Tracks in Stebbins Gulch

Tracks in the Snow, Stebbins Gulch
Tracks in the Snow, Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum

A few years ago, during a winter photography workshop at The Holden Arboretum, we found these tracks in the snow in the depths of Stebbins Gulch. There were several sets of tracks impressed into a thin dusting of snow  covering a sheet of ice in the gorge.

What made the tracks? Arrowheads? Velociraptors?

Stebbins Gulch is part of an 800 acre forest, the largest area of contiguous woodland at The Holden Arboretum. White-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and opossums live in this remote area, and even an occasional black bear has been seen nearby. But none of these animals make the kind of tracks we were looking at.

Eastern Wild Turkey
Eastern Wild Turkey

Here’s the culprit, an eastern wild turkey. The photo shows the bird’s feet clearly. The three toes on the turkey’s foot point forward, so the turkey moves in the opposite direction to the way the “arrowhead” formed by its tracks is pointing. A small group of turkeys made the tracks shown in the first photo as they headed upstream in the gulch.

Wild turkeys are tough birds. Studies have shown that they can withstand temperatures as low as minus 37 degrees, and survive for up to two weeks without food. Deep snow is more of a problem for turkeys than extreme cold, as it prevents the birds from foraging for food on the ground. During winter, turkeys feed on acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts (mast), fruit, and seeds, especially seeds of the white ash, which do not fall until mid- to late winter.

The hemlock trees that are plentiful in and around Stebbins Gulch provide wind breaks and limit snow depths close to the tree, allowing turkeys to stand. The rocky floor of the gulch provides a protected travel route for the turkeys when deep snow covers the ground in the surrounding woodlands.

Even in the depths of winter, nature is endlessly fascinating, and each of our visits to Stebbins Gulch reveals signs of the abundant wildlife in this rugged, remote area.

Ice Photography Workshop – The Holden Arboretum

Icicles, Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Lake County, Ohio
Icicles, Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Lake County, Ohio

If you would like to fine-tune your winter photography skills, join us on Saturday, January 22, 2011 for a one-day Ice Photography Workshop at The Holden Arboretum in Lake County, Ohio. This is a popular workshop that we have conducted for more than 15 years.

The workshop begins with a slide program on winter photography at Holden’s Visitor Center. We’ll cover winterizing your digital camera equipment, optimal camera settings for winter photography, fine-tuning your winter exposures using in-camera histograms, and specific tips for finding and photographing Lake Erie ice, icicles, ice patterns, snow scenics, and wildlife in winter. After the slide program, we’ll carpool a short distance and enjoy a hike through Holden’s winter woods to Stebbins Gulch, a rugged gorge with 80-foot sandstone cliffs, frozen waterfalls, and many icicles, if the weather is seasonally cold. We’ll descend into the gorge (knee-length rubber boots are best), photograph for a couple of hours, then hike out of the Gulch and return to Holden’s Visitor Center to socialize and enjoy a hot drink.

Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Lake County, Ohio
Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Lake County, Ohio

This workshop is limited to 15 participants, and you should have a basic knowledge of digital photography and be familiar with the controls and operation of your digital camera. The photo shoot includes two miles of hiking in the snow, some scrambling around snow-covered trees and boulders, patches of ice, and occasional wading through an icy stream with water up to a foot or more in depth.

Photographing Icicles in Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Ohio
Photographing Icicles in Stebbins Gulch, The Holden Arboretum, Ohio

There will also be an evening session on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at the Holden Visitor Center to share and critique your photos from the Stebbins Gulch photo shoot, and we’ll cover some techniques for enhancing your winter photos using Adobe Photoshop  and Adobe Lightroom.

To register for the program, visit Holden’s website at: http://www.holdenarb.org/home/winterholdenexperience.asp or call Vonna Zahler at (440)-(602)-3833.