Here we are on the cusp of Fall – I don’t know about you, but in my opinion it sure is welcome.
Autumn has always been my favorite season anyway, even if it leads up to Winter, my least-favorite season. I love the chill in the air, sweatshirts and long pants and the sound of crisp leaves crunching beneath my shoes. But unfortunately these seasons often clash here in Southeast Michigan, bringing us snow and ice long before the calendar’s official date of Winter.
It was not just a warm and toasty Summer, but hot and steamy was the more accurate description as the Metro region was the ninth hottest on record since 1874, with 15 days over 90 F/32 C. My weather radio was shrieking incessantly. I kept track of the severe storm forecasts – 19 as of last week. I’m sure I have a few new wrinkles and gray hairs from the worrisome and volatile weather. It was also the seventh rainiest Summer on record for us as we are near 20 inches/50 cms. But the past few days, there was a definite nip in the air that caused me to don long sleeves and pants.
The seasons have been clashing here a lot the last few weeks.
At first, the changes were subtle and began around mid-August with the different angle of the sun as I headed east toward Council Point Park. The glare of the sun instantly darkened my glasses and, at times, made it almost impossible to see. This sun’s angle suddenly spotlighted the iridescent trails where slugs had inched across City sidewalks while I was fast asleep. Also hard at work in the overnight hours were spiders spinning massive webs, seemingly in thin air, hooking them from a house to a tree or bush that I passed by. Those webs are nearly invisible … that is, until a web cloaks you in sticky filaments … ugh! As a person who both fears and loathes spiders, I know I must look funny frantically clawing the air to rid myself of the web.
Meanwhile, at Council Point Park the leaves have been drifting down to the path and bright yellow Poplar leaves litter the surface of the Creek making the water look polka-dotted. Sloppy V-formations of geese honk noisily overhead as they confer among themselves whether to grab a bite of grass at the Park or continue on to a bigger and maybe better grazing venue.
Amazingly, the first hints of color showed up as early as August 4th this Summer. I took a photo of my watch so I wouldn’t forget the date.
Sometimes rose-colored glasses are in order at this venue.
This Park has been my happy place since I discovered it in 2013.
Just because I’ve not written about my encounters with my furry and feathered friends lately does not mean I’ve abandoned this venue – not at all; I just didn’t take many photos there this Summer. At times my favorite nature nook has been downright cringe-worthy, especially as I recall Summers in the past with neatly trimmed paths and complete shoreline access to the water. Then I took funny photos of Parker or the other squirrels, Harry the Heron fishing or occasional encounters with the ducks and geese.
But the Park, as well as the grass-mowing crew, just like so many other recreational venues, businesses and the like, evidently lacks enough employees to have a substantial workforce to enable the Park to stay as pristine as in the past. Thus, there have been three organized volunteer cleanups this Summer. But I guess that is just for trash?
The Park used to be mowed weekly, yet this year, even in the peak growing season, it was only mowed every three or four weeks. Using the weed whipper for edging and trimming has not been done at all this year. You can see the difference where I fed the critters from Fall through Spring and after the weeds grew over my ankles, I abandoned walking over to the log and stump area to leave peanuts, sunflower seeds or any other treats for the squirrels and birds for fear of ticks, maybe mice or even snakes. The weeds are way past my knees now.
Nor have I crept close to the banks of the Ecorse Creek to capture images of turtles lined up on a log on sunny mornings due to the high grass and weeds along the shoreline. Sit down for a spell … well maybe not; besides the view is not so great.
The graffiti has languished on cement walls and garbage cans all Summer as well.
The squirrels and birds are not always showing up for peanuts either.
I’ve already mentioned the presence of hawks at Council Point Park. In the past, it might have been an occasional hawk just passing through, but now there are a pair of juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks routinely streaking through the skies on a daily basis. They work together: one chases the squirrel and when it scurries toward the nearest tree, the other hawk tries to grab it. Thankfully, I’ve only heard about this and not witnessed it, but the squirrels seem very wary of the presence of these hawks and often, as I walk along the path, I hear the squirrel warning cries coming from the tall trees.
As I write this post on Saturday afternoon, I must tell you that this morning, at my usual time, I walked the entire perimeter path without seeing one squirrel. That is odd indeed. This time of year they are gathering nuts to squirrel away and usually are starting to get chubby in advance of the colder weather. I always leave a stash of peanuts in what I’ve deemed the three safest spots in the Park: the Weeping Mulberry Tree (a/k/a “The Safe Haven Tree”), as well as in the grass as close as I will get to the fallen log/stump area mentioned above and I’ve also been leaving peanuts on the picnic table under the pavilion roof, all safe spots away from hawks (hopefully), though my little buddies often run away from the safe spots to bury a peanut, thus exposing themselves to the hawks. I saw another hawk this morning, watching and waiting from his perch in a dead tree. I didn’t take pictures as I got those close-ups a few weeks ago. We stared at one another until he eventually flew away. Perhaps the squirrels saw that hawk too as none ventured out to the path. It makes me sad as the squirrels, as well as the Jays, Cardinals and even the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers scamming peanuts from those squirrels, are always a welcome part of my morning Park experience.
It’s not all doom and gloom … there were a few things that made me smile.
Because we had so much rain, there were no Robins hunkering down near homeowners’ sprinklers to freshen their feathers or hopping through the grass blades on moist lawns while on worm-finding expeditions – that was my loss as they are rather comical to watch, but on the flip side, there were birds bathing, just splashing away in puddles in the street or in potholes. A Goldfinch sang its cheery song for me as well almost every morning.
Though dogs are not allowed in the Park, people bring them anyway, usually on a leash, but this young woman carried her dog named “Lola” in a bag every day, even during those wicked “Dog Days of Summer” – yes those days were aptly named!
I hope to reach 1,000 miles/1,609 kilometers walked by the first day of Fall. I had to really step up my game as the sun has been getting up later and later, essentially shaving steps off my daily total. That will leave me just 256 miles/411 kilometers to get ‘er done by year end. Whew! Wish me luck! Forward, then onward and upward!