I won’t kid you … to plagiarize a familiar Christmas song, the weather outside is (and has been) frightful. Do I blame this on the Groundhog, who boldly declared there would be six more weeks of Winter, or, do I vent my frustration at Mother Nature, who’s certainly been a bit of a tool lately.
“The Real Winter” arrived the afternoon of February 4th and since then we’ve had a smorgasbord of wicked weather, ranging from high winds, ice, brutally cold temps, to snowfall nearly every day. Last Monday’s snowstorm yielded 8 inches (20 cm) of fresh snow, plus drifts over one foot (30 cm) high. Since that snowstorm, we’ve had minor accumulations of the white stuff nearly every day. Sadly, it seems the only walking I’ve done the past few weeks has been behind a shovel. Sigh.
The weather wackiness continues as it seems we will soon reverse course and get balmy temps of 42F (5C) tomorrow. Really?!?!
But, when the Winter weather was better, each walk was filled with Park birds.
I made near-daily jaunts to Council Point Park throughout most of December and January, always stopping at the Safe Haven Tree first, then the little nook where the fallen log and stump is a safe place for me to feed my feathered and furry friends, as the nearby trees and brush allow them an easy escape should a Cooper’s Hawk swoop down. The photos in today’s post, are mostly from January.
I gave the birds some nuts left over from the squirrels’ Valentine cookies, so they were excited to find pistachios, pecan pieces and shelled sunflower seeds at both spots.
I saw (and heard) Rex, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, a few times, either chowing down with the squirrels and other birds near the Safe Haven Tree, or merrily poking the bark for grubs in those few trees he has decimated with his incessant drilling.
I’ve also seen a few of the petite Downy Woodpeckers frequent the treats and often when I reach for the camera, they begin creeping around the trunk of the tree – are they camera shy? The White-breasted Nuthatches flit by, rarely joining the action and they are often too quick and tiny for me to hone in on with the camera and simultaneously fumble with often-frozen fingers.
The Blue Jays have been a welcome addition to my morning rambles as these colorful birds quickly seize the opportunity to snatch a peanut or two, as well as signal to their brethren that the treats have arrived. They are pretty fearless, as they dive down from a tree branch, grab a peanut and return to that perch in just a few seconds. I was happy to get a few up-close shots of this beautiful Blue Jay.
A pair of Northern Cardinals often greet me at the Safe Haven Tree, but, unlike the Blue Jays, the Cardinals are much more timid. The female Cardinal blends right into the tree and, if not for the fluttering of her wings as she makes a hasty trip to ground level to grab a sunflower seed or peanut, I would not even know she has shown up, thus I’ve not taken her photo to date. The male Cardinal, with its bright-red plumage, is easy to spot so I have a few shots of him.
Fellow walker Arnie and I both spotted the bird pictured in the image up top the same day. I took some photos but didn’t download them from the card right away to try to I.D. him/her in a Google image search or bird I.D. site. Arnie paged through his book about local birds and said “I think we are seeing a Northern Mockingbird Linda.” He even brought along the bird book to show me. Here is another photo sans hat and one with a twig in the wrong place. We believe this bird was just passin’ through as we never saw him again after early January.
I know it will be Spring at Council Point Park when I hear the unmistakable call of the Red-winged Blackbird along the edge of the Ecorse Creek.
I hope to get more photos of the Council Point Park birds once I am back to walking there on a daily basis.
The pandemic and the weather have kept me away from Dingell Park too.
Dingell Park is only a mile and a half from Council Point Park but I’ve not been there in a few months. Every February, the eagles perch in trees at Mud Island which is just a stone’s throw away from that small boardwalk along the Detroit River. The frigid weather and resulting ice floes provide excellent fishing opportunities for the Bald Eagles, so many photographers gather in the pavilion area with their tripods and camera lenses as long as my arm. The pavilion area gets quite crowded, so it doesn’t surprise me that this venue’s Facebook page is not filled with the usual eagle shots. Between that gathering, which would not be socially distant, and, because I have resisted taking my car out in the snow and ice, my trip to the annual “eagle fest” will have to wait until February 2022.
Birds in the backyard.
For several years I’ve wanted to participate in “The Great Backyard Bird Count” which is described as an annual event where “people from around the world come together to watch, learn about, count and celebrate birds.” The event even has its own website
However, since I began blogging in 2013, once February rolled around, I was busy writing posts about Groundhog Day, my Blogiversary, Valentine’s Day, or even President’s Day. I decided this year I’d participate.
The 2021 bird count took place from Friday, February 12th through Monday, February 15th. All you needed to do was to pick one of those days and document the exact time and location and what birds you saw during a 15-minute (or longer) period. I chose Monday, February 15th at 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to participate. Our weather was rather abysmal for this bird count project. After a frigid Friday, and two snowy weekend mornings where I finally got to Council Point Park after an eight-day absence, we had snow in the wee hours of Monday morning, with a major Winter storm on its way later in the day. So, I was prepared to count noses, er … beaks, while I was out shoveling the snow out front, but mostly in the backyard where there are the most trees and bushes.
My official count, which I submitted last Monday evening looked like this:
Yesterday I received a thank you for my participation and a video filled with images of various birds and participants and some stats from the event. These images are some highlights taken from the The Great Backyard Bird Count website/video:
You may view the video by clicking here.
As to my count … first, as I entered the backyard, a Mourning Dove cooed from its perch high up on the wire. It looked at me inquisitively and I said “while you’re up on the wire there, if you see any squirrels chewing on the telephone wires, ask them to cease and desist as AT&T was out AGAIN last week to repair the wires where the squirrels chewed the covering and moisture got inside causing static. Thank you.”
Next was a Black-capped Chickadee nestled in the barberry bush eating tiny red berries. I could have dashed into the house and grabbed some sunflower seeds to sprinkle around, something my fine-feathered friend would have dearly loved, but I’ve stopped feeding the squirrels and birds since the Cooper’s Hawks made my sweet gray squirrel Grady and his friends its prey last Spring. So I kept myself from that impetuous move and got back to the task at hand.
A cheery American Robin perched on the Lilac tree and serenaded me as I shoveled and scraped off the patio. It paid no attention to the lightly falling snow, nor the bitter cold. I turned to the Robin and asked “perhaps next year you’ll migrate and get out of Michigan?” Robins are the state bird of Michigan, but they do migrate. I’d have scrounged around my coat pocket for a peanut or a sunflower seed, but they’d hold no appeal for my red-breasted friend who prefers worms and grubs.
I didn’t take the camera outside last Monday to record the images of the birds, as it was snowing lightly. But a few days before the GBBC I did capture some shots of my neighbor’s Arborvitae that is always brimming with bird life. I refer to this as the “Twitter Tree” because any time I walk by, I hear a cacophony of tweets and twitters no matter the season. There are a multitude of House Sparrows that nest and live in between the branches of this tall evergreen. Sometimes they are hidden, or nestled between the branches and when I walk by, I usually hear a sudden whoosh as they are spooked by my presence and immediately fly up to the telephone wire. This is a good example of what I see every day.
I thumped the snow off the shovel and hurried into the house to jot down my bird tallies before I forgot the details. Hopefully the weather gets better for the birds and me and we get back to the business of creeping toward Spring after these never-ending Winter wallops.