I’ve mentioned before I use Facebook to follow a handful of local parks I routinely frequent. In early March, Matt Richardson, (one of the two naturalists that regularly post info and videos about various Wayne County parks), featured Elizabeth Park, one of my favorite places to walk and take photos.
Matt’s video focused on the interior woodland forest at Elizabeth Park, touting it as a go-to spot to see deer, coyotes, raccoons, possums and Great Horned Owls. Gee Matt – you had me at deer and the owl would be the cherry on the sundae! So, I was all in and decided perhaps I could get those coveted shots of deer AND owls. Although Matt described the call of a Great Horned Owl, I hopped onto the “All About Birds” site and looked at photos of and listened to the Great Horned Owl audio snippets. I decided to take a trek in the forest the following Saturday, even though I wondered “where the heck is an upland forest located within this island park?”
So, I messaged Matt to ask that very question, adding that I walk there all the time and asking how to access the trail into the forest. Matt responded right away and said to go behind the exercise equipment. Elizabeth Park, a scenic venue known for its natural beauty with a shoreline boardwalk and a trio of vintage bridges, also has a series of various exercise equipment which look like modern sculptures. I’ve never tried any of the equipment, but I guess they figure others, like myself, are curious how to use it, as signs identify each piece and give instructions how to use and benefit from them.
So, off I went to explore the unknown which turned out to be right under my nose the entire time.
First, I did my usual tour of favorite haunts at Elizabeth Park …
… like along the canal shoreline, always a great spot to snag a few duck shots.
Matt says there are 100 species of birds at Elizabeth Park. In prior posts, I have written about “Birdie Nirvana” which is a phrase I coined for a memorial tree where some kindly souls have hung bird feeders and suet holders on the tree branches and nearby shepherd hooks. Just as I have done in the past, I brought along peanuts and sunflower seeds to strew on the memorial stone as is customarily done by others when visiting the area.
Not surprisingly, within minutes squirrels swarmed around the treats – were they checking me out from the many tall oak trees?
I’ve usually been able to score a few photos of Downy and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees and/or Titmice after scattering the treats, but this time just one Jay and one Tufted Titmouse flitted over, but both seemed apprehensive about breaking bread, er … peanuts and seeds, with the squirrels. I felt badly for them as the feeders and suet holders were empty.
Since the squirrels continued to monopolize the food, (as they are fond of doing), I left and walked the rest of the perimeter loop around Elizabeth Park, then it was time to check out this one-mile, upland nature trail. I figured it should be easy to find, using Matt’s directions.
I found an area to gain access to the beginning of the forest trail.
Oh boy … was it ever muddy! I felt my shoes sinking deep into the mud – ugh. We hadn’t had rain, so I guess it was snow melt. There was no mulch or pea gravel on this trail and I skipped a few muddy patches by traipsing through some tall grass, but then thought better of that idea in the event of ticks lurking in the grass. I checked my socks and pants and just went back onto the muddy trail after I decided mud was the lesser of two evils and just soldiered on.
I wandered along the one-mile trail in a forest that was not dense in the least, so I began to think the deer sighting(s) were a fluke and the owl, raccoon and possum were just visiting for the day, maybe hoping for a photo op in exchange for a treat.
At the end of the trail, finally I found a grassy area where I scraped the soles of my shoes as best I could. Here I discovered a small farm which I assume is where the ponies, horses and petting zoo animals from the Park’s Pony Ranch are stabled at night and in the off-season.
So, I was surprised to find a forested area behind what I thought was just a fringe of trees … it seems like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees!