They say it’s your birthday!

I have to pause, amidst the miscellaneous and sundry squirrel posts, to duly honor my favorite nature nook. Council Point Park turns 25 years old in 2019. There will be no fanfare. No cake and ice cream. Not even balloons; that’s okay, balloons are bad for wildlife. But I did write the City and say “hey, did you know this little gem parked right in the middle of our City is turning a quarter of a century old this year?” I got a nice response to my query – no, they didn’t know about that significant date, so they’ll include that tidbit in Lincoln Park’s quarterly publication “Happenings” that appears in the mail and online.

Though I never discovered Council Point Park until the Spring of 2013, when I first began exploring this venue, I learned from the sign in the photo below, the Park was established in 1994; hmm, where was I for nearly 20 years, living under a rock? I learned that the inline skating rink was dedicated to a high school classmate of mine, Dave Ward, a Lincoln Park fireman, who sadly lost his battle with cancer.

It probably seems like happenings at Council Point Park revolve only around the squirrels, but that’s not true. I recently wrote that I missed the waterfowl which were gone for months, thanks to a thick coat of algae bloom on the Ecorse Creek, which runs parallel to the walking trail. I realized I was more fond of the geese than I thought and actually missed their bossy ways. Also MIA was Harry the Heron fishing from the cement precipice, because that landing, which is built over a huge sewer drain, was flooded since Spring with the water lapping over the cement surface … so what’s a heron to do?

But, as often happens, I no sooner launched that post, then a day or so later, I saw Harry fishing for his breakfast. As I rounded the corner, I saw him and quickly snapped his picture, then zoomed in with the camera and approached him slowly, knowing full well he’d bolt for the passageway, while making that horrid screechy noise, like I was terrorizing him or something. And, that is exactly what happened. He moved so fast, I got the passageway pic only, no Harry – he was long gone.

Well, I was bummed out about missing a great heron photo op much more than Harry, who likely was eyeing some shad for breakfast until I happened along, but soon there was the unmistakable sound of ducks quacking. How I’ve missed their raucous noise in the morning! The bushes, weeds and reeds along the Creek banks don’t give me full viewing access to where the ducks hang out, so I did my best by peering through the bushes, but there they were, paddling and quacking up a storm.

I’ve even heard and seen the Cardinals and Blue Jays again, up to their old antics, trying to outwit the squirrels and steal their peanuts right from under their respective noses.

It sure felt like Summer all last week and I savored every day as I meandered through the Park, getting my steps in and taking lots of pictures. I knew this week would be a blast back to reality and sure enough, we’ve dipped to near freezing, with bone-chilling temps and blustery winds. So last week’s weather was a real treat. The sun not only felt good on my hatless head, but the angle of the sun’s rays caused really long shadows.

Here I am, a tote bag containing a cache of peanuts hanging from my left arm and my messy bun a bit askew from the breeze. The squirrels don’t care a whit about my appearance; as long as they identify with my face, it’s all good. Check out those long legs … I am five feet nine inches tall, but look like I am on stilts! I definitely have that old-fashioned clothes peg look in this photo. Through my shadow, you can see the tiny yellow locust leaves littering the walking path and outlining the edges where asphalt meets grass. I can remember as a kid standing and laughing at these oddball shadows – it only goes to show, it’s fun to feel like a kid again.

Not to be outdone, Parker was showing off his unique physique with a little shadow play of his own.

There was much more happening than just shadows on the walking path, because I saw a Woolly Bear caterpillar. Folks who live in a four-season state may already know the legend of this caterpillar and its infamous rings. Did you know that folklore tells us that seeing a fuzzy Woolly Bear caterpillar with a wide, rusty-brown band means we will have a mild Winter? But the wider the black band on this crawling critter, the more severe the Winter. So, what do you predict from seeing this caterpillar below? The Old Farmer’s Almanac has already predicted a cold, snowy and lengthy Winter for Southeast Michigan. I hope they are wrong!

I have not seen a Woolly Bear caterpillar in a few years and was bent down examining it, when a woman walker with her little boy came over to see what I was looking at. I explained the caterpillar story, as well as the supposed prediction by the Almanac, and she wrinkled up her nose in disgust, while her youngster was pointing at this creature who was inching along rather quickly.

This encounter made me recall a few years back, when I first met my friend Ann Marie, a fellow walker, who used to frequent this Park. One morning I was examining a caterpillar and she wandered over to see what I was doing. I explained the significance of the Woolly Bear caterpillar and its rings and our upcoming Winter. It turned out the caterpillar was about half-and-half for its stripes, and it was one brutal Winter.

Even though the weather was warm and wonderful, Mother Nature was still working her Autumn magic around the Park. It’s hard to tell the real deal leaves from the silk leaves in this wreath:

A splash or a dash of red infused in the green leaves on this bush is a nice touch.

Sometimes even the plain-colored items are photo-worthy, at least in my opinion. This is a clump of milkweed seeds which I found along the path.

The brown seeds hanging from this tree are dry and brittle. On a windy day, they rattle on their stems when the breeze hits them.

Never one to pass up an occasion for a photo op and extra peanuts, behold Parker who donned his birthday hat for this momentous occasion. Since cake and ice cream are not an acceptable treat for my furry friend, he was giving me his best pleading eyes and “please feed me peanuts now” look. It worked!

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Discoveries …

Today is not only Canadian Thanksgiving, but it is also Columbus Day. When I used to work downtown, it was a day that the bus was empty and you could sit anywhere you chose to, as so many regular bus riders had a three-day holiday. The business district was filled with various banks that were headquartered in downtown Detroit. Do you think those bank workers were paying homage to ol’ Christopher Columbus by savoring a fine Italian meal and toasting him by sipping a nice Chianti, or, … were they simply enjoying their three-day holiday?

When I was a kid growing up in Canada, I learned all about Columbus and his three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. My history textbooks informed me he was heralded for discovering America. Many years later I learned this was a misnomer – “fake news” – in fact, Christopher Columbus never even set foot in North America let alone discover it. Details, details – who wants to muddy up the story with details, right?

But the headline to this post says “discoveries” so today we’ll focus on a cute squirrel who discovered peanuts in my backyard and provided some photo ops to share with you. In case this squirrel looks familiar, it is Grady the Gray Squirrel that I shared stories about last Fall and Winter, and early Spring as well. You first glimpsed this cutie pie in this post where he made his debut, well … his picture debut anyway.

I first “met” Grady after I tossed him some peanuts when I finished my walk one morning last Fall. My Ziploc bag was nearly empty and I shared what I had with him on the ground and he scampered over. I rarely see gray squirrels in the neighborhood or at the Park, and he was so small and a wee bit skittish. He took his peanuts “to go” and I continued feeding him when I returned from my walk the next few days. Then I ran an errand one morning and was home later … there he was, sitting on the porch waiting for me. Sucker that I am, I gave him extra peanuts, which he happily accepted and this treat became a permanent ritual. Soon, he was joined by two black squirrels, a pair of Northern Cardinals and a pair of Bluejays, all noshing on nuts on the front porch. Well, I was willing to accommodate his friends who also showed up and I watched in delight at my front door. It was all good until a big, fat Fox squirrel (the same species as Parker) came along and hogged the peanuts for himself, parking his fat butt on top of them and chasing the other squirrels into the street and not allowing the birds access either. So he ruined it for everyone … I worried Grady or the other two squirrels might get run over by a car, so it was already April and I ended the treats altogether.

So last week, Grady showed up on the sidewalk one day when I returned from walking. Because I have a soft spot in my heart for dark brown pleading eyes and a swishing tail, I gave him six peanuts and said “now keep this under your hat okay? This is between you and me.” The next day, he showed up and this time I opened the gate and made him follow me to the backyard. I looked behind me, and he was obediently tagging along. He knew from past practice it would be worth his while.

Three days running, I went to the backyard and put some peanuts there before I left on my walk. When I returned, the peanuts were gone.

Friday morning I stole into the backyard after returning from walking. It was a beautiful and warm day. Grady must have slept in as the peanuts were still there untouched.

Nope, he was just arriving … I pulled the camera out of the case and hoped for a pose. He posed nicely and I’ve never gotten him so close up as he’s very timid.

Who could resist a face so sweet and innocent and not want to spend one’s “allowance” to feed such a cute critter?

So pfft to Columbus and his discovery. Grady’s discovery made his day and mine too.

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They’re creepy and they’re kooky.

Mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky … those *&^# spiderwebs that cross my path every morning!

Yep, nothing rivals stepping right into those gossamer spiderwebs that have been spun between trees or bushes overnight. Due to the angle of the sun in late September and early October mornings, you don’t always see those icky strands before walking through them. Nothing creeps me out more; how I hate those nearly invisible threads that leave me pawing and clawing the air to ensure one did not settle onto my clothes, or worse yet … in my hair! Banish that thought as I’d likely have a heart attack if that happened!

The unsettling spiders and their mysterious webs will disappear after we have had a few hard freeze events (dipping below 28 F/-2C). But, in the meantime, it’s much morning angst for me.

We are having a lovely week of weather. Mother Nature gets an “atta girl” and it makes up for the past two seasons which have been less than stellar in my opinion. It’s been fun to stroll at the Park and just enjoy the sun on my head, coat flung open and no gloves, because who knows when the crummy weather will arrive and park itself on our doorstep until next April?

Last week I had a horrifying experience with a spider and it was inside the house! Well, horrifying for me anyway. Not all of us are spider lovers like fellow blogger and macro-photographer Tom Peace. I may enjoy looking at Tom’s extreme close-ups of spiders and their kin, with their buggy eyes and hairy legs, but in my domain, they are not welcome.

Last week I was doing laundry and pulled out the lint filter to ensure there was no lint before turning on the dryer. I usually wipe it clean with the spent dryer sheet when I take the items out of the dryer, but decided to check anyway. I saw something white on the side of the plastic edge around the filter, so I nudged it with my fingernail. I thought it was just a piece of paper. Big mistake! Suddenly, a long brown leg poked out of a half-formed cocoon and a spider began to stir. Well that was an OMG moment – how did he/she get in there and was it prepared to stow away over the Winter? It might have caused a fire? I almost dropped the filter gizmo but held it far away from me as I raced upstairs for a paper towel (okay, a wad of paper towels big enough to smoosh a tarantula). I am terrified of crawling insects and I never leave the dryer open longer than needed to take out the laundry. I’ll never reach in the dryer again without wearing cotton gloves (no judgement please).

I loved the TV show “The Addams Family” as a kid, and, when I Googled around to ensure I had the exact wording to the show’s theme song for this blog post, after many decades, I amazed myself that I knew all the words and even knew when to snap my fingers to the music. Then, for a little more nostalgia, I Googled “The Munsters” theme song. Nothing to sing to – just hum along and the latter left an ear worm the rest of the day.

Homeowners have been busy decorating their abodes in harvest and Halloween themes. Today’s photos with a nod to the witchin’ season were taken on September 21st when I was at Heritage Park. It was steamy hot that day as I stood there taking pictures of the Halloween decor at the house next to the entrance to the Park.

My parting shot is a blessing for this harvest season and an early Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadian bloggers.

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It was weather for ducks this morning.

The rain arrived right as I was ready to head out the door for my walk – nice timing Mother Nature! So, I had another cup of coffee and piddled around waiting for the rain to stop so I could head out. Since it was Sunday, I had some wiggle room for my walk and wasn’t just pegged into a drizzly morning trek, so I would get to stay dry. By mid-day the weather was just ducky – the sun was out and yesterday’s chill and breeze were gone. I headed out for my Sunday stroll in the ‘hood, because by mid-day the squirrels are kind of anti-social. They are not in hunting-and-gathering mode, but instead, they are back in their nests, having called it quits for the day.

I noticed a lot of people have their harvest and Halloween decor in place, but I didn’t take out the camera, as the scarecrows’ duds were a tad bedraggled from the rain and they were having a bad hair day as their straw was soggy. We do have a good week of weather ahead, so I hope to get a few squirrel shots as Council Point Park’s trees, reeds and bushes get their Autumn glow on.

I was at Heritage Park two weeks ago – it was a bright, beautiful and very hot day and by the time I left at 11:30 it was in the mid-80s. It was my last attempt at getting some photos of hummingbirds and butterflies before they head for warmer climes and I popped into the Community Gardens for one last peek as well. I’ll share those pictures in a future post, but today it is all about ducks.

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I sure do miss the waterfowl at Council Point Park … I saw no ducks, geese or swans last Friday when I was there and, because I arrived fashionably late, there was no one to ask if they’d been around yet. I like going to Coan Lake at Heritage Park where the Mallards are everywhere – they are usually sleeping, preening, waddling about or paddling in this manmade lake and they are always good for a few photos. I liked this pair of Mallards who now have completed their moulting phase, so the male and female are easily distinguishable once again. Don’t they make a striking pair?

Their profile poses, in which they stood motionless for the longest time, suggested they were posing just for me; after all, I was the only human around. How I wished I had some corn or other treat to share with them, especially the longer they stayed looking like statues at the seawall. Often these Mallards plop into the water as soon as I approach them. The drake remained motionless as you see below and finally the hen pivoted around and gave me a shy glance as you see in the header image.

Birds of a feather flock together … some of the time.

I finally left my fine-feathered friends behind and moseyed to the other side of Coan Lake where I saw an interesting sight; in fact it was the first time I’d ever seen a turtle at this venue, but here were two of them, basking in the sun on some boulders, along with a female Mallard. If the Painted Turtle had not stuck out his neck, I’d have thought it was just boulders since they blended in.

They looked content, and, as I approached the trio from the other side to get some close-up photos, sunbathing seemed more important than dropping into the water for safety, so they stayed there, biding their time until I left.

I’ll be returning to this park again in a week or so, once the trees are ablaze in color. I follow Heritage Park Photo of the Day on Facebook, so I’ll be able to gauge the peak foliage hues at this quaint venue.

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Friday Frivolity.

From flip-flops to flannel … just like that (snapping fingers)!

The weather has been wacky this week; yep, a real rollercoaster ride and it left me a wee bit frazzled on this Friday.

Earlier this week we broke a longstanding record by reaching 89 degrees F (32C); the old record from 1897 was 88 degrees F.

But we were warned the warmth would disappear, and it did – the next day we dropped 25 degrees.

And in between we had torrential rain and rumbles … in the morning, of course, when your Roving Reporter likes to walk.

Scrambled is not just for eggs.

I got up this morning and it was 68 degrees in the house. Nope, I was not going to succumb to the chilly temps and put on the heat, as it’s supposed to warm up a bit on the weekend. Or so they say. But, it was only 50 degrees F (10C) outside. I shivered while eating my oatmeal, then wrapped my fingers around my cuppa joe. But, I remained steadfast that the heat would not be turned on.

So, what do I wear on my walk? The immediate dilemma was that I took all my Spring/Fall and Winter coats, (all sporting big pockets), to the cleaners on Tuesday. “Did you want them the next day?” they asked. With a wave of my hand, I dismissed that suggestion – after all it was 80 degrees at 10:30 a.m., so “no I don’t need a coat anytime soon” was my reply. So, we settled on a Saturday pickup date. Of course I could have taken all these coats in during the Summer, but I was waiting on the October 25% off sale. Sigh.

So this morning, I sure wasn’t going to pass up a sunny (finally) trek to the Park to visit my furry pals who will surely forget my name if I don’t show up soon. I scrambled around mightily, looking for clothing for 50-degree weather. I grumbled and beat myself up saying “why are you not more organized – it’s October already!?” I have a few dress coats downstairs but their pockets won’t do for the camera and the peanuts, they are tiny slit pockets. I held up a hoodie – definitely not warm enough. Well maybe with a sweatshirt underneath – nope, too bulky. A turtleneck under a sweatshirt – no, it’s not that cold yet and besides, I need pockets! Maybe I even need a hat and gloves – where are they? I settled on a flannel shirt under a sweatshirt and threw on an old coat of my mom’s which fit like it belonged to my little sister.

The basement was chilly, so I decided the furnace really needed to be turned on after all. I yanked out the old filter and noticed the new filter that Flame Furnace had brought on their last visit was not the same brand. I took off the shrink wrap and went to slide it into the four-inch slot … it wouldn’t go in easily, so I had to go find another filter, but wait … I couldn’t pull this one out, so had to find a pair of pliers to wrest it out of the slot. Whew! I poured some clean water in the water pump and ran upstairs to put the furnace on so I could ensure it was running okay before I left and it would be toasty warm when I returned.

Finally, I bolted out the door and arrived fashionably late at the Park- how did I know? Well, all the regular walkers were already gone – they are all retirees, so off to run errands, or hang out at the donut shop for coffee and a cruller.

Luckily the contingent of squirrels were there waiting on me. To make up for my week-long absence, I brought along a brand-new, whole bag of peanuts to make it up to them. “Happy Fall guys!”

Yes, they were there alright, with Parker wearing a pained look on his face and paws crossed over his chest and tapping one foot, er … paw. “Yes, my little friend I’ll try not to be a stranger as I know you and your pals are struggling to get nuts stored for Winter.” I had to laugh at this picture of Parker I took last week. He reminds me of the memes of the distinguished-looking gentleman who says “I don’t always …, but (fill in the blank).” So I’ve entitled this picture:

I don’t always eat peanuts, but when I do they are Linda’s.

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Gather ye rosebuds while ye may …

oh yes, peanuts too.

Time’s a tickin’ … it’s the last day of September and for squirrels and girls with agendas, it is time to seize the moment and gather all the peanuts and steps you can (if Mother Nature permits of course).

The funky weather this week will not bode well for the squirrels, nor me, i.e. getting nuts and steps done.  Saturday was dismal and drizzly and yesterday I got a walk in, but just in the ‘hood as rain and storms threatened. So the Park squirrels missed out again.  I will make it up to them after today’s sogfest.

Right now my furry pals are focused on hunting and gathering the peanuts tossed to them by the other walkers and me, as there are no nut-bearing trees in the Park.

I am not immune to the sweet antics of those squirrels who sit on haunches with pleading eyes, waiting for me to open up my Ziploc bag and toss them a few peanuts.  Truth be told, I love interacting with them … but I think you knew that already.

I’m helping my furry friends bulk up their stash in advance of the Winter season.  Needless to say there is a wee bit of expectation on my part too … a little quid pro quo which is a/k/a “posing for peanuts” – no worries, we’re both cool with this arrangement and there’s nothing hinky going on.

Right now the squirrels aren’t complying much though … they are focused on getting the goods and getting them buried … one peanut at a time.  Sigh.  So I may drop some peanuts at their paws and they are more likely to scurry away and the best I can do is get a shot of them perusing peanuts then taking off to hide them.  That’s okay, they eventually return, but by then I’ve resumed my walk.

Playing hard to get?

Recently  I had an odd encounter with this black squirrel. Like the gray squirrels, the black squirrels are somewhat skittish and not likely to come over to see me, instead watching from afar then timidly inching over or even waiting until I walk away to grab a peanut.

I was at Council Point Park last week and saw this black squirrel and offered her some peanuts.  I put them on the grass.  Would she come closer?

Nope, though she did glance at them, then me.

I tried again … even holding some more peanuts in my outstretched hand so she could see them while I spoke softly to her.  Was she interested? 

Nope, not even a nibble.

As I turned to go, I said “well it’s your loss dear, but Winter’s coming – just sayin’.”  It seemed I could sweet talk her all I wanted, but she was not interested and instead she rebuffed me by turning around and scooting across busy River Drive to the neighborhood. 

I did another lap on the perimeter path, then began to head home.  I am still trying different options due to the construction since the adjacent street is very busy with the diverted traffic. 

So guess who I ran into on the way home?

I must’ve passed muster and could be trusted.

I guess this lovely lady assumed I had followed her to coax her to have some peanuts, so she might as well warm up to me a little.  She came close, hesitant at first, then went for the closest peanut.

She permitted herself to enjoy a peanut or two, secure in the knowledge that with no other squirrels around to abscond with her cache, she could take her time before dashing off to hide them.

Ah … peanut bliss.

I wonder if peanut bliss is akin to savoring a chocolate DOVE® Bar? I posed that question to her, but she had no opinion yea or nay.

I am gathering nuts too – Hampton Farms Jumbo Unsalted.  Only the best for my furry pals and the occasional Jay or Cardinal that happens by.

I already have ten packages squirreled away, but will need to get more as Fall progresses.

I will also need to stash lots of steps to reach my goal, now just three months away.  I have walked 939 miles of my 1,242 mile-goal (1,511 km/2,000 km) .  I’m looking for good weather to gather as many steps as I may.

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Small Fall.

The early morning drizzle vanished on cue and the faint sun put a smile on my face and a little pep in my step. A gusty breeze stirred my straw, er … hair.

I’m doing a slow meander through this first week of Fall. It’s still warm here in Southeast Michigan and feels like this season should have the moniker of “Small Fall” – just a silly thought I guess. The pumpkins adorning homeowners’ porches had better be fake, otherwise they’ll resemble Libby’s canned pumpkin after our mini heat wave. This week is designated as “Michigan Trails Week” but since it’s kind of soggy the next few days, I’ll likely stay local and just pop down to Council Point Park to commemorate the event.

Meanwhile, at that Park, the first blush of Fall has arrived, with subtle changes that make you say “whoa – it looks like Mother Nature took out her Sharpie to add a few colors to the landscape.” 

There are glimpses of the usual jewel-toned leaves, or oddities like this tree with the polka-dotted leaves … whatever disease it has, these spots emerge every year right as rain. 

Late September dribs and drabs.

This is the Park’s first big tree to show a little color, though many reeds and bushes already have dribs and drabs of vibrant reds, deep plum or orangey-brown tones.  I noticed the walker’s sweater exactly color coordinated with this tree.

I wondered why this one stem of leaves is totally red and none of the others are?

Mother Nature was a little haphazard where she put her splashes and dashes of color … for example:

This was a bit sad … a Cabbage White butterfly caught on a burr, forever hovering on top of this prickly plant, its wings snagged and trapped on the rough edges.

The hangers on.

As we near the end of September, our weather still feels more like August and the tinges of wildflower colors make you forget we’re almost through the first week of Fall.  As mentioned earlier this week, some dandelions are still dotting the landscape.  I have the occasional one in my lawn too – their tenacity is admirable, but they can take a hike anytime.  

I noticed this metal yard ornament … it makes no difference if we pass Go, skip Fall and proceed right to Winter – this crazy daisy will still be doing its best to brighten up this homeowner’s front yard.

Are you pining for the upcoming Christmas holidays yet?

Pine trees and pine cones make me think of Christmas time. 

When the cones were still soft and dripping with pine resin, the squirrels were climbing the trees and pulling them off to enjoy the pine nuts.   I often pondered why the sticky resin did not glue their innards together?   This soft cone was a dud … it had no resin, and never opened its “petals” and developed into a full-fledged, brown and hard pine cone.

As the sun gently filtered through the clouds, I decided to do a shadow selfie – hmm, just a girl and her pine tree. (Somehow the phrase does not have the same ring to it as “just a girl and her gull” or “just a girl and her butterfly” does it?)

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