Spring reflections.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in Spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” ~ John Burroughs (American naturalist)

This quote sums up a recent early morning walk at Lake Erie Metropark. It was the first full day of Spring and I’d not visited this venue since mid-October. Since I bought my first Metropark pass in the Summer of 2018, I’ve made at least 15 trips to Lake Erie Metropark for walking or enjoying interpretative classes, both on land or two-hour informative cruises.

But this visit was my absolute favorite because, despite the blah landscape, the sun cast stunning reflections on the still water and it was so serene and peaceful as I took it all in.

My first photo of the day captured the pair of Canada geese silently snoozing as seen above. This is in stark contrast to the ordinarily fractious geese who are either honking while flying, or hissing and flapping their wings at one another, or humans they deem threatening to them or their family. (However, goose histrionics would disturb the peace a few minutes later, so I am glad I enjoyed this moment.)

There was not even a hint of a breeze on this morning marsh meander, so the reflections of long-dead Phragmites and reeds looked especially golden.

Hiss and Her.

Every Spring, the Council Point Park walkers eagerly await the arrival of the sweet and fuzzy goslings toddling after their parents. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of a stream of ducklings queued up behind Mama Mallard. But I’ve yet to discover a nest for any of these waterfowl. Where are their hideaways? They don’t sit on a nest that is as easily identifiable as Chloe the Cottontail’s home – that’s for sure. So, where are those locations where eggs are incubated, then quickly morphs into a nursery, just before we begin to ooh and aah over the passels of Springtime babies?

Not long into my trek at Lake Erie Metropark, I came upon something I have never seen in my many trips to shoreline venues, nor my daily jaunts to Council Point Park – that something was a Canada Goose sitting on a nest.

I am assuming it was her mate, the gander, that positioned himself in front of this nest structure to guard his mate and impending family. Luckily, I was far enough away that they paid no attention to me, so I could watch and take some photos of the pair.

But soon another Canada Goose flew too close to the nest and hubby went ballistic as you see below. It flew out of the water in a rage and chased that bad boy, er … interloper, out of Dodge.

All this drama to protect his Missus. I was smiling as I watched the scene through the lens, while happily clicking my camera’s shutter button.

But then a minute later the “warrior” returned and marital bliss quickly dissolved as Mister returned to the nest with an attitude, so undeserving for Missus (in my humble opinion). But maybe I shouldn’t rise to her defense; after all, was she batting her eyelashes at another gander?

Look what happened next – check out the gander’s expressions. Hmm.

Missus was just not going to tolerate Mister’s hissy fit, so she walked away and didn’t return until the drama ceased.

In the end it was all good and they made up, but really?! Yes, I’m scratching my head too.

I took more photos as I meandered along the Cherry Island Trail for the first time in about two years, as that path was either washed out or horribly muddy. Those photos will show a beaver’s handiwork in a future Wordless Wednesday post.

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Goose steps or people steps – what’s the dif? #Wordless Wednesday #National Walking Day (280/1,256 mi./450/2,021 km. for me in 2021)

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

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All trails lead to the bunny trail.

Did you know that Michigan is known as “The Trails State?” Not all of those rustic or asphalt pathways are bunny trails however.

I’ve not seen any bunnies at Council Point Park since last Summer. Then they will magically appear once the dandelions and clover carpet the grass. I do see lots of bunnies in the ‘hood, including Chloe Cottontail who enjoys her simple hideaway, a/k/a as The Cottontail She-Shed. You might recall how poor Chloe looked during the Winter as she hunkered down in a homeowner’s front yard. I captured that image, poor Chloe likely shivering away under that coat of fur, exposed to not only the elements, but any raptor that might be gliding overhead.

Now that the blanket of snow is gone, I still see her sometimes. Yes, her brown fur blends into the still blah-colored landscape and similarly colored grass.

Because Chloe had gone for a wee hop to find breakfast and left her hideaway unattended, leave it to me to take liberties and I trespassed onto this homeowner’s property a wee bit to capture this image of Chloe’s digs, admittedly, not much in the way of warmth or protection.

I will be checking the lawn on my daily walks to see if maybe there are young’uns, since Cottontails nest from late March through September.

Will the real Easter Bunny please stand up and take a bow?

Last year Easter was on April 12th. The weekend before I agonized over whether I should suspend my walking regimen at Council Point Park as COVID-19 raged, spiking stats here in the Mitten State and across the nation. I decided to take a pause, then did eventually return, but put the camera away to eliminate fussing with my hands about my face.

To that end, I missed doling out the usual goodies to the squirrels at the Park. So, since I strive not to sully my title of “Peanut and Snack Angel” my mission was to ramp up their 2021 Easter treats.

Making treats … just a hint of drama for this venture.

I’ve skipped the images of the prep involved in making Easter cookies for two reasons. I have been giving them Nutter Butter sandwich cookies over the last year – same treats, same decorative icing and then nuts jammed into the icing to look and taste appealing. This is the finished result.

The cookie-decorating process was not without incident however. The *&^$ lid on the icing tube is always difficult to pull off and this time was no exception. You have to knead the tube, then supposedly twist off the cap. Nope – that didn’t happen, so I had to snip the cap with scissors to access the icing. When wiping off the scissor blades, I sliced into my pinky finger. I had already put the icing tubes on a napkin near the cookies and they began oozing pink and yellow icing all over the counter, simultaneously with the blood which was oozing out of my finger. Oh no! I ran to the sink to wash my hands and was appalled at the depth of the cut. In trying to staunch the bleeding, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the icing making a slow crawl along the edge of the napkin and onto the countertop. Half an hour later, with icing ooze and bleeding stopped, it was finally cookie-decorating time. Originally I planned to decorate two dozen walnuts with a few swipes of icing to look like festive eggs, but decided to serve them plain instead. I gave the cookies 24 hours to completely dry, then set out to be the Easter Bunny.

Along the proverbial trail

Well you know I have two locales within the Park where I feed the squirrels and birds. Here is the first stop … The Safe Haven Tree.

I had brought along a Ziploc bag of leftover pecans to treat the Chickadees, Jays, Cardinals and Rex, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker (who unfortunately was a no-show that day).

I spread the treats under the tree, then watched and waited, but it was NOT a hoppin’ place for a few minutes.

Walnuts are always savored by my furry friends, even sans pink and yellow icing flourishes.

This sweet Chickadee pondered over pecans versus sunflower seeds and opted for the tried-and-true black oilers.

The squirrels glommed onto the peanuts and sunflower seeds, but I got a blurry picture of Fluff making a quick getaway with a cookie.

Meanwhile, across the Park at the stump and fallen log alcove

I spread out the treats …

… soon a squirrel or two or three popped up to scope out their favorite snacks. Looks like someone had already snatched a cookie when I wasn’t looking.

Several Jays and Cardinals zipped over and scammed a peanut or two from the squirrels. (There were also some unwelcome guests helping themselves to the treats and I have pictures of those intruders and they will be the subject of a future post.)

The cookies were given the “sniff test”

… then finally disappeared, but only after the peanuts and sunflower seeds were gone.

I hope you got tasty treats for Easter too. Happy Easter to my Peeps! Click here for a greeting from me to you.

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Refuge Gateway: Humbug Marsh – Part II

[This post continues my spotlight on the 44-acre Refuge Gateway of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, located on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan.]

Today’s post is only about Humbug Marsh. If you missed Part I from Monday, you can find it by clicking here. Yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday post was a Great Blue Heron from this venue.

The Humbug Marsh portion of the Trenton Refuge Gateway is a 410-acre parcel of land and contains the last mile of natural shoreline along the U.S. mainland portion of the Detroit River. While one mile may not seem like a big deal, the other 97% of the Detroit shoreline has been disturbed or destroyed.

Fall Trip #2 to this venue was on Halloween morning, a glorious Fall Saturday and the leaves were still vibrant enough to ooh and aah over. I was early, so the crowds were minimal and the photo ops were plentiful.

Observation decks.

I meandered along the shoreline and edge of the Old Growth Forest. The colors were at their peak at Humbug Island. This photo was taken from one of the observation decks.

Multiple observation decks along the edge of the forest seemed like the perfect way to while away a few hours and rest after hiking, if you’re so inclined. This deck with its colorful Adirondack chairs welcomed you to sit a spell.

I liked this outlook which jutted into the River. There was a great view of the Detroit River and Humbug Island, with or without using a telescope. This ramp/deck, like the others, was handicapped accessible and one of the telescopes was positioned lower for wheelchair users.

This unique-looking observation deck was covered in branches and twigs to blend into the woodsy area. What a great opportunity to check out and/or photograph the more than 17 species of migrating raptors that will stop by here on their migration route. This is the same migration route that has folks flocking to Lake Erie Metropark’s boat launch area in late September. Also, there is a pair of nesting Eagles at Humbug Island.

But, with all these overlooks along the shoreline enticing you to stop and gaze at the natural beauty, you must not overlook the three miles of hiking trails throughout the Old Growth Forest.

Old Growth Forest.

The 300-year-old Old Growth Forest is where I spent the bulk of my time while at Humbug Marsh on this trip. Since my first trip to this locale six days before, I read additional comments posted by hikers about their impressions at this locale. There was a deer sighting. Oh, that would be exciting to see. I also wondered if someone (maybe even me) might spot a Mink or an Eastern Fox Snake, the most-popular inhabitants of this forest. A mink would have been preferable to a snake unless I was far enough away.

As I walked along the designated Orange and Green Trails, I searched for the Shagbark Hickory trees that people had also commented on. I researched a little beforehand to ensure I could identify such a tree – it wasn’t difficult when you see the bark. I learned Shagbark Hickories could grow to 100 feet and live for 350 years. There were many tall, old Oak trees in the forest as well.

The trails wend through the forest and/or down to the water.

I wandered down to the water but saw no waterfowl, so headed back onto the trail, which was raised in some places, rustic in others.

Vernal pond.

One of the trails led to a Vernal pond with an information stand. Vernal ponds usually form after snow runoff and Springtime rain and are teeming with aquatic wildlife, including the tiny Western Chorus Frogs a/k/a Spring Peepers. Last year just before Grosse Ile closed the free bridge, I went over to the Island to a Vernal pool at Meridian Woods in search of Spring Peepers, but heard and saw none. P.S. I did return here to this Vernal pond on the first full day of Spring looking for Spring Peepers, but there were none. It was chilly out – maybe that’s why, or, they slept in, having lost an hour’s sleep.

Fall Trip #3 was an impromptu visit on December 6th after I declared “Bah humbug for writing Christmas cards – I’m going to Humbug Marsh instead!” We’d had a minor snowfall earlier in the week and what a difference five weeks’ time made on the landscape. Everything was dull and the marsh area water and Vernal pond were frozen and littered with leaves and the trees were now bare.

There were dribs and drabs of snow as well. The fishing pier had lost its allure with not a single soul, except me. I must say that on my multiple trips to this venue, critters were scarce.

I’m looking forward to visiting again in warmer weather because, from what I’ve read, it will be a treasure trove of natural beauty, including wildflowers like Swamp Roses which are a type of Hibiscus. Humbug Marsh was a peaceful venue and this particular spot struck me as very serene.

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Heron at Humbug Marsh #Wordless Wednesday #Yoga before breakfast

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

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Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge/Humbug Marsh – Part I

Way back in October, I made my first foray to the 44-acre Refuge Gateway of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, located on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan.

For me, it was a long-awaited visit, since this portion of the 48-mile International Wildlife Refuge was well overdue by the time of its grand opening on October 1, 2020. This was not just because of COVID, which halted some work at this Trenton Gateway venue, but simply because it was such a massive project, spanning many years, which began with the demolition of formerly industrial toxic areas that long occupied the Detroit riverfront. These are three photos of info about that demolition and eventual revitalization. There are many informational kiosks located throughout this venue.

A few facts for you.

The entire Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge encompasses much more than just this Trenton Gateway venue. It actually includes 48 miles of the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie shorelines, several Refuge Islands, marshes, shoals and waterfront lands. So this Trenton Gateway is merely a portion of the entire wetland area. It is still a work in progress with a Visitor Center yet to open due to COVID and additional hiking trails will be added to the three miles of trails currently available.

I have followed the progress of this venue via Facebook for several years, and, like my good friend Ann Marie, we would always glance over at this work-in-progress site each time we respectively drove along Jefferson Avenue, when returning from Lake Erie Metropark, which is four miles away.

After the grand opening was announced, I could hardly wait to go. I e-mailed Ann Marie with the good news and the specifics. Because this venue is open Thursday through Sunday only, not surprisingly there were crowds that initial weekend, with lot of photos and comments posted by happy trekkers and fishermen. My elation faded a tad … oh ya … the crowds and social distancing. Thus, I resolved to bide my time until the newness wore off and then I’d stop by. After three weeks, I triple masked-up and made the first of three visits last Fall. That visit will be the subject of today’s post.

Of course, being trigger happy with the shutter button on those three visits created a colossal dilemma, i.e. the unwieldy task of sorting through a ton of photos, then writing the narrative to go with each trek. My picture files groaned with the many shots and languished all these months while I spun out posts from my Fall and Winter excursions. I decided to pick my favorite shots from this venue and do two posts only and thankfully finally got it done yesterday due to an ugly weather day.

Here’s the recap of that first visit

Trip #1 was on October 25th. It began as a dark, dismal and gray Sunday morning and for that reason I chose to visit this newest natural gem in the Downriver area. I had method in my madness because I also figured the chilly temps (42F/5C) (10 degrees below normal) and gusty winds would surely keep the crowds away. Yep – a good idea, as I was the only one meandering around the woods, marsh and Delta areas, though there were about ten fisherman hoping for their catch of the day on the Korneffel Fishing Pier.

Along the very long, sloped walkway that leads to the Korneffel Fishing Pier I was bombarded with informational signs – so much information, but so little time, and, because of my concern over crowding, I picked up a few pamphlets and photographed some signs to read before I returned and also to help with stats to compile my narratives.

I started along the Korneffel Fishing Pier which is a whopping 700 feet (213 meters) long and juts out into the western Trenton Channel. There is plenty of room for fishermen and folks with binoculars and cameras without bumping into one another. I am sure it will be a hoppin’ place when the Silver Bass and Walleye begin running later this Spring.

I could see the Detroit River and off in the distance, Lake Erie from my vantage point on this pier.

I climbed back up the slope and saw the Visitor Center at the top of the hill. I am looking forward to checking it out once it finally opens.

There were signs indicating future pollinator areas so I hope that once we get to Summer, we’ll have a butterfly haven as well.

As I headed back up to Jefferson Avenue to get a shot of the sign to use as my header image, the pesky clouds parted and a hint of sunshine peeked out (not that it warmed me up and my fingers were getting numb). As the sky brightened, I was sorry I hadn’t waited to get better shots, but I knew I would be returning.

There was an Art-in-the Park exhibit here. It looked a little out of place, but I know the Detroit Institute of Arts had a campaign to enlighten people with reproductions of art from the DIA and thus many such paintings were featured in the Trenton-area parks from August through October.

Because of the wind buffeting me from time to time, I did not walk along the Monguagon  Boardwalk. Yes, I was a fraidy-cat, but it has no railings – yikes! Nor did I walk out onto this boat launch area.

I lamented over losing a shot of a Great Egret that was spooked by my arrival, but decided he was too far away anyway. However, just a few minutes later, luck was with me in a small cove where I had an up-close-and-personal visit with a Great Blue Heron. I’ll save those pictures for this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

I wandered around Humbug Marsh and explored that woodsy area as well. My initial impression from this visit was the contrast between the streamlined, modern-looking fishing pier and Visitor Center versus the rustic simplicity of Humbug Marsh which meanders along the River and is part of the 300-year-old Old Growth Forest. Some forest hiking trails are natural turf, while other trails have planks to cross Vernal Ponds or marshy areas. You may walk or bike on these trails. Humbug Marsh is touted as “the only mile of undeveloped land left along the Detroit River.” A separate and much shorter post on Thursday will be devoted to just Humbug Marsh.

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“Miracle” is now a Canuck!

On March 15th, I did a post about “Miracle on the Detroit River” which was the saga of a small dog who was chased by a coyote onto the frozen Detroit River during the brutally cold Polar Vortex. This post follows up on that tale, since so many of you were captivated by the misfortune, then good fortune, of the dog.

Alone, scared, hungry and cold, this pooch spent four days on the ice while most of the Downriver area of Southeast Michigan fretted and stewed. We all wished somebody … anybody … could come to its rescue.

The hero of the story was Canadian Jude Meade, who borrowed an airboat, made a daring rescue, endangering his own life by stepping onto the ice to retrieve the dog, then sped across the River to deposit the poor pooch into the arms of Patricia Trevino, Manager of the River Rouge Animal Shelter at the shoreline of Dingell Park.

Then the dog was whisked away …

… to a local vet where he was named “Miracle” and, after recovery from surgery and frostbite, he was placed with a foster family to await adoption.

A multitude of people, locally and across the nation, were eager to adopt Miracle, but he now has found a furever home with his rescuer, Jude Meade!

These photos are from the Friends of the River Rouge Animal Shelter’s Facebook site and capture the joyous reunion that took place yesterday. Because our international border crossing at Detroit/Windsor has been closed for a year due to COVID, an extra-special effort by River Rouge Police Chief/Fire Chief Roberto Cruz allowed this “handoff” to occur. I was the 500th person to comment and agree on the Facebook post that Miracle could not have been placed with a better person.

That bright-red hoodie with the Canada and U.S. flags on the back made this Canadian, who has lived in the States almost 55 years, grin ear to ear.

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#Don’t take my photo – I’m having a bad feather day! #Wordless Wednesday #March winds are a gull’s ‘do disaster.

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

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Winter: It’s NO walk in the Park sometimes.

Whew! We’ve left Winter in the rear-view mirror and Spring officially arrived on Saturday. Of course, that is just “calendar Spring” and doesn’t mean we won’t still see ice and snow, nor endure more cold temps, but the angle of the sun will feel good on our faces and definitely will help that pesky snow to melt quickly.

The sun perks us all up and nothing is better than a good shadow day, despite the cold temps.

After a warmer-than-average, snow-free November, then up to Christmas Eve, it HAD been my kind of Winter. We were spoiled until we had several inches of “mood snow” for Christmas Day. After it melted away, we had a great January and I was able to walk almost every day to/from and around Council Point Park, save for a few rainy mornings where we hovered at the freezing mark, so I didn’t venture out.

But then the Peanut and Snack Angel’s crown began to tarnish a little.

It was all good until Mother Nature got a bee in her bonnet and cranked up the ol’ snow machine. February 4th we got measurable snow and some freezing drizzle, which kept me from any trips to the Park for about a week. I had to walk in the plowed and salted street to get back and forth to the Park because it was safer than navigating icy sidewalks. We just cleared up that mess, when we got the eight-inch (20 cm) snowfall, plus a little snow every day for a week, along with the Polar Vortex. Because it was so cold, the City didn’t plow or salt the streets. Ugh!! Winter held NO appeal for me for most of February. I am sure my furry friends beat a path over to where I’ve designated as their usual feeding stations, hoping I might have been by, while I stewed and fretted over them like a mother hen, knowing their nut stash was useless beneath mounds of snow and frozen turf.

But I finally made another snowy and frozen foray on February 21st.

I was hoping my furry and feathered pals remembered who I was. I wondered if I could access the space beneath the tree and the little hideaway where I tuck their treats on the stump and spread across the log. Did I need high boots, or could I wear my lug-soled hiking boots which would help me navigate the icy patches much better? Decisions, decisions … I wore the lug-soled boots as I finally headed out the door, wearing multiple layers, toting bags of treats and on a mission to feed the hungry and rack up some steps. At the Park the snow was mounded up high – it looked beautiful and pristine as few people had tracked through it yet.

As I suspected, the path was dicey and icy in many spots. But I had to wade through the high snow to get under the tree. Yes, like before, there were lots of squirrel footprints – the squirrels had jumped from tree to tree and gone to The Safe Haven Tree, then scurried down the trunk to the ground. I stomped out a bigger area under the tree so I could spread out treats. Soon my furry pals were noshing nuts and the shriek of Jays filled the air.

I left my peanut pals happily crunching and munching and started along the path, which had been plowed, but was not totally clear and was icy, as you see in the header image and below.

Long-dead teasels lined the Creek banks – look how bleak it looks in the heart of Winter.

Snow had piled onto branches – no movement by birds or squirrels here. I suspected most were staying in their respective nests.

But then Parker came over, his face covered with snow and looked up at me. Not the greatest shot of my pal, but I wanted to scoop him up and take him home with me.

Soon I was at my second stop, the small alcove with the stump and fallen log. I headed over, stepping into snow banks and submerging my boots up to my calves. After cleaning off the stump and log, I poured out peanuts and sunflower seeds and watched my furry pals scamper out of the woodwork.

After tendering treats, I was off again, treading carefully, taking baby steps and walking gingerly while navigating icy patches.

The cement ledge was snowy and the Creek was frozen over and piled high with snow.

The pathway area around the pavilion was similarly slick and icy, so I opted to just walk through the snow which I deemed safer. I stopped to get a shot of some icicles.

My parting shot that particular day was the park bench looking pretty desolate here, BUT

… a few weeks later we got a brief thaw.

That bit of balmy weather helped thaw out the Ecorse Creek. The Mallards were elated they could waddle around on those bright-orange feet, then plop into the Creek for a quick wash-up, then a preening session. You can see their joy to be back to their routine again, just as I was glad to return to my own routine.

And now it is Spring … glorious Spring. How do I know?

Though the landscape is still pretty blah, it’s always fun to guess when I’ll see the first delicate Snowdrops blooming in the ‘hood.

Every bit of green is a welcome “Spring Thing” in my opinion.

Robins, like Spring flowers, (and even weeds), are popping up everywhere. Often they greet me with a glare, or a suspicious look …

… or I’ll see Robin Redbreast with its ear tuned to the worm station (and also one eye on me to ensure I’m not stealing any worms or grubs).

The trill of the Red-Winged Blackbird perched in a tree, or the reeds at the marsh area of the Park in early March, is always a thrill to my ears.

There are buds on trees – how many days or weeks ’til they open?

Even Harry the Heron is hepped up, as soon he won’t shiver while he scopes out fish in water up to his knees in the murky Creek water.

With the advent of Spring, everything is alright within my world again … well, almost. That pesky COVID thing lingers. But thankfully, I have my go-to spot to forget about the trials and tribulations we call life.

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Parker: “I’d rather have a pot of peanuts, than a pot of gold!” #Wordless Wednesday; #Wildlife Wednesday

#Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story. And … click here please …

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