Once again heavy rain across the Ohio River Valley necessitated a change in our hiking plans, causing us to utilize a paved trail, and based on the number of people on the loop, many others had the same idea. I chose Sharon Woods as I had been reading reports of Bald Eagle sightings there and this 2.6 mile track encircled the 30 acre Sharon Lake that eagles would find attractive.
The “shared-use” label involves that the path is used for foot traffic and bicyclists, of which we only saw a couple on our visit. It is possible that it is too heavily used by runners and walkers for cyclists to get much enjoyment.
We started at the Boathouse where the trail is right on the edge of the lake. The water was a cloudy brown due to the recent heavy rains.
Soon the trail climbs to cross the depression era dam that holds back the lake.
From atop the dam one can descend a set of stairs to visualize the spillway. Typical for public works of the time, the brick and stone work were excellent.
After crossing the dam we noted that the shore of the lake was mainly dressed with non-native Black Alder trees, which were hosting the cones from last season, as well as the catkins for this season’s pollination activity. It was largely brought to the Americas for erosion control and its ability to grow on impoverished soils. It particularly likes wet areas.
Soon the trail wound its way through a mature wood featuring Beech, Sugar Maple, Red Oaks, White Oak and Walnut.
As the trail returned toward the shoreline we saw several of these very large freshwater mussel shells which some animal had harvested from the lake.
It was a bit surprising as mussels do not usually thrive in silted water and the park district had signage up announcing a large scale reclamation project aimed at addressing just that problem, the silting of the lake.
Built into the infrastructure of the park was this well designed and somewhat ornate underpass, allowing the walker to avoid crossing the busy East Kemper Road.
It was in this area that we started to see more wildlife, including the male Wood Duck noted in the title photo. Here is the female of the couple. The coloration of both is striking; the male flamboyant and the female more formal, but both beautiful.
Wood Ducks are appropriately named as they have unique characteristics for ducks; perching and nesting in trees. They nest in natural hollows or abandoned woodpeckers holes, five to fifty feet off the ground, with holes above 30 feet being preferred. The nest may be up to a mile away from the body of water.
Other waterfowl that we saw included this bird, that repeatedly dove below the surface, who was just a little too far away for us to get a great telephoto shot and a certain identification. Could it have been a Loon in its winter plumage? Loons do migrate through the region at times.
Other more familiar waterfowl, including these Mallards, looked crisp in the late winter sunlight. The male is in the first photo and the female in the second.
And while I am not a Canada Goose fan, I have to admit that these two looked rather regal in their sleep pose.
One last duck photo. This appears to demonstrate the natural hybridization of duck species when crossbreeding occurs. The second duck is perhaps a cross between a Mallard and a Black Duck. Hybrids, like mules, are frequently sterile.
Other waterborne wildlife seen included a couple species of turtles:
Red Eared Slider – noted by the red stripe behind the eyes as seen here. These are native to the southern U.S. and it is felt that those in Ohio are offspring of pets that were released into the wild.
This was an older and larger Red Eared Slider. The shade and mud make him a little harder to identify.
But what the photographer really enjoyed was when large numbers of them would be sunning themselves on a single log.
We noted how well “maintained” these two look, “clean and shiny”. To the left is a Map Turtle, and to the right a Red Ear Slider.
We also had a pretty good birding day. While the particular species are not rare, their willingness to perch close to us allowed for some excellent photography:
Eastern Cardinal – his beak is open as he was signing non-stop.
Carolina Chickadee – here protected in a web of wild grape vines.
Song Sparrow – the streaked breast with the central spot are identifying characteristics.
On the plant front we were seeing the first signs of spring including this cluster of wood lilies coming up through the leaf litter,
and this crab apple just leafing out a nice crimson.
In addition we saw our first spring ephemerals of the season. First was Spring Beauty,
and later, the appropriately named Harbinger of Spring. It it also called Salt and Pepper because of its black and white coloration.
While it is beautiful, the invasive plant Lesser Celandine was starting its display. Parks everywhere are trying to come up with a management plan so this invasive does not displace our native spring woodland wildflowers. The second photo shows how it can quickly take over an area.
And one last photo that was just good timing, a mallard pair feeding below the water surface.
In “summary, our last two outings on paved trails got me to reconsider the term “all-persons” trails, because they could also be considered “all-weather” trails. Rather then slogging through mud and perhaps damaging dirt trails, we had a fun brush with nature with firm and safe footing. The asphalt path at Sharon Woods is excellent because of its rolling terrain and distance, giving a reasonable workout. In addition, we enjoyed the community feeling on this rather busy day, and welcomed the diversity as we heard at least 4 languages spoken by our walking peers.
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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – 11450 Lebanon Rd, Sharonville, OH 45241
Parking – Multiple asphalt lots.
Facilities – Indoor restroom and Harbor Playground.
Trail Conditions – 2.6 mile rolling blacktop path.
Print Map Link – None. Good signage at park and along the trail.
Picnic Tables – Not on trail but throughout the park
Benches – Several noted.
Kids – Kids 4 and over should do well here and could even ride their bikes. Strollers would work well here also.
Dogs – Welcomed on a leash.
Suggested Paired Hikes – The Gorge Trail branches off this trail, and out and back could add 1.2 miles to your outing.