Here is the September installment of Natural Cleveland, a field guide of sorts for the urban naturalist and nature lovers. Illustrations and text by Jill Collins; editing by Justin Glanville.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) will be making their way, like the birds, through Northeast Ohio on their migratory route south. Monarchs can be seen in the Scranton Flats, a park area south of the entertainment district, and at Wendy Park along the lakefront.
The color of the migrating birds is more drab now than in spring. The colors that they use to attract mates have faded now that they no longer need these decorations. The Cleveland Flats are in their prime in this season. Now is a perfect time to watch for fish and to spot the water birds and the large boats as they go by around sunset. Green herons, kingfishers, swallows, ducks, and terns are all active now.
In addition to the New England aster and Goldenrod, which are in full force, fruit has come. Invasive autumn olive trees (Elaegnus umbellata) bear their red, star-speckled fruit that is edible, but full of tannins now. In a month or so, the fruit will sweeten and taste like raisins.
The real gem of the Flats is the apple trees. You can become a connoisseur of apples with just one stroll through the Flats. The apples are ready or will be soon. There are the stripped green and red apples, the yellow apples with just a blush of pink, and the orange crab apples with brilliant orange flesh that look like fireworks. You must taste them. Some are sweet, some have a rich depth of flavor. Some are sour, and some are mealy.
A few years ago, there were deer, raccoons, and beaver in the flats, but in more recent years there has been little mammal activity even though the habitat has improved in the area. As the Flats continue to change, hopefully more wildlife will be attracted to the area.