Well, I wish I could say I coined this title, but “Shiver on the River” is an annual event held the first Saturday in February here in Southeast Michigan. Its purpose is to lure people to the Detroit River to explore beautiful Belle Isle in the Winter.
I had planned to go to Lake Erie Metropark today, but the weather forecast called for snow and sleet this afternoon and I didn’t want to get caught there if the precip started earlier, so I found a venue closer to home. I set my sights on Bishop Park in Wyandotte, John Dingell Park in Ecorse and then to my regular stomping grounds, Council Point Park, to round out my day. It was not sunny like yesterday and a gray and gloomy sky prevailed.
Bishop Park was my first stop.
I wanted to check out the frozen Detroit River and that sight (above) sure didn’t disappoint.
I worked in downtown Detroit for many years and I must say that I never ventured down to the River’s edge during the Winter. But, even from high up in an office building, the big freeze was impressive.
It was even more impressive at ground level! As I strolled along the boardwalk, I marveled at that bulked-up ice. I’m sure this thick ice formed during our Polar Vortex, and, despite a few balmy days, it has remained rock solid.
There were no seagulls and I have to say that is the first time I’ve been to Bishop Park and not heard the screech of seagulls, who are an integral part of this riverfront. I must admit I kind of missed them. They are always good for a picture as they pose nicely and don’t need treats to entice them to stay put.
Overhead, the Canada geese were buzzing back and forth over Bishop Park. They kept landing in one area, where they congregated and stalked around the pier like they owned the joint, making it virtually impossible for me to pass them.
As a general rule, I usually just sidestep the geese when walking past them, but the cacophony of honks and hisses told me I was not going to venture anywhere near them today. Besides, what if I walked on this scenic pier and they blocked my only way back? It was really cold along the waterfront with the wind clipping along and I would not want to be held hostage by a group of geese, even if they are from Canada like me.
I saw a small break in the ice under the pier and one goose was holding court with the ducks.
With limited places to walk on the boardwalk, I turned around to head back to the car. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge dark object in one of the trees in Bishop Park. I figured it was a squirrel’s nest, but then it moved. I put the camera down and took a look with my naked eye and realized it was a bald eagle. I was ecstatic. I took at least a dozen photos of him, trying to get a good profile shot. I got two, including one showing how his feathers were ruffled by that brisk breeze.
John D. Dingell Park was next on my agenda.
I’ve been to this park several times. My first visit was about a year ago after I heard chatter at Council Point Park about how the bald eagles from uninhabited Mud Island fly down from their nests in the tall trees to fish from the ice floes. I went that weekend and yes I saw them. I took some photos from far away, then I returned a few weeks later with binoculars to check the eagles out again. I understand that photographers and birders line up along the pavilion every February, the coldest month of the year and when the ice floes are most prevalent, for a glimpse at these regal birds.
So, on the heels of seeing the eagle at Bishop Park, would I see some eagles sitting on ice floes and dining on fish? I sure hoped so.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the flag at half-staff flapping in the breeze. The flag’s status honors the memory of former Congressman John D. Dingell, who passed away last Thursday at age 92. He was the longest-serving member of Congress (59 years) and represented the district where I live. This park, formerly known as Ecorse Park, bears his name.
I noticed a few people sitting in their cars, binoculars trained on the tall trees at Mud Island, which is just across the channel from this park. However, no photographers or birders were standing there. It was still early though and very cold. I asked a gentleman if any eagles had been sighted and was told there were twelve there yesterday, but none so far today.
I thanked him and went down to the boardwalk to see what was happening on the icy-cold water. Interestingly, the Detroit River is not frozen solid here. That is because the nearby plant churns out a lot of steam and hot liquid runs into the water, keeping it flowing freely, making it a draw for local waterfowl. In the distance, far away from the pavilion, thick ice could be seen, and occasionally thin ice floes would lazily drift by, making tinkling noises, much like ice cubes in a glass. The waterfowl were plentiful and they seemed unfazed by the chunks of ice that floated past them.
The many Mute swans were gorgeous and I looked for the pair of Trumpeter swans which went overhead as I was walking from the car, but couldn’t locate them.
The geese and ducks were skittish while I was around, some of them taking flight as I stood on the pavilion’s overlook area.
I laughed out loud at this pair of geese, where one fractious goose was in hissing mode and didn’t mind his manners with what may have been his mate … what a shame, with this being Valentine’s Day week and all.
There were Canada geese galore, a few herons … all companionably swimming alongside the ducks and swans. It looks like a day at the beach here doesn’t it?
There must have been hundreds of ducks, mostly mallards, but also canvasbacks. I’ve seen photos of canvasbacks on Dingell Park’s Facebook site and had hoped to get a look at some. The males are striking, mostly white plumage with dark markings and a light brown head. I took some photos, but the canvasbacks were grouped together near a faraway ice floe and the pictures were not clear, so I didn’t include them.
There were icy ledges where some of the ducks grouped together. Just looking at them made me cold and I wondered if their webbed feet were warmer on the ice or paddling around in the cold water? Neither of those choices seemed like a good option to me.
Well there were a few bald eagles and they kept their distance from the ice floes, deciding to stay up in the trees. I saw two eagles and they flew to their perches, following one another. When the second eagle joined the first one, it made a loud chirping noise.
In late December I wrote a post about how Harry the Heron showed up every day to fish, and my amazement at seeing the seagulls floating in the Creek like ducks. I learned that the shad were running. Shad are small feeder fish and that’s why the seagulls were buzzing around overhead and sitting on the surface of the Creek.
Well, the shad were running down at the Detroit River as well. I saw geese, herons and ducks grabbing up those wiggly fish and downing them. While the heron usually swallows his fish whole, it’s not such an easy task if you’re a duck.
I watched in amusement as a female mallard grabbed a shad, and tried her best to wrangle that fish to enjoy it while a wistful male mallard looked on. Ask me if she shared her fish with the drake – nope. She twirled that squirming fish this way and that in her bill, and at one time dropped it into the water, but quickly recovered her prize with a look of pure delight. Believe it or not, I came home with about twenty pictures of the ordeal from start to finish and reluctantly winnowed the photos down to seven for this slideshow.
I left Dingell Park after spending an hour there, and had spent a good hour at Bishop Park too. I was freezing, despite layering up well – my fingers were the worst to be honest.
Last stop – Council Point Park.
I couldn’t resist going to my favorite stomping grounds which is a little over a mile away from Dingell Park. I decided to walk two loops giving me four miles today and feed the squirrels as well, since we have a week of ugly weather ahead. The snow and freezing rain has already begun and we’ll have another round of that wintry precip tomorrow night. Old Man Winter has worn out his welcome with me.
I’ve made this a squirrel-free post, but I do have a tale to tell later about their antics today, which left me smiling and shaking my head.