Spring Fling!

I usually write a post entitled “Spring Fling” which is that first glorious day that I return home from walking with my coat undone, or even carrying it and my bare head uncovered after many months. Last Sunday, we enjoyed the first sunny day after weeks of being mired in a persistent cloud cover. Before the day was over, unbelievably we climbed to 54 degrees F (12 C).

Earlier that morning, the Groundhog predicted an early Spring, and the weather folks predicted a high in the low 50s, which surprised me after the dusting of sleety snow we experienced on Saturday afternoon. I was ready and willing to head out for a long trek and planned the day’s agenda of three different parks: Council Point Park and two small riverfront parks, to scope out swans and eagles, who usually show up at Bishop Park and Dingell Park respectively. After a late start due to Sunday morning’s still-icy road conditions, my first stop was at Council Point Park. Since this is a picture-laden post, I will focus on the riverfront trips in a separate post.

Gallavantin‘.

I must admit it was a bit chilly as I set out. I even went back into the house and changed into a heavier coat, because the west wind was brisk and at 16 mph (25 kph), with intermittent high gusts, I knew the wind would be whipping me around when I got to the boardwalks at the Detroit River. I spent several hours at Council Point Park. The sun felt glorious and my first stop was at the cement ledge at the Ecorse Creek, where the ducks and geese were gathered; please notice the somewhat mushy layer of ice on the water’s surface and how the Canada Geese had zig-zagged through it, as you see in the below picture.

Chillin‘.

You can see how the waterfowl had broken through that icy barrier in some areas, yet in some places the ice was still intact and the ducks waddled around on top of it. The ducks seemed at ease whether in or out of the water, and they were quacking up a storm – were they happy quacks as the temps were moderating or disgruntled quacks about the ice?

The Canada Geese, because of their size, were plowing through the ice … they came up close to where I was standing, and I suspect that was because they saw my bag of peanuts for the squirrels. I’ve had two more incidents of geese overtaking the squirrels’ peanuts, but the geese were not problematic on this sunny Sunday. No, it was the dogs who terrorized the squirrels and sent them scurrying up the nearest tree (except for Parker who came to see me a long time after the Labradoodle loped by a contingent of squirrels). Here are a few pictures of the Canada Geese.

Fishin‘.

I had hoped to see Harry the Heron and get a photo or two of his fishing prowess, so I hung out with the ducks and geese for a while. Harry must have gone to another fishing hole, but I was astounded to suddenly see a lot of action in the water and took a closer look. With the camera still pressed up against my face, through the lens I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a Canada Goose wrangling something large in the water. I quickly took a photo which you can see up top. I saw a flash of silver, so I thought the goose had bitten onto some trash in the water that was snagged onto a fishing line. I often see bobbers and lures that have gotten tangled up in low-hanging branches over the Creek or bobbing in the water, fishing line and hook still attached. There are many folks who fish off the cement ledge at this small creek and I have always wondered how many fish and what size they could be catching – well, I will wonder no longer.

Suddenly this Canada Goose pulled a good-sized fish out of the water and began wrangling it, as the poor fish wiggled and floundered about. The goose lost that fish countless times before it finally bit down hard and the fish was still. I was amazed as geese are herbivores and their diet consists of grass, reeds and underwater aquatic plants (not to mention bread that people feed them, and now we know they like peanuts as well). Fish are not a staple of their diet. In all my years of trekking around this park and other venues where geese are present, just one time did I see a goose with a fish and it was a bite-sized one. 🙂

I took a lot of shots of the goose wrangling this silver fish from start to finish; these are my favorite pictures below. The fish was the size of the head of the goose and just ask me if he/she shared that prize with its mate or friends? Nope – I stayed there ’til that fish was down the hatch and no sharin’ by this goose, despite the hungry onlookers.

Meanderin’.

Of course no trip to Council Point Park would be complete without a few pictures of my furry friends. As mentioned earlier, my visit to the Park was later than usual due to the early morning slippery road conditions and that was unfortunate, as the squirrels forage and do most of their visiting earlier in the day. They might make an exception for peanuts, but there were three dogs in the Park the same time as me, and that put the kibosh on any lengthy visits or photo sessions with the squirrels or peanut-scamming birds. A huge Labradoodle galloped around the Park scaring the squirrels to their respective trees, but faithful Parker eventually surfaced, as you’ll see at the end of this post. While waiting for my furry friends to show up, I meandered around, taking in the sights and seeing the sun casting some amazing long shadows – I had forgotten all about that sun-and-shadow concept due to the lengthy absence of Ol’ Sol.

Most of the snow from the storm a few weeks ago was gone, but due to the cold temps, tiny piles of snow dotted the sides of the perimeter path and this portion of the Creek looked like a washboard as you see below.

Oh Sun, glorious sun … it was a feel-good day and everything in the Park just looked better with a glint of sun touching it, like the metal park bench with its wavy, grid-like shadow on the grass …

… or the pretty berries against the blue sky.

Even the twisted tree looked like wooden artwork.

Nuttin‘.

Parker found me and put in an appearance, so I passed out peanuts. He was a bit of a ham in the second picture, don’t you think? (Notice how the current must be stronger as there is no ice behind where Parker is standing and the wind made waves in the water.)

It was the perfect place to while away the day, but after several hours I finally departed and headed down to the Detroit River to do some strollin’ on the Riverfront. Stay tuned for that post.

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Wayback Wednesday.

As you know, one of my favorite spots to walk is lovely Elizabeth Park and my last foray to this venue was December 28th, which was also the subject of my last post “Birdie Nirvana”. Not only is Elizabeth Park a treasure trove of birds, squirrels and waterfowl, but it has the distinction of being the oldest park in the Wayne County park system. Last year Elizabeth Park celebrated its 100th anniversary, having been established in 1919, after its former owner’s estate dedicated this island park to the County. The owner’s children requested this 162-acre venue be named Elizabeth Park, in honor of their mother, whose first name was Elizabeth.

I went on many treks around Elizabeth Park during its centennial year and this particular walk took place on August 10th.

I had already gone through the entire park, plus the perimeter road, then along the boardwalk, before deciding, on a whim, to take a quick detour just for kicks. That day’s pictures have languished in my photo files, having just been given a cursory glance that evening, but the post has been bubbling around in my brain for months because I wanted to add a vintage touch to this trek.

A fun flashback – then and now.

I thought I’d spotlight the Children’s Pony Ranch that is an integral part of Elizabeth Park. Whenever I walk or drive past it, there is always a crowd during the warm-weather months.

In 2019, the Pony Ranch also marked a monumental anniversary, its 60th year in business, so I thought it was high time I stepped off the perimeter road and paid it a visit since I, just like many other generations of local kids, similarly enjoyed a pony ride or two back in the day. In the 60s I went with my parents when we first moved here and were out for a Sunday drive and stumbled upon the ranch while circling this island park. But I also visited with our troop of “Pioneer Girls” (an organization for girls of all ages, similar to Campfire Girls, Brownies or Girl Scouts). I remember an enjoyable day-long excursion where our troop members walked, played, picnicked and topped off the visit at the Pony Ranch.

So, first I climbed up the hill from the boardwalk …

… and then I got set to step back in time.

As an adult revisiting this fun place on a sultry hot Summer day, I soon realized things had not changed much at the Children’s Pony Ranch in the half century (OMG) since I last visited. The little booth where you paid for your ride and bought critter treats, the stable area and the hitching post all looked the same to me, most likely the original items that were there when I was just a kid.

The staff of young men and women was friendly and I arrived early enough, before their noon opening time, to chit chat as I watched them saddling up the ponies and horses. As to pests, it isn’t only ants that bother you on a park outing or picnic – the ponies and horses stomped their feet or swished their tails to fend off the relentless horseflies that were biting like crazy that day. I will tell you that I came home with many bites as I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt due to the hot and humid day.

I watched those youngsters pick their ponies, then climb aboard their mounts, as their parents scrambled to capture the moment with their phones or cameras, then they were escorted down the path and through a portion of Elizabeth Park, their handler gently guiding the ponies by their bridles down the dirt path and into the woods. I asked one family if I could take a few pictures of their kids enjoying the experience and they said “sure – no problem” so I stood there alongside those parents and happily snapped away.

Giddyap Girlfriend.

As I watched the joy in their faces, I remembered all my fun times on ponies or “horsies” back in the day. I sure was a wee tyke in the vintage shot at the top of this post; my mom is waiting in the car in the background, while I had the first of many horseback rides. When I was a teen I used to go horseback riding all the time in a stable called “Boots and Saddle” near Amherstburg, Ontario as well as riding stables in Northern Michigan. Here are a couple more old pictures: the first was courtesy of the guy who brought a pony and camera to the ‘hood and the second was taken in a tourist spot along Route 66 in Oklahoma (and yes, it was a stuffed bronco that your roving reporter was riding).

Kids will be kids

With all the ponies saddled up and out on the trail, it was time to visit the petting zoo adjacent to the stable area. One young staffer was in charge of herding the animals from the farm, along the path, then into a pen which served as the petting zoo. The goats were a handful and were walked in separately.

The petting zoo consisted of an alpaca (who munched grass and didn’t spit on its handler or any visitors), a couple of goats (that thankfully did not scream, but were content to glare at us and quietly chew their cuds), plus an adorable pair of donkeys known as “Amos” and “Andy” who won me over when they each poked their snouts through the fence while I was taking pictures of them. You can buy a cone of treats to feed the Ranch critters if you’re so inclined. I didn’t do so, not because I’m cheap, but I didn’t want sticky fingers while using the camera. Perhaps this accounted for their continued expectant, or maybe wistful, looks (just like the squirrels wear) as if to say: “are you going to give us treats if you take pictures of us?” I came home with at least 30 pictures of these two donkeys … hey, they were cute, what can I say?

After their folks paid for their rides, then while waiting for the first load of kids to return from their trip, the children meandered over to the petting farm where they amused themselves by poking their fingers through the enclosure to pet the donkeys.

We often say that kids today are not the same as we used to be … yes, I say that too, but apparently this little donkey intrigued me, circa 1962, at the same venue where I rode the buckin’ bronco.

In another pasture I was feeding a billy goat. (Great shot of both animals, but my father almost cut me out of the picture both times.)

The kids here at the Children’s Pony Ranch could not get the nanny goats or alpaca to come to the fence to be petted or fed because they were content to stay put in the heat of the mid-day sun and forego nibbles from the cone of critter treats – go figure.

This was a fun foray and a chance to time travel a bit too. I’ll leave you with this quote after a very long post that really reached back in time:

If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. ~Tom Stoppard

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Birdie Nirvana

The memorial tree at Elizabeth Park where all the birdies hang out, beckons me to visit while bearing treats and toting along my camera. I’m drawn to it like a magnet. You will recall I had an earlier visit to this charming little area where bird feeders and a suet holder on a small tree has become a haven for birds. I stopped there on December 7th, took some photos of the birds, but decided to return on Christmas morning and spend some more time there. But Mother Nature had other plans on Christmas morning … no, not a traditional White Christmas, but freezing fog permeated the morning air. You could not see across the street, and it didn’t lift until early afternoon. So I tabled my return visit until the weekend … Saturday, December 28th, to be exact.

First, a little back story about this area of Elizabeth Park.

This venue has a perimeter road that encircles the Park. It is segregated for vehicles as well as pedestrians. The perimeter road will take you past a woodsy area, as well as close to the Detroit River and boardwalk, and you can even glimpse, or walk across, three of the famous historical bridges which span over the canal and connect the island (Elizabeth Park) to the mainland. The scenery is perfect; the critters, feathered and furry, are abundant. A few Summers ago, I was on this well-traveled road and taking in the sights, when I saw a man and woman arrive at a picnic table. They had a big bag with two crusty round breads, a/k/a boules. They set the boules on the picnic table and began tearing chunks of this crusty bread into smaller pieces, then placed them along the picnic table. Curious to see the “takers” I stayed near a tree to watch. When they were finished, the couple wadded up the boule wrappers, admired the bountiful treats, then walked away hand-in-hand.

I was not the only one watching their actions – suddenly the peace and quiet of the early morning was interrupted by bird calls, whirring of wings and the scratchy sound of squirrels’ claws going headfirst down the nearby trees, as they all gravitated in gratitude toward the picnic table with its yeasty tidbits. I watched for a while, took some photos and left, vowing to return with my own boule.

Flash forward a few weeks, and, I went shopping for a boule and there were none, but I got two baguettes instead. I likewise tore each two-foot-long loaf of bread into manageable chunks and distributed it along the table. Once again, feathered and furry critters began coming out of the woodwork.

I did not return to Elizabeth Park until the Wintertime of 2018 and noticed the picnic table was not there – was it tucked away somewhere until Memorial Day, the gateway to Summer, when people haul out their picnic feasts for the first time in the year? I glanced around and saw a tree from where bird feeders and a suet holder were filled to the brim and an array of birds were alighting at the various feeding stations, enjoying the seeds and suet that were there. Amazing I thought … some kind-hearted souls are ensuring the birds can find food in Winter by filling up the feeders. I decided to do something similar with “my” birds at Council Point Park. There is a tree near the picnic tables and I left seed bells and suet near there for them. I have kind of adopted this tree – it does not have a memorial plaque beneath it and our City no longer sells memorial plaques for their trees.

I have spotlighted many of the memorial trees at Council Point Park through the years, simply by taking photos of the trees, the plaque, then researching obituary information of the deceased and that story became a blog post.

I did not see any plaque beneath the tree at Elizabeth Park to indicate it had been planted in honor or memory of a loved one, like I’ve seen with all the other memorial trees in this park or as other local parks do. It was not until December 7th, on my extra-long trek around Elizabeth Park, that I saw an extraordinarily large and ornate memorial plaque several yards away from the tree of feeders. It was/is the size of a regular grave marker and sits atop a huge flat stone. I don’t know how I missed this memorial marker before, but it is not close to the tree and was likely covered in leaves as it was Fall and there are abundant oak trees at this park.

In between spent shells and seed chaff, I discovered a wonderful tribute to a very loved woman.

But, what I noticed most about this brass memorial plaque, that seemingly was on its own and separate from the tree, was the sprinkling of spent, striped sunflower seeds over the marker. I wondered if family members and loved ones would tend to the bird feeders and strangers scattered seeds on the marker? Was it a type of ritual at this location? It certainly seemed that way. Also, you will see the marker’s Biblical tribute mentioning the tree of life.

That evening, I researched a little to find an obituary for Mary Ann Price, half-expecting the death notice to speak in glowing terms of a nature lover, or an avian admirer, but there was no mention of those attributes. All I learned in the obituary notice and tribute pages was that Mrs. Mary Ann Price was a friend to all who crossed her path. I learned the origin of the “GG” on the memorial marker – “GiGi” was an affectionate term for their grandmother.

I was interested to learn more about this unique locale.

I returned to this area on December 28th, a woman on a mission. I parked the car, tendered peanuts to the squirrels who circled the car like a posse closing in on a bandit in a spaghetti western, then I stole away from them, moving toward “the tree” down the road. Overhead, a half-dozen Mourning Doves were staggered along a branch, braving the chilly air, while a few gave a lazy glance in my direction. You can see them in the image at the beginning of this post.

I brought a package of shelled sunflower seeds and the rest of the peanuts to strew upon this memorial marker, just as others have done.

After this task was finished, I stepped back, partially standing behind a nearby tree, and waited for the action to begin.

Within moments, a bevy of birds and two types of woodpeckers flew over, some going down to the marker to feast. Here are some of them, including:

A Red-Bellied Woodpecker who caught sight of me and gave my presence a quizzical head tilt, from his perch in the tree …

… but swooped down anyway, from the tree to the ground in record time and posed prettily.

A Downy Woodpecker was reluctant to leave the suet feeder, enjoying his status as “King of the Hill” (or at least “King of the Suet Feeder”) and chose to remain here, but glanced over repeatedly to see if perhaps he should change his mind?

A sweet White-Breasted Nuthatch would not be left out – he contemplated when to make his swoop, adhering to bigger-birds-eat-first-protocol and waited respectfully, and finally flew away before I could capture his image. Meanwhile a Gray Tufted Titmouse was woolgathering …

… then beat a hasty retreat to ground level to check out the goods.

A Black-Capped Chickadee left the remnants of suet (which I don’t think he could reach anyway) and flew down for a nibble as well. He studied the seeds, a puzzled look on his little face.

A Blue Jay, always the dominant peanut or seed grabber of all the birds I see at Council Point Park, in the ‘hood, or here, gathered no moss in his attempt to join the feeding frenzy. He checked out the array as he contemplated “peanuts or shelled sunflower seeds?” He decided on both, but sampling the shelled sunflower seeds first as the other birds would not snatch the peanuts like he could; see how he positions himself among the peanuts for a quick grab-n-go – yes, he’s a beautiful, but sneaky fellow isn’t he?

The area was filled with the sounds of these birds calling to their kin to come for food – the Chickadee was the most verbal, even louder than the screeching Blue Jay.

There I was, taking it all in, camera clicking away, enjoying the sight which played out before me. What birds didn’t feast on the memorial marker and rock platform, were hopping and bopping around the feeders. They were often too quick for me because the feeders and suet cage were nearly empty, so consternation and hungry bellies led my fine-feathered friends to the ground – for now anyway. All too soon, (maybe 45 minutes), the birds had polished off the seeds and prized peanuts and it was time for all of us to return to our respective nests; I also began to think about heading home to my own “nest” as I had already walked many miles at Council Point Park and Lake Erie Metropark earlier on this chilly morning.

On the way home, my mind, just like my camera was still clicking away. My thoughts were still with that little birdie nirvana I had just visited. My mother loved birds and she would peek out her back window to watch the birds gather at the feeders and birdbaths around the yard and garden. Mom not only collected duck decoys and near life-sized geese, but she also favored figurines of Cardinals and Blue Jays.

There are many more around – but this cardinal, pictured above, bought at Wild Birds Unlimited in the early 90s, was one of her favorites. There are even Cardinal and Blue Jay trivets on the kitchen wall.

At Christmas time, I took out Dutch artist, Marjolein Bastin’s ornament of a bird feeder with birds alighting on it and feeding on sunflower seeds and put it on the window ledge. The birds brought Mom joy, just as they do for me. I decided to just leave the ornament out a little longer.

Today’s post is a tribute to my mom, Pauline Schaub, whom I lost ten years ago today. Mom would have similarly delighted in the birdie nirvana at this venue and also duly taken note of the gentle doves watching from above.

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A brrrrrrisk walk.

I mentioned in my recent post “The Faces of Winter” that after what seemed like an eternity, I returned to Council Point Park five days after our first major snowstorm of the new year and decade.

I am attaching Saturday’s post here, because there were some issues with Reader and that post failed to show up in some people’s feeds, including mine. If you missed it, you can click here.

Last Wednesday, with much trepidation, I laced up my hiking boots, hoping the City had plowed the asphalt perimeter path before the freezing rain arrived and put down an icy glaze. Late Saturday morning, there had been a small window of opportunity when plain rain, and a 35-degree (+1 C) temperature, erased all traces of snow on the concrete. I was happy to see the Department of Public Services had seized this opportunity just like me.

It was bitter cold with a stiff breeze, making for a brrrrrrisk walk. Suddenly, I realized in my haste to get outside, I forgot my gloves with the flip-up fingers to use with the camera. My regular gloves were way too bulky, so I slipped them off. I had instant frozen fingers, so I had to move quickly and get my photos done to let my red fingers warm up before the cuteness overload that would soon join me for peanuts on the perimeter path.

I paused to take a shot of the fork in the two paths. I usually take the right fork each time when setting out on the walking path. The first year I walked at this Park I took a picture at the beginning of the trail, at this exact fork, for each season, then made one collage picture of the four seasons. I intend to do that again in 2020 (assuming we can tell the seasons apart, since our weather has been so wacky of late).

I saw yellow snow in several places, so I knew someone else had been to the Park (yes, a pooch, not a walker, as there were paw prints in the snow). I met one of the other walkers who, like me, was equally pleased to see how clear the pathways were and told me he had already fallen once, after he slid and wiped out on some glare ice hidden beneath a dusting of snow. Yikes! Perhaps I was feeling overconfident with those boots’ thick treads and the seemingly clear path. I promised myself to be wary of any tricky ice patches going forward.

The landscape was pretty blah with snow everywhere.

Two squirrels appeared in different parts of the donut area inside the loop and vast expanse of the snowy park.

This little guy looked like a tiny black dot in a sea of white.

That black squirrel climbed up onto a low branch and looked equally small in the big tree.

The Ecorse Creek was frozen over, covered by a dusting of snow in spots, and just plain ice in others.

Across the snowy donut area of the walking loop, I saw Harry the Heron in fishing posture on the cement landing. I wondered how he thought he’d catch a fish, but perhaps there was a hole in the ice? I hoped he’d stay put until I made it over to that side, likely awhile, once I was waylaid by the squirrels.

I hadn’t traveled too far on the pathway when the first squirrel (one of those two tiny dots pictured above) came leaping over the snow piles, skidding to a stop by my feet, then the other one scampered over. I dropped some peanuts and the pair scurried away to enjoy them.

Squirrel radar was definitely in place, because within a few minutes, at least six more squirrels had wandered by and settled in to munch on the peanuts I had placed nearby. In my mind, I imagine the squirrels letting out a squeal of delight from their cozy nests. Do they utter an Alvin the Chipmunk-type noise that translates to “yay, Linda is here” as opposed to “the nutty lady has arrived” … I’ll never know since I don’t speak “squirrel”.

This photo shows the Gang of Eight.

Soon a dozen squirrels surrounded me. I figured they might not have left their nests since the past Friday, given the smorgasbord of wet weather, then the brutal Arctic-like chill that cloaked most of Southeast Michigan.

I took a ton of pictures that morning – here are a few of my favorites of my furry friends below.

You see this black squirrel (maybe the one formerly known as Midnight) enjoyed some peanuts, then, because old habits never die, he took off to bury one in the snow.

This is Stubby, easily identifiable by that shortened, white-tipped tail.

Stubby is at a disadvantage when the Winter winds blow – compare how this squirrel’s long and furry tail partially shields him from the elements, in contrast to Stubby’s tail.

And let’s not forget Parker, who stationed himself in the only grassy area with no snow, which is pretty smart when you are not wearing boots.

Well, I tore myself away from this idyllic scene to finish up my walk. I intended to walk at least three miles, the equivalent of three times on Loop #1.

Harry wasn’t harried at all!

Through the bare bushes, I was happy to see Harry was still hanging around, his skinny body poised at the edge of the Ecorse Creek banks. My picture is a bit blurry as I had to peer through the bushes, but shows how he paused and I imagined a thought bubble over his head said “should I stay or should I go?”

He looked both ways and decided to go for it. Atta boy Harry!

Maybe the rumbling in Harry’s stomach won over any anxiety about traversing this narrow, ice-covered passage, because off he went, plodding confidently with his big feet.

He strode across the frozen surface, pausing to peck at something sticking out of the ice.

Then he continued on, looking around occasionally, while striking a nice pose against the snowy background and creating a pale reflection on the icy surface.

At the end of my trek it appeared a pale sun was peeking through the clouds and I was surprised to see my faint shadow as I finished up my third time around Loop #1.

As I headed to the car after an enjoyable trek, with pink cheeks and still red and frozen fingers, and, what I hoped would be a treasure trove of photos in the camera, my own stomach began rumbling since my oatmeal was long gone in the toes of my hiking boots.

As I drove home, I decided that perhaps snow and Winter MAY have a few redeeming qualities after all and I should re-think my aversion to this season.

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The Faces of Winter.

A week ago today was the big snowstorm. There have been worse snowstorms here in the Mitten State, sometimes with twice as much snow, but this storm was unusual since it snowed an inch an hour, then it rained, followed by freezing rain – all that precip took place in the course of one day. Saturday’s moisture-laden snow was extremely heavy to shovel and my forearm muscles were sore for a few days afterward. Last Sunday morning, the roads and pavement were slick and treacherous and then we had an Arctic chill for three days. I seriously wondered who ticked off Mother Nature to have her punish us over and over again.

Happily, by Wednesday the icy and dicey roads had been cleared away and I figured I could make a foray through the ‘hood and to my favorite nature nook.

Enroute to Council Point Park, I passed some snowy sentries on Emmons Boulevard, reminding me that yes, Winter can be fun sometimes.

Frosty stares.

I loved building snowmen back in the day, though I have to admit the snowmen that I built with friends on the front lawn of 497 Sandmere Place did not have these fine trappings. Check out the cute and perky facial features, twiggy arms, a perfect hat and scarf – surely these items were not laying around the house? I mumbled to myself (something I often do) “Linda, I’ll betcha a buck there is a snowman kit you can buy from Amazon” … and, of course, I was right. Who knew? The various offerings said “instant snowman kit – just add snow!” (And those amazing Amazon offerings have been coming back to haunt me every day since I looked at them, as you may suspect.)

As you can see, one snowman was a bit fancier than the other one, but I deemed them both cute, so I pulled the car over to the curb and got out, glad for the deep treads on my hiking boots, while navigating the icy driveway and sidewalks to take their respective pictures. That little detour prompted me to change the topic of my post, that was still bubbling around in my brain, to read “The Faces of Winter” – my face would be a frownie face if you want to know.

Fair-weather friends.

As I walked along the perimeter path, intending to dispense a whole bag of peanuts before I left since the Park critters had weathered some brutal weather, before I saw that first furry or feathered peanut-eating pal, I mused to myself that to them I am a fair-weather friend in the literal sense of that expression. I show up in good weather, although staying away in bad weather. As one, two, then a whole mess o’ squirrels, a cardinal and jay came over to me, I hastily made my apology and they accepted it without questioning my absence. They seemed ecstatic to see me (or my peanuts, not sure). An impromptu nose count, revealed the usual gang was accounted for.

I took a slew of photos along the perimeter path since it was clear to the asphalt and I was confident I’d not wipe out on the ice while stepping around to get photos as the critters munched contently. It made me feel good to watch them. I have enough photos to use in two posts, so today, I’ll just include a few close-ups and the next post will have some landscape shots and Harry the Heron walking on top of the Ecorse Creek – he seemed to have gained confidence from the last time I watched him.

The peanut-eaters were on patrol

I laughed at the cardinal and squirrel who seemed content to be sitting side by side – “no worries, just chillin’ while we wait for you” was the message their postures conveyed to me.

The jay flew overhead where all the peanut action was, biding his time until he could swoop down. He is way too fast for me as I struggled to get a photo of him strutting his stuff on the pathway.

The highlight of the morning was watching the squirrels as they romped in the snow, especially those squirrels, like this one, with a dusting of snow on his jet-black fur.

Stay tuned for other happenings around the Park. No walk for me today – we are having an extremely soggy and foggy Saturday morn. In the meantime, here are more of my favorite faces along the pathway – enjoy!

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Tuesday Musings.

I decided to dust off my “Tuesday Musings” feature as it’s been awhile and, after all, it is “Squirrel Appreciation Day” (no, I don’t make this stuff up ).

There really is such a day to appreciate and honor our furry friends – of course, some could say that the squirrels could likewise honor their benefactors, but, for now we’ll just call it even … hey, what are a few peanuts shared between friends? Those squirrels provide not just a smile or two for me, but plenty of fodder for this blog as you know.

Yep, they play me like a fiddle … I’m not complaining though.

I recently spotlighted Parker, the Fox squirrel I’ve been interacting with for several years at Council Point Park. I’ve taken the liberty of naming a few more squirrels at my favorite nature nook, but only because they are readily identifiable, like “Stubby” since half his tail is missing and “Midnight” who, for the longest time was the one and only black squirrel at this venue. There are now lots of little black squirrels running around the pathway, so I might have to retire that moniker.

The gray squirrels are petite, cute and fluffy – I’d like to scoop them up and cuddle them like you would a kitten or puppy.

I like when they stand up like these squirrels are doing, but they also amuse me with their funny antics as well, like this guy who looks too pooped to participate, even for peanuts.

A little pile of peanuts guarantees they’ll hold still for a shot … most of the time. The peanuts must pass the sniff test first however.

Then all systems are go!

All squirrels are cute and attentive and I’m sure their mamas taught them just what moves to make for optimum treats and attention. The Park squirrels are also known to beg at the first turn of the walking loop, only to run across the grassy donut area, to catch you as you complete that same loop, like they didn’t see you 15-20 minutes before. Yes, they think us peanut feeders are clueless.

I sometimes wonder if they love me for my peanuts or the endearments I offer up when I bend down to feed them … why not come runnin’ to someone who coos sweet nothin’s and calls you “Sweetie” or “Dumplin’” or “Honey” – yes, it’s all good if you’re a squirrel once the Peanut Lady arrives.

I’m not new to the rodeo with the neighborhood squirrels either.

Many years ago, the neighborhood squirrel we named “Sammy” came a’ callin’ every morning. He went to all the houses that supplied the treats, then when he was done on his rounds, he made a second appearance. Now there’s a squirrel who knew how to work a crowd.

Then there are the delightful squirrels who hang out in the many trees in the ‘hood near my house. I’ve named a few of them, as you know from my posts about “Grady the Gray Squirrel” and “Pitch” and “Tar” the two black squirrels who hang out at my house. Last year, several blog posts were devoted to the escapades of those three squirrels, a pair of cardinals and a blue jay or two, all who gathered on the front porch for peanuts every morning. It was all great fun, and made for some cute photos (once they all understood that when I was behind the storm door, there was a glass between us and I was not going to reach out and grab them and pull them inside). But, you’ll recall, that someone always has to be a party pooper and in this case, it was a big Fox squirrel (like Parker) who decided all the peanuts should go to him. He sat on those peanuts, only moving his big furry butt, to retrieve another peanut. If anyone came near, he chased them away. I worried the smaller squirrels would get run over in the street, so I ended the peanut feasting and had no intentions of resuming it in the Fall of 2019.

But, the chilly air in Fall, combined with Grady, who greeted me when I returned from my walk every day, made me change my mind. (I’m such a pushover when it comes to critters.) I started feeding Grady only in the backyard and said “shhhh – don’t tell the other squirrels!” But soon the peanuts were discovered, by not only squirrels and birds, but a raccoon. I don’t live in the woods but my neighbor reported seeing a fat raccoon in both of our yards. We had to invoke Plan “B” in short order. Grady and another gray squirrel, new to the ‘hood (and the house) seem to have an insatiable appetite for peanuts. I toss out about ten before I go on my walk and when I return, there they are again, mirror images of one another, sitting on haunches and swishing their fuzzy tails.

Friday when I returned from my walk, I had the camera in one hand and a few peanuts ready in the other hand, as I wanted Grady’s photo for this post. Right on cue, there he was, sittin’ pretty and waiting for his treat.

I dare you to walk past this plaintive look and shameless begging without tossing out a nut or two … yes, what’s a squirrel feeder to do, but oblige them?

In return for peanuts, I got a few photos of the little nipper.

I’m not the only one who falls prey to their cute antics.

Here’s a funny tale. In mid-December I stopped at the grocery store to load up on peanuts. I always try to have at least eight to ten bags on hand in the Winter, since I don’t like having to go out to the grocery store in the snow and I was starting to run low. Meijer usually carries three types and they are piled high in a big bin in the produce department. They don’t sell peanuts in bulk, just Hampton Farms cellophane bags of the raw, jumbo unsalted and the salted varieties. I always opt for the jumbo unsalted … the squirrels don’t need the extra sodium and I don’t want salt on my fingers while using the camera.

So on that day, all they had in stock were three bags of salted peanuts. I scooped those up and looked around for a stock person to check in the back for more. Trying to find a stock person during the Christmas season is not easy; the breathless stock boy confirmed there were no more peanuts in the backroom. Not good!

I mixed the salted peanuts with some I had on hand and shook off as much salt as I could, apologizing to my furry friends for each whoosh of salt that flew up as I tossed peanuts onto the path or sidewalk.

Flash forward to January 6th – I made it back to Meijer with just a handful of items on MY grocery list, but intending to stock up on peanuts for THEM. This time they only had raw peanuts – that is fine, they are for human consumption, so no worries about feeding them something funky. I piled 14 bags into my shopping cart. I figured that would last a long time as I still had some at home.

While strolling down the next aisle, a woman shopper came over to me and tapped me on the arm and said “I have to ask you – do you feed the squirrels too?” Yes, another kindred soul who has her favorite backyard “pets” just like I do. She pointed to her cart where a similar sized pile of cellophane bags took up a good portion of her cart. We shared a smile and a giggle, members of a secret club who dip into their “allowance” to feed their furry friends. She said “I stocked up today because last time they only had salted peanuts and I was not going to feed them that!” I said “wow – now I feel like a bad squirrel parent” and told her how I dusted off the salt and mixed them with the other peanuts on hand. She said she bought crackers and peanut butter and her squirrels liked that … so ask me if I went over and added Triscuits and peanut butter to my cart.

Nah, you don’t have to ask – you know I did! P.S. – it’s not a hardship adding those items as I eat that for a snack all the time.

[Squirrel Appreciation Day image provided by Pinterest]

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Winter Wallop!

It is Day #2 of the snow and ice event that walloped one-third of the nation over the weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, just like most of the U.S., (and world for that matter), our weather has been wacky and erratic for several years. There is no rhyme or reason to the seasons. I sure was not complaining about our lack of snow here in the Mitten State, with just one significant snowfall to date, which happened on Veterans Day. Yet, my uneasiness persisted, since yes, it is Winter in SE Michigan, thus I found myself glancing backward as if Ol’ Man Winter might tap me on the shoulder and say “get ready, I’m back from my holiday!”

These ugly weekend weather events are poorly timed, as my walking regimen takes a major hit – weekends are when I go on my longer treks to the bigger parks. Last Saturday, it was torrential rain, 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) over 24 hours, followed by freezing rain. The ice melted by Monday afternoon, so Tuesday I was back at the Park, happily tripping along the perimeter path and feeding my peanut pals who rushed over to greet me like long lost friends.

This weekend, however, mere steps, and not miles, will count, since my trek entailed going down the driveway and along the sidewalks, with my snow shovel in tow and not straying away from the house. This picture was taken under the patio roof where I sought shelter, hoping to get some snow shots, but needing to protect the camera from the snow, which was falling in earnest. Though the snow piled up in some places, along the perimeter of the house, some melting had already begun since it was 35 degrees F (1C).

Actually, I was looking for critter or bird tracks, but the snow had been falling about an inch per hour, so any overnight tracks were long gone. After taking just a couple of shots, I took the camera back into the house and when I opened the screen door to go out to shovel, evidently a squirrel had seen me, as there were fresh tracks right outside the door.

I smiled as I figured it was Grady and stepped back into the house to grab the camera and some peanuts, then back outside to look for him for some pictures; all the while my gloved hand was protecting the camera while holding onto a handful of peanuts.

But, I soon discovered it was not Grady, but another gray squirrel, the poor fellow who suffers from mange on his entire body. He has no fur except for his skinny tail. I feel badly whenever I see him and always slip him some extra peanuts. He is quite skittish and a bit of a loner.

I saw a trail of prints leading to the front yard …

… so I traipsed through the snow and found this squirrel perched on a snow-covered cement ledge. The ledge is about six feet high. He was clearly agitated and chattering at me (no doubt his teeth were chattering too). He watched me intently, but there was fear in his eyes. I just melted seeing him distressed like that and spoke softly to him, then slowly I reached over and placed four peanuts on the cement ledge, positioning them deep in the snow to stay put. But, there would be no pictures and no further interaction, since he deemed I invaded his personal space, so, with a screechy sound, he made a humongous flying leap from the high ledge, across the front of the garage door, to the front porch. I held my breath that he would not fall onto the concrete and be killed since he made such a hasty departure. Whew! He made it and scampered off. Afterward, I measured with my booted feet and that was about a twelve-foot jump! I left the peanuts in place and hurried and shoveled a clear spot and put more down – he did not return to the house until three hours later, when I was finally ready to go inside and no other squirrels dared to venture out yesterday.

Five inches of snow had fallen when I went outside yesterday at 9:00 a.m. or so and it was the heavy stuff. There was some significant blowing and drifting that occurred at the beginning of the snowstorm. Freezing rain started halfway through the shoveling job and last night temps dipped down in the teens and the wind chill made it feel like 1 degree F (-17 C). Just for good measure, overnight an inch of snow fell on top of the glare ice that formed, plus gusty winds. I will go outside later and sweep as we have snow flurries now. The expression of “misery loves company” sure applies to this snowstorm, since 100 million Americans are dealing with snow/ice in some form or another as a result of this event. How many days until Spring?

Because I am a realist and knew the “real Winter” would arrive sooner or later, I got as many long treks under my belt as possible while the weather was clear and dry. The cold is never a problem for me – I just add some additional layers and grin and bear it.

Since this weekend’s weather was “no walk in the park” as that expression goes, instead I’ll focus on a trek I took back on December 7th at Lake Erie Metropark.

I’m going to do that trek as a separate post as this one has become a wee bit too long and the Gutenberg Editor has been temperamental today.

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