down to eye-level only feet away from me as it hunted for food- usually they stay higher up in the trees.

A Northern Mockingbird on territory at OSU’s Don Scott Airfield.

This male Orchard Oriole was singing up a storm out by the old Galbraith Racetrack at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A Bell’s Vireo singing out at Battelle Darby Metro Park.  A pair nested there in the Kuhlwein Wetlands area last summer.  This species is making more and more visits as a breeding bird in central Ohio.

A female Yellow-Rumped Warbler eating poison ivy berries, one of their favorite foods.

A Palm Warbler seen at Blendon Woods Metro Park during spring migration.  Palm Warblers are more likely to be seen foraging on the ground than most other Warblers.

This Song Sparrow had lost its tail, most likely to some predator that missed making it a meal.  The tail feathers will grow back, hang in there, fella.

You can always count on Red-Winged Blackbirds to squawk their disapproval of your presence during their nesting season!

I felt sorry for this pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  A pair of House Sparrows were trying to take over their nest box and was keeping them away from their nest, which obviously had babies in it.  I hope they got to feed their offspring!

There are 5 different species of birds crowded around this popular feeder a year ago!

New bird species I saw last year included:

This is a pair of Mississippi Kites, raptors nesting in Chillicothe, Ohio.  They’ve been nesting there for a few years now.  This species is rarely seen in Ohio.

This is a Mew Gull, seen on New Year’s Day at Green Lawn Dam.  Unfortunately this rare visitor sickened and died.

These are 2 Ross’s Geese, roosting for the night with a flock of Canada Geese.  I went out three days in a row in frigid windy weather to finally spot them.

So many pictures, so little space!