March 5, 2014

More Winter Walks in the Hocking Hills

On a cold overcast day in late February, we traveled to the Hocking Hills with our friend Jim, who introduced us to two winter walks that were new to us.

On the first hike we had a distant view of an active bald eagle’s nest in a high sycamore tree located adjacent to a swamp and a large creek.  Below is a long telephoto view showing the head of one parent eagle in the nest and the other parent to the right.

From the same site as the previous photo, we cranked the telephoto lens to maximum to obtain a photograph of this huge eagle nest, constructed of large twigs and branches. Think of how heavy it must be!

A few hundred yards from the eagle’s nest was a great blue heron rookery (photo below).  The herons apparently used to nest at the bald eagle site, but were pushed out by the eagles several years ago. In a couple of months these nests will be active with noisy pairs of herons!

Later on the walk, Jim showed us a hillside seep with some emerging skunk cabbage, generally the first wildflower of the year in Ohio.  Skunk cabbages generate heat, which allows them to bloom earlier than other wildflowers. Even skunk cabbage is delayed this year due to the cold weather.

While looking for the skunk cabbage we chanced upon another distant view of a bald eagle, presumably one of the parents away from the nest.

As we returned to the car we heard the cheerful sounds of eastern bluebirds and were able to observe a pair perching on low branches, dropping to ground, and returning to low branches.

In the afternoon, we went on a hike down into a deep hollow.  The going was a bit dicey due to snow, ice and the primitive nature of the trail; in some areas we were only able to find the trail by following footprints in the snow.  We eventually found a frozen waterfall and a lovely stream lined with hemlock trees:

There is always something interesting to see in the Hocking Hills!

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