Autumn arrived without skipping a beat, even though life, as we’ve always known it, seems to take stranger twists and turns daily. But in 2020, the leaves still fall, as do the temperatures. We still reach for a coat to ward off the chill and search for our hats and gloves … just in case we need ‘em. But gone are the hayrides and corn mazes this year, although we can still enjoy cider (maybe even donuts) and similarly feast on Mother Nature’s eye candy, those glorious leaf colors – to me, this is what Autumn is all about.
I always have my compact digital camera within easy reach, so last Sunday, when it poured raining the entire day (grrr), it gave me a much-needed chance to check out the photo card which I hoped was groaning with awesome Autumn shots. You already saw those cutie pie squirrels and cunning Blue Jays, all clamoring for and devouring peanuts and the (too) many signs around the ‘hood these days. I’ve also collected some harvest décor display pictures which define this too-short season – they’ll be in a post in November as I have some Halloween pics to share first. I do love Autumn, even if clouds are on the horizon … those clouds being snow and ice. The cold temps I’m fine with, just not the icky precip.
Since I last did a post about Council Point Park, the transition to Fall began with bushes suddenly bountiful with vibrant berries, snatched by eager Robins, who bemoaned the cooler weather and wondered if their worm supply has suddenly become freeze-dried.
Tinges of red and yellow on raggedy bushes and saplings along the Ecorse Creek made for a pretty backdrop in the morning sun.
And the many Maple trees slowly began to turn beautiful shades of gold.
It’s been an interesting month at my favorite hangout and with each passing day, more thoughts and comments crowded my brain, until I knew I just had to commit them to a blog post.
Like this funny item I noticed. Someone was feeding the critters veggies from their garden. One day it was a large green cabbage and a couple of red peppers. I had not taken the camera that day as it looked like rain, but the next day, the remaining split-open red pepper made a nice spot of color in this tiny alcove.
This is the same sweet gray squirrel that gave me multiple poses; he was eyeing peanuts, not the red pepper below.
But there were other changes afoot in and around the Park besides veggies … some were/are annoying or worrisome.
One morning as I started on the perimeter path, in the distance I saw big orange signs. I strained to see across the Park, and, while I could not read the signs, I saw a tree-cutting service and a couple of tree cutters hard at work. The signs were to beware of the machinery. We walkers were forced to veer off the path onto the wet grass to avoid getting too close to the wood chipper, which was busy gobbling up branches and saplings.
The two or three times I walked past them, the workers were tackling the growth of straggly-looking bushes along the banks of the Ecorse Creek. “Good” I thought, thinking I’d have a better view of the waterfowl who frequent the Creek, without my having to climb down close to the edge where it’s often slick. I must admit I wondered about lopping off this branch?
But my happiness over the potential better view was short-lived, because the next day I quickly noticed several nice trees had been chopped down. Unfortunately, none were the long-dead tree you see overlooking the Creek …
… but instead, one was this Common Juniper where a Golden-crowned Kinglet had its nest and trilled its tinny-sounding notes to me on bitter cold Winter mornings. The Juniper berries take three years to ripen to a bluish color, then they provide some sustenance for our Park birds. A small branch with a few ripe and unripe berries was left behind after the tree was felled.
This is all that remains now of the Juniper – I hope that Kinglet had a Plan “B” for the family.
A little farther along on the path, I stared in disbelief at the twin stumps of two Redbud trees, similarly cut to the ground by the tree cutters. The remnants of the Redbud trees left me in dismay.
This spot was a favorite hangout for the geese and their goslings every May and photos of it were often featured in my Spring blog posts. Since the Park was closed this May due to the pandemic, I dug into my blog media files to show you this lovely tree.
The next time I saw fellow walker Arnie, we collectively shook our heads, lamenting over the loss of these two trees, which we both have passed for many years while walking at this venue. All we could say was “why … such a loss.” He said they should have let an arborist pick and choose what trees to remove as those trees were an asset, not a hindrance and would never have gotten so large that their roots would have been destructive.
In early September, I shared the path when the local cross-county teams began running every morning. I took a few photos of them as they passed me by on their morning practice sessions. One day I went to the Park and there were painted lines everywhere, i.e. across and encircling the perimeter path and running across the “donut hole” (the grassy area between each walking loop). I learned the painted lines were in advance of a cross-county meet. The event is long gone, but white paint remains, competing with the ever-growing graffiti.
There is scuttlebutt in the Facebook Neighborhood Forum that the City is looking into turning my favorite nature nook into a dog park, or portioning it off for a miniature golf course. Well, I may not be able to vote as I’m not a citizen of this country, but I fired off a message to a mayoral candidate asking if we could not utilize any of the other 21 parks in this City for those two ventures and keep this natural setting intact? I hope the points I shared are taken into consideration. Council Point Park actually prohibits domestic animals on the premises; a sign with an ordinance and fine info is posted at the entrance of the Park. However, the ordinance has never been enforced and dog walkers blitz past the sign, then you get this … a dog which terrorizes the squirrels on a near-daily basis.
Well – what are you going to do? I had been standing feeding and taking photos of the squirrels and Jays on the path (pictures that were the subject of this past Monday’s post) – they all quickly scattered to the wind when they saw this dog. But, as you see above, one squirrel scrambled up the high chain-link fence and was trembling.
It’s not just the dogs at the park … the Cooper’s Hawks have returned (sigh).
Much to my chagrin, the Cooper’s Hawks have made an encore performance at Council Point Park, bringing with them the sad predator versus prey scenario to contend with, something that fills this bleeding heart with worry. A few years ago, my first encounter with one was directly after feeding Stubby, the Fox squirrel missing half his tail, and, just as I whirled around to resume my walk, suddenly a brownish blob was in my peripheral vision. With talons outstretched and an artful dip and dive, that hawk honed in on Stubby, whose only thought at that time was enjoying his pile of peanuts on a beautiful Summer morning. The hawk was also thinking about breakfast. Just then I screamed “oh no” and Stubby dropped a peanut and ran as fast as his four legs could carry him, diving under a picnic table for shelter and the hawk angrily sped away.
After that occasion, (wherein I was likely more horror-stricken than Stubby), it taught me that unless I have some extra time to kill and can hang out on the path with my peanut pals, I must try to put the peanuts near the base of a tree or a bush for their easy access and getaway.
The other morning, the same scenario played out before my eyes when a black squirrel, happily noshing on nuts, was blissfully oblivious as a Cooper’s Hawk sped past me, swooped down, its huge wings flapping silently as it aimed for the squirrel. This time it was not me that cried out, but a nearby squirrel sounded the “alarm cry” (a loud noise that resembles a caterwaul) in the nick of time for that little fellow to beat a hasty retreat. The hawk did an about face, flew over to the chain-link fence where it pouted and glared at the Town Crier. I didn’t have the camera out and was a bit too shaken up to drag it out for a photo of the hawk who took off a few moments later. I was uneasy the rest of my walk and ended up leaving instead of going around another time on the loop.
And finally, there’s this. For some reason the picnic tables have been removed at the pavilion.
The City’s Parks and Recreation workers used to move the picnic tables to a fenced-in area every year as Winter approached. The last two or three years, the workers left them under the pavilion roof all year around. There are no organized Winter activities at the Park where people might want to bring food and/or hot drinks and sit a while, but the tables were a boon to me as I placed peanuts and treats, including birdseed bells and sunflower seeds, even cookies, for the squirrels and birds, especially when the weather forecast was for prolonged periods of ice or snow and I might not be around. So, I don’t know what’s up with that as the picnic tables are MIA for two weeks – perhaps off being refinished from the last round of graffiti?
Other than these blips on the radar at my favorite nature nook, life goes on … the crisp leaves crinkle and crunch beneath my heavy walking shoes and when it rains, those same wet leaves plaster themselves to the soles of my shoes, sometimes riding up the sides as well.
I’ve watched the crescendo of color for the last few weeks – below is an array of leaf colors encountered recently at Council Point Park; this past week was considered peak time for leaf colors here in Southeast Michigan.
I look forward to the time change on November 1st allowing me to bulk up my steps with the added daylight.