I am thankful this is the last weekend of Winter, not that it means that we have turned a corner or anything; no, it simply means we are two days away from the calendar proclaiming it as the “First Day of Spring” – I am a realist.
Here in Southeast Michigan, Winter is not over yet and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mother Nature had another go-around with us as to the white stuff. I still have snow in my front and back yards, and you saw snow on the roof of the Little Red Schoolhouse in yesterday’s photos from Heritage Park. There are contests in this state’s Upper Peninsula where people guess when the final snow melt will occur and the Coast Guard ice-cutters up in Lake Michigan will be in service for at least another month. This short video will show you how the Coast Guard ice cutters plow through the ice-filled waters near the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They’ll carve out a trail for the freighters during the shipping season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjb_eHJxhY
The temperature reached 60 degrees today! I didn’t partake in all that warmth and sunshine, however, as I decided to walk at my usual time and it was still nippy out. The ice still covered about 75% of the Ecorse Creek as it winds parallel to Council Point Park’s walking path. I really enjoy the peace and solitude of the Park in the early morn, along with its subtle noises like the songbirds and downy woodpecker, and even the geese or ducks raising a racket in their natural habitat, and I was the only human there for the first hour of my walk.
In the first loop, I fed my furry little pals and took a few pictures of them enjoying their peanuts, and scurrying away to hide a few more, but, the geese and ducks were not around so I put the camera away.
The landscape is so blah at the Park right now. It is a mixture of browns and ochres mostly. The Canada geese blend into the brownish-gray water as do the female mallards. On a sunny day, the glint of the greenish-teal head of a drake will quickly capture your attention. The straw-colored pampas grass waving in the wind, the many cockleburs and last Fall’s leaves embedded in the dead grass or underbrush, make for a boring backdrop to any photos I take in late Winter/early Spring at this venue.
So, when I saw a very large mute swan in the Creek in loop number two of the perimeter path, it caught my attention.
The white body, graceful neck and bright-orange bill … well it certainly stood out in the blah background as you see in the photo above. Quickly I dug out the camera, hoping to get a few shots for today’s blog post.
What I didn’t expect to see, until I ventured closer to the Creek banks, was that the swan was having difficulty plowing through the Creek’s icy surface. Obviously my memory was poor as to what happened the last time I tracked a mute swan down to the water’s edge, and he got out of the water and chased me down. I hurried over anyway to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird up close.
I could see the swan had cut through a swath of ice already, leaving a watery path in its wake. But, as large as the swan was, it was having difficulty in its role as “the ice-cutter” and I watched it pummel the ice with wide webbed feet, kicking and struggling to push itself forward through the ice. You can see the ice in front of it with its body in the water, feet kicking furiously.
On occasion, it even used its long orange beak to help chip the ice away, or perhaps guide it through these icy straits.
I was amazed. A couple of times the swan saw me glimpsing at it, but stayed on task, and finally, with a huge push of its massive feet, it was propelled over to the Creek bank, where it climbed up.
Once up the Creek bank, it stood within a few feet of me, as if it didn’t know what to do now that it had reached landfall.
I watched it preening, as it delicately picked clumps of ice from its feathers. You can see how its slender neck was soaking wet from the icy Creek where it had just emerged.
I found myself feeling sorry for this beautiful creature, and thought about sharing some peanuts from the bag in my pocket when it was done grooming. But, I thought it might have a notion to come after me and I’d have to run out into the street – I’d have been fine, but the swan might have been hit by a vehicle. The last encounter with the swan, we were in a secluded area of the Park, far away from any vehicles or nearby neighborhoods.
I watched the preening ritual, wondering if the swan would just go and sit somewhere, maybe until later when it warmed up, or even fly away, perhaps down to the Detroit River, just a mile away. But, it seemed resigned to go back and plow through the chilly water once again, because it padded back to the Creek bank, down the side, and soon I heard the sounds of ice breaking as it laboriously pushed itself on its journey.
I sure was impressed with this feathered ice-cutter and believe it would give the Coast Guard contingent a run for its money.
I am sure the swan welcomes Spring weather as much as I do. I added another five miles to my tally under a brilliant blue sky and a welcome sun.