It was cold, it was grey, it was overcast. A typical December day in the Greater Cleveland Area. I decided to see what was up at Brecksville Reservation.
This Red-tailed Hawk was busy scanning the landscape below. Slowly it would move its head from side-to-side, looking for any kind of movement. A few times the bird stood up, as if it were about to take flight.
Before long something caught its interest and the bird dove down to the forest floor. The sound from the impact of where the hawk hit the leaves could be heard from where I was standing.
It was unsuccessful in catching its prey, so it found a new place to perch and start the process all over again. The Red-tailed Hawk is the most common large, broad-winged hawks in North America. Its range is from Alaska and northern Canada south to Central America.
The Red-tailed Hawk is a bird of open country. It can be seen along fields and perched on telephones poles, fenceposts, or trees standing alone or along edges of fields. The eyesight of a hawk is 8 times more powerful than a human’s.
This large, majestic bird has another way of hunting – by spending much of its time soaring and scanning the ground below. Both hunting styles allow them to expend a minimum amount of energy when hunting. Its call is commonly used in television and movies to represent the vocalizations of other birds, including vultures and eagles.
Third Eye Herp
During the Carboniferous Period (300 million years ago) ferns were the dominant part of the vegetation. Ferns are among the world’s most ancient plants, found as fossils in rocks 400 million years old.
Today’s coal is made largely of fossilized ferns from back in their “hey day.” Dead plants became buried underground and very gradually turned to coal under the immense pressure of the earth.
Christmas Fern is one of the few green plants you are likely to see if you hike in the eastern forests during this time of the year.
Their association with Christmas is an old one. “Back in the day” its fronds were once harvested, baled into bundles and sold to florists for wreath making.
This is a common and easy-to-identify plant. It is especially abundant on well shaded, forested hillsides near streams. Its leaflets look like tiny Christmas stockings. The rich, green leaves (fronds) of the fern are up to three feet long and are about four inches wide.
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This tiny frog can be heard calling any month of the year in Ohio if conditions are right. This usually means rain and temperatures above freezing. Even in late Fall or Winter it is not unusual for me to hear a lone frog calling when on a hike.
Though an individual can be heard “peeping” at this time of year, this frog’s “claim to fame” is being a harbinger of Spring. Large groups of these amphibians often gather and and call – in some cases producing very loud choruses of sound.
For some, seeing an American Robin is an indication of the coming of Spring. For fans of amphibians, hearing many of these tiny frogs calling indicates that Winter is loosening its icy grip on the landscape. The fact that this little creature functions at low temperatures is amazing to me.
Found in wooded areas and grassy lowlands near ponds and swamps in the central and eastern parts of Canada and the United States, these miniature, well-camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen. But the mid-March crescendo of nighttime calling from males is a sign that warmer days are just around the corner.
Spring Peepers are tan or brown and have at least some ability to change color. They only grow to about 1-1/2 inches and have toe pads for climbing, though they are more at home amid the loose leaves on the forest floor than in trees.
A distinctive “X” on their back is a good indentfication characteristic. This marking accounts for their Latin species name, crucifer, which translates as “one who bears a cross.”
These frogs breed in freshwater ponds or pools and prefers to use waterways where there are no fish. They often use temporary ponds that dry up after their tadpoles have transformed into adult frogs and left the water.
The Spring Peeper mainly eats small insects, including ants, beetles and flies. It will also consume spiders. It is believed that food is chosen more by availability and size than by actual preference for a certain item.
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The Eastern Bluebird is a species familiar to millions in eastern North America, though they are nowhere near as common as they used to be. While they are still around and are seen when people build nest boxes, scientists wonder why there aren’t more.
Males are easy to recognize, with a bright blue back, head, and wings, and a rust-colored throat and breast. Females are similar, but much duller in color. These birds are cavity-dwellers, so they nest in natural tree cavities, old woodpecker holes and bird boxes. Nests are built with grasses and weed stems.
Young bluebirds are grayish in color. They have speckled breasts and their wings have blue tips. As they become adults, the blue color becomes much more obvious, and their speckles disappear.
This beautiful bird is a favorite of many people and is eagerly awaited in the spring after a long winter. Though if the weather is mild, they may stick around all year. They are considered are “partially migratory;” they fly south when food becomes scarce or when temperatures and other environmental conditions become harsh.
Eastern bluebirds eat a variety of foods depending on the season. In summer months they consume mostly insects. During the fall and winter seasons, when insects are less common, they eat fruits and plants.
The future of Eastern Bluebirds has been of concern to conservation agencies. Populations have shrunk over the last few decades (in some places by as much as 90%).
Two reasons why bluebird populations have declined are habitat destruction and competition. Much of their habitat has been turned into farmland or commercial property. Eastern bluebirds also have to compete with the more aggressive, introduced species, like House Sparrows and European Starlings, for food and nesting sites.
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