|Trail Map at Forest Hill|
The weather was a little bit dreary for a walk, cold and windy, but the cloudy skies were great for photography.
|Cumulostratus clouds over "Mallard Marsh"|
|A Crab Apple tree silhouetted against the clouds|
|Clouds over "Grebe Pond"|
There was very little that indicated that the seasons have officially changed from Winter to Spring. With the exception of a few blades of grass, there is very little green to be found. Last year's flower stalks and seed heads still stand in the fields.
|The mostly empty seedpods of a dogbane plant - a few seeds can be seen clinging on|
|Last year's Purple Coneflowers have been picked over by birds|
|Empty flowers talks and grass seedheads in the native grassland planting|
The branches of trees and shrubs remain bare of leaves, exposing evidence of browsing, flaws, and bird nests.
|Red-osier Dogwood - almost every branch had been nipped off by deer|
|"Witches brooms" on willow shrubs - this irregular growth can be caused by many things including fungi|
|A closer look at some "Witch's broom"|
|Last year's goldfinch nest|
For most of my walk I avoided the groomed trails and followed deer trails or walked across the open fields.
|A well-traveled deer trail through a low swampy area|
By walking off of the trails I was able to find a few views that were new to me, as well as a few small surprises.
|This wetland area is known as "Sora Swale" - the trail around follows the high ground to the rear|
|A dead snag, occupied by shelf fungi, and excavated by a woodpecker|
|A small Eastern White Pine seedling establishing itself in the meadow|
One thing that did indicate that the seasons have actually begun to change was the presence of birds. Everywhere I looked (or listened) there were birds to be found.
|A pair of Canada Geese winging overhead|
|The same pair of geese coming in for a landing|
|A different pair of geese in "Sora Swale" - to the left you can see three Wood Ducks taking off|
|The Wood Ducks flying away|
|A Canada Goose calling loudly as it circles|
Most of the birds that I saw were expected (Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crows, etc.), but there was one unexpected species. In the middle of Grebe Pond, was a single male Greater Scaup. This species of duck, commonly called a Bluebill, is only found in Michigan during the Spring and Fall migration periods. I watched this duck for about 20 minutes as it repeatedly dove below the surface of the pond in search of food. This duck was careful to keep at least 3/4 of the width of the pond between us and I was never able to get a good photograph.
|A single Greater Scaup drake|
I think I could have probably sat for hours waiting for this duck to move closer with no results. Eventually I had to pick up my camera and head for home, leaving Forest Hill to the birds.