Sunset view from the boardwalk at Maumee Bay.
Because Maumee Bay State Park is the site of one of our state’s lodge and conference centers, it offers a number of recreational opportunities. But as a nature lover, one of my favorite activities there was walking the 2-mile boardwalk through a wetland bordering Lake Erie. We visited in May while staying in the lodge. Our strolls along the boardwalk were relaxing and peaceful. They were also an opportunity to do some birdwatching and to see other wildlife like deer.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
Mountain laurel is also known as calico bush or spoonwood. As a mature shrub this evergreen plant can grow to be anywhere between 9.8 feet to 29.5 feet in height (3 m to 9 m). It is native to the eastern United States, and it prefers to grow on rocky cliffs in acidic soil. Although it is a member of the blueberry family, no part of the plant is safe to eat. Even the pollen is poisonous which means that honey made from its pollen is also toxic. Besides being potentially lethal to humans, it is also poisonous to deer, cattle, horses and goats.
However as long as you have no interest in eating it, Mountain laurel is a beautiful shrub, especially when it’s in bloom. The flowers grow in clusters; they are usually white, though some have a light pink tint. The plant blooms in May and June.
Nelson Kennedy Ledges is a most unusual state park located in Portage County in northeastern Ohio. The park is a relatively small 167 acres with 3 miles of trails. The main section of the park consists of a massive rock outcropping. The outcropping is cracked with narrow passages between tall cliffs, small streams flowing through them and huge slump blocks broken off of the cliff face. The trails go around, over, and through the openings and resemble an enormous stone maze.
Deb about to go between slump blocks.
One-flowered Broomrape (Orobanche uniflora)
One-flowered broomrape (Orobanche uniflora) is also known as oneflowered broomrape, naked broomrape, cancer root, one-flowered cancer root, pipes, ghost pipes, squawdrops, and squirrel’s grandfather. It is the fourth plant that we’ve dealt with here that has no chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll the plant is unable to nourish itself through photosynthesis, so it lives its life as a parasite, siphoning off its nourishment from other plants. Unlike the previous parasitic plants that we’ve discussed, this one doesn’t get its food by tapping into tree roots. Instead it feeds off non-woody (herbaceous) plants like Asters.
Bob and I have hiked many trails in the nature preserves and parks of Ohio. However the state of Ohio also has designated “State Wildlife Areas” that are under the management of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. These are important areas for hunting and fishing in Ohio, but they aren’t usually geared toward hiking and most of them lack trails. However some of these State Wildlife Areas do have trails, especially those that are good sites for birding.
In our last post I discussed a visit to the boardwalk at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area during the “Biggest Week in American Birding.” In this post I’d like to discuss the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area more generally.
Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center at Magee Marsh.
I am an aspiring birder; actually, I seem to be perpetually stuck at the “beginning birder” level. I enjoy and recognize the birds that frequent my backyard feeding station. And when hiking, I enjoy listening to birdsong and calls… but I rarely catch sight of those singing birds. Most of the time they seem to be perched high above me and hidden by the tree’s foliage. However in Ohio there is an annual birding event called, The Biggest Week in American Birding, and this year I decided to give it a try.
A male Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) that I spotted during The Greatest Week of American Birding
Marblehead Lighthouse State Park is a 9 acre state park containing the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation in the United States. The lighthouse is located on the Marblehead Peninsula on the shoreline of Lake Erie.
The Lakeside daisy is Ohio’s rarest, native plant species. This plant only grows in four areas. Its largest population is in Ohio’s Marblehead peninsula, part of Ottawa County. This is where the Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve is located. Lakeside daisies are also found in Michigan’s upper peninsula, and in Ontario, Canada they can be found in the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island.
A trio of Lakeside daisies (Hymenoxys herbacea).
These two, large outcroppings are across the creek from Gorge Trail
Two thousand years ago, the Hopewell people built a massive earthwork enclosing a 40-acre hilltop in southwest Ohio. This earthwork which resembles a fort was later dubbed Fort Hill.
Fen habitats are America’s most diverse habitat for vegetation, and many rare plants are found in fens. A fen is a type of wetland formed when water bubbles up from an underlying aquifer via an Artesian well or seep. In the case of Gallagher Fen, the water emerges from a hillside seep because two aquifers intersect nearby increasing the underground water pressure. Since the water is emerging from deep within the earth through limestone gravel dumped by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the water is very alkaline and very cold, about 56 degrees year round.
Although it is a wetland, it is difficult for many plants to absorb the very cold water. So ironically drought-tolerant prairie plants thrive in fen meadows. Many of the plants found in local fens moved into the area when there were glacially fed lakes in Ohio. As the glaciers retreated these plants were unable to tolerate the warmer weather, and they disappeared from Ohio, but pockets of them remained in these scattered fens. Outside of Ohio’s fens you would have to go to northern habitats like northern Michigan or Minnesota to find other representatives of these plant communities.
A boardwalk leads visitors around the edge of Gallagher Fen.