Well you probably guessed, since I was wowed by the beautiful pregnant doe on my last trip here, I would hustle back to Lake Erie Metropark to search for her and her fawn(s) and cross my fingers for a second photo op.
June 18th was a picture-perfect day, 64 F/17 C, blue skies, sunny and warm, not oppressively hot or humid, which was a welcome change. I set out early to make the most of this Saturday. Before the day was done, I would have logged seven miles on my pedometer, stopping at two large parks, after visiting a new venue for me, the Emily Frank Gardens in Trenton. I took a lot of photos at the Gardens, but was encouraged by Deb and Lynn and about eight other “Garden Angels” (a moniker given to the many volunteers who toil in the flower and vegetable gardens) to return later in the Summer when the blooms were at peak. They were 100% correct because, per their suggestion, I returned Sunday, July 31st and what a transformation of “flower power” thanks to six weeks of blazing hot sun and humid weather.
I began my morning marsh meander at Cove Point.
I bought my first Metropark pass, good for entry in Michigan’s 13 local Metroparks, in July 2018. In the past, I usually walk and take photos along the picturesque shoreline of Cove Point to the marina, then return to my starting point, with a quick stop at the overlook where I view where I have just walked.
Then, if it’s not too late or too hot, I drive to the other side, where I do a more varied walk, stopping to visit Luc at his enclosure near the Marshlands Museum, the boathouse overlook, then trekking along the Cherry Island Trail. During the course of this trek, there are several marshy areas where I see Egrets or Herons. Of course, there are the usual ducks and geese and, if I’m lucky there is a deer sighting. The difference between the two sides of this massive park is like night and day.
There was nothing to see in my stroll along Cove Point on this morning, not a single Tree Swallow was standing guard over their mate and young-uns and unfortunately Mama and her fawn(s) were not out and about. Here you see a couple of photos of the largest American Water Lotus bed in its early stages.
Hoping to get some more up-close shots of those dive-bombing Barn Swallows, I headed to the wooden overlook where I saw and photographed the tree with its stripped bark and I would learn from many of you after publishing this post that the designs on the tree were beetle graffiti.
There were a few Barn Swallows, but none alighted on the dead tree branch. I figured this was going to be a dud photo excursion which sometimes happens, but oh well, I would get a long walk in anyway.
A few pond lilies had opened and floated lazily on pads in the marsh water.
The overlook was bustling with anglers and someone landed a big fish while I was standing there, so Your Roving Reporter similarly got caught up in the action, shouting out her congratulations and snapping photos. The angler had his fishing rod propped up and it had a bell on it. All of a sudden, the bell started dinging like crazy, so everyone rushed over. While the hook was being removed from the mouth of the struggling fish, I asked if this was a “catch and release” and his look told me all I needed to know. “Got it” I said and added “oh, it is dinner then – yay you, the fish not so much!”
Not to be outdone by his fellow fisherman, another angler raised a wire cage to show me his prize catches of the day; in fact, a live fish was still flopping around on a dead one, so I took a photo here as well.
I stepped away from all this fishing hoopla and went across the overlook walkway where, on this exceptionally clear day, I had a wonderful view of the horizon, with a few freighters and sailboats and another glimpse of the Cove Point shoreline and the largest bed of in-progress Water Lotuses. (That photo is the header image.)
Taking the path less traveled ….
At this point, I usually head to the car to drive to the other side, but today would be different. On the other side of the wooden overlook is the entertainment portion of this venue. I checked it out once, the first year I had my pass. In my opinion, there is nothing to see but a huge playscape, the Great Wave/swimming pool and concession stand. So why stray this way?
This year was different. I knew from my Metroparks newsletter that the Great Wave/swimming pool was closed the entire 2022 season for repairs; the concession stand was similarly closed. Hmm – perhaps the inactivity at this portion of the park might yield new wildlife sightings?
I would later pat myself on the back for that revelation.
Well, I’m always up for a little adventure, like Dora the Explorer.
Lake Erie Metropark is just 2 ½ miles square, including three miles of shoreline. By late Spring I am able to easily walk five to six miles without taking a break, so I decided since the winds had kicked up a notch and it was not hot, I would try walking to the other side of this 1,607-acre (6.50 km) park. After all, I could always turn back or simply rest at one of the many picnic areas if I got tired.
I cut through the huge, empty parking lot for the entertainment venue, then saw volleyball sand pits and a basketball backboard – well, that was pretty boring so far. There were some rolling hills that I learned were for skiing – ho hum, an equally blah landscape. As I walked down that long vehicle road, I began to regret my decision as my long-sleeved shirt I had worn to thwart the sun’s rays, (since I’d been sunburned on my last trip here), was starting to stick to my skin.
With the sun high overhead, my walk turned into a trudge, so I decided to head back to the car and do my usual routine.
But first, I heard a Killdeer’s distinctive call and got an okay shot of it …
… but I quickly stopped pursuing that bird, (not just because it was walking faster than me), but all of a sudden, I heard a loud and strange noise overhead and I knew it wasn’t Canada geese or swans. What in the world?
I shielded my eyes from the sun and took a better look as I saw three very large birds making an awkward and ungainly landing in the distance.
Even before their big feet hit the ground, I recognized them as Sandhill Cranes – a first sighting for me and not even on my perpetual “Birdie Bucket List” – I hurried as fast as I could, lest they take off again.
Here are the trio of Sandhill Cranes I nicknamed “The Three Musketeers” as they paraded single file across the empty field.
I believe it was parents and one offspring, as one looked slightly smaller. They walked on the uneven grounds on stilt-like legs, pausing every so often to graze. I will have more pictures for this week’s Wordless Wednesday, but this was one of my favorites, showing that distinctive red heart on the face and the “bustle” of feathers.
I was awestruck and it appears this Crow did a flyby to check out the Cranes and was equally impressed!
I follow a few birders on Twitter and they often feature Sandhill Cranes seen in Kensington Metropark, in a northern ‘burb not near me; I’ve never seen any pictures or sightings here in my area. When I got online and searched for some facts about them later that day, I learned that Sandhill Cranes are one of the oldest bird species and have been around for at least 2 million years. They stand 3-4 feet (00 – 1.2 m) tall and have a wingspan of up to 7 feet (2.0 m). I also learned that these creatures have at least 18 different vocalizations, including a piercing rattle that can be heard up to 2 ½ mils (4 km) away. I listened to a video of their calls – yep, that was indeed what I heard and I always though the squawking Heron’s call was annoying!
I spent at least 45 minutes observing and photographing the Sandhill Cranes. They approached me, at a respectable distance, so I stayed in place while they grazed contentedly. When two abruptly turned their backs and bustles toward me, I finally moved on.
Um – never turn the camera off and become distracted.
I ambled along, elated over my Crane find and found my bearings again as I discovered a “grassy cut” – woo hoo, who knew? This will be my route until the Summer of 2023 when the Great Wave/swimming pool opens again.
I shut the camera off to conserve the battery as I knew I still would be trekking to Luc’s enclosure, the boathouse overlook and the Cherry Island Trail. I am diligent about doing a tick check repeatedly along my trek and hadn’t after trailing after The Three Musketeers. Head bent down and camera off, I found none of the little buggers and when I raised my head, what did I see at the Turtle Crossing sign?
Well obviously deer can’t read signs. There was no deer crossing sign here! The first doe emerged from a wooded area, ambling along the vehicle road, not far from me, as I fumbled to turn on the camera and focus … whoops, I almost missed her.
Oh well. But wait! Here comes another one – girlfriends having a morning out! I was not so swift here either, as I assumed the first doe was traveling alone.
By the time the third doe loped across the road to the other side, I was decidedly smarter and got some better action photos. The last two does were smarter too, as they stopped and looked both ways before crossing the road!
I did my usual routine of visiting Luc, the resident eagle, checking out the marsh for waterfowl and heading to the boat launch and Cherry Island Trail. The smaller beds of Water Lotuses were already flourishing on this side and I knew by the next time I visited, they would have doubled in size.
I hit the Trifecta with my two trios of critters and before I would drive out of the Park later that day, an Osprey would fly overhead and I’d see my first Baltimore Oriole. What a trip and I had initially been complaining it was a dud picture day!
Feeling very adventurous after my encounters with the Sandhill Cranes and the deer, I decided to try the only trail I had never embarked on before. It is called “Trapper’s Run” and that trek will be the subject of next week’s post.