It’s Saturday afternoon and, while I write this post, still another wintry mix lingers, translating to a missed walk for me and capping off a rainy and unsettled week. I can hear some songbirds, likely Sparrows, tucked in a neat row on the back windowsills, seeking shelter from the elements and twittering softly. It’s almost one week into Spring, yet feeling like Winter as the two seasons clash with one another. Of course I continue to gripe about the weather and the toll it is taking on my walking regimen, (not to mention my final goal), but admittedly, after seeing images of the devastation from tornadoes that barreled through several states earlier this week, I’m content to sit here, cozy and warm, grateful to have a roof over my head.
At long last, I will be transitioning from almost-real-time posts to some treks taken last year. So, I’ll be skipping back two seasons for now, then reaching wayyyyyyyyy back with a collection of treks taken in three different seasons at the Henry and Clara Ford Estate. I’ll keep plugging along and, with the exception of an Easter post, I hope to be (and stay) current by Mother’s Day. Maybe the goslings at Council Point Park will make their debut by then for some cute Mom and baby shots.
This trek was taken on Saturday, November 20th. Glancing back at my notes I jotted down that day, we had some ugly weather on the horizon. The Thanksgiving week forecast was paired with suggestions ranging from “get your snow blower tuned up now” to “find your snow boots, shovel and ice scraper!” Yikes!
I had thought it might be fun to make that 30-mile roundtrip drive out there this weekend and compare a late November landscape to a late March landscape, a tale of two seasons at the same venue. Essentially the landscape would be the same … blah and boring, save for the brightly colored buoys piled up on the dock in the boat launch area, or the sighting of a Robin Redbreast trying valiantly to score a worm breakfast in the soggy, but still-cold ground. Its frustration would make me smile as I would watch it repeatedly jabbing its beak into the grass and coming up empty. But, I am a realist and know the trails would be flooded, so I’ll wait a little longer to venture there or to any shoreline parks.
So was this trek a final Fall fling???
After lingering at Council Point Park to feed my furry and feathered friends and walk a quick one-mile loop on the perimeter path, I headed to Lake Erie Metropark. I was taking my sweet time driving out to that rural area as it was rutting season and I didn’t want any unexpected car versus deer meet-ups in the early morn. It would be my first trip to this venue since that sweltering hot day over Fourth of July weekend when I was so enchanted with the fawn.
The sun was absent, the marsh area a little meh and the occasional 15-mph wind gusts made the leaves that carpeted the grounds dance around my feet. As had been the norm for most of the Spring, Summer and Fall months, the sunny and picture-perfect days seemed to be reserved for weekdays only. Well, I aimed to make the best of this day, rationalizing this may be a final Fall fling for a long nature walk.
It was downright chilly. I was wearing my flip-back mittens with gloves underneath, but that was not warm enough and my fingers were cold ten minutes after my arrival. The wily wind seemed to slink up my coat sleeves and swirl around my neck, even threatening to yank off my wool cap. But I was going to stick it out anyway.
My first stop was at the Marshlands Museum area to visit Luc, the resident eagle. That is Luc’s enclosure to the left.
I called out a hearty hello as I neared Luc’s enclosure. “Good morning Luc” I said and I was rewarded with a loud chirp. “Good boy” I told him as he checked me out with a backwards glance, swirling his head around, but remaining facing the wall. Luc is this park’s resident eagle, rehabbed back in 2009 after being injured in the wild in the Saginaw Bay area. Luc is not releasable as he is blind in his left eye and has an impairment of his right wing rendering him unable to fly, thus his permanent habitat is here near the Museum area. I chatted with Luc a few minutes, took some photos, then moved on.
A footpath leads from Luc’s enclosure to a wooden overlook. The boathouse straddles the marsh at the overlook.
It was quiet and peaceful. The sun was trying hard to make an appearance as I gazed at the maze of dried-up reeds. Here you can stand and watch the waterfowl.
A paddling of Mallards was near the reeds. They scattered quickly when they saw me, quacking away – no, I didn’t take it personally. Some of the ducks zoomed over closer to two Mute Swans that were alternately preening and diving for breakfast. The swans seemed uninterested in protecting the ducks from me and went on about their own business and paid me no mind. On occasion I’ve seen a Great Blue Heron, or a Great Egret in this marsh area, but they were MIA that day. So, I struck out here on getting any nice close-ups and, with the exception of Luc’s chirpy reception, the rebuffing of the ducks pretty much set the tone for the balance of my walk.
Along the way …
I retraced my steps and headed to the long and winding overlook that runs parallel to the road leading to the boat launch area and eventually the Cherry Island Trail.
Despite the cold temps, there was no ice, but the water was wavy as you see in this lagoon area. I stepped off the outlook to take a photo.
This was another pair of Mute Swans.
Here is a photo of the boathouse across the lagoon and the original swans hanging out with some ducks.
There was not much to see as I walked along. A few now-dormant Milkweed pods …
… and tall Phragmities were bobbing their feathery heads in the wind.
Cattails had burst at the seams with puffs of cottony fibers spilling out of them.
This marsh area sure was dull and desolate looking. The only sign of life I saw in the area was this bird.
At first glance, I thought it had something stuck on its head, trash of some sort? I took a photo, then saw the white “cap” was its plumage. Once it saw me, it took flight. I’ve seen pictures of black-and-white Magpies – was this one? I was intrigued and that night a Google search told me it was not a Magpie, but maybe a White-headed Woodpecker – maybe you know?
A skein of geese flew overhead.
Were the geese headed for warmer climes? The cynical part of me took this scene, coupled with the weather forecast, as an omen of the Winter ahead. (If those geese were Winter weather prognosticators, they weren’t wrong because Winter has been the gift that keeps on giving and giving ….)
I finally arrived at the boat launch area.
A hint of sun was welcome though it didn’t warm me up at all. The buoys were “packed away” for the season, resting on the heavy wooden boat docks.
On this calm morning I could hear the “pop, pop, pop” of gunshots going off in the distance. Yep, duck hunting season in Michigan. If ducks were smart, they would stay at Lake Erie Metropark as duck hunting is not allowed here.
At the boat launch area it was fairly quiet for a weekend, likely since raptor migration season was waning. People come from miles around from September through late November to watch and photograph the parade of raptors migrating past this very area. Lake Erie Metropark’s boat launch area is one locale where these raptors pass through, then Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, five miles down the road, is another area. Here at the boat launch area, official counters identify, then tally what birds of prey pass through daily during this three-month period. Those identifications and numbers with handwritten totals are posted on a board in the window of the Marshlands Museum and also entered into databases at the official Detroit River Hawk Watch site and this national hawk count site.
I hung around about twenty minutes but saw no one pointing excitedly at the sky, so alas, there would be no birds of prey for me to photograph on that cold November day. I saw a few ducks and seagulls at one of the boat docks, but that was it.
I wondered if I would be able to navigate along the Cherry Island Trail without sinking into the mud. I was in luck, as everything was dry, but, as I meandered along, I didn’t see anything that caught my eye.
There have been many Saturday or Sunday treks, where I abandoned that muddy and waterlogged trail and returned to my starting point. I have rubber boots, but they are not conducive for long walks – perhaps I should just tote them along for the sole purpose of traversing those soggy and muddy trails that are a blip in that’s day’s nature walk.
At last, the Marshlands Museum and my car were in sight …
… and I was eager to get into the car and crank up the heat to thaw out my frozen fingers before driving home.