While I wasn’t standing on the pier along the Detroit River as early as last Sunday morning, today I had my binoculars pressed to my frozen face before most folks enjoyed their first cup of coffee. Heading out the door into a wind chill of 4 degrees, compared to last Sunday’s balmy 40-degree temperature, was certainly no treat, but, as long as some bald eagles were present at Dingell Park, I would be waiting for them.
I’d not used my binoculars in ages, so I practiced using them at home before leaving. For many years we had birdfeeders and birdbaths in the backyard, as did our next-door neighbor Marge. For all seasons, besides bread tidbits, I enticed the birds with Birdola seed bars, black oil sunflower seeds, and suet to attract the cardinals, jays and woodpeckers. Marge catered to the rest of the crowd with thistle seed socks for the goldfinches, regular seed and millet sprays for the small songbirds, and, in Winter she mounted a few heated bird baths on the deck railing. At Christmastime, more than once I saw some broken, or slightly burnt cookies lined up along the deck railing, same to be enjoyed on a first-come, first-served basis. The squirrels usually commandeered the cookies before they even cooled off. Come Summer I put out birdbaths and Marge had her hummingbird feeders, so there was always a flurry of feathered friend activity to watch with the naked eye or through our binoculars. That was long before digital cameras were popular, so all the images of those beautiful birds remained in our heads.
When I arrived at Dingell Park, there were just a few people gazing at Mud Island, but no tripods and cameras with long lenses were set up like last week. I wasn’t surprised because not only was it cold, but gray and gloomy as well. While I shivered at the river, I had a primo view of Mud Island and the ice floes, but no eagles were out and about yet, so, I took my bag of clementine segments I’d brought for the ducks and had some eager takers for those treats. The beautiful swan was dining elsewhere this morning.
Finally, there was a sign of life on Mud Island as several bald eagles flew out from the trees at once. “Wow” was all I could say and that’s exactly what I heard others utter as they stood nearby on the pavilion. I kept the camera tucked away, because as long as the eagles stayed in the trees, they looked like dark blobs on the bare branches. One eagle flew down to the ice floe and I fiddled with the binoculars to hone in on him. Just like last Sunday, I marveled at the magnificent wing span as he descended onto the ice floe. There he sat, and I could study him up close thanks to the binoculars. What a menacing look it wore with that long beak, its white head, a sharp contrast to its dark body. I realized how large a bald eagle really is, so much larger than I thought from my same vantage point last week, but then watching with my naked eye.
I hated to blink, not wanting to miss any action by that eagle, but then my attention was diverted when I saw a streak in the sky and another eagle began its descent from the treetop. It swooped down, powerful feet outstretched, skimming along the surface, then dipping those clawed feet into the water. There was a big splash and the eagle flew off with something clasped in those sharp claws. It happened in an instant and I assume it was a fish, but not a big one. Poof – he was gone in a flash, those mighty wings powering him back up into the treetops. That episode is a good example of the term “eagle eye” isn’t it?
The eagle on the ice floe grew tired of the view and finally flew away, and since there was no more activity, I moved on as well, glad for the chance to have had a close-up view of these regal-looking birds.
I warmed up in the car, then headed to Council Point Park, just a few miles away. Here I was welcomed with open arms, er … paws, by a half-dozen squirrels, only a minute after starting on the trail. “I know, I know” I told them as I struggled to open the Ziploc bag with my heavy gloves, while trying to keep my furry friends from climbing onto my boots or shimmying up my pant leg (yes, that’s happened in the past when they get impatient, and I don’t especially like it).
Those persistent squirrels hit pay dirt as I dumped out the entire bag, knowing I had another bag in reserve. Then I headed along the trail. I was glad I wore my hiking boots, because, just as I suspected, that one-day warm-up didn’t get rid of the ice and snow on the perimeter path. On the side closest to the Creek, I was forced to walk on the snowy grass. The Creek was a skating rink, and, unlike the Detroit River which has a swifter current, the Creek looked to be solid ice.
The submerged trees were frozen in place and I wondered how long until I would be writing about the big turtles that line up on the log to bask in the morning sun. Four months perhaps?
Todd, the jogger who is a fixture at the Park every weekend all year long, was on the opposite loop. I saw he had discarded his hoodie on a park bench and I called across to him “you’re making me colder seeing you running with bare arms.” He kind of shrugged off my comment and said “I’m like a wild animal when I run and don’t feel the cold at all.”
Two trips around the entire Park and I was ready to head home. I got into the house and the bitter cold had rendered my cheeks as red as my burgundy squall jacket, my nose was running like a sieve and my eyes were watering. This morning’s bowl of oatmeal had gone to my frozen toes and I was starving from all the fresh air, but first, all I wanted was to wrap my fingers around a hot mug of coffee.
So, now we await the event … this predicted 3-6 inches of new snow. I looked out a short time ago, and it was snowing lightly and the pavement was covered. So, I had my outing, and now I think I’d like to hibernate for the rest of the Winter.