Exploring nature preserves is a great way to banish “Covid fatigue.” It’s like a mini vacation wrapped up in a single day and provides a bit of exercise, fresh air and restores the spirit. I can highly recommend it.
This week we packed our hiking boots, a snack, water and drove an hour or so (on as many backroads as possible) to explore Sheldon Marsh state nature preserve near Lake Erie in Ohio. It’s offers about 470 acres, is home to 300 species of birds and is a well-known place for quite a number of wildflowers in the spring.
But it’s not all marshy, by any means. Even at the end of October the leaf colors are beautiful, though a bit past their prime.
The Preserve offers some wide straight, wide trails directly to the beach area, but I would suggest following the woods trail instead. It meanders through the trees and provides great views of the marsh and the creatures that live there.
According to signage, the Marsh has hundreds of turtles that bask along the shoreline including Midland painted turtles, snapping turtles and the Blandings turtle (Emys blandingii or Emydoidea blandingii). According to Wikipedia, Blandings turtles are an endangered species in some areas of the eastern U.S. and Canada, can reproduce for 80 to 90 years and show little or no common signs of aging. Wow! That’s a turtle I would like to see.
Unfortunately on this day there was little if any sun so it wasn’t conducive to those basking turtles (which is why I plan to come back).
This area is very attractive to ducks and shore birds. On this day we saw Wood ducks, Mallards. Gadwells, Canada geese, cormorants and Great Blue Herons. I have a few photos to share of these, but the zoom on my FZ300 wasn’t quite up to it, as the ducks/geese were quite a distance away.
We also ran into a pretty aggressive groundhog. Now before you start laughing (I did too when a fellow visitor first warned me), take a look at the photos. They just might change your mind.
Now normally groundhogs are pretty timid. They run away when they see a human. Not this guy! He would look at you, then come out onto the trail and face you like he was taking a stance. If you moved, he moved to face you and showed some teeth. He didn’t act rabid; he just acted old and mean like we were on his turf – which we were I suppose. Poor guy.
But that didn’t stop us from sliding around him to get to the Lake. It was a bit windy on this day and quite choppy. The gray/blue skies blended well with the icy gray color of the lake. The wind was quite loud in the tree branches and leaves along the shoreline.
Very near the water in some shrubby areas was a Yellow-Rumped warbler flitting about. They DO move quickly. I was surprised I could get any photos at all.
This is a barrier beach and (according to signage) is one of the most fascinating habitats at Sheldon Marsh. It’s one of the largest protected beaches on Lake Erie’s south shore. It provides the potential for bird nesting habitat of such endangered species as the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) and Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). (The Common Tern is listed as endangered in Ohio and the Piping Plover is on the federally endangered list.)
If you get the opportunity, take a break from “Covid fatigue” and visit Sheldon Marsh. It’s a glorious place to explore nature and let go of some of life’s stresses. While not too many people feel comfortable going on vacations these days, a mini-vacation day trip to a nature preserve is almost perfect.
Until next time, keep exploring nature up close.