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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Experience the Grandness of the Grand

You might not know just how grand the Grand River is if you haven’t been to Lake Metroparks’ River Jamboree! The Grand River represents one of the finest examples of a natural stream found anywhere in Ohio. Mainly due to the rugged surroundings and minimal impact from urbanization and development, the Grand River became the second river to be designated Wild and Scenic by the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program.

The Grand River runs 103 miles passing through five counties in Northeast Ohio. The headwaters start in Geauga and Portage counties, then flow northeast through Trumbull and Ashtabula counties before taking a 90 degree turn into Lake County. Once in Lake County, the Grand runs 26 miles to its mouth in Fairport Harbor. The river borders 12 Lake Metroparks, which protects 30 percent of the river shoreline.

The Grand River has the most aquatic diversity of any Ohio Lake Erie tributary due to the slower moving waters and neighboring wetlands. These wetlands provide fantastic habitat for countless wildlife species including river otters, which have made a comeback after their reintroduction by the Division of Wildlife in 1986. Eagles and ospreys can be seen flying overhead and on warm days northern map turtles and spiny softshell turtles bask along the river bank. There are 87 fish species in the Grand, including longnose gar, smallmouth bass and rainbow darters. Additionally, the river is home to an impressive 22 species of freshwater mussels, the most endangered animals in North America.

Hidden Valley Park
July 12 • 1 to 4 pm
FREE • Registration requested

This year’s River Jamboree allows you to “get wet with nets.” Take the time to try out several different types of nets to find insects, fish, snakes and more. Bring family and friends to jump in and experience the remarkable Grand River with us on Sunday, July 12 at Hidden Valley Park in Madison. Lake Metroparks naturalists and local conservation groups will be on hand with fun activities for the whole family.

The River Jamboree is a free event. Registration is requested and can be made online or by calling 440-358-7275.

Article by Trevor Wearstler, Interpretive Naturalist

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sheep come in all different shares and sizes, colors and personalities

Rachel Gordon Sheep Paintings featured at Shearing Weekend at Farmpark

Sheep have been a companion to humans for thousands of years. They provide us with everything we need – food, clothing, milk, warmth, companionship, shelter, musical instruments – and yet what do we think of when we think of sheep? Most of us think boring, white, fluffy, gentle animals who do not think for themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth! Like people, sheep come in all different shapes and sizes, colors, and personalities.

Like people, sheep like being connected to each other and living in community – and they are each unique as individuals. I am fascinated by the interplay of outer appearance and inner self - our exterior as a reflection of our interior and vice versa - how much we judge and make assumptions based on appearance and the dream of reaching unity in the diversity. Inside Outside Sheep celebrates the uniqueness of each one of us. We are better as a whole when each one of us is able to radiate out what makes us special inside. What’s your inner sheep?

Children will paint their own mini sheep as a craft during the weekend.

Shearing Weekend
Lake Metroparks Farmpark
May 30 & 31, 2015 • 9 am to 5 pm

Watch us shear our sheep of their winter coats and process it into a variety of fiber products. Learn how to spin, weave and make felt and meet fiber-producing animals including sheep, llamas and alpacas.

Meet Rachel Gordon at Farmpark May 30 & 31

Rachel Gordon creates fun and unique art in many different media. She has been passionate about sheep for many years –as paintings, prints, drawings, and small sculptures – and loves how they make her laugh as their personalities emerge. When she isn’t working or hanging out with the sheep, she illustrates children’s books and publishes coloring pages for kids every week on her blog www.sophieandsadie.com. Rachel also works in photography, fiber art, conceptual art and installation, illustration, and printing. A common thread in her art is encouraging people to stop and see the beauty, wonder, and fun in everyday life and objects.

Rachel lives in Cleveland. Her work has been exhibited in the USA, Russia, and Israel. She has been recognized by the State of Israel as an artist of high distinction and was a recipient of the 2014 Cleveland Jewish Arts and Culture Lab Fellowship.

Follow her work on Facebook (Rachel Gordon Art) and her websites www.rachelgordonart.com and www.insideoutsidesheep.com.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Grab the fishing gear and go fishing this weekend...for FREE!

Grab the fishing gear and go fishing this weekend...for FREE!Ohio residents may fish in all of Ohio's public waters...
A largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, hunting among water plants.
Photo (George Grall Getty Images/National Geographic Creative) 

Friday, January 16, 2015

What animal walked through here?

Tracking Winter Wildlife
By Andy Avram, Interpretive Manager

A fresh coating of snow lies over the land, disturbed only by a single line of footprints. These tracks offer us a glimpse into this animal’s life—a few pages of its story on this winter day. What animal walked through here? What was it doing and where did it go?

By examining the size, shape and pattern we can tell it was a small mammal, likely a meadow vole. Following the tracks we see it burrowed into the snow as the tracks end in a small tunnel, about the diameter of a quarter, but resurface a couple feet away to carry on the journey. The tracks stop by some nibbled vegetation where the vole had a bite to eat, but suddenly the footprints become widely spaced as if the vole was startled into running away. It ran a short distance before the prints simply vanish. Looking next to the area where the footprints disappeared, we see what looks like brush strokes in the snow and realize our little friend was captured and carried off by a hawk or owl. Our footprint story ends here, but the bird of prey’s story continues on.

It is stories like these that make hiking in the winter so much fun, but we know that it sometimes takes a little extra motivation to leave a nice cozy home to brave the outdoors. Animal tracks, birds, trees and even interesting insects that crawl on top of the snow can be found all winter long and Lake Metroparks offers a number of opportunities to get out with a naturalist to discover these. 

For general nature try a Winter Nature Walk. If you would like a more in-depth program to learn about and look for animal tracks, join us for Wildlife Tracking.

Wildlife Tracking
January 24 at Veterans Park
February 28 at Pete’s Pond Preserve

Winter Nature Walk
February 21 at Penitentiary Glen Reservation

These programs are free. To register (required), click on the link provided. Registration may also be made by phone at 440-639-7275 or in person at the Registration  Department at Concord Woods between 8 and 4:30 pm.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Come outside and have fun: Winter programs at Lake Metroparks Saturday, January 17

It's winter time and we have a variety of programs happening this Saturday in our parks for people of all ages and abilities. Pre-registration required.

Saturday, January 17

Bird Walk 
Penitentiary Glen Reservation
8:30 to 10 am • FREE

Lake Metroparks has a long tradition of guided bird walks. The park’s variety of habitats offers the chance to see and hear many species of birds. Bring binoculars and field guide if you have them. We also have some that you can borrow during the walk - just contact the instructor prior to the walk. Beginners welcome.

Skate Ski Lessons 101 (beginner level)
Chapin Forest Reservation
9 to 10:30 am
$20 with ski rental
$10 without ski rental

Learn the basics of skate skiing with plenty of on-the-snow practice. Learn about equipment, body positions, poling, and V1 and V2 techniques. A limited amount of equipment is available.

Classic Cross-country Ski Lessons 101 
Chapin Forest Reservation
9 to 10:30 am
$15 with ski rental
$10 without ski rental

Learn to fall down and get up, glide, stride, stop, turn, and use your poles. Please state gender, shoe size and height when registering with rental. Participants should arrive 15 minutes prior to class start time.

Frozen Falls Bus Tour
Meet at Penitentiary Glen Reservation
9 am to noon • $40 per person
Ages 18 and older

Explore Lake County by bus visiting different frozen waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful winter scenery. Participants should dress for the weather and be prepared to hike to falls.

Crazy Kidz Ski Academy: Skinny Skis - First Tracks
Ages 4, 5 and 6
Chapin Forest Reservation
9:30 to 10:30 am
$10 with ski rental
$5 without ski rental
$5 each additional sibbling

Our motto is "No Child Left in the Lodge." This introductory class teaches young children the basic skills of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. You're never too young to learn how much fun snow sports can be!

Snowshoe the Parks
Indian Point Park
10 to 11:30 am
Ages 16 and older
$10 with ski rental
$5 without ski rental

Try snowshoeing on varied terrain through out our different parks! We will begin each class discussing the basics of snowshoeing and then going out and trying it on a different trail in a different park. Rental equipment will be brought to the different parks so pre-registration is necessary. If you're renting, please state height and weight when registering. Park location may change based on snow conditions.

Ride a Draft Horse
11 am to 12:30 pm • $20
Ages 10 and older

You have seen them pull wagons and plows, now here is your chance to groom, saddle and ride a mighty draft horse.

Creative Kids: Fabulous Fur
Children's Schoolhouse Nature Park
Noon to 1 pm
$5 for one child and one adult
$4 for each additional sibling
Ages 3 to 8

It's winter time, and many animals have their fur "coats" on. Come, learn, and create all about fur!

Winter Carnival
Painesville Township Park
1 to 3 pm • $5 per child
Ages 3 to 10

Want to have some indoor winter fun? Come join us for our indoor winter carnival for games, prizes and crafts! Concessions will be open for food purchases.

Adapted Winter Carnival
Painesville Township Park
3:30 to 4:30 pm • $8
Ages 9 and older

Come join us for our fun indoor winter carnival! Play old fashioned carnival games and win prizes, listen to music and enjoy refreshments. Program designed for participants with special needs only.