Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Shoreline Stopover

Photo by Jeff Traipale
A Place to Relax & Recharge 
by Ann Bugeda, Chief of Interpretive Services

Fall skies, shorter days, cooling temperatures and winds from the north trigger the ongoing cycle of migration. It’s true—bird populations are in movement year round—changing seasons alert us to the passage of many species on their southbound journey. Eagles, ducks, hawks, swans, falcons, shorebirds, songbirds— all moving from summer places to wintering grounds.

One of the best places to witness fall migration is along our lakeshore. If I had to pick my favorite for migration watching on a fall day, I would pick Lake Erie Bluffs. Improvements to this park include a new trail and shelter that provide great opportunities to relax, walk, enjoy the view and share space with the tiny travelers of fall migration. The variety of habitat and natural beach are relaxing to us and important for the local wildlife. Other scenic shoreline Lake Metroparks sites east to west are Arcola Creek Park in Madison Township, Lake Shore Reservation in North Perry Village, Painesville Township Park in Painesville Township, Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park in Fairport Harbor and Lakefront Lodge in Willowick.

Photos by John Pogacnik, Biologist
During the late summer and fall, many birds that nested and raised their young in Ohio and farther north (like New England and Canada) begin to feel the urge to move. These birds will soon journey to warmer climates, enjoying abundant food supplies and milder temperatures.

Many kinds of songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, hawks and falcons navigate along Lake Erie’s coast—some even fly non-stop from Canada, out and over Lake Erie’s open water. Some rely on the updrafts of warm air currents created by elevation changes along our coastlines and ridges where rising warm air provides a boost for soaring. Some travel only at night, when the weather is calm and there is less danger of predation.

Photos by John Pogacnik, Biologist
When we travel from home for work or vacation, it’s likely we will need to stop for food or fuel. The same thing is true with animals in migration. Green spaces like Lake Erie Bluffs, provide valuable “stopover” habitat. Food (including insects, fall fruits or nectar sources) and shelter (trees, shrubs and grassy spaces) are essential. It’s not exactly a cheeseburger and fries, but without a place to rest and refuel, many will have a difficult time on their journey.

If you visit the lakeshore in September, smaller birds like hummingbirds and warblers will be passing through. By October, sparrows are on the move, and turkey vultures can be seen drifting southbound. By mid October, ducks will start to gather on inland lakes and ponds like Granger Pond at Veterans Park in Mentor.

November brings chilly north winds, when tundra swans pass; listen for their wild and beautiful calls with the first real cold front. Loons and other diving birds can be spotted on the open waters of Lake Erie. From November  through April, thousands of red-breasted mergansers gather in Lake Erie. Up to 150,000 or more birds may be present during the winter months, a large percent of their entire population. They fly back and forth, diving and fishing and following the open water as the lake begins to freeze. The near total ice coverage of the lake these past two winters made for difficult conditions for them (as well as us!). Remembering last winter reminds us that now is the time to enjoy a fall walk, some lake watching and nature in all its glory.

Photo by Greennite

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Top five ways to explore and enjoy your Lake Metroparks this fall

1) Fall Colors Tour: Take a hike along one of the 50+ miles of trails to discover the beauty of fall foliage in Lake County. If hiking isn’t for you, scenic trail cart tours are now accessible to non-hikers! Get out and marvel at the fall color all around you! 
2) Enjoy the Harvest: Enjoy fall harvest fun at Lake Metroparks Farmpark every weekend through October 18! Make and sample apple cider, apple butter and hand-cranked ice cream, learn how to drive a horse, discover how to grind corn and thresh grain, take a wagon ride around the fields and more!

3) Gather Round: Get the family together around a blazing campfire for stories, songs, roasting marshmallows and old-fashioned outdoor fun! Choose your own adventure.

4) Eye to the Sky: Did you know that fall is an excellent time for birdwatching? Catch a glimpse of a variety of birds during fall migration. You never know what you might see!

5) Conquer the Maze: Test yours skills as you “walk the stalk” through a multitude of twists and turns through a three-acre corn maze at Lake Metroparks Farmpark. The maze is open through mid-October weather permitting.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

the Amazing Monarch

Monarch butterfly on Milkweed at Lake Erie Bluffs - photo by greennite

By Tom Koritansky, Natural Resource Manager

Monarchs are part of a group of butterflies known as milkweed butterflies that lay their eggs exclusively on various species of milkweed upon which young caterpillars feed, grow and develop. Monarchs serve a vital function in our planet’s ecology by pollinating many plants in their search for nectar.

Milkweeds are perennial plants. During the summer and into fall, these plants produce showy flowers in various shades of pink and are an excellent source of nectar for many pollinating insects. Milkweed can be found growing in dry upland meadows and old fields, open floodplains and along the edges of ponds, lakes and streams. Besides being the only food source for caterpillars, milkweed also gives developing monarchs protection from predators.

Milkweed contains chemicals known as cardenolides that when ingested give caterpillars a bitter taste. The protective chemistry provided by feeding on milkweed and their bright coloration serves as a warning to predators to stay away. Monarchs migrate south from Northeast Ohio to Mexico in late August. Each year, the voyage becomes more difficult as natural areas that once served as breeding grounds and stopover sites rich in milkweed are removed from the landscape because of land use changes. This loss has contributed to a noticeable decline in monarch populations. Without its milkweed host plant, monarchs cannot successfully reproduce, and without a plentiful food supply rich in flowering plants, all migrants are not able to complete their journey.

Natural areas within Lake Metroparks that contain a variety of wildflowers are incredibly important for the monarch’s survival. Large open meadows with great varieties of flowering plants like those at Hidden Lake in Leroy Township, Skok Meadow at Girdled Road Reservation in Concord Township and Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland are ideal locations for monarchs to stop and feed along their journey. Earlier this year, Lake Metroparks’ natural resources staff planted milkweed in several plots at Lake Erie Bluffs, Lakeshore Reservation and Penitentiary Glen Reservation as a way to encourage breeding habitat for monarchs in those parks.

By planting milkweed and conserving butterfly-friendly habitat, we can all do our part to help save monarchs.

Click here to learn more about Wildlife Management by Lake Metroparks.

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About Me

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Lake Metroparks offers a variety of opportunities for fishing including stocked ponds as well as river, stream and lakeshore access.
Lake Metroparks' aquatic resources bring value to our parks and to Lake County. From the depths of our ponds to the edges of our rivers and streams to the beaches of Lake Erie, Lake County's watery resources afford our citizens unrivaled opportunities to enjoy fishing.