Even more kindred souls walk amongst us …
As promised, I have just a few more tales I’ve been collecting about animal/human interactions, like this story my friend Ann Marie shared with me recently.
You may recall, I was appalled (and even joked a little) about the swan parents taking the “sink or swim kid” attitude with their cygnet while riding the wild waves at the Detroit River. However, I was quick to praise the efforts of the geese and ducks in taking care of their young. Sadly, as wonderful as Nature is sometimes, there are often occurrences that make you stop, take note, then shake your head in disbelief.
Really … who would harm, or push away, a sweet duckling?
Thanks to a fuzzy, brown-and-black Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, I met my good friend Ann Marie at Council Point Park back in September 2014. We struck up a conversation as she watched me studying a Woolly Bear caterpillar that was inching across the perimeter path. I was pondering whether its markings meant we’d have a cold and brutal Winter. Nothing scientific there; I was merely following the folklore of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and yes, we had a bad Winter because of the caterpillar’s coloring. Okay, maybe there were other circumstances too, but …. FYI: if the caterpillar’s rusty brown band is wide, then it will be a mild Winter. The more black there is, the more severe the Winter.
Ann Marie walks past a pond on her daily walk. The same day she read my post about the Mama Duck and her ten ducklings, she also saw a Mom Mallard with her ten ducklings in tow. But sadly, just two days later there were only five ducklings trailing behind their Mama. Ann Marie wondered and worried if the other five ducklings fell prey to a predator near the pond. A few days later, in her morning jaunt past the pond, she noticed one baby duckling suddenly appeared, all alone, in the water. It paddled quickly toward the Mama duck. While watching this interaction and assuming Mama Mallard would take the duckling under her wing, Ann Marie was horrified to see the Mama duck start hitting the duckling and pushing it away.
The duckling swam to the edge of the water and once on land, ran right over to Ann Marie’s neighbor, Jeff, who was also near the pond that morning. Jeff scooped up the scared duckling, then turned it over to his wife, Melanie, who has prior experience with duck rescues at this very same venue. They put that feathered baby into a cat carrier and called a fowl rescuer, then decided to just take it a nature rescue center so it could be taken care of right away. The story is sad, but luckily has a good ending, as once again, humans helped out a fine-feathered friend.
A kindred soul is good to know.
People who love animals seem to gravitate toward one another. Like Elaine, or the woman I met at the grocery store around the holidays, who glanced at the stacks of cellophane packages of human peanuts in my shopping cart and tapped me on the shoulder and asked “so do you feed the squirrels too?” We both laughed and then discussed what we’d substituted for treats when Meijer dropped the ball and quit having peanuts in the store for a while. Her Plan “B” goodies were better than my Plan “B” goodies, so it tarnished my “Peanut Lady” crown just a tad.
Then there is the pair of women walkers at Council Point Park who bring a bottle of cocktail peanuts to the perimeter path every day they walk. The first time they were shaking the peanuts onto the asphalt, fellow walker Arnie quipped to the squirrels: “naked peanuts – you guys don’t even have to crack the shell – you’re spoiled!”
Yes we spoil them silly – who can resist those big brown eyes, pleading face and tail swishing wildly?
Recently these goodies have shown up on the perimeter path.
Last week I got to my favorite nature nook and strained my eyes to see what was up ahead on the pathway. So, what have we here?
As I got closer, I smiled to myself at the “droppings” … a new walker at the Park apparently aimed to feed the birds and not exclude any size birds in the process. There were neat piles of birdseed staggered all along the first part of the pathway. There were tiny millet seeds to sunflower seeds (which of course the squirrels would lap up once they saw them).
But, as I walked along the perimeter path, finally the piles of birdseed ceased and the critters had been gifted with a scattering of shelled peanuts with corncobs laying in the middle of each pile There were many such offerings along the perimeter path; these weren’t the only ones I’ve shown below. “Wow, no one will be begging from me today” I thought.
However, one squirrel who was enjoying his feast, heard my footsteps, then swiveled his head toward me while chomping on a corncob. “Aha, an acknowledgement from the peanut gallery” I told him, then added “I guess you won’t be needing any peanuts from Linda today.” It was more of a statement then a question. But wait … was I imagining that his eyes slid over to my Ziploc bag of peanuts, with such a grand feast laid out before his paws and which feast he had all to himself?
I tested the waters anyway and laid down some peanuts. That squirrel immediately removed himself from the corn and nuts pile and hustled over for some peanuts in the shell. I guess peanuts rule.
“Just when I thought I had you squirrels all figured out – what do I know?” I remarked wryly as I walked away.
Up ahead, I noticed some benefactor felt badly they had no critter treats to add to the breakfast menu, so they had scattered their Doritos onto the path.
I recalled the kindly older gentleman I wrote about earlier this year, who scattered the contents of a bag of tortilla chips on the ground for the squirrels because “I ran out of peanuts and didn’t want them to be disappointed and do without.”
That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
My last tale about kindred souls is from a few weeks ago at Elizabeth Park. I was taking photos of the canal where the water still encroached onto the pathway and grounds. While standing there, a guy named Matt came over and asked me what type of ducks were in the canal. Admittedly, those large ducks, i.e. the snowy-white Pekin and Hybrid Mallard with its multicolored plumage, looked a bit out of place next to the smaller Mallards you see everywhere.
Matt and I chatted about the local parks while his daughter, Shelby, was wading in the canal. Part of the shallow water was actual grass where the canal water spilled over – you may recall I did a post on the massive flooding at Elizabeth Park recently. You can see the trees in the background – they are supposed to be on the grounds, not in the middle of the water!
The big ducks, unfazed by her presence, paddled lazily alongside her. Matt told me earlier they gave the Pekin duck some M&M cookies and quickly added “with the M&Ms removed of course!” I smiled and said “of course” then added that I had fed my favorite squirrel, Parker, a small bag of peanut M&Ms and he ate every one by himself. Matt said “I have a few more cookies – would you like to feed this duck?” I thanked him and declined, but said “I’d love to take you or Shelby’s photo feeding the duck if I could.” So, Shelby came over to watch as Matt crumbled up a couple of cookies.
The cookies piqued the Pekin duck’s interest. It was no slouch and waddled right over, pushing ahead of the Mallard Hybrid. Matt said that happened last time too and the Pekin was much more assertive. He spread the crumbled cookies into his palm and the Pekin duck gobbled up the treats and I had my photo op, which was definitely a win-win for both of us.
After enjoying those cookies, the Pekin duck wandered over to the water to wash ‘em down. Um, I think milk would have been a better option, but not if you’re a duck I guess.
Hummingbirds are not reliable “outside pets” – just sayin’.
My efforts here at the house to make Homer the Hummer my new outside pet are failing miserably. Interacting with the peanut pals and keeping them happy is much easier (and more enjoyable). I have two small hummingbird feeders and the nectar level never seems to go down. My last hummingbird sighting was two weeks ago – maybe over the long weekend I’ll pop outside more to check for visitors … oh wait, it will be 90F (32C) with a “real feel” of 100F (37C), if not higher, so maybe I’ll walk in the cool morning and come inside and stay put. Tuesday I arrived home from walking and found a hummer feeder full of ants. The army of ants didn’t gain access on top as there is an ant moat; nope, they were clustered inside the covered dish where at least 100 tiny black ants, who were likely lured to sip sweet nectar, now were floating in it – Eww. Pretty amazing that they scaled that six-foot shepherd’s hook for that prize. The feeder lid was sticky and when I pried it off, nectar slopped down my arm and drenched my watch. Well that wasn’t the scenario I had hoped for after seeing one tiny hummingbird sipping on a pink flower of a weed which prompted me to say “ooh – I’ll get a hummingbird feeder to keep this little beauty around!”
How about a quote for the road … whether you’re staying put this long holiday weekend, or on the move … just stay safe, okay?
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi