Ramblin’ ‘round Heritage Park.

What can I say? I keep returning to Heritage Park for weekend jaunts, as it is a quick-and-easy drive, plus there are always images to pique my interest and to be captured by the camera lens. And this trek was no different. In fact, in my three hours spent relaxing at Coan Lake, meandering through the historical portion of Heritage Park, getting my steps on the walking path and visiting the massive garden areas afterward, I amassed a ton of photos. Later I divvied them up and will do separate posts in the coming weeks on the Botanical Gardens, Community Gardens and a mess ‘o Mallards and Canada geese found in and around Coan Lake. Right now I am stacked up with photos from various weekend jaunts at larger woodsy parks and water venues.

In the meantime, here is what I saw in the early morn at Taylor, Michigan’s Heritage Park, often referred to as the “Jewel of the City” and understandably so.

This was my first visit to Heritage Park since I participated in my virtual 5K walk for the local food pantry known as Fish & Loaves on Saturday, May 9th. You can read about that 5K walk here if you missed it. I was even wearing my new 5K swag … and yes, I left the finishing medal at home. 🙂

When you have your ducks in a row

… you always arrive early at Heritage Park, because the Mallards are waking up and beginning their morning ritual, not unlike that of humans. You stretch and contemplate your day ahead; the Mallards lift up one wing where their head was tucked while sleeping, then raise one eyelid, stretch those short orange legs and wide-webbed feet, then it’s time to eat. (BTW – there is no snooze button that I know of and yes they have a little “bed head” just like you, or most of us.) The Mallards waddle to the edge of Coan Lake …

… and then plop into the water, where they will often dive deep, feathery butts in the air, to nibble on aquatic plants or catch a fish.

This big pond is stocked with fish for catch-and-release fishing and for the waterfowls’ benefit as well. Unlike the geese, who have been strutting around grazing on grass, long before their waterfowl friends woke up, ducks don’t usually eat grass, unless some kindly soul has scattered corn onto it and stray grass ends up in their beak while they are hurriedly scarfing up the corn. There is a gentleman who visits Coan Lake with a huge bag of cracked corn every morning . Just like at other parks, the ducks recognize their benefactor (or perhaps that large bag of corn), then scramble out of the water as soon as they see the whites of his eyes.

Now that eating is dispensed with, it’s time for morning ablutions, the equivalent of you or me hopping into the shower.

Watching the waterfowl here always starts my day off right.

It is molting time right now, and the waterfowl at this park spend an inordinate amount of time preening and picking their feathers. There were feathers all over the grounds, large ones and fluffy down too. The ducks are busy pulling out old feathers and then the new feathers that are growing in make them feel itchy and fidgety. I have had pet birds and know about the molting process. It was very hard on my budgies and canaries – they were listless and lethargic, not talking or singing, for about six to eight weeks, as they lost all their feathers in succession from head to tail. They’d jump from perch to perch and a flurry of feathers would drift from their bodies and land onto food or water dishes – at the height of molting it was like watching a mini pillow fight going on in the cage as the feathers flew furiously.

Check out these Mallards, especially the drake (male), whose usually vibrant plumage is mottled due to the molting process and this guy is missing his tail feathers as well – poor boy. All body feathers eventually will be replaced and soon he and other drakes will enter “eclipse phase” when all their plumage will resemble their mates. In fact, at a glance you can’t tell them apart, except for the beak color (bright yellow versus brown).

There is no set hatch date for ducklings and goslings. In 2019, at Council Point Park we had four families of geese, each with goslings, that arrived about a week apart. So there were lots of cute-and-fuzzy babies stomping around the Park grounds in the month of May and June. It was no different here at Heritage Park. Proud parents with their offspring close by were all over Coan Lake.

I mused that after beating a path to various water venues in search of ducklings every Spring, that this year, I have been inundated with glimpses of ducklings. At least something good has come out of the year 2020!

Here are a few ducklings to ooh and aah over.

The fountains on either side of Coan Lake were not turned on and this female Mallard relaxed, like Queen of the Hill, on this perch while preening and enjoying the morning sun.

Woe would be this little lady when the sprinkler system was turned on and water gushed up! Not only would it likely be chilly, but I wondered if the force of the spray would knock her from that perch? It gushes mightily as you see below when it was turned on later.

Taking a gander at the geese.

Heritage Park is large, but all the waterfowl congregate around Coan Lake. There are not that many families of geese and I looked for the parents who sadly had just two offspring, (as opposed to the usual six or seven or more), that I featured in an earlier post this year. I didn’t find them, but there were these proud parents and their trio of youngsters.

After spending a peaceful hour at the waterfront, it was time to cross the covered bridge over Coan Lake and into the historic village.

I was the only person on that bridge, so as I ambled across I paused halfway to gaze up at the fairly high rafters and scope out any Barn Swallows or nests filled with babies. Here is a close-up of the underside of the covered bridge.

In the past I’ve been fortunate to see the nests brimming with youngsters. The nests are fashioned out of mud and puttied onto the bridge rafters by that same mud. The former pictures weren’t that close up though. Well, it was my lucky day! Swallows are always buzzing around the bridge, capturing and eating insects as they swoop and dive. They rarely pause but a few minutes to rest on the seawall or the big boulders near the bridge, but this time of year, you’ll see them detouring to the rafters and that’s to take food to their young. Have a look at the hungry baby Barn Swallows awaiting their morning meal. (Talk about expectant faces and no, I didn’t bring you any bugs – sorry guys!)

It was a lucrative trip across the covered bridge … photo-wise that is. I saw these two grumpy-looking turtles basking in the morning sun. One must’ve had a dirt bath and the other was spanking clean.

I crossed into the historical village area and took a few photos which regular readers will recognize as the Little Red Schoolhouse, Fitz Caboose and boxcar in the background, old Water Mill and the Gazebo.

I was not ready to go home yet and spent another few hours checking out the Taylor Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and Goodwill Gardens. The former was ablaze in color with perennials and annuals and the latter, despite getting a slow start due to COVID-19 and the garden area being closed down, was brimming with goodness to be donated at local food banks, as well as gardeners who lease private plots to tend to flowers and veggies for their own personal use. I will spotlight these two portions of my Heritage Park trek in upcoming posts.

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , | 44 Comments

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies ~ Aristotle #Wordless Wednesday #Chalk Your Walk

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Birds, bees, bunnies and buddies.

I know you’ve been clamoring for a post about Council Point Park, so here it is. Truth be told, it has been a little boring there. Sigh. Yes, I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. Since the Park opened back up following the month-long lockdown, my favorite nature nook is not the same.

The City grass cutters are behind in mowing and weed whacking at all the parks following the gargantuan task of taming overgrown grass and weeds when all 22 parks reopened on June 2nd. So, even donning my rose-colored glasses, I must say that right now the Park looks a little raggedy as well.

Do you think the peanut pals missed the human presence?

Perhaps all the feathered and furry critters got acclimated to a refuge sans humans? They likely enjoyed having the grounds to roam about freely without the need to dodge dogs (even though dog walking is discouraged via several signs that cite a City ordinance forbidding dogs on the premises). I wonder if the critters truly enjoyed that month devoid of bicyclists, joggers or stroller-pushin’ moms that usually waylay a quick trip across the walking loop for a bite of grass, a nibble of pinecone, or a quick paddle in the Creek?

But alas, even though the critters may view us humans as intruders, I am sure my feathered and furry buddies bemoaned the lack of peanuts.

There’s more. Fireworks had been going off nightly since before Memorial Day in our City. The fireworks extravaganza was just residents setting them off, not a public display and there were lots of spent fireworks and black powder from misfires in the Park’s parking lot nearly every morning, especially on the morning of the 5th of July. I feel badly as I am sure the noise terrified the critters who have their nests in the trees that line the path, just a stone’s throw from the parking lot.

Also factoring into less Park critter activity has been this horrible heat wave we have endured for nearly two weeks.

I’ve not been straying too far from home on weekends due to the intense heat, so I have spent more mornings than usual at Council Point Park. Michigan meteorologists recorded June as one of the sunniest in history and July boasts statistics of its own, as one of the hottest recorded, as a result of this continued heat wave. We had nine consecutive days of 90F (32C) or above. It was the second longest heat wave streak in history (the record was eleven in 1953). Whew! On the horizon is another streak of 90F (32C) plus days or higher.

So, I’ve collected these photos over the course of the last six weeks. Hopefully, the recent spikes of COVID-19 cases/deaths here in Michigan will not spell doom and gloom and a resulting shutdown of our City’s parks again, specifically this one, as I derive much joy in my daily jaunt there.

The bird is the word here in Michigan.

I heard a factoid recently that amazed me: there are over 450 bird species in Michigan. Clearly I am not venturing far enough from home on my nature treks, as I’m lucky to have seen 50 species of birds max since living here and these are the common backyard birds and waterfowl. That is why I said “Egad!” when I came upon that Great Egret recently.

The Cardinals remain elusive on the perimeter path and that makes me sad. Gone are those ambitious red birds scamming peanuts from the squirrels, or bopping along behind me hoping to get my attention. I was lucky to see a Jay and its young feasting on peanuts I left on the perimeter path. I watched them, capturing the image through my eyes only since the camera was tucked in its pouch as I was ready to leave and pulling it out might have startled them.

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds (like the one pictured above) are always quick to scam a peanut from the squirrels, or will hop from tree to tree to follow along my route. They are still pretty vocal, sometimes calling out as I pass by the marshy area or their favorite tree. Red-Winged Blackbirds tend to be the bullies at this venue.

The thistles are not ready for Goldfinch, nor Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies to visit – hopefully soon?!

Are my furry peanuts pals gettin’ squirrelly on me?

Even my squirrels have not been as ambitious or friendly at ground level – so, are you telling me that absence does NOT make the heart grow fonder? Well say it isn’t so! I expected them to come running over to greet me like we were long-lost friends, kind of like this.

Oh a few gave me a second glance, like Parker and Penelope …

But, for the most part, these looks they gave me during the first week or two made me wonder if they were angry at my absence on the walking loop, or they just plain forgot who I was. Take a look at this collection of perturbed furry faces.

As to this squirrelly group, unbelievably, they are already socking away peanuts. In 2019 we had an uncharacteristically chilly week in August. Suddenly, it was as if the brain gears clicked in those cute-and-furry heads and the squirrels divvied up their peanut pile, saving a few peanuts to enjoy now, yet they began digging holes and burying the rest all over the Park. I noted that unusual behavior in several blog posts that said “okay, I get that confusion when the weather has a Fallish feel but really?” Last year our meteorologists predicted a brutal Winter – it was quite the opposite, so go figure.

But here we go again. Both before and after our 4th of July weekend, as steamy and sultry as it has been, once again, the squirrels studied their pile of peanuts, then buried most of them and when that task was finished, only then would they enjoy the few peanuts they had set aside. I find that interesting. Are they rationing in case the humans who feed them daily go MIA once again, or, do they know something about the upcoming Winter that the learned climatologists and local weather folks have not yet divulged?

Here’s a couple of the peanut-hiding squirrels …

… and one who crammed two peanuts into his mouth to hurry along the nut-gathering process. 🙂

As mentioned (and whined about), we have had wicked hot weather recently. Now, one could say I am fickle as I’m no fan of Winter, but this relentless heat is not my cup of tea, and the squirrels neither judging from their lethargic looks you see here.

Bunnies always make me smile.

I enjoy seeing the bunnies in the ‘hood or the Park. The fact that I don’t have any munchable plants means not many bunnies are congregating in my backyard, but they do like nibbling the clover out front. Back in the day, the bunnies demolished my Bleeding Heart plants two years in a row, but thankfully the cute critters have yet to tackle the Twist-and-Shout Hydrangeas and the rose bushes are deemed “unmunchable” since the prickly thorns keep them at bay. The heat did not deter the bunnies from making the rounds on the Park grounds to enjoy white and purple clover. I’ll bet they are hot in their fur coats.

If the bunnies are deep into a patch of clover, they barely budge, although they are on guard for a sudden move on my part. I talk softly or click my tongue to assure them the big human looming over them means no harm. Are they scared of me? I have nothing to offer, and I’ve taken baby carrots or some leftover salad treats for them in the past, but they left it there and nibbled on grass instead, so I stopped toting it along.

I can’t resist a smile as a tiny bunny believes he/she is hiding from me, but unbeknownst to this furry creature, those pretty pink ears rising high above the grass and shot with the sun’s rays are like a beacon, giving it away.

The waterfowl are MIA.

Harry the Heron has been missing from my morning trek since May 1st, the last day I walked at the Park before it went into lockdown. Where did Harry go? Occasionally, I hear a Great Blue Heron flying down the narrow passage, shrieking in that shrill noise herons make, but he never alights on the cement landing, nor does he perch in a tree across the Creek.

I know the ducks and geese are gone due to the annual molting process wherein they lose their flight feathers and must remain on the ground until they grow back. For now, they are in a larger venue, a safe haven where they may still access the water and land for food, but can easily escape to water on foot if a land predator is nearby. The waterfowl cannot do that at Council Point Park as the Ecorse Creek won’t accommodate all of them, especially now that they have offspring. Besides, the Park sprays with a grape concentrate which the geese find distasteful and that prompts them to move along to other venues. Despite the goose poop that litters the walkway, in my opinion the geese and ducks help create the ambiance here.

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!

I’ve seen the turtles basking in the sun on a fallen tree many mornings. They line up in a neat row by seniority, i.e. the biggest turtles at the front of the queue and the smaller, younger ones in the very back. The big log where they sunbathe is behind some bushes so I can’t get a good photo of them, but they also sit on the cement landing and that’s where I got these two photos and I wanted to say: “just askin’ … did you pack a good sunscreen for Ol’ Sol’s rays? Oops – it looks like you’re already lookin’ a little leathery.”

Here is one turtle sunbathing and its buddy freaked out when it saw me and plopped right into the water – if you look closely, you can see it in the murky water. (Fraidy cat – I wasn’t going to nab you to make turtle soup for goodness sake!)

The sparrows perch at the Pavilion hoping for handouts … they wait a long time unfortunately because if you offer up a few seeds, the squirrels glom onto them (just like at your birdfeeder at home) and the sparrows are left watching the squirrels doing what they do best (after acting cute) … scamming birdseed. This sparrow wished this water fountain was a birdbath – even if it could turn the fountain handle, it would not help much as the fountain has not been turned on for years.

The wildflowers are scarce yet.

I saw this Tiger Lily growing out in the middle of the Creek bank.

The thistles are not too tall yet and have not been visited by any Goldfinch while I’ve been on the path, but I hope to get some shots soon.

The Milkweed is similarly “gettin’ there” and a woman occasionally comes to pluck leaves for her Monarch caterpillars. It is their only source of food. They feed themselves silly on it, until they are big and fat and form a cocoon (pupa) and emerge as beautiful Monarch butterflies. That’s not happening for a little while yet.

The bees are buzzing about enjoying the nectar on these beautiful blooms.

So now you’re caught up on the doin’s at the Park, from soup to nuts …

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , | 57 Comments

Gobsmacked by the Great Egret!

This pair of Mallard ducks was surprised to see the Great Egret wading in their territory. The drake’s beak was wide open as he gazed in wonderment at this intruder to “their” canal. Hmm – so, should they chase it away, or just marvel at this tall, skinny bird which looked like it needed a good fish dinner to fatten it up?

This gal was also gobsmacked by its sudden appearance in the canal at Elizabeth Park. I don’t see many Great Egrets at this venue. I’ve seen them at Lake Erie Metropark, but for the past two years, the Cherry Island Trail has been so soggy and muddy that I’ve not ventured down that path to the inlet where I’ve seen a Great Egret or two in the past.

So, just like my feathered friends, seeing this regal-looking, snow-white waterfowl was a treat.

The infatuation soon wore off (as to the Mallards) and the pair swam away.

So the Egret was free to prance about the canal and enjoy the peace and solitude.

But I was greedy for a better look at it and inched ever closer to the canal bank.

It was all good until suddenly this big bird caught sight of me and off he went in the blink of an eye. Anyone know what types of treats Egrets like for next time? 🙂

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments

Fresh as a _____? #Wordless Wednesday #When will this heat wave end??

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday, nature, walk | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

This is how to cool off quickly!

We’re in the midst of a wicked heat wave – throughout the holiday weekend, temps sizzled like a firecracker. I hope we don’t need a whopper storm to break the heat.

I visited Lake Erie Metropark a couple of weekends ago and while meandering through the marsh and across a wooden overlook, I heard a lot of splishing and splashing. But, it wasn’t these Mallards. It was a pair of good-sized carp chasing one another. I hung around for a while, hoping for a photo op as they played tag – it is spawning season, but they weren’t in the mood for posing I guess.

Now, while I was disappointed I never got any shots of the carp, from my vantage point I was lucky enough to see this group of playful Mallards, all with brown plumage. What I couldn’t figure out, however, was if the showoff above was Mama and the other slightly smaller ducks were her nearly grown offspring? Then again, perhaps the ducks were all girlfriends hanging out together at the ol’ swimming hole – you know “a girl’s morning out?”

Perhaps you can enlighten me?

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , | 37 Comments

Happy 4th of July!

The day was crisp and clear at Elizabeth Park – just look at that bright blue sky! The wind was clipping along with great gusto. Each gust had the flag whipping and flipping around, causing it to rise and fall intermittently. So, I decided the images of the flag would make a good Fourth of July post – after all, 2020 has sure not been normal, so why should this flag be any different?

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Posted in 4th of July, holiday | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Excuse me … I’ll just be bold and ask: “did you bring me treats?”

Even more kindred souls walk amongst us

As promised, I have just a few more tales I’ve been collecting about animal/human interactions, like this story my friend Ann Marie shared with me recently.

You may recall, I was appalled (and even joked a little) about the swan parents taking the “sink or swim kid” attitude with their cygnet while riding the wild waves at the Detroit River. However, I was quick to praise the efforts of the geese and ducks in taking care of their young. Sadly, as wonderful as Nature is sometimes, there are often occurrences that make you stop, take note, then shake your head in disbelief.

Really … who would harm, or push away, a sweet duckling?

Thanks to a fuzzy, brown-and-black Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, I met my good friend Ann Marie at Council Point Park back in September 2014. We struck up a conversation as she watched me studying a Woolly Bear caterpillar that was inching across the perimeter path. I was pondering whether its markings meant we’d have a cold and brutal Winter. Nothing scientific there; I was merely following the folklore of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and yes, we had a bad Winter because of the caterpillar’s coloring. Okay, maybe there were other circumstances too, but …. FYI: if the caterpillar’s rusty brown band is wide, then it will be a mild Winter. The more black there is, the more severe the Winter.

Ann Marie walks past a pond on her daily walk. The same day she read my post about the Mama Duck and her ten ducklings, she also saw a Mom Mallard with her ten ducklings in tow. But sadly, just two days later there were only five ducklings trailing behind their Mama. Ann Marie wondered and worried if the other five ducklings fell prey to a predator near the pond. A few days later, in her morning jaunt past the pond, she noticed one baby duckling suddenly appeared, all alone, in the water. It paddled quickly toward the Mama duck. While watching this interaction and assuming Mama Mallard would take the duckling under her wing, Ann Marie was horrified to see the Mama duck start hitting the duckling and pushing it away.

The duckling swam to the edge of the water and once on land, ran right over to Ann Marie’s neighbor, Jeff, who was also near the pond that morning. Jeff scooped up the scared duckling, then turned it over to his wife, Melanie, who has prior experience with duck rescues at this very same venue. They put that feathered baby into a cat carrier and called a fowl rescuer, then decided to just take it a nature rescue center so it could be taken care of right away. The story is sad, but luckily has a good ending, as once again, humans helped out a fine-feathered friend.

A kindred soul is good to know.

People who love animals seem to gravitate toward one another. Like Elaine, or the woman I met at the grocery store around the holidays, who glanced at the stacks of cellophane packages of human peanuts in my shopping cart and tapped me on the shoulder and asked “so do you feed the squirrels too?” We both laughed and then discussed what we’d substituted for treats when Meijer dropped the ball and quit having peanuts in the store for a while. Her Plan “B” goodies were better than my Plan “B” goodies, so it tarnished my “Peanut Lady” crown just a tad.

Then there is the pair of women walkers at Council Point Park who bring a bottle of cocktail peanuts to the perimeter path every day they walk. The first time they were shaking the peanuts onto the asphalt, fellow walker Arnie quipped to the squirrels: “naked peanuts – you guys don’t even have to crack the shell – you’re spoiled!”

Yes we spoil them silly – who can resist those big brown eyes, pleading face and tail swishing wildly?

Recently these goodies have shown up on the perimeter path.

Last week I got to my favorite nature nook and strained my eyes to see what was up ahead on the pathway. So, what have we here?

As I got closer, I smiled to myself at the “droppings” … a new walker at the Park apparently aimed to feed the birds and not exclude any size birds in the process. There were neat piles of birdseed staggered all along the first part of the pathway. There were tiny millet seeds to sunflower seeds (which of course the squirrels would lap up once they saw them).

But, as I walked along the perimeter path, finally the piles of birdseed ceased and the critters had been gifted with a scattering of shelled peanuts with corncobs laying in the middle of each pile There were many such offerings along the perimeter path; these weren’t the only ones I’ve shown below. “Wow, no one will be begging from me today” I thought.

However, one squirrel who was enjoying his feast, heard my footsteps, then swiveled his head toward me while chomping on a corncob. “Aha, an acknowledgement from the peanut gallery” I told him, then added “I guess you won’t be needing any peanuts from Linda today.” It was more of a statement then a question. But wait … was I imagining that his eyes slid over to my Ziploc bag of peanuts, with such a grand feast laid out before his paws and which feast he had all to himself?

I tested the waters anyway and laid down some peanuts. That squirrel immediately removed himself from the corn and nuts pile and hustled over for some peanuts in the shell. I guess peanuts rule.

“Just when I thought I had you squirrels all figured out – what do I know?” I remarked wryly as I walked away.

Up ahead, I noticed some benefactor felt badly they had no critter treats to add to the breakfast menu, so they had scattered their Doritos onto the path.

I recalled the kindly older gentleman I wrote about earlier this year, who scattered the contents of a bag of tortilla chips on the ground for the squirrels because “I ran out of peanuts and didn’t want them to be disappointed and do without.”

That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

My last tale about kindred souls is from a few weeks ago at Elizabeth Park. I was taking photos of the canal where the water still encroached onto the pathway and grounds. While standing there, a guy named Matt came over and asked me what type of ducks were in the canal. Admittedly, those large ducks, i.e. the snowy-white Pekin and Hybrid Mallard with its multicolored plumage, looked a bit out of place next to the smaller Mallards you see everywhere.

Matt and I chatted about the local parks while his daughter, Shelby, was wading in the canal. Part of the shallow water was actual grass where the canal water spilled over – you may recall I did a post on the massive flooding at Elizabeth Park recently. You can see the trees in the background – they are supposed to be on the grounds, not in the middle of the water!

The big ducks, unfazed by her presence, paddled lazily alongside her. Matt told me earlier they gave the Pekin duck some M&M cookies and quickly added “with the M&Ms removed of course!” I smiled and said “of course” then added that I had fed my favorite squirrel, Parker, a small bag of peanut M&Ms and he ate every one by himself. Matt said “I have a few more cookies – would you like to feed this duck?” I thanked him and declined, but said “I’d love to take you or Shelby’s photo feeding the duck if I could.” So, Shelby came over to watch as Matt crumbled up a couple of cookies.

The cookies piqued the Pekin duck’s interest. It was no slouch and waddled right over, pushing ahead of the Mallard Hybrid. Matt said that happened last time too and the Pekin was much more assertive. He spread the crumbled cookies into his palm and the Pekin duck gobbled up the treats and I had my photo op, which was definitely a win-win for both of us.

After enjoying those cookies, the Pekin duck wandered over to the water to wash ‘em down. Um, I think milk would have been a better option, but not if you’re a duck I guess.

Hummingbirds are not reliable “outside pets” – just sayin’.

My efforts here at the house to make Homer the Hummer my new outside pet are failing miserably. Interacting with the peanut pals and keeping them happy is much easier (and more enjoyable). I have two small hummingbird feeders and the nectar level never seems to go down. My last hummingbird sighting was two weeks ago – maybe over the long weekend I’ll pop outside more to check for visitors … oh wait, it will be 90F (32C) with a “real feel” of 100F (37C), if not higher, so maybe I’ll walk in the cool morning and come inside and stay put. Tuesday I arrived home from walking and found a hummer feeder full of ants. The army of ants didn’t gain access on top as there is an ant moat; nope, they were clustered inside the covered dish where at least 100 tiny black ants, who were likely lured to sip sweet nectar, now were floating in it – Eww. Pretty amazing that they scaled that six-foot shepherd’s hook for that prize. The feeder lid was sticky and when I pried it off, nectar slopped down my arm and drenched my watch. Well that wasn’t the scenario I had hoped for after seeing one tiny hummingbird sipping on a pink flower of a weed which prompted me to say “ooh – I’ll get a hummingbird feeder to keep this little beauty around!”

How about a quote for the road … whether you’re staying put this long holiday weekend, or on the move … just stay safe, okay?

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 33 Comments

‘Cuz kindness counts. #(Almost) Wordless Wednesday.

Wordless Wednesday – allow your photo(s) to tell the story.

Posted in #Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

Kindred souls.

I often strike up a conversation with people at the various parks that I frequent, and, surprisingly, the topic of our conversation is NOT necessarily walking. In fact, I almost never talk about walking. It is more about what I SEE when I am walking.

I have a treasure trove of little tales and photos that happen by the simple act of tossing out a few peanuts for the squirrels or birds and awaiting their reaction, usually with the camera in my hand. For the last five years, taking photos to accompany my walks has become the norm – it wasn’t always that way though. I began my walking regimen in 2011, and, when I discovered Council Point Park in 2013, the same year I began this blog, my daily meanders became walking AND feeding the squirrels AND taking pictures – now the blog has morphed with posts that are many paragraphs long and accompanied by many photos. This is such a blog post.

We’re bleeding hearts – that’s not a bad trait though.

I’ve met some fine folks I call kindred souls, nature lovers like myself, who make a special effort to show up at various parks to fawn over the critters that live there and ensure they are fed, especially when times are tough, like when a Michigan Winter settles in for the duration and our furry and feathered friends have it tough foraging for food.

In the Winter I worry about my Park squirrels and birds … the squirrels especially. I wonder if they have become “soft” … you know, accustomed to having peanuts scattered at their feet. Do they still go out and forage on those days I don’t make it to my favorite nature nook, or, do they huddle together in their nests, tummies rumbling and going hungry? To relieve my worries or guilt about not making a personal appearance every single day, especially in Winter, I make “droppings” on the picnic table in the pavilion area when I know bad weather is on the horizon. It is my furry and feathered friends’ ace in the hole when I am MIA.

You may think I am dedicated to keeping my peanut pals happy, but I must share this story about Elaine.

Elaine must’ve been here.

Back on February 22nd, a very cold, clear day, I was strolling around lovely Elizabeth Park. This venue is picturesque, no matter the season. It had been quite cold the week before and the Detroit River had frozen over, so I marveled at the ice slabs washed up on the boulders along the shoreline …

… and I was surprised how quickly the most-recent snowfall seemed non-existent.

There are lots of squirrels and birds at Elizabeth Park, so I always take peanuts and seeds to treat them. I ensure my camera is close by to get a few photos memorializing my morning meander, whether I am walking on the path that encircles this park, or at the bird feeding station I call “Birdie Nirvana” – a trip to Elizabeth Park never disappoints if you are a nature lover.

So I was taking photos of the Pekin ducks and Mallard Hybrids paddling around in the small cove near the canal, which surprisingly was not frozen over…

… when I heard a female voice say “good morning – my it’s cold out, but what a beautiful day!”

I turned around and acknowledged her greeting and agreed. Then the woman came over near me and said “well, I wondered where my Pekin ducks disappeared to? They usually come out of the water once they see me with my feed bag.” I smiled and said “they were posing for me” then I added “oh ya, I know all about the feed bag. In fact, I often wonder if the critters who live at the park where I go every day love me for ME, or that bag of peanuts I am toting.” She laughed and extended a hand and said “I’m Elaine and I take it you feed the critters too?” I introduced myself and patted my pocket where the remainder of a bright-yellow cellophane bag of Hampton Farms Jumbo Peanuts was wadded up and stuffed in there. I told Elaine my moniker was “The Peanut Lady” at Council Point Park.

We ended up chitchatting for almost an hour, both of us stomping our feet and rubbing our hands together in a futile attempt to stay warm, and, just like a couple of old friends comparing baby stories, we regaled one another with funny tales about critters at our favorite parks. I wowed Elaine with my story about the peanut-eating Canada Geese. She’d never seen that happen here at Elizabeth Park. I also told of the time a male Mute Swan took exception with me taking some photos of him and the Missus and he climbed up the Creek bank and charged after me. Because I’m never without peanuts, I threw some and he stopped in his tracks – whew!

By the time we parted, she had told me about a great deal on 50-pound bags of peanuts that she and her husband bought at a produce market many miles away. She even offered to get a bag or two for me, meet me at Elizabeth Park and even volunteered her husband to load up my car with the bags so I did not have to lift them. I thanked her but said I had no room right now as I’d loaded up food and pantry items for over the Winter, so I would continue buying them from Meijer, (though they had dropped the ball on keeping them in stock lately). “I live in a small house” I added.

Elaine said she was diligent about walking and feeding the critters and drove to Elizabeth Park all year around for her daily constitutional, while toting a two-pound bag of corn for the ducks and a one-pound bag of peanuts for the squirrels. As Elaine made her rounds, many furry and feathered fans scampered or waddled over to greet her.

Stooping down to lend a hand to some ducklings in need

Elaine told me that on one of her daily strolls, about a week after Easter 2019, she saw several yellow ducklings huddled together on the grass near the marina/catering hall area.

She recognized the trio as Pekin ducklings, seen only at Elizabeth Park. Pekin ducklings are yellow and fuzzy when they are young and their feathers turn white when they are mature. Taking a quick glance around the area, Elaine saw no sign of a Mama duck, so she crouched down and spoke to them and offered a handful of cracked corn which they gobbled right up, so she spread out more corn, several times, and it disappeared in a flash. Elaine wondered if they had been abandoned. She left the ducklings, promising them to return after going to the canal on her daily ritual to feed the Pekins and Mallards. She walked along the boardwalk, went to the canal, then along the path which encircles Elizabeth Park. She was gone a long time, but when she returned again to the marina area, she saw the ducklings were still there. This time they left their huddle and waddled right over to her. Yes, my heart would melt too, as would yours.

Because the ducklings weren’t afraid of humans, Elaine was sure they were abandoned, most likely by someone who bought them for their kids as Easter gifts, cute and cuddly pets, but soon realized the commitment, expense and mess of taking care of them.

Elaine told me her heart was pounding, but she had a solution – she would find a new “family” to adopt these cute ducklings, but it would not be humans this time – no, it would be some of their own kind.

So, luckily Elaine had saved some corn and she dribbled it out of her hand to get the ducklings to walk behind her. Obediently they followed, and the small pieces of corn disappeared as each duckling ran near her heels to be the first to grab a morsel. Can’t you just picture this in your mind? I can as I have had the cardinals hopping along behind me.

Elaine said it would have been much easier to just pick up the ducklings and simply carry them down to the canal with the adult Pekins, but she didn’t want to scare them, and besides, her hands were occupied by the two bags of corn and peanuts.

Well, Elaine did not have the benefit of being a Mama Mallard, but she guided those feathery babies along the boardwalk. It is a long trek from the marina/Chateau on the River and these few pictures do not even show the entire length of the boardwalk, then around the bend and over to the cove. Elaine smiled as she described one of the ducklings straying to the edge of the boardwalk and she almost lost it when it got off course, explored a wee bit too far and nearly toppled into the Detroit River.

This photo shows how precariously close her charge came to landing in the water with this exit where the leaves had collected …

… or, even catching a webbed foot in this wide space in the slats in the boardwalk.

Elaine lured the wayward duckling back to the route by using some more corn which was once again gobbled up. She told me she was wondering aloud “how long has it been since these babies last ate?” It was a long and arduous trip from the marina/catering hall to the canal area … some of these photos give you an example of just how far the group traveled.

This is an overview from above:

This is only a portion of the boardwalk and it curves around a few times:

Finally, 45 minutes later, and they were at the cove area of the canal. Elaine told me that in her mind, she pictured the young ducks gravitating right to the larger Pekins, thinking it was their Mama. But that was not the match made in Heaven she had anticipated. Elaine decided maybe it was best she left and let nature work its magic, so she left the adults and ducklings to get acquainted. As Elaine walked away, the ducklings turned and started walking back the way they came, obediently following behind her (quick learners)! “No!” said Elaine and she hurried over, quickly doling out more corn and got them pointed in the right direction, toward their new kin. 🙂

Perhaps the adults’ maternal instinct then kicked in, or maybe the Pekin adults simply wanted to please their benefactor, but soon the adults waddled over to nuzzle the ducklings. Elaine dumped the remaining corn for everyone and left the rest up to Mother Nature. She walked one more time around the park but decided not to return to the “meet-and-greet site” for fear the ducklings would follow her and not stay put.

The next day Elaine could hardly wait to see if the “new family” was visible at the cove/canal area. They were and they were all swimming around and zipped right over to see her to visit and for their daily breakfast. Elaine smiled and said she felt like a matchmaker and realized she probably saved those ducklings from predators, or sure death, as they likely had no clue how to defend themselves nor any foraging instincts either.

Elaine’s tale made me smile and gave me a warm-and-fuzzy feeling inside. I said I’d have had misgivings leaving those helpless babies too. I told her my angst about leaving the baby robin on the sidewalk, after I discovered it, heart pumping out of its chest and obviously not ready for prime-time fledging yet with such short wings. There was no nest to put it in. I left, tears welling up in my eyes, but when I returned later to take another look at it and saw Mama Robin lurking in the bushes, keeping her baby in her sight, my heart just swelled.

Almost an hour after meeting and each of us uttering “well I guess I should get going” we finally parted. I have not seen Elaine again in the many times I’ve been at Elizabeth Park since that Winter day, but who knows, perhaps we passed one another, clutching our respective bags of goodies, and did not recognize the other without our heavy parkas, wool mufflers and knit hats?

I have a few more tales of kindness to animals and that will appear in a post later this week. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this quote: “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~ Prince

Posted in nature, walk, walking | Tagged , , , , | 57 Comments