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.
There are signs marking the migration by months, and what birds of prey you might expect to pass through during the three-month season.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But he wasn’t content to stand there and took off, circling the marsh and then returning once again.
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.
These are some pictures along the trail.
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.
Perhaps I’ll need to take a rain check for the hawks.