On Saturday, December 7th, I spent my day visiting three parks. First, it was Council Point Park for a quick jaunt to feed my furry and feathered friends, then there was a foray to Lake Erie Metropark, followed by Elizabeth Park. I already knew the picturesque beauty of the latter two venues would be muted somewhat by the late date in the Fall season, plus it was a gray and blustery day, but I made stops at both parks anyway, camera in hand, because it is Michigan after all … who knows how many days, weeks – even months it might be before I returned to either place? A little cloud cover and cold was not going to hold me back at all. [It turns out, the weather has been fantastic and will be great until the end of this year!]
It was rather desolate looking at Lake Erie Metropark, with the ochre-colored spent bulrushes and reeds and just the occasional mallard paddling through what portions of the marsh were not frozen over. I saw a muskrat emerge from a break in the ice and watched it trot across the frozen surface. I glanced a second time to see its mouth was full of pond lilies, something which is part of a muskrat’s diet. I’ll write about that park adventure in the new year.
You may recall my recent post about stepping out of the car to find a collection of squirrels who hurried over, quickly surrounding the car and me. I was amused and wished I had more peanuts to give them, but I’d used up most of my peanut stash on the early risers at Council Point Park. I remarked in that post that I was sure that I had “Peanut Lady” emblazoned on my forehead.
Well, I vowed to return to Elizabeth Park before the snowflakes began to fly, only this time with a whole package of peanuts, just for those sweet squirrels.
I didn’t expect to see, just moments after scattering most of the peanuts on the ground, a gathering, not only of squirrels, but birds as well, among them Jays, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers … suffice it to say I was in my glory. All this wildlife surrounding me, just for the price of a bag of peanuts. I have used the phrase “simple joy” before – I admit I am easy to please and I was delighted to see them.
I took a lot of pictures of the gathering of my furry and feathered friends happily munching away, then I moseyed and meandered around the rest of Elizabeth Park enjoying the view. It was really cold, but I was dressed for it, except for my fingers which persisted in freezing, despite two pair of gloves.
The trees were mostly bare; the many majestic oaks had dropped their leaves and a carpet of brown and withered leaves was everywhere. In some instances, ice was still embedded amongst the leaves from a cold snap earlier in the week.
I scuffed through loads of them on the grass and some leaves littered the boardwalk.
I stopped to check out the etchings of young love declared and painstakingly “engraved” into the painted metal railings along the boardwalk. I took a few pictures of those hearts, doodles and curlicues, thinking they might become the topic of a post, perhaps at Valentine’s Day, but decided to just use them here.
And, alas … there was love gone wrong too it seems.
I returned home, having driven 50 miles (80 kms), walked almost seven miles (11 kms) and I was gone for six hours doing so. My breakfast was down in my toes and I was ready for something warm to eat and drink.
The images of the Park’s inhabitants that day remain in my head, as well as captured by the camera, so let me share my favorite photos of the day and weave a little rhyme in there as well, about Mother Nature’s gifts, a timely topic as we are immersed in the gift-giving season.
On the 7th of December, Mother Nature gave to me:
A mess o’ squirrels that came runnin’ when they saw the Peanut Lady!
A Blue Jay scamming peanuts in between screeching like Mariah Carey.
A Red-Bellied Woodpecker that spotted nuts and stopped drilling on a tree.
A White-breasted Nuthatch who scoped out peanuts and began yelling “Yippee!”
I tossed peanuts, they gathered, posed and feasted … they must’ve been hungry!
I was happy to share the love and I left with a spring in my step and feeling merry.
Then down the road a little, there was …
A gaggle of geese goose-steppin’ on the icy grass slowly and very precariously.
Some seagull shenanigans – even one dozing off and looking quite sleepy.
I watched Woodpeckers at the feeding station checking out the seeds with glee.
I felt blessed I had chosen this time and place to walk and see the menagerie.
Wide-eyed wonder …
I hope that every walk in nature continues to fill me with wide-eyed wonder just like this squirrel and that I will always remain mindful of the words in the quotation up at the very top of this post.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season barely gives most people a minute to catch their breath. That is why the many memes “keep calm and put a bow on it” are always trending on social media this time of year. But for me, it is fairly quiet, and, given the fact that the weather has been mostly cooperative lately, (except for a dusting of snow this morning), I’ve gotten out to my favorite parks, just marking my time, waiting for when snow and ice will obliterate my longer walks and picture-taking adventures.
I do love Heritage Park in Taylor, Michigan for many reasons, especially the ducks and geese who gather around Coan Lake, a man-made lake adjacent to the covered bridge. Around the holidays, at night, the park is lit up on the bridge with strands of twinkling lights and the old-fashioned light poles are all aglow as well. As you can see above, and in some photos below, Heritage Park puts holiday flags on all the light poles, lending a very festive air.
On the day that I last visited here, it was very blustery and cold. I did an earlier post about the mallards that gathered near the bridge, (click here if you missed it) and this post I’m going to write about their feathered friends, the Canada Geese, which are also plentiful at the park, whether they are strolling around the grounds, or paddling in the lake. Even though the day was dull and dreary, with a sky that seemed to threaten rain any minute, this venue never disappoints. It was the weekend before Thanksgiving and many of the trees still had their leaves, though the colors were somewhat subdued – likely by now, the trees are all bare. Here are some of my favorite photos and impressions from that day.
It seems a flock of geese are always on the move, often flying overhead and they give me cause to pause to look up and marvel at their formation, most of the time in a perfect V. I will watch their signal caller as I wonder, will they dip down to graze or paddle or float around in the water? I was lucky enough to capture these geese ascending and descending, respectively, in the two photos below. They honk the entire time they are doing this and I’ve never figured out if they are conveying a message to one another or simply announcing their arrival or departure to the rest of the world? (Look closely in the first picture as they are directly in front of the schoolhouse.)
The festive flags and the geese got me thinking about the impending holidays and the Canada geese who “live” at this house. My mother loved birds, especially cardinals and jays, and there are many ornaments, resin figurines and other collectibles around the house with their likeness, though she sure liked the bigger birds too. The kitchen has its collection of wooden and ceramic duck decoys, rooster items on the wall, or on top of the fridge, and then there are the geese – oh yes, the geese. There are a lot of them too; some are rustic and hand carved, some which are other mediums, like ceramic or wool and a few even have names too. (Try dusting all these fine-feathered friends … grrrrrr.)
I used to spend an entire day decorating the house (and it’s a small house) for Christmas … this required tucking items away for a month and hoping to remember where the knickknacks etc. were stored for New Year’s Day when I took everything Christmassy down and restored the house back to normal again.
Every year, my mom would say “don’t spend all your time decorating – we’re adults and there are no kids coming to the house – rest on the day after Thanksgiving!” But I persisted, saying we needed the festive ambiance in our home. My mom did her part to brighten the holiday season by decorating the Canada Geese. This entailed tying a bright-red ribbon around each one’s neck. I’d say it was her tradition, just like making Christmas cookies and the sinfully rich (and rather boozy) mincemeat tarts that would knock your socks off. She did not drink, but in July halved a bottle of candied fruit mincemeat mix and poured a liberal amount of rum in each jar; by December the mixture was pretty potent. Anyway, Mom would tie her ribbons on the geese and declare her part of the holiday decorating was done.
Here are a few pictures of my mom and me holding “Lucy” the almost life-sized Canada Goose which always sits in front of the electric fireplace in the living room. The first photo is from Christmas 1984 and the rest of the photos are from Christmas 1987, a holiday I remember very well … more on that in a minute.
I hate that some of these older pictures have a gummy residue on them from the photo albums, but, that said, these 1987 pictures were from a very non-traditional Christmas, because I had my tonsils out on December 22nd. I had my tonsils originally removed in 1972 and one “root” was left and the tonsil grew back on that side – what are the odds of that happening I wonder? I went to an ear/nose and throat doc complaining that if a person with a cold even looked at me, I’d end up with a sore throat and was sick the next day, despite eating healthy, sleeping well, taking vitamins AND having my tonsils removed already! The ENT doc peered down my throat and said “you have the remains of a tonsil my dear – as soon as your cold is over, call my office and we’ll schedule you for outpatient surgery and plan on a few days’ downtime because you’re older and it’s not so easy when you have a tonsillectomy.” I was 31 years old (that was older??)
The surgery was on Tuesday, the 22nd and I planned to use up all my sick days and took off work until the new year. I did have a few issues with my ear afterward, and this surgery complicated Christmas dinner as I was not supposed to have anything solid for about five or six days … you can do the math. Mom made many bowls of Jell-o and it was nice of her to make them in cherry and lime flavors for Christmas Day. She heated herself up a can of Campbell’s Chunky soup and ate it in the other room so I would not smell the soup and hunger for something more than Jell-o. I never even decorated at work or at home that year, save for a small tree I usually put up on my desk, as I considered Christmas kind of a lost cause that year. Here is me on Christmas Day eating Jell-o and posing near the arrangement they sent to me from work.
This year, like most years since my mom passed away in 2010, I did not decorate … oh, I put out an ornament or two, but that was it. Next year I promise myself I’ll at least put up one of the Christmas trees – there are two ceramic trees, the little one pictured on the mantel above and two miniature trees, one I took to work in later years and one here at the house … surely I can do that much right? But, despite my lackadaisical manner of decorating for the Christmas season, I smile fondly as I remember my mom announcing “my decorating is done!” Right … adding those bows to the Canada Geese. So you’ve met Lucy and these geese I have similarly adorned with their holiday bows and with that task, I have put a bow on my Christmas 2019 prep.
The first goose is Daloose – I am spelling her name phonetically as I have never had occasion to spell out her moniker. We were at a Pendleton shop buying some Winter woolen skirt suits for me (back in the days when I still got dressed up for work) and it was around Christmastime. We spotted this woolen goose which was an ornament on a shelf and asked the owner if it was for sale. No, it was not, but we explained our goose and duck collection and she parted with it … Daloose has lived at the end of the hall since the late 80s and, while not a Canada Goose, she is still displayed prominently. She used to have a silk Christmas neck ribbon and one day I was vacuuming her and the vacuum nozzle caught the ribbon and sucked the whole thing up – I let out a scream in surprise and we did not retrieve the ribbon, but simply used another one.
And then there’s Bruce – he resides in the spare bedroom. Not much character with this guy, with his bland expression and he is not as realistic looking as Lucy, but he is similarly adorned with a red bow. There are other smaller geese or geese figurines here at the house, but no more Canada Geese, since we ran out of goose-type names. 🙂
I digressed … bigtime – enough memories; now back to Heritage Park.
While meandering around Heritage Park, snapping pics of the mallards and the geese, I remembered Mom and her tradition and I fancied the geese that paraded in front of me looking like those festive geese at home. So, in preparing this post, I added a ribbon here and there … just because. What do you think – do the Heritage Park fellows look like the geese here at home?
Just like at the eye doctor always asks at your annual appointment … is this better?
… or about the same? (In this instance, it would be Canada geese au naturel.)
Of course, be-ribboning your Canada Geese doesn’t always work out, especially if you are trying your best to capture four of them in an Beatles Abbey Road-like pose like these below … c’mon guys, work with me on this … march across, no veering off the pathway. How did I do? Is that a wiggle or a struggle for y’all? Just stay on the beaten path please! You see in the second photo, one goose started to go his own way.
Back to Christmastime and Heritage Park at the holidays. The venue has such a nostalgic look and hearkens back to times long before I was ever around. Here are some more pictures around this historic park. The old-time buildings give this park its ambiance – my favorites are the covered bridge, mill and little red schoolhouse.
Christmas is a week from today, so here’s hoping your holiday prep is a wrap and you can enjoy the ambiance of the season. Me, … I’m headed out to shovel or sweep away the dusting of snow on this bitter cold morning.
… and that’s likely because he had a big green sugar cookie shaped like a Christmas tree in his paws and was nibbling away at it.
Season’s Eatings – 2019 Style.
The past few years I’ve taken some extra treats for the squirrels and birds for Christmas and left those items there for them to enjoy while I was walking and for afterward. I usually do this on a weekend, when I can monitor who is enjoying (or discarding) what treat, on each successive lap around the Park. I also check out the progress of nibbling the treats in the days to come (if they last that long).
I’ve never taken Christmas cookies before and this year I parted with six “Voortman Bakery Assorted Festive Cookies®” out of my package. (I tore the bag when I opened it, so I’m borrowing this photo from Voortman’s website.)
They were all sugar cookies and I was thinking the squirrels might just play nice and share them with the sparrows, who watch me every morning, hoping for a morsel of food that they can enjoy. Unlike last year, when I lumped everything together on one of the picnic tables under the pavilion roof, (click here to see their food fest I left them), this year I decided that the birds would actually get a chance to enjoy their bird seed bells, without the squirrels misappropriating them like they do any kind of food, whether at home on the front porch, or at the Park. The squirrels can be piggy sometimes, especially the Fox squirrels (like Parker and Stubby).
So, I took along some long pipe cleaners, (a/k/a craft chenille stems), and hung the two feeders up in a tree near the end of a branch, where a clever squirrel might not feel secure venturing out on such a narrow perch.
But, I’d barely turned my back to start arranging goodies on the picnic table, when I heard the unmistakable noise of claws scratching on bark … I whirled around and there was a squirrel crouched down, contemplating his best move to reach the bells. Perhaps the noise I heard was the gears clicking in his head as he planned his attack.
The rest of the goodies I had toted with me, I then proceeded to spread along the picnic table. I like dates or raisins plus shelled sunflower seeds in my morning oatmeal, so I took along some dates and seeds and mixed them with some peanuts. I also took along two berry-flavored suet cakes which I had speared with a knife at home to “start it” for the birds. Those treats were ostensibly for the birds and they were welcome to nibble on the sugar cookies as well, if the squirrels didn’t glom onto them first. Before leaving home, I swabbed peanut butter on the heads of the two snowmen cookies and laid them with red and green sugar cookies along the picnic table. Just for laughs, I picked the table with the graffiti, and in particular, to show the scrawl that said “do yo squats”(a subtle reminder as we ease into the holiday fare, so we can still ease into our clothes). I’ve taken different shots, including up close, so you can see the array of goodies.
Every picture tells a story …
I was wearing cumbersome gloves and unfortunately I dropped one of the snowmen cookies onto the cement floor, still in its plastic bag. I had put each of the cookies with peanut butter into separate Baggies, so the peanut butter would not make a mess on my gloves and I could just slide the cookie from the bag onto the table. Before I had time to retrieve the bag from the floor, a black squirrel darted over and took the Baggie containing the cookie which had now broken in two. He grabbed the bag between his teeth and beat it up a tree. The picture is not clear, but he hooked the bag onto a twig and pulled out what he wanted and soon was happily chomping away on it, leaving the rest for later (or maybe his mate)?
Then, I began walking on the perimeter path, an open bag of peanuts in one hand, the camera in the other. It was very cold and blustery that morning and a few snowflakes were skittering along the pathway, as well as landing on my jacket. The squirrels were nowhere to be seen on the path the first time around, even though I jiggled the cellophane bag to announce my presence, just in case they missed me (even though I think I’m fairly easy to find).
Soon I had walked the 0.9 mile first loop where all the critters are, without a single one stopping me to beg for peanuts. There was not a single Blue Jay either. As I neared the pavilion area, I saw Parker dash over to see me, but he made a U-turn when he saw the Blue Jay flying toward the picnic table. Never one to miss out on a hub bub of activity when it involves food, Parker climbed up onto a seat at the picnic table to check out the offerings.
“Hmm – don’t mind if I help myself” he thought, then he hightailed it over to scope out the treats and gave a cookie the sniff test.
Forget the sensible snack, i.e. peanuts, Parker grabbed onto a green cookie and scrambled up the nearest tree, the cookie sticking out of his mouth sideways.
As you see in the picture way up top, there he sat on his perch, nibbling away, not even mindful of the bird seed bells in such close proximity. Here’s a few more shots since he posed so nicely. Check out his gleeful face. Hey … who does not like cookies, whether you’re human or a squirrel?
But wait – there were four more cookies – so would they be saved for later and the nuts noshed first, as is done when I take apples, mini pumpkins or even Nutter Butter cookies? Hmm – was he partial to the green cookie due to the color, or the fact it was shaped like a tree, admittedly his favorite hangout spot? Well, I’m no squirrel mind reader, but likely it was just due to an appealing scent, as squirrels are colorblind and they don’t hang out in evergreen trees. When I stopped at the goodies table after my second trip around the perimeter path loop, I decided Stubby and Parker were determined to keep this table of treats “find” all to themselves.
I peered again at the picnic table top … okay, one snowman cookie was gone, but the nice Jif® peanut butter that I had swabbed on so generously as a special treat for my favorite furry friends had been removed. No, not licked off and enjoyed, but left behind in a sticky gob. Nice goin’ guys, making a mess like that! Hope I don’t get fined for littering!
I looked around the area – surely the cookie culprit did not go far, although admittedly, it takes me about 15 to 18 minutes to make that trip around the first loop, especially with no critter interaction. Ah, there was the little rascal … it was a gray squirrel gnawing on what remained of the snowman’s body.
I turned on my heel to go and noticed Stubby had just arrived and he made a beeline up to the table. I wanted to chide him and say “you’re chubby enough Bud – maybe just stick to peanuts.” But, in the blink of an eye, just like Parker, another squirrel also snatched a green sugar cookie and took it to go, but up in a different tree. Well, I was still chasing after my mileage goal, so I stepped away onto the perimeter path once again and let him be after snapping this picture.
I walked at a brisk clip, the wind racing up my sleeves and whipping around my neck, its windy fingers slicing through my wool scarf and making me shiver. Although I attempted to keep my parka hood up over my head and hat, the wind kept pushing it back down again. While hitching that hood up one more time, I discovered he had moved with his treat over near the Creek. I guess he was subtly telling me he was done with our photo session, because as I inched closer to him, he shot me a rather exasperated look like “Really?!” …
… before fixing his attention on the remainder of that prized cookie.
By now the Park had come alive with squirrels scurrying back and forth along the path and climbing onto the picnic table. The sparrows circled around, with a renewed interest in the offerings, especially sunflower seeds and cookie crumbs. Even the cardinal was looking for goodies, first pausing at the table top to grab a sunflower seed, then he was wise enough to realize several of those seeds had slipped between the cracks of the picnic table, so he might as well grab them off the floor before the other cardinals discovered them. No … birds should never be labeled “bird brains!”
After walking several loops and gleaning a lot of shots of my Park pals enjoying their grub, I was ready to head home, and wrap my freezing fingers around a mug of coffee and enjoy some sugar cookies.
P.S. – When I returned to the Park a few days later, both bird seed bells were empty, and only the center sticks were left dangling from the tree branch. The two trays of suet were frozen solid as we had some brutally cold weather move in. I had driven that day to give the car a run. I went to the car and got something to break the suet apart and when I returned Thursday the empty trays were on the cement floor upside down, and only crumbs remained. I’m sure it was the squirrels that helped polish off the suet.
Today I reached my goal of 1,242 miles/2,000 kilometers walked in 2019! I’m excited, especially since the weather wreaked havoc with my walking regimen multiple times this year. Our Winter lingered into Spring, then Winter had the nerve to encroach on Fall, bringing a dusting of snow back on November 7th. Summer was hot and humid. And, oh yes … I tried to change my mindset about walking in the rain and even bought a pair of waterproof walking shoes and some bright red vinyl boots, though it didn’t make going out on damp days any more pleasant. I did try walking in a gentle rain, on a warm day, a few times, but many more mornings had torrential rain, so I skipped a walk altogether on those days.
I will keep on walking until year end and report on my final tally of steps/miles, but for my next goal I am going to cap my miles and will explain how I’ll do this on January 1, 2020 when I begin anew. [Nutcracker courtesy of Pinterest]
Today’s all-day rain gives me a brief respite from walkin’ my socks off to reach my goal. But, I managed to get 12 miles/19 kilometers done over the weekend – 8 miles/12 kilometers more to get ‘er done and reach my goal. Yesterday the wind was very blustery, and, just like one day earlier in the week, the winds were calm when I left the house, but kicked up mightily just a half-hour after I arrived. The weatherman also promised a sunny Sunday – I was outside over three hours and the sun must’ve slept in.
I’ve been thinking about Christmas stockings since deciding on this title for today’s post. Over the years, Christmas stockings have played a big part in the holiday ambiance for me …
… Like having a Christmas stocking when I was a little nipper.
On Christmas Eve, I dutifully left my stocking next to Santa’s milk and cookies so he wouldn’t forget to fill it (hint, hint). My parents loaded it up with goodies to keep me occupied so they could sleep in on Christmas morning, and, after I was sound asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, the sock would magically appear at the end of my bed. I was told (warned) that when I woke up, to just get my sock and let Mommy and Daddy sleep in since it was a holiday. I always got an orange and an apple in the toe and only on Christmas, Easter and Halloween did my parents allow hard candy, so I could always count on a candy cane and perhaps a Pez dispenser and candy for inside it. I always got some chocolate wrapped in gold foil that looked like gold coins. Chocolate was the exception as to candy – I don’t know why that was?
My parents never knew my grandmother had a stash of Laura Secord “humbugs”, those yummy brown-striped hard candies, that she always kept in a little tin in her apron pocket. Sometimes she had a crinkly cellophane bag of peppermint balls that looked like mothballs – she would tell me to go outside to eat it as it smelled so strong and you couldn’t bite it, but had to wait for the candy ball to dissolve and “we don’t want to give away our secret, right?” The stocking candy was a treat because our Christmas candy set out in dishes around the living room had no appeal to steal one or two. Those hard candies were shaped like presents and had gooey stuff inside them … now if they had been Smarties (like American M&Ms) … well they would have been worth swiping.
Since the orange and apple were boring, they would be put aside, so I’d hone in on the treats and explore my sock. There would be crayons and a coloring book, maybe a jar of bubble soap and a bubble wand, or jacks, or a Slinky, even some Silly Putty to make stretchy faces out of my favorite comic-book characters in the funny papers …
… and, when I was really young, there were always a Golden Book or two.
My favorite stocking stuffers were new Barbie clothes, either bought at the store, or outfits that my mom would knit while I was at school. Here is a photo of Mom and me posing on Christmas Day when I got my first Barbie and a case for her clothes and accessories. (Please no comments on my hairdo which looked like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket because my mom made me sleep on pincurls on Christmas Eve – ugh.) I’d say this photo was taken around 1963.
Life sure was fun back in the day. I don’t know why I still don’t have that Christmas stocking, because I’ve hung onto many treasures from my childhood. I’m a “saver” not a “thrower” so that is why when folks say “do you use a treadmill all Winter?” my answer is “I’d love one, but where would I put it?”
The socks of Christmas Past.
When I decided to incorporate some memories about Christmas stockings into this “Still walkin’ my socks off …” miles-tally post, I actually went downstairs to root around in a few of the red Rubbermaid tubs with green lids where Christmas decorations we gathered through the years are stored; these festive-looking tubs have remained unopened for ten years. I knew I had saved some felt stockings and sure enough I had.
In fact, there was a treasure trove of red-felt Christmas stockings – some were brand new.
I saved stockings from work as well (pictured above and below). I always made up socks with little gifts for my bosses through the years. I filled those Christmas stockings with fun little things I’d pick up for a song and some goodies as well. I found one for both Robb and me downstairs.
My boss usually sends me pictures of how he decorates the office since he took over that chore after I stopped working on site in 2009. I packed away some of the socks with our office Christmas decorations. So, he hangs one sock outside my office door …
… and another paired up with his in the lobby.
Spreading cheer, whether chocolates or cookies, was something I did for all the holidays at work when we still worked at the Firm prior to leaving on our own on January 31, 2003. My mom and I used to make up something fun for the staff members on all the holidays and Christmas was no exception. Usually it was a big gingerbread man in a bag with curling ribbon and a Christmas message, but several times we made up these mini stockings.
I had to use initials as some names were too long to fit up top. I’d decorate all the socks over Thanksgiving, in between decorating here at home. I’d have socks laying all over the floor while the glitter dried, then we stuffed them with chocolates and a mini candy cane. I always had to have extra socks on hand in case someone quit, or got sick, and a temp came in their place. That happened a few times. Then, two days before Christmas, I would arrive earlier than usual and creep around, leaving treats or stockings at each desk before anyone arrived. One year I did a poem modeled after “The Night Before Christmas” using all the names of the staff personnel. This was before we had internet access at work, so I had to go buy the book, as I did not remember the whole poem, having not heard it since I was very young. I typed it up and xeroxed it onto Christmas paper.
Thanks to the rain I had a walking respite, so I could finish this longish post I started last night. Onward and upward for finishing up, but for now, perhaps I’ll play with this Silly Putty that beckoned me to buy it at Meijer a few weeks ago before I have to start work. 🙂
Since we continue creeping toward year end, and, while I was hoping to bulk up some walking miles, I headed to historical Heritage Park the weekend before last. Yep, I had my ducks in a row as I had high hopes of getting about six miles in, even though it was very cold and my fingers felt like ice within fifteen minutes. I ended up ditching the flip-top finger gloves, in favor of warmer polar fleece gloves, which kept my fingers toasty. So, I tucked the camera away for a while, but not before I visited the mallards at Coan Lake.
These beauties were gathered in a group – it looked like duck soup.
The brisk breeze was blowing across the lake and I sought relief from that wind inside the covered bridge to warm up a little, wondering how my feathered friends brave the elements day after day. All too soon I will visit this venue and find the ducks huddled together on an ice floe.
From my perch on the bridge, I had a bird’s eye view of the mallards.
I thought I was pretty smart, since I was out of the wind and the ducks didn’t scatter to the wind like they usually do. I hid behind the wooden cross-buck decor and I had the bridge to myself … heck, it appeared I had the whole village to myself, though I could see a few walkers on the track across the way.
These two mallards were content to cruise and snooze, paddling along effortlessly, but shutting their eyes. I don’t know where the sentry duck was – whenever you see ducks snoozing on shore, or on a log, there is always one of their brethren watching over them. Maybe this was just a quick catnap, er … ducknap.
Here’s a few more mallards with their mates (or best buds … they didn’t tell me).
And because there always has to be a drama queen amongst the masses, one drake was chasing the other drakes around in the water.
They were already irritated by the cold, so it didn’t take long before a lot of quacking ensued – so much for a peaceful afternoon.
Everything was settled quickly, however, and the rabble-rouser went on his merry way. But, as a parting shot to the crowd, he flapped his wings to show who was the boss (in his mind anyway).
I’m crowing a little too, as slowly I am whittling my remaining steps down and now have just 30 more miles/48 kilometers to reach my goal. Just like the female mallard in the image up at the very top, I won’t be left behind in the dust. I’ll keep my ducks in a row. Onward and upward!
I rushed home after walking for over four hours … no it wasn’t that second cup of coffee I had before I set out later than usual, as I awaited the thermometer to nudge higher than 27 degrees F/-2 C. Evidently that thermometer was going nowhere, but I was, so I set out anyway, in a down coat and my warmest clothes.
No, I rushed inside to peer at the mirror. I wanted to check my image to see if the words “Peanut Lady” were emblazoned on my forehead.
Yes, I know I was going to give the tales of my furry-tailed friends a little rest as the holiday season was coming up, but I feel I must share this story.
Last Saturday was gray and gloomy and the weatherman warned of rain or snow showers late in the day – I knew I had plenty of time to take the car for a long run, and myself for a long walk. I decided to split my day into two trips: three miles at Council Point Park, then three miles at Elizabeth Park in Trenton. It was still raptor migration season until the end of November, and, although I made a trip to that venue the beginning of the month, and failed to see any of the many hawks or eagles that migrate overhead, I thought I’d give it another try.
I was happy the Grosse Ile free bridge had opened after a week of mechanical issues which deemed it unsafe, leaving traffic backed up for miles on East Jefferson, (the exact location of Elizabeth Park), as they queued up to access the $5.00 round trip toll bridge, the only other means to get on/off the island. Here are a couple of shots of that free bridge taken from Elizabeth Park.
I did not take any photos at Council Point Park as I was there just to feed my furry and feathered pals and get a quick, three-mile walk done. From the looks of the sky I didn’t plan on taking many photos at Elizabeth Park either.
That was, until I stepped out of my car.
Around Elizabeth Park is a perimeter road where you drive very slowly to avoid the ducks and geese who cross without giving a second thought to vehicles.
They even have a “duck crossing” sign as a hint you must pay attention.
I saw a lot of mallards right after crossing the vehicle bridge to the park, so I quickly pulled over to just inside the park entrance.
I hopped out of the car and since I didn’t finish off the bag of peanuts at Council Point Park, I decided to tote some along in case I saw some furry or feathered friends, especially my little squirrel pal who hangs out at the big bridge which is pictured above – he fancies himself the guardian of the gates.
All of a sudden, squirrels were coming out of the woodwork.
But, before I could even reach into the car and grab the tote bag that contained the peanuts, at least a dozen squirrels surrounded the car – okay, what was going on?? They could not have smelled the peanuts that were still inside the bag, inside the car. Did I look like Elizabeth Park’s Peanut Lady? I don’t know, but there they were … Fox squirrels, black squirrels and gray squirrels, all clamoring for peanuts.
They thought “we knew she had a kindly face and was a sucker for squirrels.”
I thought “well at least I don’t have to carry that bag of peanuts with me so my hands are free to take pictures – hope I don’t run into the other little guy.”
My camera came out in a flash and I got a few shots, which were not the greatest since the grass and leaves were brown and most of the squirrels were as well. Here’s five of them.
But the blah landscape and brown squirrels didn’t stop a trio of women walkers from videotaping the scene. The women are seen approaching us in the photo below.
These women saw this crowd of squirrels crowding me off the sidewalk (no, I was not complaining) and from across the road, I saw phones raised and videos being taken while they shouted across the street “well, how cute is this?!” The video went on for a minute or two and I asked if I had “Peanut Lady” on my forehead because that is what people call me at Council Point Park. They laughed and said the scene could be a Christmas card.
I wish I could have shown the entire dozen of squirrels but they did not want to do a group shot.
You’ll notice in these pictures, the Elizabeth Park squirrels are just as inquisitive (no, make that nosy) as their Council Point Park counterparts.
Hmm – it seems they are just as chubby too.
I excused myself from the walkers and my furry friends who were by then in a feeding frenzy, to walk down to the water to see the ducks.
This duck had a huge smile for me, no doubt having witnessed the goodies fed to the squirrels, it assumed I was toting duck treats … nope, I was just there for a few photos, before starting on my walk.
Well that smile was wiped right off Mr. Mallard’s face when he saw my hands were empty.
I sure can’t blame these guys for hanging out along the shore given the cold temps.
Only one brave dabbling duck here … he was having a look-see first before plunging into the water.
Even though I just meandered along, the geese were on the move, goose-stepping through the leaves and grateful to find a patch of grass that was both leaf-free and snow free, so as to graze without limitation, even though there were still a few piles of snow around Elizabeth Park and lots of mud along the way as well.
What geese weren’t grazing on grass, their brethren were hanging out at the bird feeder area, hoping to catch what the squirrels missed under the feeders. Kindly souls put out four big bird feeders and a suet feeder as soon as the temps get colder and they keep this “feeding station” stocked all Winter.
The small birds scattered to the wind as they were timid, so all I got was a woodpecker’s picture in this shot. He or she was drilling into the tree after feasting on some suet.
Here’s a close-up of the feeders.
I saw this chickadee who left in a huff when I approached the feeding station.
So the mirror never lies and neither does the pedometer … as of yesterday’s jaunt, at month end, I have just 45 miles/72 km to reach my final goal of 1,242 miles/2,000 kilometers. Today is looking nasty weather-wise, but we’ll see.