Hunting for hawks at Lake Erie Metropark.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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50 Responses to Hunting for hawks at Lake Erie Metropark.

  1. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful post and pictures! I love that trail. I would love to bike ride it all along.
    In my neck of the woods I have seen several hawks. They make my chickens nervous and they start squeaking and run to the chicken coop or hide under the bushes when a hawk is in the sky. When this happens I run out and scare the hawk away. Some friends have told me how the hawks can eat a chicken in minutes!
    And again, Linda, I really love that trail. I wonder if bicycles are allowed 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      Hi Martha – there are part of the trail that you can take a bike and some parts are just foot traffic, in fact I just remember as I write this I had a picture that said “Nature Trail – Foot Traffic Only” … on the paved part of the trail you can bike, on the wooden part and dirt/gravel you cannot. We have the chicken hawks in our City now and I do not live in the country. We have a Facebook site for crime in our City and people were posting pictures of adult and juvenile chicken hawks preying on mice, birds and squirrels. And that one was at the Park chasing after one of the squirrels. I see birds circling above sometimes but they are too high up to tell exactly what they are. That’s scary about the hawk eating the chicken, but also you will want to be careful with pets – the people were posting that the adult chicken hawks were going after small dogs left outside. We have coyote issues either and we are not rural – I understand the larger rural cities having it, but we are not rural in the least. Council Point Park is plunked down in the middle of the City, but across the street is a residential neighborhood. I am glad you enjoyed the post. Tomorrow I will have a post from Elizabeth Park where I went last Sunday – very scenic there as well, but no woodsy trails, more along the Detroit River.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Some folks really get into it with the hawk passion! There are often a lot of hawks in our area, especially at this time of year when the farmers are harvesting and the mice are on the run. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      Yes, I was surprised on that official count how these people are so diligent tracking the raptors that pass that way. I will go back again and see if I am luckier this time and for sure as the colors change as it is a heavily wooded area. Now we have the Cooper’s Hawks living right here in the City.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fred Bailey says:

    Linda: A lovely marsh you have indeed. always something to photograph there. Ho hawks/ you have a lovely picture of a shithawk as they are know world-over. What a nasty mess we’ve have wthout them!

    Liked by 3 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      Yes it is nice there Fred and it was so windy and cold that day – I had pictures of the water and reeds from the effects of the wind, but the blog post was long so I eliminated them. I hope to go back again a few times when the weather is nicer and the leaves start to turn.

      Like

  4. Mackenzie says:

    I learn SO much from your posts! What fantastic shots of wildlife- and I am so glad you snagged that last spot!

    Liked by 3 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thanks Mackenzie – I wished I went on a sunnier day as it was overcast, but I’ll go back again a few times and hopefully see some hawks or something else out of the ordinary and some nice Fall colors as well. Those colorful leaves will remind you of home for sure. P.S. – I got the last parking spot as someone was pulling out, so I thought I was lucky and it was a grassy area on top of it, used for parking during the overflow of visitors at the boat launch.

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  5. Lovely photos! I laughed that you didn’t honk at the geese because they might have honked back.

    Liked by 3 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      I’m glad you liked the photos and I should have waited for a sunnier day, but since they touted going there in late September to see the most variety I went anyway – the weather is so fickle and we have a rainy morning today. Those geese were funny Anne because normally you see a few in the middle of the road, even in the City near the Park and the Creek which goes right through the border of Lincoln Park and Wyandotte, but I’ve never seen this many at one time monopolizing a roadway. And, it was as if they knew people were exasperated so they stood there defiantly!

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      • I used to tangle (maybe tango is the right word) with geese on my morning walk by the water.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I think “tango” and “tangle” both fit for the geese Anne. I miss seeing them at Council Point Park as they and the ducks added a little color and liveliness to the Park. The geese left right after their goslings were fledged and then they moulted so they lost their flying feathers. I think they all went to Lake Erie Metropark and Elizabeth Park as I saw a lot of them there and they don’t have to fly – they go into the water and can stay in the woods and are protected. But they were so mean with, and without, their goslings in tow. They will stand on the perimeter path forcing us to go around them, but that’s 3 or 4 at the most … this was just incredible backing up the vehicles. My friend Ann Marie lives in an apartment and they have a man-made lake near by. There is one goose who attacks anything that comes near him, including other geese and ducks, and especially humans. Ann Marie has to walk the long way around the entire lake so he doesn’t attack her when she goes on her daily walk!

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      • The geese I encountered were more vocal than physical.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Gee Anne … you miss all the fun with the wing flapping, but you got to see the hissing and pink tongue – that is always a treat!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this new post about the hawks and the pictures are simply amazing! 😊 On some occasions you can also let the hawks fly onto your arm – was this also possible at this event? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      They had an event the week before called “Hawkfest” … I did not attend that two-day extravaganza, which is a whole weekend of hawk-related events. They did have several raptor handlers scheduled to come in and give talks about the various birds and they were on display if you wanted to see them beforehand in the museum. I don’t know if they were caged or tethered when the handler was giving a talk though. I am going to go back again so I can see any of the other species they say will go through – hopefully the weather is good for doing that … we have a rainy morning right now and maybe all day. I am hoping for a break to take a stroll later.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Locally we have a Hawk Mountain that is also a way station on a migratory route. In our neighborhood we’ve had some red tailed hawks perch (looking wistfully at my bird feeders). We see them occasionally but this year one took up residence. In back of my yard there is a water retention pond that rarely has more than a puddle. It’s full of wildlife. I can hear the toads and frogs and we get mice from there too so the hawk must have thought he was at a 4 star restaurant!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      You get immersed in nature just looking out the window. When I still had bird feeders, the squirrels would get at the food, no matter if I used a baffle, hung them on a clothesline in the middle of the yard – there are many trees around and he’d jump down or over. .. I’d go out and see birds lined along the fence with long faces while the squirrel ravaged the feeder, but at least he didn’t pose any threat of harm to them – that’s funny about the hawk and hopefully he doesn’t tell two friends, and they tell two friends, like that old commercial from the 70s. I’ll go back and see what shows up in the next two months and glimpse the colors as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have 4 feeders, 3 are sunflower seeds, a squirrel’s delight. They cannot get at the feeders. I have a wonderful baffle that works and also there aren’t trees near enough for jumping (yet). However, the birds kick down enough seeds to keep the squirrels happy. That hawk is so damn big I worry about it carrying me off! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I had a log-cabin feeder that a neighbor, who is long gone, built and put on a PVC pipe – he said “the squirrels simply can’t land here … they would not risk their necks from high up.” Wrong! And the pigeons used the roof of the “cabin” to roost. My mom looked out the back window one day and saw three of them on top and the rest were milling around eating spilled seeds from the “porch” of the cabin. She said “get rid of the pigeons or the feeder goes!” I bought various mixes of red pepper which was supposed to deter squirrels and pigeons and it didn’t work so I emptied the feeder, vacuumed it out and it is an ornament now these past 25 years or so. It is getting weather beaten despite treating it with a shellac every year and one day it will have to come down for good. I have spotted way too many hawks at the Park and I usually buy the squirrels unwaxed pumpkins and also apples for the Fall to eat as a treat.. I bought some apples for them to take tomorrow, but am leery as I don’t want a hawk swooping down on them while they sit there in plain view to eat the apple. I may put them on a picnic table under the pavilion or cut them up first – not sure. Some of the hawks do look pretty mean!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I buy corn cobs for the squirrels and they can get to a suet feeder for the winter. I cut a hole in my pumpkins after Halloween and watch them scoot in and out to get the seeds. Over the summer I bought some plums that just weren’t tasty so I put them on the ground outside our fencing. I wasn’t sure who got the but they were gone, stone and all the next day. Deer? Groundhogs? Usually squirrels leave something behind.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I never thought about corncobs … we may have them at Meijer and if not, we have a mom and pop pet supply store nearby whose sign reads “we feed everything from horses to hamsters” so I think I could get some there for my Park buddies – they could go under the picnic tables where the hawk can’t reach and I guess the applies could go there as well. I see those squirrels get into the pumpkins as soon as they are carved and they have an access point to gain entry to the inside but I’ve seen them gnawing on a pumpkin in a Fall display as well. I have a picture from a few years ago where a few black squirrels are all over a nice harvest display and I’m sure the homeowner was pretty upset when he opened his front door and looked out. They had dragged things off the hay bale, chomped on the pumpkins and carried off the smallest gourds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, they were hungry. I only do large pumpkins outside and although there are always a few scratch marks, they can’t seem to get completely through.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        They stand there, tapping their foot and crossing their arms, waiting for the carved ones to come out so they can go at them with gusto!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Could be groundhogs – I never knew they ate fruit, nor did I know they climbed trees. I was in the Park one morning and went past a tree and saw something out of the corner of my eye and a groundhog was just inches away from me chomping on mulberries sitting on a tree branch. I must have jumped a mile. I don’t have pumpkins at Halloween and I didn’t know they liked suet … that is good to know as well. Our grocery store often has BOGO sales on suet. As it gets closer to Winter, I try to give the Park squirrels some extra treats, especially if I know bad weather is the next day or I may not make it back for awhile (they don’t plow or take care of the perimeter path at all, so often days and days may go by before I get back there, even wearing lug boots, and on a weekend, it becomes mid-day due to waiting on snow/ice melt). So I try to compensate for my absence. The other walkers who feed them all have treadmills at home, so once the snow flies they don’t go down there either.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Cathy Brabant says:

    Learned a lot. Thanks Linda!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Cathy – I learned a lot too … I had no idea all this bird migration was going on so close to us. And I was there just a few days before the tornado came through Gibralter which was right around the corner basically.

      Like

  9. Laurie says:

    Oh, what a beautiful place to go hawk watching! There is a mountain near me (Hawk Mountain) where there is the same kind of set up – a paid counter and volunteers. I love to go there each fall. I saw a sharp shinned hawk in my neighborhood yesterday. She was intent on chasing a bird and didn’t see me at first. She was flying right towards me. When she got to within about 20 feet, she realized I was there, banked, and went to my right, but I got a great look!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lindasschaub says:

      You were lucky to be there – right place, right time! A few years ago I was walking to the Park and heard this horrible noise in the sky – screeching continuously, and I looked up to see a peregrine falcon chasing a medium-sized bird in mid-air. I had to look away as the bird being pursued made the most awful screeching noises and the falcon was almost upon it. Then no more noises and I assume it caught its prey. I was sorry that I was there at that time to witness it. I never knew about the raptor counters and any of these events until this year when I got the Lake Erie Metropark pass and started reading up on events I could go to at that Park. I am looking forward to returning plus seeing the leaves once we get deeper into October. I’m not sure when the foliage will turn there as we have a lot of trees turning already due to the drought in July – I think their Facebook site will keep us advised hopefully.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie says:

        It sounds like a wonderful place to go for bird watching and leaf watching, too. I had a similar experience with a great horned owl chasing prey. I had to look away too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, I am looking forward to going back Laurie – I have a week of mostly rain to get through first. I’ve never seen an owl, just in pictures, but I’d have to look away from this scenario too. I like nature but some things I’d rather not know about either.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. How cool not knowing what you will see each time you go! Heck even a different time of the day you may see a different bird! So exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I just love this post and all the photos! Such a magical place and so much wildlife! I especially love the little seagull. I just can’t resist them. 🙂 xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed this post Heather … so we not only like dinosaurs, but also seagulls. I really like going to the river as there are always seagulls. They’ll alight somewhere, like a railing at the river walk, and I can see them up close and also get a picture of them at the same time. So today’s post has two pics … the same seagull. He was a seagull with a big attitude and one mean look on his face!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awww, that’s one of the things I love about seagulls, they have such a lot of attitude! When I was in the park a couple of years ago and eating chips, there was the cutest one ever. He just sat next to me, with the cutest look on his face, gazing up hopefully at the chips. I think he was doing it on purpose and knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. He ended up with half the chips! 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        You sound like me Heather. It is those sad eyes isn’t it? We have an A&W casual restaurant and you pull up and the car hop comes out to you. Their specialty is coney dogs, onion rings/fries and root beer. The car hop brings out a tray to hang on your car window with the food on it – you have to take the food into the car quickly because the seagulls hang out here, and, if you are slow, they’ll come along and swipe food off the tray. Most people toss them a fry or two and then the seagulls are relentless and want more and sometimes fly onto the hood of the car waiting for something else!

        Liked by 1 person

      • They are very determined, especially when there’s lots of them! 🙂 But I can never resist the sad eyes. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I know Heather and I am such a sucker for those sad eyes too. I walked again this morning but just in the neighborhood as we had another storm earlier in the morning, around 6:00 a.m., but it cleared up enough so I could go out, so I just stayed close by as I left later than usual. Tomorrow it will be sunny, so I hope to get down to Council Point Park and visit with Parker who is likely wondering what happened to me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awww, I was just thinking I didn’t think you had seen Parker in a few days. He’ll be so excited to see you! 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        It was fun Heather. I will write about it either tomorrow or Friday – we are having some stormy weather later tonight/tomorrow early morning and I had not been down there in a bit, so made sure I got there today. He was so funny and cute – he came racing to see me and I took extra peanuts and apples with me today as I’d been gone so long, due to rain, and walking in the neighborhood or on weekend treks. The squirrels were running all over the place and I took lots of pictures … I’ll upload them tomorrow morning if it’s not stormy and I’m hoping they came out well. They’ll give you a giggle for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, he has obviously been waiting for you! 🙂 I cant wait to see the photos. 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        He sure is a cutie pie – just sent you one of my favorites. Hope it gives you a giggle.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I loved it! Thank you. 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like a beautiful day of walking despite not getting your desired pictures. The ones you got were lovely though 🙂. I smiled when you described how the geese made you wait for them like they had all the time in the world bless them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      It was a really nice trek Zena – I hope to go back again a few more times before the migration is over. It was so funny with those geese because they do pull those antics at Council Point Park where I usually walk during the week, especially when they have their goslings, but at the most, they’ll monopolize the pathway for five minutes and us walkers just go around them and walk on the lawn so we don’t disturb them (otherwise we have wing flapping and hissing directed at us). But these just had a mind of their own and thought it was perfectly fine to hold up traffic. 🙂

      Like

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