Busy this weekend at home, practicing some new hobbies -- birding and trying to convert people who think birding is boring. My parents and younger sister were the victims, but I think they had a good time trekking around the Cleveland Metro Parks with binoculars.

We saw tons of birds, and I was reminded how much I love North Chagrin Reservation, one of the parks that make up what's known across the land as Cleveland's "emerald necklace." I grew up about five minutes from this green network, so I know its parks, marshes and rivers well. Now that I've taken up bird watching, a whole new world opened to me.

I saw some new species there this weekend: Red-winged blackbird, wood duck and turkey vulture. I also saw about 20 common ones, including the great blue heron and black-capped chickadee, a perfect mix when escorting first-time hobbyists (read: my patient family).

If you go, I'd suggest:

- Birding at Sanctuary Marsh, right next to the nature center. You'll see plenty of cool stuff in and out of the two ponds.

- Hiking at Squire's Castle, a cool 100-year-old structure, where the paths wind up into the hills. The nearby meadows are great for a picnic.

[North Chagrin info] [Trail map] [Park programs]