The Ice-Cutter.

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I am thankful this is the last weekend of Winter, not that it means that we have turned a corner or anything; no, it simply means we are two days away from the calendar proclaiming it as the “First Day of Spring” – I am a realist.

Here in Southeast Michigan, Winter is not over yet and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mother Nature had another go-around with us as to the white stuff.  I still have snow in my front and back yards, and you saw snow on the roof of the Little Red Schoolhouse in yesterday’s photos from Heritage Park.  There are contests in this state’s Upper Peninsula where people guess when the final snow melt will occur and the Coast Guard ice-cutters up in Lake Michigan will be in service for at least another month.   This short video will show you how the Coast Guard ice cutters plow through the ice-filled waters near the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  They’ll carve out a trail for the freighters during the shipping season:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbjb_eHJxhY

The temperature reached 60 degrees today!  I didn’t partake in all that warmth and sunshine, however, as I decided to walk at my usual time and it was still nippy out.  The ice still covered about 75% of the Ecorse Creek as it winds parallel to Council Point Park’s walking path.  I really enjoy the peace and solitude of the Park in the early morn, along with its subtle noises like the songbirds and downy woodpecker, and even the geese or ducks raising a racket in their natural habitat, and I was the only human there for the first hour of my walk.

In the first loop, I fed my furry little pals and took a few pictures of them enjoying their peanuts, and scurrying away to hide a few more, but, the geese and ducks were not around so I put the camera away.

The landscape is so blah at the Park right now.  It is a mixture of browns and ochres mostly.  The Canada geese blend into the brownish-gray water as do the female mallards.  On a sunny day, the glint of the greenish-teal head of a drake will quickly capture your attention.  The straw-colored pampas grass waving in the wind, the many cockleburs and last Fall’s leaves embedded in the dead grass or underbrush, make for a boring backdrop to any photos I take in late Winter/early Spring at this venue.

So, when I saw a very large mute swan in the Creek in loop number two of the perimeter path, it caught my attention.

FAR AWAY

The white body, graceful neck and bright-orange bill … well it certainly stood out in the blah background as you see in the photo above.  Quickly I dug out the camera, hoping to get a few shots for today’s blog post.

What I didn’t expect to see, until I ventured closer to the Creek banks, was that the swan was having difficulty plowing through the Creek’s icy surface.  Obviously my memory was poor as to what happened the last time I tracked a mute swan down to the water’s edge, and he got out of the water and chased me down.  I hurried over anyway to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird up close.

I could see the swan had cut through a swath of ice already, leaving a watery path in its wake.  But, as large as the swan was, it was having difficulty in its role as “the ice-cutter” and I watched it pummel the ice with wide webbed feet, kicking and struggling to push itself forward through the ice.   You can see the ice in front of it with its body in the water, feet kicking furiously.

feet paddling.jpg

On occasion, it even used its long orange beak to help chip the ice away, or perhaps guide it through these icy straits.

using beak to break ice

I was amazed.  A couple of times the swan saw me glimpsing at it, but stayed on task, and finally, with a huge push of its massive feet, it was propelled over to the Creek bank, where it climbed up.

up the embankment.jpg

Once up the Creek bank, it stood within a few feet of me, as if it didn’t know what to do now that it had reached landfall.  You can see how its slender neck was soaking wet from the icy Creek where it had just emerged.

landfall

I watched it preening, as it delicately picked clumps of ice from its feathers.

preening.jpg

I found myself feeling sorry for this beautiful creature, and thought about sharing some peanuts from the bag in my pocket when it was done grooming.  But, I thought it might have a notion to come after me and I’d have to run out into the street – I’d have been fine, but the swan might have been hit by a vehicle.  The last encounter with the swan, we were in a secluded area of the Park, far away from any vehicles or nearby neighborhoods.

glorious bird.jpg

I watched the preening ritual, wondering if the swan would just go and sit somewhere, maybe until later when it warmed up, or even fly away, perhaps down to the Detroit River, just a mile away.  But, it seemed resigned to go back and plow through the chilly water once again, because it padded back to the Creek bank, down the side, and soon I heard the sounds of ice breaking as it laboriously pushed itself on its journey.

end-back at it.jpg

I sure was impressed with this feathered ice-cutter and believe it would give the Coast Guard contingent a run for its money.

I am sure the swan welcomes Spring weather as much as I do.  I added another five miles to my tally under a brilliant blue sky and a welcome sun.

About lindasschaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, and this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for over three decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, although I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too.
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20 Responses to The Ice-Cutter.

  1. Iriowen says:

    Aww! This beautiful creature must be feeling cold. Poor thing! 😩
    Not to worry Spring is around the corner. 🌺😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perpetua says:

    What an ice breaker even with its web feet. In your area, do they allow for the mute swan to propagate if they are not native to your country?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      To tell you the truth I’ve not read anything about the mute swans. We don’t have that many mute swans here – I don’t think any other swans are native to our part of SE Michigan. The Canada geese are problematic in the northern suburbs, not near to me. They have many rural areas there, including many golf courses, and they are trying to rid the area of Canada Geese humanely. Those feet were incredibly big and he was pushing so hard to go forward in the ice. I was surprised he (or she) went back into the water again so quickly after the ordeal. It was hard work pushing through that ice.

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      • Perpetua says:

        Those Canadian geese can be a pest when they migrate and prolific. I wonder where those mute swans are coming from? Stanley park, Vancouver has mute swans that are not native. The sad part is when they lay eggs, rangers do not allow them to hatch. Once these swans are gone, don’t know what they will replace. We have one too many ducks, geese and gulls.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        The Canadian geese are a pest sometimes and at Council Point Park, where I walk nearly daily, has a walking trail, plus baseball and soccer fields and picnic areas, so what they do in the Summer, is around June, after the goslings (usually born around early May) are old enough to fly, the Park sprays a grape juice concentrate on the grass. The geese don’t like the taste of it, and they won’t go there to graze. Then the geese lose their flying feathers so they lay low and don’t return to the Park until around Labor Day. The geese can get nasty sometimes when walkers cross their path – they think they own the Park!! But when they have their goslings with them, they hiss and flap their wings at the walkers/joggers. I have been walking there for 5 years and saw mute swans only two times in five years … in the last month, I’ve seen them close to the banks of the Creek two times and both times they came ashore and up on the grass by the trail. It astounded me … the first one came after me two weeks ago and I held at bay by feeding it peanuts. They really are a beautiful creature. I did not understand why it persisted in going back into the water where it could barely navigate, because they fly. I’ve never seen one fly, but I know they fly as I’ve seen pictures of them.

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  3. Ann Marie stevens says:

    Miss Linda……………………that is a clever title for the swan: “Ice cutter”………and the awesome video of the real ice cutter Up North…………………………………..how do I go about getting your pictures that you are talking about in your blog?

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    • lindasschaub says:

      Thanks Ann Marie – Some of Robb’s clients have freighters and they are up in the UP and they have e-mailed pictures of the boats in the past showing then encased in ice – pretty spectacular. I knew about the U.S. Coast Guard ice-cutters and have seen pictures of their work so I hunted down a video – Robb subscribed to a seafarers maritime book and newsletter for years. I figured the video would show a good example of a real ice-cutter.

      As to my pictures, I’m just using a digital camera with 12X zoom. I had a digital camera with 4X zoom and when I went to Elizabeth Park with Marge one day for an outing back in 2014, she stopped on the road several times and the two of us took the exact same pictures. My pictures came out far away and hers were very clear and up close. That was my first camera and I didn’t know about the zooming feature and she explained it to me. So I got one with more zoom. But I understand from a fellow blogger that you can get 24X zoom which would make the pictures even more close-up, and, like my camera, you don’t have to use special long-length lenses like a 35mm camera. You can buy digital cameras with the long lenses though if you choose. I just have a simple camera and only take pictures on the “automatic setting”. I bet you could get good pictures from your smartphone though. My friend Evelyn takes some beautiful pictures with her phone and sends them to me occasionally. She rarely uses a camera, preferring to use the phone instead. I was in the right place at the right time with this swan – he was so huge and beautiful.

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  4. I saw swans often in NY, but I never saw an ice-cutter one. The salt water of Long Island Sound didn’t freeze often, but the mill pond did.

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    • lindasschaub says:

      This swan was so determined to cut through this ice … it was relentless. I was worried it might cut itself on the ice as its body plowed through., It used its feet to push itself forward and its beak to try to break the ice. I thought that once it was up on land, it would just fly away, but it went back into the water again. It was not afraid of me, and did not snort or get aggressive. I personally thing it was worn out from traveling through the ice. It is pretty when the ice freezes over on the water, but must be difficult for these waterfowl … I wonder if they only eat fish and reeds, and the reeds are dead now. They are pretty large birds to just eat reeds. I have to read up on them. Saw two mute swans in five years, and now in two weeks, at Council Point Park, have had two of them come up on land … this swan was huge. When it was standing up, neck outstretched, I could not believe its size.

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      • Until I looked at the bird app, I had no idea swans were so localized. We saw them everywhere in England, and I saw them on a daily basis in Stony Brook.

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Someone else commented on that as well … in five years I’ve seen two mute swans and now in two weeks I’ve seen them twice at Council Point Park. I can understand seeing them at the Detroit River because it is such a large body of water. This was amazing yesterday. I was fascinated by the swan, its size and its tenacity to get through that ice. This is not that large of a park, nor body of water.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Uncle Tree says:

    The prettiest ice-cutter I ever seen. 🙂 Very nice close-ups, Linda!
    Cheerz, UT

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    • lindasschaub says:

      Thanks Uncle Tree – this one just fell into my lap … I had figured, despite the beautiful sunny day, there would be no nature photos yesterday, save for the squirrels and their antics, and, I actually had a post bubbling around in my head on another topic, then I stumbled upon the swan. What a beauty, and I was so amazed watching it plow through the ice; it was relentless. I wanted to go help it out.

      Thanks for the compliment – that huge swan just posed nicely for me once it got up on land. And behaved itself as well!

      Liked by 1 person

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