TGIF! For many of us, since Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, we will enjoy a four-day holiday. Sadly, our time off will pass far too quickly!
Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected some photos and stories and I’m going to combine them into one big blog post.
The Winter Solstice has arrived.
Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year and the first day of Winter, my least-favorite season. I remember when I still worked on site, it was depressing to leave for work in the dark and arrive home in the dark. But, starting tomorrow, we’ll gain a mere second to our day as we crawl slowly toward those longer warm and sunshiny days that we all crave so much. My favorite meteorologist did an article today retracting that promise of an El Nino, or very mild Winter, that he originally crowed about back in early October. Well, I’m no climatologist, nor am I a meteorologist, but after we had a hard freeze in late September, a very cold October and sleet, snow and ice in early November, I didn’t think El Nino would be happening for us. The new consensus is we will have warmer temps until mid-January, then colder and stormier weather for the last half of the Winter. I hope Parker and his pals remember where they hid all their peanuts in case the walking days are scarce. The jury is still out on whether we will have a white Christmas and I’m 100% fine if those snowflakes don’t arrive. Yes I know “Bah Humbug Linda” … I hear you.
You sir deserve a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking!
This past Wednesday was bitter cold and very frosty out. Jack Frost left his etchings on every blade of grass and the Ecorse Creek had a film of ice over most of it. This caused some consternation with the geese as they veered to avoid the thin veil of ice and I watched them playing follow the leader along the Creek bank. This picture shows a couple of the geese and you can see where the ice ends.
For some reason, we’ve had a gaggle of geese at the Park that number at least fifty all week. They’ve been grazing on the grass in a large group and not bothering any of the walkers as they gather in the area I call “the donut” as it is in the middle of the walking loop. Consequently, there is no hissing or wing-flapping at the walkers, but one of the Canada geese got in a snit about something and took it out on what I believe was his mate. I’ve seen this before – everything is hunky dory and suddenly the gander will turn to its mate or companion and just start hissing for no reason. This goose kept it up and the other goose just watched him as if to say “ho hum, have your hissy fit –Santa will leave you a lump of coal for Christmas.” Watch the sequence of pictures … they are hissterical.
Holiday monikers … and then some.
Everyone knows who Santa Claus is, whether he goes by the name of Santa, the Jolly Old Elf, St. Nick or Kris Kringle. Yup, the big guy in red goes by several monikers, just like I do when walking at the Park. More and more I’ve lost my identity of “Linda” because many of the other walkers refer to me as “The Peanut Lady” or “The Camera Lady” … well, I can’t complain about being slapped with either of those monikers. I have said in the past that I imagine the squirrels see me and there are tiny squeaks of delight, akin to those you’d hear by Alvin and the Chipmunks, as they whisper to one another “Linda’s here!” I wrote a post one time about how we walkers refer to one another – most of the walkers either arrive with a friend or they walk alone. Since we don’t always know one another’s names, we are “the guy in the green van”, “the fellow who takes his shirt off when it’s hot”, “the pole walker”, “the rollerblader” … and so on, so being Mr. Peanut’s sidekick is not so bad. And I always have my camera in hand while I am doling out peanuts and walking.
I’ll be watching you.
The squirrels have a good thing going these days because there are even more walkers feeding them after seeing me interacting with Parker and his buddies. Those squirrels are relentless in their quest for peanuts. Basically, it is not just me who is a squirrel magnet, though Parker will run over to see me as soon as he sees the whites of my eyes and start nuzzling my shoe tops. The other squirrels caught on to those actions too –now we have a passel of imposters! But, I oblige them nonetheless. For the squirrels, we walkers are treated like any port in a storm – we can’t take it personally though. They equate all humans with peanuts, so they scurry to pose on haunches with endearing looks. So we are all suckers for the squirrels … they are savvy and I am sure that when Mama squirrels teach their young ‘uns how to survive, the #1 part of the learning process is “how to beg for peanuts” and the follow-up would be “how to keep the peanuts coming, once you’ve got those humans wrapped around your little paw”.
You’ll recall I have fallen under the spell of Grady, the gray squirrel who hangs around my house. I threw him a few peanuts one morning on the way home from my walk when he was sitting on the sidewalk, and yup, we have become fast friends, except for one small detail. The only difference between Grady and the Park squirrels is that Grady usually shows up when I’m not there, except the one time I was out running errands and forgot to put peanuts out before I left. I returned home to find Grady waiting on the porch, with arms crossed, tapping his foot and a look on his face that wavered between mad and sad. So now, I fulfill my obligations for the little squirrel I’ve taken under my wing, and I place five or six peanuts in the same spot every morning, and they have been snatched up by the time I return from my walk, no questions asked. I even reached my arm out the front door this morning, in the pouring rain, to toss out some peanuts for him. He is a grab-and-go kinda guy, who doesn’t even leave the peanut shells. Grady is such a polite little squirrel, but one day he’ll slip up and I can get a close-up picture of him. I first saw this little gray squirrel in the backyard in mid-November when I was taking pictures of the snow-covered roses. He was inquisitive and came down the tree to get a better look at me.
I got these pictures of him, though blurry, and, since I am never without peanuts in my coat pocket, I tossed him a couple but he ran the other way.
I’m thinking about the song by The Police, “Every Breath You Take”” when I get to the Park some days. Yup, the squirrels are there eyeing me.
But the other critters are watching too – like the geese.
And then there are the cardinals. They watch from their perch high up in the tree – “oh there she is, I’ll just swoop down and grab me a peanut when the squirrel isn’t looking.” They study my every move, and this particular cardinal sat in a low branch of a tree staring straight at me for about five minutes– it was a little unnerving, and I couldn’t resist taking his picture as he was so close to where I was standing. Maybe I should add “The Cardinal Whisperer” to my string of names?
P.S. Sometimes the Park wildlife are content to have better subjects to study, like the male and female mallards making goo-goo eyes at one another.
People I’ve met along the way …
I really like when the other walkers at Council Point Park come rushing over to tell me to check out something, like the Great Blue Heron …
… or the pair of Black Ducks that have landed on the Ecorse Creek and are sitting there relaxing and preening. I took some pictures of those Black Ducks, a real rarity at our little Park.
I enjoy chitchatting with the other walkers who notice things about this Park that I miss as they walk at all different times and I usually walk in the morning only. I like the mornings at my favorite nature nook as it is quieter there … often the only sound is nature … the ducks quacking, the geese honking and sometimes they fly so low I swear I can hear their wings flapping. Even the heron’s horrible screeching sound is Mother Nature at her finest. Sometimes the other walkers and I compare notes and last Sunday there were four of us gazing at Harry the Great Blue Heron who was entertaining us with his fishing prowess. He was catching and downing fish much to our fascination.
Nature lovers abound at other parks as well. When I visited the five different Parks two weekends ago, I met some nice people, besides the couple who were the subject of the feeding frenzy with the ducks tale.
For instance, there was this fisherman at Lake Erie Metropark. He was leaning over the water, as he dropped his line from a wooden overhang in the marshland area of the Cherry Island Trail.
Like me, you see how he was bundled up on that very cold morning, when the temperature and wind-chill hovered around 15 degrees. In this part of the marsh, the current was stronger and the water was not frozen. “Catch anything?” I asked him as I approached where he stood. “Nope” was the answer, and then he added “I just came here to get away in nature for a while” and he winked at me. We stood together companionably for a few minutes, saying nothing, admiring the drab scenery, dried reeds, or the many Phragmites plants with their feathery seed pods waving in the wind in the background, and, in the foreground, many mallards silently slipped in and out of the those dried reeds as they paddled in the cold water.
It was quite peaceful until we heard a noise. I’d been at the Park for about three hours by then and I’d heard that same noise and figured it was someone shooting off firecrackers. As if he read my mind, this gentleman chuckled and said “these mallards are smart because they stay here at this Park so the hunters can’t shoot ‘em.” I responded “those are gunshots?” He nodded his head slowly, pointed and said “they’re hunting over at Point Mouillee, just 5 ½ miles down the road.” I felt kind of dumb mistaking firecrackers for gunshots and told him I thought duck hunting season was over. He said not until the end of the year. We chitchatted, and he asked if saw the gaggle of geese, 100 strong, that were near Cove Point. I told him I, too, was captivated by the sight and we both saw them as we pulled into the parking lot. I went over to take a picture as they literally carpeted the frosty grass. I couldn’t get the entire group of them in one photo.
There were many sunken spots in the grass where water had collected and frozen, and the geese walked gingerly on the ice, trying not to let their webbed feet go out from beneath them … I know that feeling geese, I take baby steps on the ice too sometimes!
We chitchatted a little more and I told him I saw the “seven swans a swimming” from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” …
He said he was sorry he missed them because he was likely studying the water for fish nibbling at the end of his line. We said our goodbyes and I hiked back to my car, thinking how nice it was to be out and about and meeting other nature lovers like myself.
I then drove to Elizabeth Park where I saw the couple feeding the ducks. You have already read about that sweet story. I kept walking, enjoying the sun, though no warmth was coming my way from that bright orb. As I walked toward the big footbridge, something sparkly caught my eye … I honed in on all that twinkling to find a bride standing near the base of the bridge.
Her gown had rhinestones or sequins and the sun’s rays caught them. There she was on this very cold day wearing a white stole and carrying her bridal bouquet. From afar, I watched as the photographer and his assistant fiddled with her stole and flowers, then took a lot of shots, then gently removed her stole from her shoulders. I seized that moment to walk closer to the action, just as her new husband joined her.
I called out my congratulations and told them after all these rainy Saturdays, they were blessed to have sunny, albeit cold, weather for their wedding day. They agreed with me. A pair of groomsmen ran over and asked me to take their photos as well … well, okay … I did and then they scurried across the footbridge to a bus that awaited the wedding party.
The next day, at Heritage Park I arrived very early in the morning and the shallower portions of Coan Lake were frozen solid. The mallards huddled together for warmth, their webbed feet planted solidly on the ice. I’m going to do a separate post about that Park and the beautiful mallards, but it was at Heritage Park where I met Shelley and Beauregard.
They were walking around the historical part of the village and I just had to ask, (because I am nosy), … “what kind of dog is that?”
And that is how I met this pair. Beauregard (or “Bo” for short) is a breed called a Bouvier, and he was full of energy. I asked if I could take his picture and this was the best I could do as he was like a whirling dervish … always in motion. So you’ll excuse the fact that I cut his ears out of this one picture, but it is an up-close photo of his face so I used it anyway.
Shelley and I lingered on the pathway as we chatted about how we enjoyed walking in this Park. Bo was straining at the bit, anxious to get going on his walk, so we decided to just walk around the entire Park together and continue our chat.
I didn’t plan to make this post so long, but it seems I had pictures to share, stories to tell, and, you wouldn’t have read this entire post if you didn’t enjoy reading about nature … so I’ll leave you with this quote: