“… Friends who are deer, er …

… dear to us …will be near to us once more. Well, maybe … here’s why.

I thought long and hard about what to call this post. Even though the reference to the well-known Christmas song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” appealed to me, I also toyed with the title “Run Rudolph Run” … except Rudy was not a doe.

So let me condense this strange encounter of the nice kind as best I can.

I finally visited Sterling State Park in 2022, a venue I have never written about, but longed to visit. But, every time I planned to take that 60-mile round-trip adventure, something always came up – construction, weather, massive algae bloom, or a holiday weekend when this state park would be swamped with campers and beach-goers, … so I put it off.

I had not visited Sterling State Park since I was a preteen, then unbelievably I went three times in three weeks. The first two trips, October 1st when I tried out the six-mile long hiking trail, then October 22nd, when I hiked the six-mile long trail again, then strolled along the one-mile long beachfront – those treks will be fodder for other posts.

I’ve mentioned in the past that after my longer weekend treks, that evening I usually take a few minutes to write out a synopsis of my walk to pair up that narrative with the photos whenever I sort them out. I wanted the name of that very long trail for my post, so I Googled around to find it. Not only did I learn the name was the Sterling Marsh Trail, but I also learned there was an asphalt path along a steep rocky cliff over Lake Erie with rocks on either side, plus a cement walkway with a railing that got you even closer to the shoreline. Since it was another beautiful day, I returned to check those walkways out.

Once there I realized I had overlooked the entryway to the walkway before since I saw a sign with directions for “dumping” so assumed it was for campers only.

Along the narrow path ….

The trail guide website had a few photos but I really had no idea where the walkway would eventually dead-end. As I walked toward the narrow path of the walkway, a deer loped past me. I chastised myself for woolgathering while “gazing out to sea” as I could have gotten a shot of that doe. But she was off in a flash, trotting down the narrow pathway away from me, the looming human.

I figured my deer friend would reach the end of the pathway and head off into a field, or one of many woodsy areas, but I was dead wrong. The doe disappeared, then reappeared moments later, facing toward me, about 25 to 30 feet away. I assumed, that she assumed, she would return the same way she got there.

But there was one problem ….

I was in her way.

And, if she chose to give me wide berth to pass me on this asphalt path, she likely would tumble down the cliff onto the big boulders and into the raging waters of Lake Erie which splashed up onto said boulders.

I quickly realized the situation and panicked just a little myself, as that five-foot pathway was wide enough for two humans, but a human and a skittish deer … um, maybe not.

She stood there, her ears perked up, eyes transfixed on me and I clearly saw the dilemma for both of us. On my left-hand side was a chain-link fence. I thought maybe I could flatten myself against the fence and grip the links to give her ample room to pass me. Except I was holding onto the camera and she was getting nervous, pacing repeatedly, backward, then forward.

Then she got the bright idea to go down the cliff, climbing onto those big boulders. I shouted “no, you can’t do that! You’ll break a leg, or your neck – please, no – I’m not going to hurt you!”

She listened, likely terrified by my shrill cry, then picked her way through the rocks, climbed back up onto the pathway and headed the other way. Whew!

After approaching me and double-backing repeatedly, she finally went into that corner and I reached the area she was hiding. No wonder she was frantic. There was a gate, with no access to the woods for it. She truly was panicked by my presence and kept charging toward the gate, thrashing her body against the metal, her tail flicking, tongue lolling – clearly agitated!

If only she knew I was no threat – what to do? I crept into an adjacent corner and gave her enough room to flee her predicament. She paused a few moments, realized she had room to make a run for it and off she went, flashing that long, white furry tail that enables us to know the White-tailed Deer breed.

But as she ran down the pathway, back to freedom, away from this hulking human who was truly humbled by her beauty and vulnerability, she turned around to look at me one more time. Was she saying “thank you – I’m sorry I thought you might harm me and I was wrong about that.”

Happily she finally trotted away, flashing her tail and kicking up her heels, leaving me better for that experience, though there were a few anxious moments on that narrow and rocky pathway with no fence – yikes!

I had a lot of photos and could have simply written a few lines for each photo to explain, but, like the Osprey post last week, I decided to tell the tale, then leave the photos for last. I think the slideshow shows the sequence of events best. Enjoy!

Posted in nature, walk, walking, year-end goal | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments

Flocking to the mall. #Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, birds, nature | Tagged , , , , , | 45 Comments

“(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.”

I hope the fond memories of time spent with friends and loved ones this past weekend will warm your heart during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid crunch time as Christmas approaches if you bought all your presents on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or were hunched over your computer today snagging deals for Cyber Monday while munching the last turkey and stuffing sandwich smeared with leftover cranberry sauce.

A few fellow bloggers recently wrote about a change of venue for holiday get-togethers, from their home to the homes of their offspring. Was this the case for your family as well?

So how do YOU define home?

No matter the street address, for humans, home is where the heart is, right? For others, maybe home is where you hang your hat at the end of the day.

This post about our feathered friends, will give you an amusing look at where this Osprey family defines home, but first here’s a little backstory.

I was ecstatic that eagle sightings

… were a possibility on this boat tour/adventure.

Back in August of 2018 I took a two-hour Metroparks riverboat cruise. The event entitled “Eagle’s Eye Nature Cruise” was geared toward viewing the existing International Wildlife Refuge (as well as the then, still in-progress revitalized Humbug Marsh) and some of the Detroit River’s many uninhabited islands. The highlight of the cruise was Bald Eagles’ nests and maybe a glimpse at a Bald Eagle, all from your seat on a riverboat. It was a fun experience and if you care to read about it, just click here.

Unfortunately, the nests were not visible through the leaves and the guests of honor, i.e. the Bald Eagles, were nowhere to be found.

Our Metroparks interpretive guide was apologetic for the lack of eagles, citing moulting season and our eagle friends being out of sorts, but mentioned that if we were still keen to see some raptors, as we exited the park, we should glance up at the siren at the Brownstown Fire Station located on the fringe of the park.

Unbelievably, for four years I kept forgetting to make that pit stop to view the nest. Usually by the time I’ve had a half-day of walking around this 1,607-acre (6.50 km) site with its three-mile shoreline, I’m ready to head home and welcome the half-hour ride to just sit down.

On the Sunday of 4th of July weekend I finally remembered ….

It was serendipity that I was walking to my car on that sunny day when a shadow passed over me. I know there are a nesting pair of Bald Eagles at Lake Erie Metropark, which I’ve yet to see in the nearly five years of visiting this venue. I quickly looked up to see an Osprey silently gliding overhead. I watched it alight in a tree, then quickly soar back into the sky, a few sticks in its beak. I hustled to the car hell bent on seeing the Osprey family and their twiggy digs.

Nest Sweet Nest.

After driving through the park, I exited and just down the road was the fire station. I parked and gazed up. The sun was not going to be my friend here and I knew I would be shooting blindly into the sun, but before I would leave an hour later, clouds rolled in. Also, it was a hot and sticky day and initially I thought “well you know where it is now, so just come back when it’s a bit cooler and the sun won’t meddle with these shots.”

But common sense was set aside when I glimpsed the Osprey heading out, so I stayed anyway. I was feeling lucky to finally view the nest, yet I saw no young’uns from my vantage point, just a very large Osprey returning repeatedly to its home with a beak filled with twigs. Just like an eagle’s nest, there is always room for renovation with supplemental sticks.

A burning question for me is doesn’t the siren’s loud blare scare the bejeebers out of the Osprey chicks? Hmm.

I won’t use captions under the photos now that you know the story, so just enjoy the photos.

(Header photo is from Chris Norman on Pinterest; the rest of the photos are my own)

Posted in birds, holiday, nature, Uncategorized, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 46 Comments

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker ….

I’m sure lots of prep went into your Thanksgiving feast, even before today and, whether it was bopping from store to store, or simply from aisle to aisle … food, glorious food, was and is top of mind today.

And, then there is pie.

Pumpkin pie rules on this day of food nirvana and what better way to top off a satisfying meal shared with loved ones than with a slice of pie?

Though I’m not usually one to share my special recipes in this forum, this year I just couldn’t resist.

But first … here’s the backstory about the making of those pies.

Although I really like picking out and sending Jacquie Lawson animated e-cards, (like you’ll find at the end of this post), my good friend Ann Marie and I have been exchanging traditional paper cards for all the holidays and our birthdays since we first met while walking along the perimeter path at Council Point Park many years ago.

Because Ann Marie follows my blog, she knows all about and shares my affinity for wildlife, especially squirrels. A few years ago, by coincidence, we both chose the exact same Thanksgiving card and it was received at our respective houses the same day. We e-mailed one another with that old line about how “great minds think alike” and how funny, that of all the Thanksgiving cards available, we both chose this Avanti card.

Who wouldn’t smile when seeing Chippies that donned their pilgrim hats and caps to gather around a pecan pie? This photo is from Avanti’s site.

Well, as I stared at that card on my corner cabinet shelf, I decided one day, some way, I would recreate that card with MY furry friends. In hindsight, I must admit, like some of my other ideas for holiday shoots, those thoughts perhaps were better left churning around in my head. But this year, I decided “why not go for it?” After all, squirrels love all treats and besides, I told myself “I’m just fulfilling the WHIMSY part of my blog title, right?”

As many of you know, I am no cook. The domestic genes passed me by in that regard (and maybe keeping a neat and tidy house as well). So, the idea of a no-bake, easy-peasy recipe for MY furry, pie-eating pals suited me just fine. What the heck … I’d even make myself a pie using a premade crust, dump some canned fruit into it and smear it with whipped cream topping – very doable, even for me. Martha Stewart may tsk-tsk, but pfft to her.

So, here were the fixin’s. I made one pie and when I was done I simply broke my pie apart, mixed it with yogurt and created yummy parfaits.

But I digress …

Back to the task at hand – making some tasty pie for the munchkins.

Now, mind you, it’s not like I could go a’Googlin’ for “squirrel pie” but that’s a whole nother story. After all, we had a Southern neighbor decades ago, who quickly downsized the street’s squirrel population using a BB gun because he loved squirrel pie. Believe me, I wished I could “unhear” his tale when he proudly boasted about the reason I no longer had squirrels hiding their acorns from our Oak trees in my flowerpots.

So here’s the recipe for pie for squirrels if you’re so inclined to make it. Note it is the same fruit fillers as MY pie fixin’s, i.e. pumpkin, cherry and apple.

First, take your spoon and stir up the Pecan Surprise suet cake, then load it into the pecan-flavored pie shell and smoosh it down.

Next, sprinkle Peanut Suet Nuggets liberally over that gooey mess, then press the nuggets into the suet.

Finally, add pecan halves to the top, this time tapping them down lightly with a spoon.

Admire, take a photo, then serve. Yep, those lucky munchkins.

But … did I have any takers?

After my pie-making chores were done, I tapped my foot impatiently while waiting for the heavy fog to clear. Finally, around noonish I headed to the Park and laid out their treats at the first stop, the pavilion. Well, I had created a feast fit for a King … pecan pie, peanuts and corn. Why corn you ask? Because we learned long ago that the pilgrims ate corn at the very first Thanksgiving, so yes, I tendered corn cobs to them for a first course. Here are some shots of the corn and pie.

Oops – we had a slight problem.

The delicious-looking, fresh-baked … um, make that fresh-“maked” pie scared the furry and feathered munchkins.

Even Parker was a tad perplexed, as was a Blue Jay – they both eyeballed that pie as you see below.

But, even though they were cautious, each grabbed a peanut, or even some of the loose dry niblets from the corncobs, but steered clear of the pie. No worries. I “get” it … the pie is bigger than you are. Next time I’ll make tarts. 🙂

I know I piqued their curiosity, or maybe it was the smell of nuts wafting through the still-humid air?

Picture-wise I didn’t fare much better at the Safe Haven Tree, as the yellow leaves hid most of their antics, but I’m happy to report all the treats were gone 24 hours later.

Some candid shots from the Thanksgiving feast are below, then a Thanksgiving card for you as I’m sure I’ve whet your appetite for pie and if not, this card will certainly do so.

Please click here for your Thanksgiving card.

Posted in holiday, nature, Squirrels, Thanksgiving, Harvest time, | Tagged , , , | 77 Comments

Something’s gone afowl, er … afoul at the Gardens. #Wordless Wednesday #Chickens fly the coop!

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, birds, nature, Seasons, walk, walking, | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Gourds, guys and gals at the Gardens.

This post continues that delightful Autumn afternoon I spent ambling around Heritage Park.

You’ll recall from my last two Monday posts, I visited this picturesque park on Sunday, October 16th because I wanted to ensure I would get some photos of the flaming red and gold leaves at peak color. And, as you know, on that perfectly calm day, I was lucky to see and photograph those stunning reflections of the trees on Coan Lake. If you missed those prior posts, you can find them here and here.

Today I’m going to focus on another portion of Heritage Park, the Taylor Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, located on the fringe of that park. I saved these photos for Thanksgiving week, because nothing says harvest time better than gourds and scarecrows.

The flower gardens were still gorgeous.

Although some of the tender potted plants had already been moved to their respective overwinter sites, the remaining annuals flourished and the perennial gardens were still colorful. Here are a few of the many garden beds.

A variety of colorful gourds had been tucked alongside perky annuals and mums …

… or just scattered around the grounds by themselves.

A harvest swag greeted visitors as they entered the Conservatory.

I’m including this cute gnome for “Gnomevember” for fellow blogger Jeanine.

I’m sure the gourds and harvest décor will be whisked away, soon to be replaced with pine boughs and Christmas bulbs as soon as the last bite of turkey has been gobbled up. (I don’t know about you, but it seems to me it was just Halloween!)

Scarecrows, just like people, come in all shapes and sizes.

This unusual collection of scarecrows will keep your Monday from becoming too mundane. 

You’ll recall there was an event at the Park the day before called the “Vintage Market and Scarecrow Stroll” and a few of the scarecrow entries still remained.  The concept of the Scarecrow Stroll is that entrants pay $25.00 to enter their creative scarecrow which is displayed with others around the Gardens.  The entry fee helps fund maintenance for the Gardens and there are prizes for the three top scarecrows as determined by event goers.

So a few of these clever scarecrows still remained on the grounds, like this pretty lady named Philomena Phragmite, who was not scary in the least.  

She wore a frothy headdress of Phragmites, an invasive wetland reed and a collection of gourds gathered at her feet.

These two scarecrows were created to honor Garden volunteers – like Philomena Phragmite, I had to take close-ups as they were so clever.

This scarecrow was a nod to Rosie the Riveter, a/k/a Rose Will Monroe, an employee of the World War II Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti Township, right here in Michigan.

Two local companies submitted scarecrows bearing their company logos.

Another scarecrow, more traditional this time.

I found this cute scarecrow at the entrance to the Petting Farm …

… and this scarecrow embedded in the flowers.

Finally, this humongous scarecrow loomed large as he watched over the remaining crops at the Community Gardens.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while walking around the Gardens’ woodland area, after seeing this beautiful tree …

… I came across some more escapees from the Petting Farm.  No, they were not the Lavender Guinea Fowl that I wrote about a few weeks ago, but a different bird.  Hmm.  That day the Petting Farm had a Halloween event for kids with spooky noises and even some yodeling blaring from the speakers.  I am sure the noise pushed these birds over the edge, so they sought some peace and tranquility at the Gardens, but I must tell you in my many years of visiting this venue, this is only the second time for seeing Petting Farm escapees and you’ll meet them in this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

Posted in nature, Seasons, Uncategorized, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 58 Comments

Walk the talk … then rest! #Wordless Wednesday #1,191/1,256 mi walked to date w/65 mi left; 1,917/2,022 km walked to date w/105 km left

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, birds, nature, walk, walking, year-end goal | Tagged , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Shades of Autumn.

I will savor the spectacular Autumn we had here in Southeast Michigan for a very long time. When the Winter winds are howling, or I’m stepping gingerly on icy pavement, or slogging through the snow, or whacking down dagger-like icicles, I will remind myself just how lucky I was to enjoy those bonus days of “Fake Fall” when warm, even Summer-like weather descended upon us and lingered through November 11th, then Mother Nature abruptly gave us a dose of reality. The old gal likes to show who’s boss sometimes.

I learned a new word recently: “Walktober” and I’m mystified how this walker/blogger missed such a great concept eleven years into her walking regimen and nearing the tenth anniversary of her blog about walking. Hmm. If you, like me, have never encountered the lingo “Walktober” I did a little research and learned it is simply taking advantage of Autumn’s cool temperatures and spectacular views, while stepping out and stepping up to better health while boosting energy, improving mood and making walking a priority, not only in October, but for life.

I have tons of photos taken in the month of October at a variety of venues, all when the leaves were at peak and I began to ponder just how many posts you might want to see about leaves before you are thinking “oh, leaves again.” So, I decided to intersperse Fall’s fabulous foliage walks, with some very long treks taken way back in the Summer months. I’ll have to sort through all those pictures first.

So, that said, I’m going to do two more posts on picturesque Heritage Park. You’ll recall from last Monday’s post, I visited Heritage Park on Sunday, October 16th, a picture-perfect Autumn day. I wanted to ensure I got some photos of the stunning red and gold leaves at peak color.

On that perfectly calm day, I was able to get those stunning reflections of the trees on Coan Lake. Some reminded me of a Monet painting.

That morning, I had already stopped at Council Point Park and walked a few laps, plus scurrying to and fro while crisscrossing that Park, as it was my Halloween shoot sharing ghost cookies with my furry friends. I knew I’d easily walk another three miles at Heritage Park as I usually head to the historical area near Coan Lake, then walk through or past the Community Gardens, then over to the Botanical Gardens and back to the car.

I knew there had been an event the day before called the “Vintage Market and Scarecrow Stroll” as advertised on the Botanical Gardens’ Facebook page …

… and, though the Vintage Market’s vendors and their wares, dancing witches and Headless Horseman were long gone, past experience told me I was sure to catch some festive Halloween and harvest vibes the following day. Sure enough I had guessed correctly. It looks like the squirrels had a chompin’ good time on that pumpkin!

Vibrant foliage was intensified by the bright blue sky.

Even the berries were colorful.

This post will focus on the shades of Autumn at Heritage Park and next week’s post will kick off Thanksgiving week by featuring the whimsical scarecrows and gourds aplenty that graced the Botanical Gardens.

The fabulous foliage on the park’s many trees was pure eye candy.

The Canada Geese were likewise out for a Sunday stroll.

Not only were there joggers and dog walkers faithfully getting their steps in on the walking path that encircles the entire park, many people were simply strolling around the historical area as well. You sure couldn’t go wrong taking a selfie with a backdrop of beautiful leaves and I saw many people doing this, plus a few professional photographers capturing family portraits.

The Canada Geese were likewise strolling, er … waddling around on this sunny Sunday. Because there are so many geese at this park, I am accustomed to doing a “goose poop check” every so often to ensure I am not saturating my white walking shoes and on this visit, I was mindful of the Headless Horseman’s steed and its potential droppings as it meandered through the crowd the day before. Mercifully my shoes were unscathed – whew!

These geese were impersonating the Beatles crossing Abbey Road.

In all my Autumn walks, I found it amazing to see the low water levels at all parks I visited. It was no different here as you see the debris near the seawall. We have a ten-inch rainfall deficit this year.

Since geese are always milling about, the City takes care of them with this helpful signage.

The geese mostly hang out on the grounds or near/in Coan Lake.

Does the below spot look familiar? It is where Mama Goose incubated her eggs (where the leaves have gathered in the foreground). I wonder how many months until I will go on “gosling watch” again?

The geese were usually happy to oblige when I took photos of them (but, there is always that one goose who gets an attitude).

It was warm enough to just sit a spell as this woman, whose clothing matched the refurbished boxcar, was doing.

I finally left Heritage Park to drive home, car window down, sunlight streaming in and wondering if another venue might be on the day’s agenda, or if I should just head home?

Posted in Halloween and Harvest, nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , , | 105 Comments

Hmm, that Gordon Lightfoot fella was right. #Wordless Wednesday #When the gales of November came early

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #WildlifeWednesday, #Wordless Wednesday, nature | Tagged , , , | 62 Comments

Relax, take a deep breath and enjoy these reflections.

I originally intended to use this collection of photos for a Wordless Wednesday post. After all, I’ve featured a seemingly endless stream of birds encountered in my 2022 treks, so why not add another bird post?

But, as I sit here on a windy and warm Saturday afternoon, with a longer picture-laden post swirling around in my head, I decided instead that we ALL need a break from the international, national and local news headlines and, for sure, a brief respite from the annoying, ever-present, midterm election ads which, thank goodness, will end tomorrow.

So, please enjoy my collection of waterfowl, et al reflections taken at Coan Lake in picturesque Heritage Park on Sunday, October 16th. I never get tired of taking photos at this park, especially when the trees are at peak and the water is perfectly calm. I’ll have a few thoughts after all the photos ….

In compiling this short post (short … yes, feel my forehead), I will conclude by saying the news headlines remind me of this song from 1970 – some of you were not even born yet. I heard the song on an oldies station while driving back from a wonderful day spent at a new nature venue (for me anyway) a few weeks ago and it got me thinking. Click here, have a listen and tell me if our world today is all that different from 52 years ago? Sadly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled day.

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 74 Comments