Beautiful Birds of the Cuyahoga Valley
When most people think of Cleveland, Ohio, the instant picture is of a grimy rust-belt city that has long and gray winters. However, just several miles south of the city limits, you can find one of the nicest national parks in the country. The Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area was designated by then- President Gerald Ford in 1974 and the park service began acquiring the land for the park. That land includes portions of the Cuyahoga River and long segments of the Ohio and Erie Canal, and a history that dates back about 12,000 years.
Despite being one of the newest parks in the system, the renamed Cuyahoga Valley National Park is already in the top ten for visitors within national parks. Much has happened in the valley since 1974, and the park is now a beautiful 33,000 acre green space set aside for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors, which include some beautiful and rare birds.
Great Blue Herons
The valley is home each spring to hundreds of blue herons as they make their return from their winter homes in Florida, Mexico, and South America. These birds are are the biggest heron in the United States and most of Canada. Four feet tall and weighing a little more than four pounds, they have a seven foot wingspan. They are drawn to the park’s wetlands while nesting, and they often feed on small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and amphibians. The males usually return to the area the last week of February, regardless of the weather, choose a nesting area, and sometimes an existing nest. The females arrive a little later and the courtship dance begins as monogamous bonds are created which will last through the season.
By mid-march, the trees in the Blue Heron rookery in the park are covered with huge heron nests that are built collaboratively by the male and female. The male brings sticks to the female and she takes it from him to add to the nest. This is actually quite amusing to watch. The females lay three to seven eggs, which must incubate for 28 days, so the male bird spends a lot of time caring for ‘mom and the kids’ until they hatch and leave the nest. Hatching is another sight to behold. Nearly all of the eggs hatch over a two or three day period in late April to early May, and small birds are seen in each nest from May until they learn to fly around the end of July.
Image by Cuyahoga jco
The Great Blue Herons make hundreds of nests in the tall trees, just take a look at these photos below, see if you can count all the nests;
These wonderful images were provided by Metro Parks volunteer photographer, Jerry Cannon. You can see lots more great photos on the Summit Metro Parks Facebook page;
Bald eagles had been something of a legend in northeast Ohio, as no one had seen one in the wild for over 70 years. However, in 2006, a pair of them made their return and has been returning to mate and nest for the past few years. This year, adult eagles appeared just after the beginning of the year and began their courting activities. Both were seen sitting on a nest together on February 3, and three weeks later, they were incubating their offspring. Experts say they should be performing courtship dances in November. Once they’ve decided upon a mate, they make very high dives, lock their talons, and only break apart when it appears inevitable they’ll crash.
Image by Benimoto
In Ohio, there are 34 sites which have a territorial falcon pair, and the CVNP is lucky enough to have one pair. In 2008, a female named Lara and a male named Rocky began nesting in the area beneath the turnpike bridge in Boston Township, and they returned the following year and had a clutch of four, two of them males who were both banded, and two females, one of which got hit by a car, and the other that flew away before she could get a band. The same adult pair returned in 2009, and although Lara (the female) was spotted with a few other peregrine falcons, one near downtown Cleveland at the Cleveland Clinic offices, and one near the same turnpike bridge, the other males left when they saw Rocky (the male.)
Image by aehack
In addition to the three magnificent species we’ve talked about, the CVNP is home to 248 different varieties of birds, and provides habitat for almost all of these species. From songbirds and wood ducks to another magnificent bird, the raptor, CVNP has all of them contained somewhere within the park
I personally love the ducks, here is a photo of a Mallard minding his own business in the Cuyahoga Valley river;
This post was written by Denise Gabbard for her friends at Stainless Steel Cookware Reviews, where you can get information and read reviews. Checkout the wonderful Summit Metro Parks Facebook page for more great nature photography;