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Cedar Bog.

August 5, 2017

Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve

Last June, a friend and I went to Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve in west-central Ohio.  This is a unique place geography-wise and species-wise and was worth the trip!

As usual, back roads and small towns are always fun to travel-

Then we were there, just south of Utica, Ohio.

Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve is a fen left behind by the retreating glaciers of the Wisconsin glaciation about 12,000-18,000 years ago. A protected area of about 450 acres of fen remain from the original area of approximately 7,000 acres.

Cedar Bog is located in Champaign County, Ohio, United States, near the city of Urbana. Ground water from the Mad River Valley and the Urbana Outwash percolate through hundreds of feet of gravel left behind by the glacier in the Teays River. The Teays River is an underground river that existed before the Wisconsin glacier which, before the glacier, rivaled the Ohio River in size.

 

Even though I am an Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) member and could have gotten in free, I gladly paid the $5 entrance fee because The Cedar Bog Association needs the money- they get no state funds.

In addition to the water that feeds the bog, the glacier also left behind plants that are unique to Cedar Bog. Many of these plants are rare or endangered. The sedges and other plants that grow here left behind by the last glacier were the food for mastodons and giant sloths that once roamed the earth. Also, trees found here like bog birch and northern white cedar are more commonly found in the more northern boreal forest. Cedar Bog is also the home of the endangered spotted turtle, massasauga rattlesnake, and Milbert’s tortoise-shell butterfly.

Cedar Bog was purchased in 1942 by the Ohio Historical Society and was the first nature preserve purchased with state monies. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1967.

An Eastern Phoebe hung around the nature center- they love to nest on human structures

This sign is very true- last year I went and it had rained recently, and the wood was slick

This sign gets one’s attention- rattlers are rare in central Ohio!

The boardwalk takes you through the fen, with exotic plant sights all around you

 

There were some wetland wildflowers you don’t see very often

In the clear cool stream, there were young Wood Ducks and fish

There were nice spots to sit and take it all in

This Fritillary Butterfly seemed to like the vivid colors on a map sign

As we left near the nature center, we spotted this Skink Lizard scrambling across our path.  Once again, this was a sight I’ve not seen in central Ohio very much.  Cedar Bog is a place to go for the exotic.

We ended our day at a favorite restaurant.  And a good day it was!

Lake Erie Spring Migration Birding and Tourism Trip, part 2

July 1, 2017

East Harbor State Park

Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

Thomas Edison Birthplace Museum

Last month, I shared photos from the first part of my Lake Erie jaunt with a birding buddy.  Now I’ll wrap up the highlights of the rest of the trip.

After leaving our Maumee Bay ‘cabin’ and making our roundabout touristy-out-of-the-way back towards home, we stopped at East Harbor State Park to do some more birding.  Located on the shore of Lake Erie, we took a scenic walk.

The view was quite nice along the shore- then we walked the inland paths

We spotted a patch of Wild Columbine, one of the showier and rarer spring wildflowers in Ohio

Two birds we saw a lot of- Baltimore Orioles…

…and Yellow Warblers

And there were more White-Crowned Sparrows to see as well

Also fairly common were Red-Winged Blackbirds…

…and Double-Crested Cormorants, an invasive waterfowl

We moved on…and this is as good a place as any to post a few pictures snapped as we traveled.

One of those old restaurant giant statues still around after the restaurant is gone

Tourist towns have a charm about them

 

Unexpected architectural finds are fun!

Some houses stand out

There are a lot of little old cemeteries out in the country

HEY!!!  Pole barns!

OK, back to the tourist attractions 🙂  Around noon we stopped at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.

Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp, has appeared on Ohio’s license plates, and is now part of the Ohio State Parks system.

The history of this popular lighthouse began in 1819 when the fifteenth U.S. Congress allocated $5,000 for the construction of a light tower on the Marblehead Peninsula to guide vessels into Sandusky Bay and to help them safely transit the treacherous southern passage that runs between the Ohio mainland and a cluster of offshore islands.

William Kelly and a crew of two men began construction of the conical tower in September 1821 on an outcropping of limestone on the northern tip of the peninsula, and in November, the rocky shoreline was home to a fifty-foot tower with wooden ladders leading to its lantern room. The base of the tower was twenty-six feet in diameter with walls five feet thick, while the top measured twelve feet in diameter and had two-foot-thick walls. The tower was constructed of limestone, quarried nearby on the peninsula.

Marblehead Lighthouse cost $7,232 to build and was the only navigational aid in the Sandusky Bay region for many years; in fact, the tower was called “Sandusky Bay Lighthouse” until 1870. Its first beacon consisted of thirteen small whale oil lamps with round wicks set in sixteen-inch reflectors.

Benajah Wolcott, Marblehead’s first keeper, was a Revolutionary War veteran and one of the first settlers on the peninsula. Wolcott purchased 114 acres in 1809 and built a log cabin for his family. Fearing an invasion by the British, the Wolcotts left the peninsula during the War of 1812 but returned to their homestead when the conflict was over. Benajah Wolcott was appointed keeper on June 24, 1822 and thus had use of the stone dwelling built adjacent to the lighthouse, but he also had William Kelly construct a small, limestone home on his homestead on the Sandusky side of the peninsula. Wolcott’s personal dwelling is the oldest residence still standing in Ottawa County, and is touted as a fine example of a “hall and parlor house.” Known as the Keeper’s House, the structure is operated as a museum by the Ottawa County Historical Society.

Each evening during the shipping season, Benajah Wolcott would climb the lighthouse to light its thirteen lamps and then faithfully tend the light until the following morning. In addition to minding the light, Wolcott also kept a record of ships that passed, noted weather conditions, and organized rescue efforts.

Keeper Wolcott had served for ten years when he passed away due to cholera in 1832. Upon his death, his wife Rachel took over his duties, making her the first female lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes. After keeping the light for two years, Rachel married Jeremiah Van Benschoten, who became the light’s third keeper.

The view of the lake was indeed interesting

That’s Cedar Point Amusement Park across the bay

This was the ferry that traveled regularly to nearby Put-In-Bay

And there were birds here too, of course.

Red-Breasted Mergansers were nearby in the water

Meanwhile, on the shore, a Red-Winged Blackbird was looking for a mate…

…and got temporarily stuck in the picket fence while displaying, causing some merriment!

A Barn Swallow collected grass for a nest

We moved on…

…to Milan, Ohio, birthplace of famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison.

The Thomas A. Edison Birthplace Museum was our destination.

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman, who has been described as America’s greatest inventor. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park”, he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and because of that, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

Edison was a prolific inventor, holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. More significant than the number of Edison’s patents was the widespread impact of his inventions: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures all established major new industries worldwide. Edison’s inventions contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications. These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures. His advanced work in these fields was an outgrowth of his early career as a telegraph operator. Edison developed a system of electric-power generation and distribution[5] to homes, businesses, and factories – a crucial development in the modern industrialized world. His first power station was on Pearl Street in Manhattan, New York.

Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and many other devices that make our lives fuller and simpler, was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. The Edison Birthplace Museum features a collection of rare Edisonia, including examples of many of Edison’s early inventions, documents, and family mementos…

The Edison Birthplace was opened by his wife Mina and his daughter Madeleine as a tribute to the humble beginnings of a great man. The Edison Birthplace Museum is the only Edison site to have family involved, including great-grand children and a great-great-great-great niece on the Board of Trustees, and a great-great-great nephew as President.

The volunteer guides were very knowledgeable and gave us a tour

  • According to records, the lot on which this house stands was bought in 1841 by Nancy Elliott Edison, mother of Thomas Alva Edison. Nancy and Samuel Edison started building their home, designed by Samuel, in the fall of the same year. Thomas Alva Edison was born in the house on February 11, 1847.

 

Edison’s parents sold the house in 1854, and the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan. The Birthplace was out of family ownership for the next forty years. In 1894, Edison’s sister, Marion Edison Page, bought the house and added a bathroom and other modern conveniences. Edison became the owner of his birthplace in 1906, and, on his last visit, in 1923, he was shocked to find his old home still lighted by lamps and candles! After the death of Thomas A. Edison from complications of diabetes on October 18, 1931, opening his birthplace to the public as a memorial and museum became the private project of his wife, Mina Miller Edison, and their daughter, Mrs. John Eyre Sloane. The Edison Birthplace Museum opened on the centennial of the inventor’s birth in 1947.

The house has been restored as nearly as possible to its 19th Century appearance. Because much of the Edisons’ original furniture was lost in moves and to a disastrous fire at their Port Huron Home, it was impossible to assemble much of the original furniture. Therefore, gifts and loans from members of the family have been supplemented by gifts and loans from friends and, in some cases, purchases of household articles of the period.

Today, this National Historic Site is maintained by the Edison Birthplace Association, Inc., a private, non-profit organization.

  • When the Edison family arrived in town to join Samuel (about 1840), Milan was entering the period of its greatest glory. Due to its location on the Huron River and the canal (built to link Milan to the Great Lakes), the town became a busy grain port. All sorts of commodities from every point in the state were conveyed to Milan in long wagon trains, then loaded aboard ships from warehouses that lined the banks of the canal. (One of the warehouses still stands by the abandoned canal basin.)In 1847, 917,800 bushels of wheat were shipped from this port, making it the second largest wheat shipping port for an inland sea in the world after the Ukranian city of Odessa. Milan had also become a shipbuilding center, producing 75 lake vessels from 1840 to 1866.By 1850, the advent of the railroads and consequent changes in transportation methods had put an end to the town’s great prosperity. The canal and the shipyard were eventually abandoned and the warehouses disappeared. Milan’s “golden age”, which had lasted only about ten years, was over — though shipments of grain continued until 1865.

What a trip!  Birds, parks, lakeshores, scenery, history- you can’t beat that.  And a good time was had by all.

Lake Erie Spring Migration Birding and Tourism Trip, part 1

June 3, 2017

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

Maumee Bay State Park

 

Last month, a fellow birder friend and I went up to Lake Erie for some spring migration birding and some sightseeing.  When you talk Lake Erie and birding, one place is very famous- Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, THE place to be in the eastern US for spring migration if you’re looking for warblers.  We stayed at nearby Maumee Bay State Park in one of their cabins (in reality, a small vacation home).  It turns out Maumee Bay had some nice places for birding as well.

Finally, on the way home, we stopped at East Harbor State Park for some additional birding, and some some tourist-y places- Marblehead Lighthouse and the Thomas A Edison Birthplace Museum.  We’ll look at those places next month.

We timed our visit during The Biggest Week in American Birding– the 2nd week of May during spring migration.  Northwest Ohio attracts tens of thousands of birders to such places as Magee Marsh, where it is easy to see colorful migrants gathering on the southern shore of Lake Erie before they make the big flight up into Canada for another summer nesting season.

We actually stopped at some other places as well, and we would have stopped at Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument on Put-In-Bay Island (I’m a history buff too)  but it was closed for repairs all year.  So I’ll focus on the big places that I took plenty of pictures of.

Let’s get started!

As we neared Maumee Bay, we took this as a good sign- Bald Eagles sitting on telephone poles along the road!  They certainly have bounced back very well from near-extinction in the lower 48 states.

Driving around away from the freeways is my favorite mode of travel- you get to see backroads and small towns.

Maumee Bay State Park is a fantastic park.  Here’s some general pictures of the place.  The lodge was very crowded during the day with the Biggest Week In Birding vendors and exhibits.  Appropriately enough, there were a group of Cliff Swallows nesting up above the entrance, building their mud nests.  I blogged about Cliff Swallows building nests years ago.

Maumee Bay State Park

And now, on to the much-anticipated event- our visit to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.  The weather was good, though the bird species counts were low due to a cold start to May.  Fortunately, migration picked up when we showed up.

Magee Marsh Boardwalk

During spring migration, large crowds of birders move through the boardwalk area at Magee.  This place is truly a Mecca for North American birders.  Overall, people were surprisingly helpful and tried not to clog up the walkways.  The parking lot is full of hundreds of cars from all over the continent.  There were even tailgaters in the lots!

Here’s some of the memorable birds we saw at Magee that day.

Nashville Warbler

Bay-Breasted Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Black & White Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Blue-Headed Vireo

Scarlet Tanager

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Bald Eagle nestling

 Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

The surrounding area of the boardwalk is marshy and contains shorebirds and waterfowl.  Here’s what we saw on our way out.

Canada Geese families were common- everyone let them cross the road on their own time

Great Egret

Snowy Egret

Dunlin

White-Crowned Sparrow

Nature Center & Gift Shop

Maumee Bay Beach

looks like a lighthouse and nuclear reactor coolant towers way out along Lake Erie

fish were on the menu

Great Blue Heron

 

Caspian Terns

Common Terns

Herring Gulls

Maumee Bay Boardwalk

A nice feature of Maumee Bay State Park is a 2-mile-long boardwalk through some marshy areas and a wooded swamp near Lake Erie.

 

 

3 White-Tailed Deer browsed the marshy area and were unafraid of people

A Fox Squirrel looking intently for something near the boardwalk

Catbird- quite a few were in the wooded swamp

Common Grackle

American Robin

Veery

Swainson’s Thrush

Screech Owl in nesting box

Downy Woodpecker

Red-Winged Blackbirds

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Marsh Wrens were defending their territory, singing furiously in the tall marsh grass

Yellow Warbler

Common Yellowthroat- there were many of these hiding in the brush and protesting our visit

Northern Parula Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

American Redstart

This concludes part 1 of our Lake Erie visit.  Part 2 will be along the first Saturday of July.  I hope you enjoyed the spring migration season as much as I did!

 

Spring at Kiwanis Park.

May 6, 2017

I’ve visited an interesting park twice in the past week.  Kiwanis Park, located in Dublin Ohio, lies along the Scioto River.  It’s a great place for birding, even though it is relatively small.  The park is a hidden gem- there’s no sign indicating that the park is at an obscure turnoff.  I’ve been there when I was the only person in the park.

Paths and boardwalks take you along the river, through the riverine woods, and into marshy areas.

The Nature Conservancy (a group that I belong to) has its Ohio office right on the edge of this park.  Here’s the building, guarded by a pair of Canada Geese.

Several nest boxes are placed around the park.  Tree Swallows and Bluebirds are nesting in them now.  I’ve seen Wrens and Chickadees also using them before.

There are marshy areas in the park.  You can tell by the foliage that grows there.  The large-leaved plants are Skunk Cabbage, which is one of the earliest blooming wildflowers in late winter / early spring.  I did a post on it a while back called A Unique Early Spring Plant.

In early May, Honeysuckle Bushes are in full bloom throughout the park.  This invasive species provides cover and food to wildlife (though not much nutrition).  Sure enough, years ago I made a post about it called A Successful Invader Blossoms In May.

The following are the most common wildflowers to be seen at Kiwanis now, most of which thrive in damp soil.  They are all yellow!  That color and white seem to be the most popular-

Butterweed

Hispid Buttercup

Golden Alexander

As I mentioned, this is a great park for birds.  Warblers and other migrants pour through the park in spring and autumn; waterfowl and shorebirds can be seen along the river.  Birds of prey fly overhead.  Woodpeckers are often found here as well.

Here’s some of the birds I’ve seen recently-

Great Blue Herons are frequent visitors

Waterfowl such as this Mallard can be often seen

A Solitary Sandpiper feeds in the shallows

A curious Red-Winged Blackbird

Common Grackle making its squeaky rasping call

A Downy Woodpecker has a good scratch

A Song Sparrow sings on a favorite perch

A Bald Eagle in 2nd-year dark plumage soars overhead

A House Wren pauses in singing its bubbling song

A Bluebird sits near its nest box

A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher flits among the branches

A Tree Swallow rests its wings

The first Baltimore Oriole of the season for me!

And last but never least, warblers:

Yellow-Rumped Warblers frequent the park

This Prothonotary Warbler was looking for a nesting spot

This Palm Warbler hung out for days in one spot

This Yellow Warbler sang from the thickets

A Black-Throated Blue Warbler- seen in the same area I saw it in last year

Kiwanis Park packs a lot of punch for a small park.  Its location along a wooded riverbank with plenty of wet marsh means you never run out of things to marvel at.

Winter and Spring Ducks.

April 1, 2017

This post is a wrap-up of the various duck species I’ve seen wintering over here in Central Ohio, and spring migrant ducks seen in their migration month of March.  Ducks can be hit or miss when you see them- some are very shy of people and stay far away, while others are more approachable.

Mallards are the most common duck here, and can be seen year-round.

Technically not a duck, Pied-Billed Grebes- very small diving waterfowl- are also seen year-round, but they are more visible in winter and during migration time.  I usually see these ducks alone or in pairs.

Another non-duck, American Coot are seen often in winter and during migration season, They have lobed feet like marsh birds.

 

Now, back to the ducks.  These Lesser Scaup are common migrants.  Females have the white around the bill, males have the white-and-dark pattern with blue bills.  Their cousins the Greater Scaup are slightly larger with rounder heads.

These guys look a lot like Scaup, but they are Ring-Necked Ducks- look for the white outline around their bills.  Once again, they are migrants that can occasionally be seen in the winter as well.

This is a pair of Blue-Winged Teal.  I just saw these ducks today!  They are spring migrants.

Here is a pair of Gadwall.   These are winter ducks.  The female looks like a Mallard but the male has a distinctive grey and tan plumage.

The duck in the foreground of this photo is a Redhead- named for obvious reasons!  They are seen during migration time as well as in winter.  Love the orange eyes.

These striking duck-like waterfowl are Hooded Mergansers.  The male has the distinctive black and white head while the female has the sort of punk rufous-colored haircut.  You see them here in the winter.  Very handsome birds!

This handsome duck is a Common Goldeneye male.   The white patch beneath his golden eye is a distinctive feature.  You see them in winter waterways.

This female Merganser is either a Common or a Red-Breasted Merganser.  It can be a bit difficult to tell sometimes.  They are larger than ducks with distinctive bills.

Ducks can often be difficult to see without powerful binoculars or a scope.  But sometimes one gets close enough for a halfway decent picture!  These birds add some spice to the winter and early migration months.