This is part two in a series of blog posts written and illustrated by Jill Collins and edited by Justin Glanville. They are seasonal snapshots, and bring into focus the nature you may find on travels through the City of Cleveland.
The movement of gulls overhead, hundreds of gulls, white like the snow, is chaos. They blow in the wind and flap their wings and squall together. They are a torrent above the frozen Cuyahoga River. Gulls love Cleveland and so they are year-round residents. Below them, the dark outlines of ducks can be seen as they swim in groups of multiple species.
Many different ducks are present at this time of year on the river and lake. Ruddy ducks, shovelers, buffleheads, mergansers, canvas backs, and a variety of teals are a few of the ducks you might see. On shore, look for other birds touring the area, like the grey snowbirds with white tail feathers known as juncos (mentioned briefly in the January post).
Ice that forms along the riverbanks reveal the path water takes to arrive at the Cuyahoga. When the snow thaws, the runoff carries pollutants, including salt from the streets, to the river. The Cuyahoga River—and the pollutants—flow directly into Lake Erie.
Beneath the water, there are few fish in the shipping channel downtown. Pollution in the river can impact the density and diversity of fish. The river is changing though. This is our river.
Visiting the river at all times of year reminds us of our impact on it and its impact on us. I have seen trash strewn across the top of the water as though the water was a giant garbage mound, but I have also seen great blue herons (present year-round) fly up and over the city, going to and from the river, arching their shoulders and moving their thin legs as their ancient predecessors might have shifted weight so long ago.
Jill Collins is an urban naturalist and illustrator, and Justin Glanville is a writer and urban planner living in Cleveland.
Illustrations by Jill Collins.