I keep reminding myself it is Autumn, and that was difficult to do this morning, after I stepped outside to 74-degree temps. It felt like an August day with high humidity and dew points and wet pavement everywhere from a pre-dawn rain. Once again it has been a rainy week, but I’ve been lucky enough to be unscathed by those droplets, timing my walks around the rain, but, it also meant staying close to the ‘hood as storms or rain loomed large … that is, except for yesterday.
On my list of Fall favorite things are apples. Michigan is 3rd in the nation for apple production. Our orchards produce 900 million pounds of apples a year in 16 different varieties of this sweet treat. I like Honey Crisp and Pinata apples best, and, to me, nothing beats a juicy apple with a slice of cheddar cheese alongside it.
Every Fall I treat my furry pals in the Park to apples and small unwaxed pumpkins. Now there’s something they enjoy and can really sink their teeth into. The last time I went grocery shopping, I bought a couple of bags of Jonathan apples.
The apples were small, perfect for paws and very tiny mouths. I had not been to Council Point Park as much as usual the last 10 days or so, due to sticking close to home because of rain or storm threats, or weekend excursions. I do stop at the Park on my way home from weekend treks, but most times the squirrels are not out and about like they are in the morning.
How do you like dem apples?
So I toted both bags of apples and several Ziploc bags of peanuts down to the Park to make amends for my absence.
I had just crossed into Council Point Park’s entrance when I got the first taker – Parker, of course. Thankfully he waited until I crossed the street, then zoomed on over and began dancing around my feet. I gave him a peanut and he started chomping happily.
I tossed out a few more peanuts, then slid in an apple for good measure. He sniffed it, but grabbed a couple of peanuts and scurried off to the soccer field, his go-to hiding place for peanuts. I waited briefly for his return, but he was digging furiously and I had apples and peanuts to deliver so I moved on.
I didn’t get far as a few more squirrels were there to greet me. Each got goodies like this.
Hmm … at this rate, I needed three bags of apples and peanuts.
In the past, I’ve always just placed the apples along the trail, about every 20 or 30 feet or so, in the areas where the squirrels frequent. They’d see them and eat them on the spot. Well, enjoying that apple on the spot was worrisome to me this year due to the hawk(s). I sure didn’t want to see a hawk swoop down on an unsuspecting squirrel, who was too engrossed in eating the apple to be “on guard”, so my plan was to place the apples around the picnic table area under the pavilion roof. Thus, the squirrels were protected from a hawk swooping down on them.
It looked like someone chewed on the one side of the picnic table.
Well, silly me … I was thinking like a human, not like a squirrel. I soon discovered a squirrel will seize something large like an apple or a cache of nuts, and haul it away to a hidey-hole, so I needn’t have worried, and I could banish that image of squirrels lined along the pathway, and the hawk trying to pick them off out of my mind.
I placed most of the apples along the top of a few picnic tables and underneath them as well, keeping aside a few in my pocket as I saw several squirrels on the trail. As soon as that trio of squirrels saw me, I held out an apple to lure them to the pavilion area so they could see the other apples. I shook my Ziploc bag of peanuts so they knew even more treats were in store for them. It worked and soon I had squirrels heading toward the pavilion. (Yes, I know I missed my calling as a squirrel trainer.)
Next, I went back out onto the perimeter path and a group of squirrels gathered around me as I scattered peanuts and the remaining two apples from my pocket. A couple of them fought, swiping a paw against the other, trying to claim one apple. Fisticuffs – really? I had to toss down more peanuts to intervene and along came a few squirrels, stopping to get their apple, clenching it between their teeth, or half dragging it along.
The peanuts were the bigger draw it seemed, as the squirrels often abandoned an apple to lunge for the peanuts, an action that reminded me of kids, who were happy when mom put down a plate of SpaghettiOs or macaroni and cheese, instead of meat and vegetables, but the nearby package of Oreo cookies were much more tempting, so the choice was easy.
Red was the color of the day.
Since I was here last, the City cleared lots of brush and chopped down a few trees that lined the banks of the Ecorse Creek. I really don’t like the look as it seems too open now, and the bare areas, and remaining stumps have made my favorite nature nook lose some of its ambiance.
The remaining bushes along the water’s edge continue to turn beautiful shades of red, and since there was not even a hint of sun until I was home and ready to walk in the door, those red leaves and apples looked vibrant in the gray morn.
I walked around the entire first loop, while squirrels continued to come out of the woodwork and race over to me for peanuts. I glanced at the picnic tables, saw a few birds pecking the apples and watched this squirrel making the moves to get his treat. Good, I got through to them; they knew where to go!
I gave everyone their morning giggle.
The other walkers, having witnessed the distribution of apples and peanuts as they passed me on the perimeter path, were smiling as I stood there amidst a flurry of furry, four-legged friends. I tried taking some photos of the group, but often, once I had the camera ready, in my peripheral vision I’d see another squirrel begging for peanuts at my feet.
Some squirrels had pieces of apple clinging to their fur around the mouth – well, it was good eatin’ and gave them a sugar high to go hunting and gathering long into the afternoon.
Please know that I am not their only benefactor, so my absence was not forcing them to eat pine cone nuts and whatever else they can forage around the Park this time of year. The mulberries are gone and I didn’t see many apples on the wild apple tree this year. So yes, it is easy for me to fall prey to those dark eyes and pleading looks, but there are at least three other people feeding them peanuts on a regular basis, mostly after I’ve left for home.
I walked the same loop again, this time in a hurry, as I’d lingered a little longer than usual. I would have liked to have returned this morning to see if any apples remained but I know, if it is anything like in the past, those apples are long gone by now. As I walked past my first “dropping” – the peanuts were gone, and most of a munched-on apple was still there – oh he’ll be back, I guarantee it.
It was fun interacting with the squirrels yesterday. Today is “National Animal Day” so I’ll leave you with this quote I got from Twitter.