Sounds Like Spring

It’s no Red Winged Blackbird, but the call still says spring.

Last weekend was the first day of Spring and it’s sexy time for any number of creatures. In fact, it’s all they’re talking about. With that in mind, Adventure Buddy and I took advantage of a park program promising amorous salamanders in the vernal pools. The description said boots were suggested, but we did not realize that it was to the degree of our naturalist’s hip waders.

The naturalist started by checking her overnight traps. No salamanders, but we saw fairy shrimp, water bugs, and what turned out to be two frogs busy making more frogs.

They are Western Chorus Frogs which are different from Spring Peepers. Their song dominated all other noises. It sounded as if we should see them everywhere.

The second vernal pool was filled with cattails on the edge of a prairie area. I actually saw a large frog there, but my tiny net and poor skills were no match for it.

This area was possibly even more vociferous.

To borrow from e.e. cummings, spring is when the world is “mud-luscious” and “puddle wonderful.” I just need taller boots.

Let’s Talk Turkey

“What did you do this weekend?”

“Oh, my friend and I toyed with the fragile emotions of a wild turkey. You?”

Adventure Buddy and I tried a new park this weekend. It basically does a 2 mile loop over meadow lands and a ridge. We were on the wooded ridge when Adventure Buddy gasped, “TURKEYS!”

I was in mid rant about something, so I thought it was someone yelling. That’s how loud it was. We stood and waited. He called again, and again. Tromping through what was probably poison ivy, we went over a little mound and spotted him in the trees just below us.

He was standing on a log, all alone; we assumed he was looking for love. So, of course, we catfished him.

From previous adventures, Adventure Buddy has a turkey call app. She found some hen clucks and sent him a few, “Hey sexy boyfriend” calls.

You can hear her giggling in the background.

He was very responsive and started to walk a little closer while puffing up a bit.

We did not get a full display until she played what we think is a fighting purr. We left this poor turkey not knowing if someone was going to fuck him or fight him. Sorry, Tom.

We could still hear him calling as we made it down the ridge.

Turkey hunters, please don’t yell at me if we got the calls and the body language wrong. I don’t hunt and really only eat these guys once a year!

I was going to do so many ridiculous things…

At first this whole school closing thing felt like an impending snow day. The storm was coming, we knew it was going to be serious, but there was still that slightly contained giddiness of “Holy shit! I’m gonna get to sleep in!” There was no way they were going shut us down, maybe we’d get an extra week tagged on to spring break. But shut down? No way.

Then within the space of about 45 minutes from the governor’s decision to the official district email, they shut us down on a Friday the 13th no less.

Briefly, unrealistically, time opened up and I was going to do so many ridiculous things. It was going to be hiking and new restaurants with Bloody Marys.

Unfortunately, it rained 3 inches overnight and created flash flooding, and restaurants are now only allowed to offer carry out or delivery. No sitting and enjoying.

A new tattoo sounded like a good use of time. Maybe some bees around some existing flowers. Nope. On the 18th they shut down all hair and nail salons, and tattoo parlors.

Ok. Cats. What about adopting another cat since I am now going to be home for an extended period? I mean I can’t really take a new cat to the vet because my vet is only doing virtual check ups or hand offs in the parking lot. However all of my favorite shelters have closed to visitors unless there was an adoption already in the works. Probably for the best.

Birdie says that there are more than enough cats on these sheets.

I also have an overwhelming urge to buy toilet paper, but clearly that’s not happening.

Back in the good old days of March 12 when Target still had paper towels at the end of the aisle.

The reality is that time hasn’t really opened up. When I wake up at 3 am to go pee, my brain starts making lists and running what-if scenarios. Which might be part of the explanation for why I-on total going to work auto pilot- backed my car into my garage door as enthusiastically as possible. I self-isolated by trapping myself and my vehicle in the garage.

We got out, but I’ve put in as many hours this week as normal setting up e-Learning and trying to wrap my head around how to move forward in an engaging way when none of my instructional cat videos will load to our online classroom! Our tech people are on it; they’ve had the lion’s share of organizing, building, and teaching the teachers.

I can’t complain that I get to keep working when that is not the case for so many. I’m not sick and I don’t know anyone who is…yet. But I did cancel my normal spring break time when I would have been hanging out with MomBert because I was increasingly paranoid about infecting her as well as the looming possibility of a state wide or national lockdown. These cats won’t feed themselves.

Meanwhile my students are looking at a blackhole for the end of their school year. Spring quarter at a high school is an unending shit show of state testing, awards ceremonies for every group in existence, Senior-itis at its peak, prom, and graduation. Very few of those things are projected to happen now. They may end up with a certificate in the mail and a gathering of 10 people or less to celebrate unless those get outlawed.

At least when the weather changes, I might be able to practice some social distancing with a hike.

******By the way this was supposed to be a light, jokey post about how all my trivial plans were systematically shut down by the government, but that went sideways about as quickly as a quarantine order. Sorry.

A Moment in Narnia

Walking in the woods when it’s snowing always makes me think of the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The woods are especially quiet and it brings to mind the initial emergence into Narnia as snow falls onto pines surrounding a very out of place lamppost.

The winter hikes are not always quiet, hundreds of people participate. However on this one, we got moments of magical quiet.

Quiet perfect for getting distracted by shiny decorated bird nests. (Ignoring the fact that the bird is decorating with sucky people’s trash. It ruins the magic.)

“Winter” Hikes

We’re well into the winter hike series. However we still seem to be waiting for winter to make an appearance.

It has rained, moisted, and mudded.

This day there was ice, but only on the plants.

At least this year, I didn’t stress cry after sliding in my car to this hike. We actually got to try the soup: white bean soup topped with onions and cornbread. It was a very Gpa lunch.

If Ralph says, “Earth laughs in flowers.” It must send mixed messages in drizzle and low 40s. I haven’t even worn my hiking snuggie.

Little Adventures: Bird Nerd Edition

At the beginning of April, I decided to visit the eagles on the river. I had heard that they were back, had added to the nest, and had at least two eaglets. However when I arrived the male was on the nest and no fuzzy baby heads were visible. I amused myself watching the variety of birds arriving at the suet cake some avid birder had placed by the viewing site.

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mockingbird, cardinal, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker (I think)

In addition to the suet cake, the birders added a sealed envelope and notebook for people to add dated entries about the eagles. Pretty cool. After standing around for a while listening to the bird gossipseriously, this is how I learn now– the male eagle started screaming. Mom eagle came back empty-taloned, and then they both screamed about it for a bit. Nature is amazing.

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Part of the gossip I picked up was about the owlet in the cemetery.

Bird Woman who showed up with three kids: “I’m taking the kids to see the owlets next.”

Alpha Bird Woman (she is so the one in charge and her camera is massive):”You know it’s branching.”

I recently learned that “branching” is when fledglings take adventures outside the nest. That determined my next stop for the day!

Out of the nest! Boom! At one point a car drove by and his/her little “horns perked up.

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Look at the floofers on this dude!

DSCF4086a*** I started writing this on April 30 and it’s now June 5. Queen of procrastination! The “eaglets” have now filled out to their juvenile feathers and I need to visit before they leave! I think my master plan with this post was to add in two April adventures. Here goes!

Two weeks later, I took off on an early morning whim to re-visit the eagles. Miraculously, I was the only person in the tiny parking lot! Just me and some eagles.

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Me, some eagles, and this downy woodpecker who did not care that I was three feet away.

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I wasn’t alone for long and my best shot showed at least one fuzzy head popping up.

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Again on impulse, I decided to travel from there across town to another nesting site that I had seen a number of posts about: Pickerington Ponds. Given my current location, I was only 25 minutes away instead of the regular 40.

This park is a cluster of ponds and a bird mecca. I actually saw one of the eagles there land in a field as I drove towards the park entrance.

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Swallows…I think, a red winged blackbird, cormorants and a Canada goose

My first stop yielded lots of small birds, a couple who had no idea where the eagle nest was, and a terrifyingly long water snake.

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I was more successful at the next pond. This nest has… probably HAD at this point… 3 eaglets.

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Fortunately, it was beautiful breezy day and I spotted a fellow bird nerd in the form of  a tiny woman with binoculars and a mission. Not being familiar with the park, I trailed her around the pond to a prime viewing spot for the eagle nest. I am terrified and too paranoid to go into parks alone (Thanks, MomBert?). You’ll never find me hiking by myself; and if you do find me, it’s probably because you are the horribly violent, assault minded creature that I fear lurks on lonely paths. Even being alone on what was an open, sunny,  but isolated path would not have happened had it not been for my impromptu adventure buddy.

We chatted about the eagles and our various sightings. I shared my borrowed giant “moonoculars” with her,  and she gave me some tips on focusing. Another traveler stopped to talk to us about the eagles and said that he had just passed a giant turtle on the path. I asked what kind it was and he said he didn’t get close enough. I try not to roll my eyes and sigh at people I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure turtles are known for being SLOW.

Me: “Did it look like a dinosaur that wanted to eat you?”

He still didn’t know. From their size and slitted eyes to huge claws and spiked tails, I feel like snapping turtles are really easy to identify. Fuck it. I announced that I was off to see a giant turtle!

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It’s a leftover dinosaur! It was about 18 x 15 inches not counting tail length.

When I looked back, Adventure Buddy was behind me on the path. Based on the guy’s directions it took longer to find the turtle than I thought it would, but finally there it was by the path. We both admired it and talked to it about its turtle life choices: “Why are you so far out from mud and water? Do you need a hug? What’s going on with your left eye? If I hugged you and carried you to the pond, would you promise not to bite my fingers off?

Finally, I asked the really big question: “Have we been taking pictures of a dead turtle?”

The turtle had not visibly moved, blinked, or hissed, and I noticed that there were ants walking in its neck folds. This seemed bad.

Adventure Buddy offered to touch it and we both stepped back like we had found an exploding turtle. She tentatively tapped the turtle booty with the very tip of her tennis shoe, and the turtle immediately rose up about an inch and then went back to its position.

Relieved that we had not been talking to a dead turtle, we backtracked to the eagle nest, spotted an osprey in flight, and totally forgot to tell the park ranger we met about the turtle. Bird brains. Ugh.

Going by units of animal measurement, that was a four eagle one giant turtle day which is a very good day!

 

When you promise your friend turkey sex…

You wanna see turkeys doin’ it? (Spring break, yow!)

Absolutely!

Entering the metro park, two turkeys slow walked in the crosswalk in front of my car. Turkeys, they’re all about safety. They joined a group of six who were kicking through leaves in the woods to the left of the road. While I gawked from the driver’s seat, Adventure Buddy came slow walking up the road from the parking lot, keeping a wary eye on the rafter. (That’s a group of turkeys. Learning.) She had already taken video of her car being surrounded by turkeys. Terrifying. They’re basically miniature dinosaurs.

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The park’s post about turkey mating season suggested that over 100 turkeys lived there and could best be seen in the open meadows and along the edge of the woods. So rather than backtrack from the parking lot to the group along the road, we diligently followed the map and slogged through puddles, and mud in the rain along the edges of two meadows. Adventure Buddy ended up ankle deep in her tennis shoes, and even my hiking boots weren’t totally cutting it. No turkeys.

Having completed the muddy, swamp portion of our hike, we went back along the paved road to check up on the original turkeys. We were rewarded with a small group.

Adventure Buddy: “They’re aggressive, right?”

Me walking towards gang of turkeys: “Oh, yea, they’ll kick the shit out of you.” ( I don’t know. They might.)

They totally moved on.

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Driving out of the park, we came across this handsome devil and his ladies in the recommended meadow environment.

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He is sooooo getting laid, cloaca to cloaca sexiness.

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Turkeys really dig slow jazz to get in the mood.

 

Dog Day. Done.

During last year’s hikes, we learned that “Dog Day” at Battelle Darby was the climactic finale! That means hotdogs not canines although there were a fair number of those at this hike. I think a lot of that knowledge was acquired by being sucked into conversations with old dudes who were excited for the meal ahead. Each park has a standard menu that repeat hikers have come to anticipate. For me, the Highbanks pancakes were a great surprise, but the chicken and noodles with a biscuit at Blendon Woods were amazing!

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Battelle Darby Dog Day

The day of our last hike was dreary, but it wasn’t raining. At about 40 degrees, I was able to forgo my hiking snuggie and put on a slightly lighter coat. Compared to the previous hilly and snow covered hikes, this trail was delightfully too easy: flat, wide, and muddy. Admittedly we only did the 2 mile option when we could have chosen 4 or 6 miles.

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I think I take a picture of this oak tree every time I’m here.

These winter hikes are  good motivators to get outside, but the Ohio winter palette of gray on gray on blaaaahhhhh is brutal. I don’t know what time of day it is half the time because it always looks like evening.

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There was a certain celebratory air to this hike, at least in my mind. The hiking was casual, there was a hot chocolate station and fire at the 2 mile point, and a mounted officer from the sheriff’s department was there. We celebrated seeing a horsie!

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I surmised that the officer was there to monitor the crowds gathering to observe the buffalo just in case anyone decided to be a jackass. We discussed the “nerdy” buffalo “haircuts” and tried to find the boy buffalo in the herd. There is usually one male, but we did not find any buffalo balls.

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The real celebration was back at the starting point, cashing in our hole punched hike cards to select a stick! We had no idea that there would be such a variety to choose from. The sticks were different lengths and weights, but also different woods: oak, hickory, cherry , plum, persimmon, and elm among others. I chose a hefty hickory stick.

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We were also able to purchase that year’s metal medallion and have it attached on the spot. Ironically, the medallion featured the  Clear Creek park which was the worst hike for me this year. My map app decided that I need a tour of unplowed, unsalted, slick, narrow country back roads which had me in anxiety based tears by the time I made it to the park.

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WE GOT STICKS! Part of me is like “Mission accomplished. We never have to do this again.” It really was a huge weekend time commitment which then led to a number of naps and my Saturdays, sometimes Sundays would disappear. Plus if you missed a weekend hike, you were supposed to make it up another day on your own….without soup.

However another part of me, the part that likes the thrill of the hunt and collecting is like “This stick could use another medallion.

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Adventure Buddy got her stick!

and then PANCAKES! The End.

Winter hike 9 of 13 was brilliantly sunny, but cold. At least at 23 degrees, it was not a windy day. The Highbanks Metro Park trail for the day kept us mostly in the woods which up and down through and along the edges of ravines.
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The trail was smooth, wide and thankfully snowless so our biggest challenge was the patches of ice that sometimes blended into the dirt and stones. One hiker behind us ended up flat on her back, giggling at least, like the kid in A Christmas Story.

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While the majority of the hikes end in crock pots of soup, the finishing meal at Highbanks was a complete surprise today. We did not make it to this hike last year and did not realize that we would be greeted with pancakes and a toppings bar. There was much rejoicing!

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The two teenagers hiking with us were ecstatic. One said, “This bowl of sprinkles is my breakfast!” She’s a tiny hummingbird fueled by sugar and good will. It was a decidedly satisfying end to our mileage.

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