Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

HEADER FINAL

After a week of roller-coaster temperatures, I think we have finally settled into a more Autumn-like pattern.  It has been chilly the last three days, and, unbelievably, a frost/freeze warning went out Friday evening to protect delicate flowers and veggies, when a handful of days before we tied an old record of 86 degrees!

It was definitely hat-and-glove weather when I set out this morning at only 41 degrees.  I headed to Lake Erie Metropark since the car needed a good run and I wanted a long walk.   I had a marathon grocery-shopping session yesterday as I have been gathering pantry items for over the Winter, so I only need to shop for fresh staples during the snowy and icy weather.  I went to the store three times yesterday, schlepping in bags and bags of groceries, so I racked up about six miles of steps.  Admirable yes, but I was ready for an infusion of nature this morning, so I made that 30-mile round-trip drive to Brownstown.

I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, just chomping at the bit to get in a long walk and get some foliage photos, as well as capturing the images of any hawks that may be gliding overhead at the boat launch.  Well, the colors were really nothing dramatic and the hawks and/or any other raptors were non-existent, so the camera never even got turned on and I concentrated on my steps alone, as I walked on the Cherry Island Trail and along the water’s edge, adding  another five miles toward my ultimate goal.

What I do have to share on today’s post are photos I took at Council Point Park earlier this week.  As you know, for months, I’ve bemoaned the lack of sun-filled morning walks, but last Wednesday, we had not only balmy temps but a radiant sun and blue sky.  Some trees were already cloaked in jewel-toned colors, the shades of yellow, rust and burgundy that so richly define Autumn here in the “Mitten State” during October.   The perimeter path was jam-packed with walkers and squirrels.  I had extra peanuts on hand to make up for a few days’ absence, as I’d been walking in the neighborhood earlier in the week due to the foggy conditions and threat of rain.

Parker ran over to greet me and we visited before I began on the perimeter path.  There were squirrels at every bend and turn it seemed, like this one who stood up for a better look.  I always get a kick out of them doing this.

looking for me

In one area on the first loop of the trail, many squirrels tend to congregate.  Whenever I pass by, there are always multiple mouths to feed, as my furry pals seem to come out of the woodwork, as you see in this photo of a trio of squirrels noshing away on nuts.

threefer1

The squirrels are getting chubby.  You’ll see in the pictures I’ll post over the next month or so, some of them look like they waddle as they gear up for the Winter ahead.

chubby.jpg

Meanwhile, they get their peanuts, enjoy one or two, and the rest go to their hidey-hole.

header1

noshing.jpg

header2.jpg

Not every critter on the trail was bushy tailed however.

I got this cute photo of Stubby, the squirrel who is missing a good part of his tail, as he grabbed two peanuts to go.  I think the peanuts were bigger than his mouth!

stubby two peanuts

Likewise, I saw a cute bunny with a powder-puff tail on the perimeter path.

rabbit

He had bright eyes for sure and how about that cute white tail?

rabbit white tail.jpg

I barely got time to get a couple of shots when he was suddenly spooked and bolted.

I noticed that even more trees and bushes have been cleared along the water’s edge since my last visit and I still don’t care for the wide-open spaces and view of the Creek.  One of the walkers suggested it was for us to have a better view of the Creek.  Well, yes … of course that makes sense and I was able to glimpse the heron without standing on tiptoe to spy on him through the bushes, but now the squirrels have less space to hide from the hawks.  That’s a little worrisome to me as I fret over their safety, having seen a hawk up in a tall tree that very morning.  First, I watched him in the air, large wingspan, long tail and gliding in the sky, so my eyes followed this bird to a tall tree, where it had a bird’s eye view of the Park and all the squirrels playing and/or foraging at ground level.

hawk final.jpg

Here’s a view of the heron through the bushes.  He couldn’t see me from this vantage point.  I got one photo from here, then moved along.

a

He was standing at his favorite spot, the cement precipice that overlooks the Creek and was engrossed in scanning the water for fish.

c.jpg

I was able to approach him, and, miraculously he stayed put, unless he has just resigned himself to pose and perhaps the annoying human will just go away.

d.jpg

As I trekked around Council Point Park, I was struck how Mother Nature had taken her paintbrush to the Park foliage.  Some trees had retained their Summer hues, but others were ablaze in color.

A - gold

A - red and gold

A - leaves only

A - red and gold and green

B - burgundy

It was a glorious morning, one to savor both for the glimpses of nature on the walking path at Council Point Park and the miles gleaned from that trek as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Tuesday Musings.

Summer sure is bossy … it keeps kicking Fall to the curb.

The weather has been wacky, yet I have managed to get a walk in every day, despite all the rain and fog. Saturday we had five torrential rain storms. Sunday morning it poured, but, like Saturday, I went out mid-day. Yesterday morning it was foggy. When I went out this morning, it was 70 degrees and really humid. I wore shorts and a tee-shirt on the 9th of October! The madness continues because we ended up at 86 degrees today, which tied the 1949 record. Tomorrow is our last Summer-like day, as Fall returns with a vengeance on Thursday, and we are told this time it is here to stay.

I have been walking in the neighborhood lately due to the unsettled weather, but I’m going back to my old stomping grounds tomorrow.

A friend of mine posted a picture of this Woolly Bear caterpillar on Facebook a few days ago.

CATERPILLAR.jpg
I saved Leslie’s picture, knowing I’d eventually do a post on this little critter. If you’re up on your folklore, you know that the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth, a/k/a the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, is a good means of gauging the upcoming Winter. When examining this caterpillar’s fuzzy body, if you see more brown segments than black segments, it is a bellwether for a mild Winter. Here is an article from The Old Farmer’s Almanac to read more fun facts:

So, I analyzed this photo of the Woolly Bear caterpillar … hmm, its segments look about equal to me. Our local meteorologists are predicting an El Nino Winter, or mild Winter for us for 2018-2019. I’m ecstatic if that is correct, as last year’s Winter season was horrible.

I never saw a Woolly Bear caterpillar in 2017. The last glimpse of one was four years ago at Council Point Park. I watched it inching across the perimeter path, and, since I was familiar with the legend of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, I bent down to take a picture of it and to count its rings. Another walker happened by and asked me what I was doing, so I explained. This would be my friend Ann Marie whom I met for the first time at the Park that day. I looked back at that blog post photo and the caterpillar’s rings look similar to this one, and unfortunately that Winter season we had the second of the back-to-back Polar Vortexes.

11-14-14.jpg
So, do we give this caterpillar a quick glance, willing ourselves to see an abundance of brown bands circling its body just to make us happy? Maybe we ought to only rely on the scientific data by the meteorologists? Sadly, whatever Winter weather is in store for us, ultimately we will just have to grin and bear it. After a year of abnormal weather, where all four seasons in 2018 were not only a disappointment to me, but to most others around the world, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the best. As of today, I’ve walked 876 miles and have 175 more miles to go to meet my goal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 62 Comments

The Munch Bunch.

eating4

I keep reminding myself it is Autumn, and that was difficult to do this morning, after I stepped outside to 74-degree temps.  It felt like an August day with high humidity and dew points and wet pavement everywhere from a pre-dawn rain.  Once again it has been a rainy week, but I’ve been lucky enough to be unscathed by those droplets, timing my walks around the rain, but, it also meant staying close to the ‘hood as storms or rain loomed large … that is, except for yesterday.

On my list of Fall favorite things are apples.  Michigan is 3rd in the nation for apple production.  Our orchards produce 900 million pounds of apples a year in 16 different varieties of this sweet treat.  I like Honey Crisp and Pinata apples best, and, to me, nothing beats a juicy apple with a slice of cheddar cheese alongside it.

Every Fall I treat my furry pals in the Park to apples and small unwaxed pumpkins.  Now there’s something they enjoy and can really sink their teeth into.  The last time I went grocery shopping, I bought a couple of bags of Jonathan apples.

apples in the bag.jpg

The apples were small, perfect for paws and very tiny mouths.  I had not been to Council Point Park as much as usual the last 10 days or so, due to sticking close to home because of rain or storm threats, or weekend excursions.  I do stop at the Park on my way home from weekend treks, but most times the squirrels are not out and about like they are in the morning.

How do you like dem apples?

So I toted both bags of apples and several Ziploc bags of peanuts down to the Park to make amends for my absence.

I had just crossed into Council Point Park’s entrance when I got the first taker – Parker, of course.  Thankfully he waited until I crossed the street, then zoomed on over and began dancing around my feet.  I gave him a peanut and he started chomping happily.

parker1.jpg

I tossed out a few more peanuts, then slid in an apple for good measure.  He sniffed it, but grabbed a couple of peanuts and scurried off to the soccer field, his go-to hiding place for peanuts.  I waited briefly for his return, but he was digging furiously and I had apples and peanuts to deliver so I moved on.

parker2

I didn’t get far as a few more squirrels were there to greet me.  Each got goodies like this.

offerings before trail.jpg

Hmm … at this rate, I needed three bags of apples and peanuts.

In the past, I’ve always just placed the apples along the trail, about every 20 or 30 feet or so, in the areas where the squirrels frequent.  They’d see them and eat them on the spot.  Well, enjoying that apple on the spot was worrisome to me this year due to the hawk(s).  I sure didn’t want to see a hawk swoop down on an unsuspecting squirrel, who was too engrossed in eating the apple to be “on guard”, so my plan was to place the apples around the picnic table area under the pavilion roof.  Thus, the squirrels were protected from a hawk swooping down on them.

lined up in the beginning.jpg

It looked like someone chewed on the one side of the picnic table.

bitten off table.jpg

Well, silly me … I was thinking like a human, not like a squirrel.  I soon discovered a squirrel will seize something large like an apple or a cache of nuts, and haul it away to a hidey-hole, so I needn’t have worried, and I could banish that image of squirrels lined along the pathway, and the hawk trying to pick them off out of my mind.

I placed most of the apples along the top of a few picnic tables and underneath them as well, keeping aside a few in my pocket as I saw several squirrels on the trail.  As soon as that trio of squirrels saw me, I held out an apple to lure them to the pavilion area so they could see the other apples.  I shook my Ziploc bag of peanuts so they knew even more treats were in store for them.  It worked and soon I had squirrels heading toward the pavilion.  (Yes, I know I missed my  calling as a squirrel trainer.)

Apple antics.

Next, I went back out onto the perimeter path and a group of squirrels gathered around me as I scattered peanuts and the remaining two apples from my pocket.  A couple of them fought, swiping a paw against the other, trying to claim one apple.  Fisticuffs – really?  I had to toss down more peanuts to intervene and along came a few squirrels, stopping to get their apple, clenching it between their teeth, or half dragging it along.

C.jpg

B.jpg

A.jpg

Conflicted.

The peanuts were the bigger draw it seemed, as the squirrels often abandoned an apple to lunge for the peanuts, an action that reminded me of kids, who were happy when mom put down a plate of SpaghettiOs or macaroni and cheese, instead of meat and vegetables, but the nearby package of Oreo cookies were much more tempting, so the choice was easy.

Red was the color of the day.

Since I was here last, the City cleared lots of brush and chopped down a few trees that lined the banks of the Ecorse Creek.  I really don’t like the look as it seems too open now, and the bare areas, and remaining stumps have made my favorite nature nook lose some of its ambiance.

trees chopped down.jpg

The remaining bushes along the water’s edge continue to turn beautiful shades of red, and since there was not even a hint of sun until I was home and ready to walk in the door, those red leaves and apples looked vibrant in the gray morn.

red leaves3.jpg

red leaves2.jpg

red leaves1.jpg

I walked around the entire first loop, while squirrels continued to come out of the woodwork and race over to me for peanuts.  I glanced at the picnic tables, saw a few birds pecking the apples and watched this squirrel making the moves to get his treat.  Good, I got through to them; they knew where to go!

AA.jpg

BB.jpg

CC.jpg

DD.jpg

I gave everyone their morning giggle.

The other walkers, having witnessed the distribution of apples and peanuts as they passed me on the perimeter path, were smiling as I stood there amidst a flurry of furry, four-legged friends.  I tried taking some photos of the group, but often, once I had the camera ready, in my peripheral vision I’d see another squirrel begging for peanuts at my feet.

Some squirrels had pieces of apple clinging to their fur around the  mouth – well, it was good eatin’ and gave them a sugar high to go hunting and gathering long into the afternoon.

eating1

eating2

Please know that I am not their only benefactor, so my absence was not forcing them to eat pine cone nuts and whatever else they can forage around the Park this time of year.  The mulberries are gone and I didn’t see many apples on the wild apple tree this year.  So yes, it is easy for me to fall prey to those dark eyes and pleading looks, but there are at least three other people feeding them peanuts on a regular basis, mostly after I’ve left for home.

I walked the same loop again, this time in a hurry, as I’d lingered a little longer than usual.  I would have liked to have returned this morning to see if any apples remained but I know, if it is anything like in the past, those apples are long gone by now.  As I walked past my first “dropping” – the peanuts were gone, and most of a munched-on apple was still there – oh he’ll be back, I guarantee it.

apple at the end

It was fun interacting with the squirrels yesterday.  Today is “National Animal Day” so I’ll leave you with this quote I got from Twitter.

world animal day.JPG

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Sunday strolling at Elizabeth Park.

HEADER

Today’s blog post is the last of a trio of excursions taken the weekend of September 22nd and 23rd.   Because of the old saying “make hay while the sun shines”, I spent a good portion of last weekend trekking around these two scenic parks and taking photos, because who knew if this current weekend might be waterlogged, as so many have been in 2018?  Actually, I was prophetic, because today it did rain earlier and before the second rain shower’s expected arrival, I did scoot out and walk in dry, but gloomy-looking conditions.

I finished off September with 831 miles walked so far this year.  I have 220 more miles to make my goal.  While that may seem to be a piece of cake in this last quarter of 2018, the sun is rising later, so soon five miles each weekday morning may no longer be possible, and then by late October you have to start watching for the pathway to be slick with wet leaves, or even worse, having glaze ice when temperatures really start to dip.

So, a week ago today I went to lovely Elizabeth Park to see that venue one last time before Mother Nature begins painting those leaves the hues we’ve come to enjoy as we get deeper into this season.  It was the first full day of Autumn, and, after freezing my fingers in the brisk breeze the day before, I really layered up and even brought along gloves to wear until the sun was high in the sky.

Well, this trip was for the birds!  (I mean that in a good way.)

Since Elizabeth Park is only about eight miles from Lake Erie Metropark, I wondered if I would see any raptors, since the day before there were no sightings in the nearly three hours I spent at that venue.  Would they continue on their migrating journey by crossing Elizabeth Park?

This Park is located along the Detroit River, and features over 1,300 feet of boardwalk where people walk, jog, rollerblade and fish.  But, if you tire of looking out at the sparkly water and pleasure boats, you can always hike through the wooded area, walk the perimeter path that encircles the Park, or head down to where the ducks and geese congregate by streams that run parallel to Slocum Street, named for the family that donated the land which is now known as Elizabeth Park.

So what types of birds did I see during my trek

I was basking in the sunshine, leaning against the railing of one of the many bridges, when I spotted an Egret.  That Egret, just like me, was enjoying the sun’s rays, that is … until this pesky human happened along and disrupted its morning meditation.

meditating

From atop this bridge, I had a good view of the Egret and took a few pictures, but then I decided to creep up a little closer, stalking the poor creature, for goodness sake.  Having crossed the bridge to the other side, I obviously intruded on its personal space, so the Egret bolted for parts unknown.  It flew over the boardwalk and across the Detroit River, maybe even to Canada.

Well, having crossed that bridge, while hot on the trail of the Egret, I realized I, too, was in parts unknown.  I had strayed from the main area of the Park, and now could see busy Slocum Street and the entrance to Elizabeth Park, but I was heading along a path I’d never been on before.  I decided to follow that path to see where it took me.

pathway.jpg

In the distance was a second and similar-looking bridge, where there were some ducks likewise enjoying the morning sun.  I wanted to get a picture of them at rest, as a few seemed so sleepy that they were unperturbed by my presence.  But, as I’ve noticed, whenever I come across a group of ducks resting or preening, there is always a lookout duck watching out for his brethren.

Look at this Pekin duck, who was so sleepy, nodding off, yet obviously he had doubts that the Mallard could handle the lookout duck position, as he kept one eye open while I was nearby.

lookout duck.jpg

Then, he decided to stretch his legs and ambled over to a spot to be by himself.  Perhaps this was a hint for me to skedaddle, or, even to signify to his brethren that he wanted privacy?  But, he stood there, in a one-legged stance, sleeping on the spot, but occasionally checking out his surroundings.

eyes shut.jpg

eyes open.jpg

When I finally decided to move along, he obviously rejoiced that he and his fine-feathered friends were alone again.

happy face.jpg

I saw no one on this pathway, and it was not secluded in the least, so I felt at ease being here and took my time walking along.

I thought this tree was interesting looking …

unusual tree

… and this fallen log in this cove provided a nice cubbyhole for a group of Mallards to sleep or preen on this lovely sun-soaked Sunday morning.

ducks all 1.jpg

ducks two 1

I likely overstayed my welcome with this group of ducks, and, though I didn’t like to destroy this cozy scenario with my presence, one by one the Mallards waddled off the log to plop into the water, the breeze ruffling their feathers just a little, probably almost as much as my presence did.

The wildflowers along the way added a nice touch of color to the glorious day.

wildflowers

I trekked the entire path, and, so I wouldn’t get lost, I went back to the bridge where I discovered the Egret and crossed back over into familiar territory.

Waterfowl aplenty as I meandered through Elizabeth Park.

I like Heritage Park as the ducks and geese congregate at beautiful Coan Lake, but at Elizabeth Park, it seems you cannot turn around without seeing groups of ducks, mostly Mallards.  Though the Canada Geese are also plentiful, clearly ducks rule in this Park.

In the shadow of the main bridge, where people often gather for wedding, homecoming and prom photos, I saw this group of ducks on a log.  Like the other Mallards, they were lined up and enjoying the sunny morning.

ducks all

ducks in a row.jpg

Talk about having your ducks in a row!

All these duck sightings and I’d not even headed to the boardwalk along the Detroit River yet!  As I continued my stroll, I saw the Egret had returned and a Cormorant had arrived on the scene.  I realized I was fickle, not sure which one to focus my attention on, so my head swiveled back and forth watching each of them.

The Egret strutted along the water’s edge, taking large strides with its big feet.

egret running.jpg

Occasionally it paused to pose, as it is probably used to people dragging out their phones or cameras because it looks so photogenic.

egret still.jpg

Out of the corner of the other eye, I watched the Cormorant frolicking in the water, its long neck and head barely above the surface more than a few seconds, until it disappeared once again in search of food.

beginning

I watched the Cormorant’s antics until a group of kayakers came along and stirred things up just a little, and I mean more than just the water.  Their colorful kayaks and lively conversation first scared the Egret who bolted, and then spooked the Cormorant who freaked out and flew up into the sky.

bye bye 2a.jpg

byebye1a

The kayakers paddled on by, oblivious to the stir they caused in the waterfowl world.

kayakers.jpg

The ducks and geese were not so skittish of those colorful kayakers and stayed to themselves along the water’s edge.

Along the boardwalk.

Next, I continued on my journey along the river walk.  The breeze made the water choppy and the sun made it sparkle.

sparkly water and waves.jpg

A seagull with some attitude greeted me … if a seagull could wear a surly look, this bird sure had one.

seagull with attitude

A flock of Canada Geese soared overhead, not quite having their “V” formation all together yet.  They disappeared above the trees in the distance, defining that first full day of Fall to a “T”.

formation over walkway.jpg

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Hunting for hawks at Lake Erie Metropark.

blue banner

Well, I usually do my blog posts the same day, or the next day, after a weekend excursion, but last Saturday, I wanted to do something special for the first day of Fall, and Sunday I did the post about visiting the alpaca farm.  This trek was actually one week ago today.

I left early in the morning and it was downright chilly – only 56 degrees.  I should have taken into account the sometimes dismal-looking skies, brisk wind and the fact that I was right at Lake Erie, and should have dressed a little warmer.

My destination was the boat launch area at Lake Erie Metropark.  When I took the coffee club trek back on September 1st, the guide pointed out this site, and told us that beginning in mid-September through the end of November, a variety of raptors (mainly Eagles, Hawks and Falcons) migrate through Lake Erie and stream past this point.  This migrating phenomenon has become part of an event called “Detroit River Hawk Watch” at Lake Erie Metropark for 35 years, and specifically at the boat launch site for 20 years.

migration sign 1

There are signs marking the migration by months, and what birds of prey you might expect to pass through during the three-month season.

september

october

november

If you’re wondering, (like I did), just how the migration is monitored, there is a paid counter and volunteers who are on the lookout for various types of birds of prey.   According to the Audubon Society, there are about 16 different species that travel through the area, and the greatest majority are Broad-Winged Hawks.  Depending on the weather, mostly wind current, there can be as few as 30,000 birds to as many as 600,000 birds, including Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Peregrine Falcons during the entire migration season.  Most of them cross at the southernmost part of the Detroit River, but strong north winds enable them to cross Lake Erie, thus the birdwatchers gather en masse to view them and take photos as well.

Here is an image of last year’s “official species count” as logged at the Detroit River Hawk Watch:

sign of species.jpg

I originally intended to go to see the hawk migration during Hawkfest, but decided to go there on my own, when it would be less crowded, and combine the trip with a hike along the Cherry Island Trail.

When I arrived at Lake Erie Metropark, I was greeted by a great big gaggle of geese who had planted themselves in the middle of the roadway you must take to get to the boat launch area.  There must have been 50 of them poking along the side of the road and sashaying across it.  I was not going to honk – first of all, I’m not a horn-honkin’ kinda gal, and besides – they’d likely honk right back.  So, I waited patiently while they moseyed across the road.  Meanwhile, a small line of vehicles had formed behind me, and, in looking in the rear view mirror, I could see the woman in the car behind me had an amused look on her face.  I decided that if you worked at this Park, you’d have to take into account the occasional episodes of geese congregating in the middle of the road and factor that into your commute time, much like when I encountered the freighters passing under the bridge, causing the drawbridge to go up, delaying our bus trip to downtown Detroit as much as a half hour some days.

The Canada geese crossed and I finally made it to the boat launch, and, though I thought I’d beat the crowd, the crowd obviously beat me!

group.jpg

I got the last available parking space.  The photographers were there with their long lenses and tripods, hunkered down with coffee and prepared to wait for these migrating birds.

one with big lens

Most people had binoculars hanging from their neck.  I never thought to bring mine.  I felt like quite the novice amongst the group.  As I walked around looking for a good location to plant myself, I eavesdropped on a few conversations recounting how many hawks came in one time and how exciting it was to see them.

So, I waited, along with the throng of photographers, for those elusive hawks to arrive.

After about 45 minutes, succumbing to numb fingers, and having spotted nothing in the sky but the usual seagulls who were cruising above, I decided to do some sightseeing around the picturesque boat launch area instead.

boat launch harbor

rope.jpg

A seagull perched on a buoy, its feathers ruffled by the brisk wind, and it looked about as cold as I felt.  The seagull stood still as a statue, affording me an opportunity to take at least a dozen photos of it, all which looked the same when I got home and saw them on the screen.

seagull on buoy1

I decided to leave and walk along the Cherry Island Trail, reversing the same path as we took on the coffee club trek.  We’d had a recent rain and I could see great pools of water as I walked through the woodsy area.

bog

As I crossed one of the wooden bridges, I came upon a photographer, with his camera attached to a lens as long as my forearm, mounted on a tripod and trained on an egret.  This was the exact spot as I saw the Egret last time.  I didn’t move a muscle as I didn’t want to disturb the photographer who was quite engrossed with the Egret.  But a Heron came buzzing by, so the photographer turned on a dime, to capture its image.  I realized I am not as quick on the draw and said as much and he replied “he’ll wait for you” … but he didn’t, and that Great Blue Heron took flight right over my head.

The photographer left and I was alone with my thoughts with a beautiful Egret in the distance.  This time he was not up in the trees like before, so I got some pictures of him, albeit far away.

in marsh3.jpg

But he wasn’t content to stand there and took off, circling the marsh and then returning once again.

in marsh1.jpg

in marsh2

The lotus beds have lingered on, but the leaves float without the lovely blooms rising above them.  A few trees had smidgens of color, so I must come back when the leaves begin to turn, as I’ll bet it will be lovely.

colored trees and lotus.jpg

These are some pictures along the trail.

leaves on the trail - maybe header.jpg

leaves on the trail.jpg

I did the entire pathway where I saw leaves littering all the way along the Cherry Island Trail.  I came back to the boat launch site through a marshy area where tall reeds grew high beside that wooden walkway and I glanced to the sky to get a glimpse of any hawks, but it was still just seagulls like before.

marsh

Perhaps I’ll need to take a rain check for the hawks.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

It’s been a soggy and volatile September.

scarecrow.jpg

The Summer of 2018 was, as they say, nuthin’ special … and sadly, Fall looks like it will follow in its footsteps.

Rain, rain go away, come again another day!

We have five more days before we close out this month and we have broken another couple of weather records – this time it was for rainfall.

Yesterday, at Metro Airport, (which is where weather statistics are measured for our city), we received 2.51 inches of rain, which shattered the old record of 1.40 inches on this day back in 1986.  On September 20th , we also had a record rainfall of 1.53 inches in one day.  Maybe building an ark is a good idea!

Is it time for me to embrace rainy days and not whine about ‘em?

I wouldn’t be bemoaning these rainy days, if I wasn’t chasing after this walking goal.  A total of 6.4 inches of rain in September already is making it mighty tough to get it done.  I am mindful that many of you have asked why I can’t just walk in the rain?   I’ve held steadfast, saying that over three decades of taking the bus to work, many times in extremely ugly weather, makes me less inclined to go traipsing around in the rain, a blizzard, or even extreme heat, if I don’t have to.

As to the rain, obviously I’m not made of sugar, and I’ll likely come around eventually and get into that mindset of enjoying a walk in the rain.  There are a few walkers at Council Point Park who walk rain or shine.  In fact, the weather forecast was for light rain yesterday morning.  It was warm out; I said to myself “just go out, it’s not like a cold rain, with leaves and wind whipping about.”  So, in anticipation of this nice walk in the rain, I got out the golf umbrella, a light raincoat and I even practiced the notes of the musical scale, just in case I was inspired to sing while I was out there with the rain twinkling down.  Did I sound like Julie Andrews singing Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do?  No, not really, but I can still belt out that song I learned in grade school and remember from “The Sound of Music” …  can you?

Unfortunately, by the time it was light enough to head out, a torrential rain was pounding on the patio roof, accompanied by some thunder boomers, so I just stayed inside.  That rain continued through around mid-day.  I’m not talking about the occasional spit or light drizzle – this was a driving rain, coursing through the gutters.  Thankfully the leaves were not clogging up the sewer grates as the streets would have been flooded.

Angst.

Stewing over the rain was not the only thing on my mind.  Soon thereafter, it was the fear of impending tornadic activity.  Just like turning on a light switch, our coolish weather had returned to hot and muggy temps and very high dew points again Tuesday morning, spawning a flurry of warnings about possible severe weather, depending on how hot the temps were by late afternoon.  Mother Nature decided to play dirty with the Downriver area of Southeast Michigan.  There were increased severe storm warnings as the afternoon progressed, while meteorologists hovered over their charts and models, putting their heads together to predict if the warm and unstable atmosphere would be ripe for a tornado, and, if so … when.

Unfortunately my regular news radio station was broadcasting exhibition hockey on the radio and streaming it as well, and the other news station had a medical program on.  I was still online at Twitter, monitoring the Tweets by the National Weather Service Detroit Bureau and my favorite meteorologist, Paul Gross, when sure enough, radar indicated rotation was spotted and the first alert came out around 8:15 p.m.

Too close for comfort.

I shut down the laptop as the sky started rumbling with great gusto, and I turned on two radios simultaneously.  Out of one ear, I listened to Red Wing hockey, interspersed with weather bulletins; in the other ear, talk show host Mark Levin’s program was interrupted by the Emergency Alert System, as that shrill sound alerting impending danger was played just prior to the announcement that a tornado had been spotted and was headed northeast.  Its arrival was pinpointed for nearby Southgate and Wyandotte by 9:10 p.m. – “take cover immediately” the voice said.   I turned off the radios to listen for the City’s emergency siren – there was nothing, but I headed downstairs to the basement, heart pounding and feeling a little wobbly.

Our City’s emergency siren never sounded.  They test the alarm system the first Saturday of the month at 1:00 p.m., so I know it works.  So, more angst – wondering and worrying.  I waited about a half hour and heard and felt nothing, so I dared to go upstairs.  I turned on the two radios –  the hockey game was still on, and Mark Levin was still rehashing the Cosby verdict and Kavanaugh drama.  I went to bed.

A trio of tornadoes.

The early news this morning reported severe weather had wreaked havoc in three Downriver cities last night and luckily no one was killed or injured.  At that time, it was undetermined if it was tornadoes or straight line winds that blew through with approximately 100 mph wind strength.  I was just in this area last Saturday.  It was still dark outside, so no pictures were available yet, but when I checked out the damage online later, I saw massive trees uprooted, cars crushed, a trampoline suspended in the power lines and garages where wind gusts blew the garage door inward – all very horrific.  Later in the day it was confirmed that three small tornadoes touched down:  first in Frenchtown – 8:23 p.m.; second in Rockwood – 8:45 p.m. and finally in Gibralter at 8:55 p.m.   Their statistics are here.

Mercifully the tornadic activity dissipated at the Detroit River instead of  proceeding Downriver.  I feel lucky and blessed … this happened between 12 to 18 miles from where I live and is the second bout of severe tornadic weather to hit this part of Southeast Michigan, the last being on July 31st.

Today.

After hearing the report on the aftermath of the tornadoes, this morning I left a little lighter in heart and on my feet.  It was so soggy this morning, that I hesitated to walk to Council Point Park, plus, though no rain was predicted, the skies were a mottled shade of various grays and didn’t look too promising for a walk.  I figured the many trees at the Park would be dripping down so I just stayed in the ‘hood.  The winds were clipping along with gusts to 20 mph and some of the harvest décor is already sodden from the recent soakers.  Thank goodness I took these pictures on a sunny morn when everything still looked good.

pagel avenue

harvest2.jpg

So, 6.4 inches of rain in September; one more inch and we’ll break a longstanding record.  We don’t have to break that record on Sunday afternoon, our next rain event, but I won’t complain anymore about the rain – just please no more bouts of severe weather.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 41 Comments

Alpaca Love.

HEADER.jpg

Today was just gorgeous – a perfect day in every way.  The sun was shining, the sky was a vibrant blue and we sure deserve it after a Summer of rained-out weekends, heat, humidity and day after day of dark and gloomy skies.  It was even chillier than yesterday, and, because it was only 49 degrees when I left the house,  I took a pair of gloves and wore a sweat suit.  I wasn’t taking any chances after freezing the entire five hours I was outside yesterday.

I spent all morning enjoying Elizabeth Park, a perfect venue to savor on a sun-soaked Sunday.  The water seems to sparkle in this picturesque park.  Shh – don’t tell anyone, but I spent three hours stalking shore birds.  They were plentiful too, from the Pekin and Mallard ducks napping or preening on various perches around the park, like old dead logs in the water, or by the water’s edge, to the Canada geese that gathered on the grounds, or went airborne as they soared high above my head.  I saw an Egret, Great Blue Heron, and another Cormorant (is this the same one, and now he is stalking me?)

It was an enjoyable morning and I took tons of photos to share in a future post, because today’s post is devoted to yesterday’s trip to the alpaca farm on Grosse Ile.

My friend Evelyn lives in Virginia and is an avid knitter.  She often goes to fiber festivals and has visited an alpaca farm and watched them being sheared; it always sounded fun, so I Googled around to find if we had any alpaca farms around here.  I was surprised to discover that one was on beautiful Grosse Ile, only 12 miles from my house.

It was an overcast day and I should have waited for a brighter day for my visit, but, I think the photos still came out clear enough and I hope you enjoy them.

One look at the alpacas will endear you to them as soon as you see their inquisitive-looking faces, huge eyes and sometimes lopsided grins.

I pulled up and got a parking space, then went straight to the left of the large barn which bears the name of the farm, Gibralter Bay Alpacas.  This sign was from one of the trailers.

sign on trailer

There were two huge, fenced-in pastures and plenty of room for me to walk along each pasture’s perimeter to check out the alpacas … or, maybe I should say they checked me out first!  I later learned this left-side pasture area was for the male alpacas only.

They were much taller than I thought they’d be and really reminded me of a camel.  The alpaca I saw at the petting farm at Heritage Park was constantly grazing so I never saw its full height.  I’ve included some pictures of them standing up.

brown.jpg

white1.jpg

white2.jpg

white4.jpg

“Peek-a-boo, I see you” is what the first alpaca appeared to be saying just as I arrived.

peek a boo.jpg

He was the first brave buddy in the bunch to investigate this tall stranger lurking by their pasture.  Though this fellow had been grazing, he came running over to the fence to greet me.  I clicked my tongue at him a few times and sweet talked him a little, but, after he determined I was a friend, not a foe, he loped back to his brethren who were grazing together.

I traveled in the grassy area along the perimeter of the pasture, and it seemed that one by one, each alpaca came over to say “Hey”, or …

brown2.jpg

brown1

… “Wassup?”

multicolored

brown

I tried not to take it personally after my curly-headed, fuzzy-looking friends looked me over, then after 15 seconds, they pointed their heads back to the ground and nibbled on the grass.

beige.jpg

white1.jpg

white2.jpg

whole group

I stood there clicking away with the camera, and talking to them in a soothing voice, trying to lure them to the fence, but “face time” was fleeting.  They came over when they felt like it, brushing up against the fence to scratch an itchy head, or to nibble on some flowers near my feet.

eating flowers

I had to smile at the alpaca antics sometimes, and quickly decided we humans are pretty smug about how smart we are next to the animal kingdom, but … which one of you can scratch your left ear with your left leg like this alpaca is doing here?  Hmmm?

scratching.jpg

After spending about one-half hour at this pasture, I trekked over to the other side, past this red wagon and stump, which I thought would make an interesting picture and keep you in suspense until the next alpaca photo.

wagon and old stump.jpg

Here was a smaller pasture and the alpacas were crowded together, most of them munching on hay.  I would later learn from my conversation with the owner, that this pasture was just for the female alpacas.  They gathered together to munch on hay, despite having plenty of room in the pasture to roam about, and they resembled a crowd on Black Friday morning.  I took a picture of the group …

the girls clustered

… but then one sweet young girl came over to the fence to greet me.

wassup far away

wassup at the fence.jpg

This area of the fence was made differently and gave her an opportunity to poke her head between the bars, thus affording both of us an up-close view of the other.  She gave me the once-over – wow, I wondered if I passed inspection?  I know I thought she was cute as a button … but how did she perceive me?

wassup at the rail.jpg

wassup at the rail1

I watched a baby alpaca nursing, while its mom was just taking in the sights.

baby nursing1.jpg

The little one, who was actually almost as big as mom, was busy enjoying its “lunch”, when mom suddenly decided she was thirsty and hightailed it to the water trough, with her baby following at her heels where they sipped water together.

baby at water.jpg

I spent another half-hour roaming the outskirts of this pasture, then decided it was time to head home.  I went to the barn area to deliver my “donation” (an envelope which I entitled “Alpaca Treats” with some money enclosed).

treats envelope

I spoke with the owner, Gail, who told me all donations are used to buy food for the alpacas.  Their diet consists of hay, along with all that grass that they seemed to love so much.  The hay is infused with vitamins which accounts for their good health and luxurious wool.

And, now a little about the wool.  Those alpacas were shorn earlier in the year, with their fuzziness now concentrated around the face and the tail, and even their legs.  Gail said that all the wool from her bunch goes to a processing plant in Tennessee.  As each alpaca goes through the shearing process, its own fleece is bagged, then labelled with its name.  When the wool is processed, the skeins are returned, bearing the particular alpaca’s name.  The wool is pure with no color or dyes.  Their on-site gift store sells items that have been hand knit from the wool of the alpacas at Gibralter Bay, and knitting classes are held here as well.

Gail asked if I wanted to go into the pasture and mix and mingle with the alpacas.  “I’m sure they are tired of me, as I’ve been hanging out watching them for an hour already” is what I told her.   But, I know I would like to go back on a sunny Summer day and take more pictures, this time not through the fence, and get up close and personal with these cute and furry alpacas.

I learned a few fun facts and figures about the alpacas from Gail.  I mentioned watching the baby and its mother, and she told me that there are three baby alpacas right now and a few “juvenile boys” which are segregated from the adult alpacas.  She fondly refers to the alpacas as “the girls” and “the boys” and, when I asked how she herds them back into the barn every night, (in my mind picturing a barking Border Collie rounding them up from the pastures), Gail said she simply goes outside at 4:00 p.m. and calls “c’mon girls” or “c’mon boys”  and “time to come in” and they go directly to their stalls and enclosures inside the barn.  How’s that for obedient?  Smart too!

I left Gail and headed for home.  I had researched online about alpacas before going to the farm and read they sometimes “spit” at each other and at humans, so I guess I passed muster as no dust-ups or spit-ups occurred!

P.S. – I walked over six miles both days this weekend … another 13 miles to add to my tally, and my eyes have been slowly sinking to half-mast while compiling this post.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 57 Comments