Looking for Eagles (again) on the Zimmerman Trail

Two years ago I introduced you to the Zimmerman Trail in the Mentor Marsh.  On that hike Dana and I started at the east entrance.  Last Saturday we hiked in from the west entrance with a group led by Becky and Natalie, naturalists at the Mentor Marsh Nature Center.  Our destination:  a point on the trail where we might see the eagles nesting in the marsh.  As with many travels it was the journey, not the destination, that made this trip so much fun.

This cute house in the woods is the Mentor Marsh Nature Center

We gathered at the Nature Center for the Eagle Festival.  There were displays by the local chapter of the Audobon Society and others as well as displays put together by the center.  Most fascinating was a replica of an eagles nest inside the center.

Smokey Bear was on hand

and there was this cute area where kids could pretend to be baby eagles in the nest.

There was a good size group and mid-afternoon we set off in cars for a short trip to the trailhead which was located at the edge of Morton Park in an area of Mentor, Ohio, known as The Headlands.

The Zimmerman Trail is part of the Buckeye Trail in northeastern Ohio so we were following the blue blazes.  Did you know at trails that cross, the upper blaze shows the way? This was news to me and probably why I got lost on the trail in Southern Ohio many years ago!

Along the way, Becky and Natalie pointed out things of interest.  One of the most amazing was this enclosure, an eight foot chain link fence around about a 50×50 foot area.

Inside the fence were trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpit and other spring wildflowers.  There were small trees and bushes sprouting.  Outside the fence – mostly brown ground   The deer population here is so great that they have eaten the forest floor bare except for the stinky ramps and prickly multi-flora rose bushes.  Deer over-population is a hot issue in Mentor and this spot illustrates the need to thin the herd.  The lack of natural predators has led to this situation, but that’s a story for another day.

We proceeded about a mile down the trail to the eagle overlook spot.  Can you see an eagle in this photo?

They are verrrrryy far away from this spot as Dana and I found out two years ago when we hiked to this same location from the other end.   Spotting scopes were set up to get a better look but it’s nothing like the view from Route 44, where you may not park (see this post).   I guess we will just have to skip viewing the eagles from this spot.

Heading out, most people hurried back down the trail but we wanted to stop and take more photos. On the way we took our time along with Lisa, who rode up to the trail with us, and Becky and Natalie.  What a wonderful time we had!  Becky and Natalie basically gave us a personalized guided tour on the way back including a trip up to this vernal pool that the Nature Center uses as a learning center.

This small pond was created as a wetland mitigation project.  That means someone filled in their wetland and so had to pay to create a new one elsewhere.  Becky said it is a great place for school groups who use nets to study the inhabitants including tadpoles, salamanders and other water creatures.  This pool has no fish so far.  It was supposed to be designed to dry up in the summer but was built too deep, so it is not a true vernal pool.  They are letting nature take its course and see what develops.  There were a couple of other true vernal pools in the park.

While we were there, they pointed out a Great Crested Flycatcher high in a tree, a first for me!

Photo by allaboutbirds.org

Further down the trail we saw this beautiful shelf fungus.  After some research I believe it is chicken-of-the-woods.  It was so fresh and new it seemed to shine in the forest.  No creatures had nibbled on it yet and it was pristine.  The article I read said it is edible but I don’t think I would have the courage to try it without an expert to confirm the identification.

We plan to visit the Nature Center again.  It is a small place, perfect for kids, and there is a short trail behind it with a marsh overlook platform.  All around the building were flowers and shrubs, all planted with the intention of attracting butterflies and birds.  I learned that the Zimmerman Trail, while not the greatest for eagle viewing, is an active learning center full of other natural treasures.

We made a new friend.  Lisa, it was great spending the afternoon with you!  And, thank you Becky and Natalie for such a wonderful tour!

Becky says Yes there are eagles out there!

Here are more photos of  the trail.  Scroll to the bottom for Nature Center info.

Blue blazes lead through the forest, ramps cover the ground

Squaw root was abundant here, covering the forest floor. I have never seen so many in one place!

Becky explains that the grass that grows in the marsh is an invasive species that took over when the marsh was polluted by salt, killing all the native trees.

One of the biggest tree roots I have ever seen. See how short? Due to the nature of the soil in the Marsh forest, the roots don’t go down very far – one really big wind and whomp! Over they go!

A very nice nature center display, with touchable items. No animals in the center were killed for display, all were found dead and given to the nature center for display. Well probably not that deer, most likely he was dinner.

Beautiful owls. Raptors are my favorite birds. Mr. Squirrel on the wall looks appropriately wary.

Click here for more info on Mentor Marsh Nature Center and Programs

The Nature Center is open to the public with seasonal hours:
April through October, Sat & Sun, noon – 5 pm
November through March, first Sunday of the month:
11 am to 4 pm

Programs: Family nature programs and guided hikes are offered at 2 pm every Sunday the Nature Center is open. There is no charge and all are welcome. Reservations are requested. During the week, programs for groups are available by appointment at a nominal charge. Bring your own field guides/binoculars or we have some to lend.

For more information, contact the Nature Center at:  (440) 257-0777, by mail at 5185 Corduroy Rd., Mentor, OH 44060, or by email at rdonalds@cmnh.org.


About SallyK

A little blog about the ordinary and not so ordinary things our family does, places we travel, things we see. Like travel, cooking, family stories, book reviews, music? You will find it all here - comments welcome!
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