Old attics are fascinating places. I was looking through files in the attic of Brecksville Nature Center when I came across natural history notes from the 1930s and 1940s written by several people including A. B. Williams who was Cleveland Metroparks’ first naturalist and Harold Wallin, Brecksville Nature Center’s first naturalist. What I discovered among the lists and entries were little treasures: insights into the Brecksville Reservation of 80 years ago.
How amazing it is to me that on May 20, 1938, A.B. Williams “heard a hooded warbler singing, just over the brink of the ravine to the east of the Trailside Museum site.” This is the same place we hear hooded warblers singing to us each morning in the springtime as we arrive at Brecksville Nature Center (old Trailside Museum.) Are these the descendants of the warblers Williams enjoyed hearing?
Not all of the living things recorded by the early naturalists are still seen today. During the 1930s and 1940s, ruffed grouse and bobwhite quail were considered common in Brecksville Reservation according to naturalists’ notes.
Female Ruffed Grouse photo by David Dvorak, Jr.
February 19, 1937: “Saw two ruffed grouse in gully.”
January 14, 1938: “There were frequent tracks of ruffed grouse, and one covey of bobwhite.”
June, 1948: A ruffed grouse was stopping traffic on the park road in Brecksville. Officer Henry Morgan, Metropolitan Park Police officer reported “There he was, out on the boulevard, strutting as though he owned the place!”
June, 1948: Harold Wallin reported that “ruffed grouse were frequently encountered about the Brecksville Trailside Museum.”
The numbers of these birds have declined for a variety of reasons and we no longer see them in Cleveland Metroparks, but other animals that were a rarity in the 1930s are very common today. A list of mammals seen in Brecksville Reservation conspicuously lacked white-tailed deer except for a note on September 5, 1939: “Deer tracks seen, also reports of a deer seen” This must have been big news! Deer are so common in Brecksville today that it is hard to envision a time when it was rare to see a deer.
During the first season that the Brecksville Trailside Museum was open it seems that casual notes were written in a log book and included animal and plant sightings, donations, and other items of note:
August 2, 1939: “Donation- stuffed mink (and I do mean stuffed.)” It is amusing to imagine taxidermy gone wrong in the form of an overstuffed mink!
August 5, 1939: “Donation – one large garter snake.”
August 7, 1939: “Garter snake gave birth to 53 young. All alive and doing well.” I wonder what they did with all of those snakes.
World events also worked their way into the Trailside Museum log book. One simple entry seemed to overshadow everything else: