(And it’s not even the Lenten season yet.)
Just one week ago today, I wrote about my Winter walks in wacky weather. One of the highlights in that post were the images I captured of Mallard ducks feasting on the dead fish, (a/k/a Gizzard Shad), that had surfaced in the Ecorse Creek after a freeze/thaw cycle. We’ve had some roller coaster weather here in Southeast Michigan during the last month, beginning with brutal temps, followed by a few warmer-than-normal days, sometimes a mere 24 hours later, before we returned to the Deep Freeze again.
So, whatever is going on weather-wise in 2022, with global warming/climate change as the likely culprit, the annual “shad die-off” is NOT an abnormal event, nor is it happening due to climate change, but it has occurred much earlier in this Winter season.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the annual shad die-off is a natural phenomenon that is found in rivers and creeks and nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, there is usually an annual news story with photos as a public service announcement. In the past, the Michigan DNR has suggested you contact them if you see more than 50 shad. You can read about the Gizzard Shad die-off in this news article.
Suffice it to say, the multitude of dead shad and nearby Mallards fascinated me, so these new images will be the subject of today’s post.
Last weekend was bitter cold and I shared some photos taken at Dingell Park at the Detroit Riverfront, which is just 1½ miles away from Council Point Park. So, if a deep body of water with a swift current such as the Detroit River, would be that frozen, you can bet the small Ecorse Creek at Council Point Park would similarly be frozen over. And, in case you were wondering about the fate of the many turtles at this venue in this cold weather, they have been hibernating beneath the mud since October and won’t emerge until March or April when the temps warm up.
As to last week’s post … some of you were amused by the ducks wrangling and devouring (or at least trying to) the dead shad and still others were astounded to learn that ducks were omnivores, not just herbivores.
The very morning that post published, I went to Council Point Park. It was still bitter cold and surprisingly the water in a small alcove near the sewer drain had warmed up enough to thaw the ice, once again exposing dead shad. There were hundreds of shad bodies – more than I’ve ever seen at one time and the Mallards were standing nearby on the ice – were they guarding their food source?
While I usually take my camera along when I walk, because it was bitter cold and a work day, I decided to forego any pictures. I wanted to give the car a brief run, thus skipping the walk in the ‘hood, intending to double up on my steps along the perimeter path instead. So, I cursed myself for not having the camera handy as this scene would be a great way to illustrate one of the largest “fish kills” I’ve seen in the nine years I’ve been walking at this venue.
At the risk of using teen lingo, yes – the scene was “gross” but, the fish were perfectly preserved and there was no fishy smell.
So, I jumped in the car, drove home, retrieved the camera and returned about 15 minutes later.
Lady – curb your enthusiasm … it’s just fish and we’re fish-eating ducks!
So I hustled over to the ledge and whew … the scene was the same as when I left it, with about 25 to 30 Mallards sitting on the ice gazing at a small alcove that was jam-packed with frozen fish. I took these shots so you could see just how many fish were there in the foreground. The ducks were on a ridge of ice and behind them the Creek was still frozen and speckled with splotches of snow.
Next, I edged nearer to the ledge in an effort to get some up-close pictures of the Mallards.
Then, greedy for even more close-ups, this time for the shad, I stepped down onto the actual cement ledge that overlooks a sewer drain. Here’s what the ledge looks like.
And here are close-ups of the shad …
… then I noticed some bubbles in the water and realized some live shad were flip-flopping around with their fallen brethren. Yikes!
It was all good until I heard a cracking sound – no, the cement ledge was not breaking, but the piece of ice with the weight of all the ducks cracked – this sudden noise spooked the ducks.
One duck, startled, prepared to take flight …
The other ducks were similarly spooked, panicked and went airborne and headed in my direction. Yes I DUCKed, but there was a moment of fear that they’d fly into me and knock me into the water as I was precariously close to the edge. That would have been a fine kettle of fish had I landed in the icy cold Creek, especially since I don’t know how to swim! (Note to self – going forward, no matter how great you think the shot will be, don’t get so close to the water!)
In the end, neither the camera nor me were any worse for the wear since Your Roving Reporter apparently posed a greater threat than the crack in the ice. The Mallards did a hasty about-face and returned to their icy perch.
A few more of the Mallards decided to plunge into the shad-laden water and grab a snack …
… giving a twist to the old mobster expression of “swimming with the fishes.”
What better name to call this occurrence? My final photo of the morning was this lone, red angler’s bobber that gave a pop of color to the wall-to-wall fish.