Tuesday Musings.

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Tomorrow morning we will endure still another Winter wallop … Mother Nature is showing us who is boss.

While my walking regimen was going great at the beginning of the year, having walked 50 miles (80 km) as of January 12th, the progression has not been so wonderful since then.  As of today, I’ve only walked 90 miles (144 km) so far in 2019 and I’m lagging way behind the miles I’ve driven (139) (233 km).  That hasn’t happened in a long time.

So what is this walker to do?  We have freezing rain coming tomorrow morning, sure to gum up everything – sigh.  I’ve lost track how many ice storms we’ve had this year.

It was a marvelous morn for a moonwalk.

Monday morning was beautiful, albeit cold.  The sun kept trying to pop through the gray clouds and that made the light layer of snow glisten.

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So, before I marred that pristine snow by walking through it, I decided to see what animals and birds have been lurking around.  I figured that even if I was not making tracks, I might as well see what tracks I’d find around the ol’ homestead.

I’d put peanuts on the porch already, so I had hoped to get a few outside pictures of my furry and/or feathered friends taking their peanuts.  I suited up and was out within ten minutes of dropping those peanuts, and, while I didn’t ring a dinner bell or anything, they were all gone, just the shells remained.

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Well, the furry and feathered friends were “working the porch” pretty quickly.  From studying the tracks, it appears they were probably pacing down the side of the house …

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… and across the driveway …

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… while waiting on that slacker Linda to produce their breakfast.

I had the camera all ready, but, so much for those missed shots.

What happens in the backyard, stays in the backyard.

Camera in hand, I headed to the backyard, my heavy snow boots leaving their own tracks in the snow.

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I’ve had these Khombu snow boots for decades.  The toasty-warm, fur-lined interiors kept my tootsies warm when waiting on the bus and their heavy soles keep me upright in slick and snowy situations.  Sadly, I noticed they are starting to crack after all these years.

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I did a round robin in the backyard – so who has been visiting?

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There were delicate bird tracks etched in the snow on the patio, likely belonging to the sparrows who nestle together on the back windowsills, protected from the wind and precip by the patio roof.  I wonder how they determine the pecking order of who gets those primo sleeping spots?

The bird tracks photos were not clear enough to use in this post, but what was clear, was birdsong … a robin’s cheery notes suddenly appeared in the still morning.  I looked around for that songbird, but could not find him or her.  The song made me happy, though it is very far from a Spring or Summer day.  I watched the frosty vapors coming from my mouth as I tried to whistle back.

I also heard a blue jay so I left some peanuts on top of the boxwood bush, hoping to lure that beautiful bird down so I could get a picture.

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But there would be no photo op with that beautiful blue jay.  I suppose the deal breaker was that I had to step away first, because this morning’s trip to the yard yielded lots of empty peanut shells atop the boxwood bush.

I got a few pictures of the moonset … the dregs of that beautiful Snow moon.

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I tried to take some photos of the moon in the night sky, but the reflection from the glass on the storm door messed up the photo.  It was a beautiful big moon to gaze at and remember all those years ago when I was a little nipper and believed the moon was made of cheese.

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No flurries, no worries ….

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… or so I thought.

I was excited to head out this morning.  The moon and stars seemed to be in alignment … no snow, ice, bitter cold, freezing rain or wind to contend with … a win-win situation, or so it would seem.

I walked out the door and there were a few flurries alighting on my nose, then my coat sleeve.  I didn’t think much about those snowflakes, as all the weather forecasters said the next snow event would be Sunday afternoon.

I decided to walk to Council Point Park in case it was icy there, so I at least got two miles to and from the Park, and whatever else I could glean on the perimeter path feeding the squirrels.  Though it was clear as a bell, I still wore my lug-soled hiking boots – who knew what condition the path would be in?

By the time I arrived at the Park, the snowflakes were really twinkling down, so much so that I flipped my hood up.  That wasn’t good as it blocked my peripheral vision – how was I going to thwart any more squirrels crashing into each other in their zeal for peanuts?

I scurried under the pavilion and got the camera out, intending to only use it under the roof, that is, if I could lure the squirrels to see me in a spot where it was dry and snow-free.  It worked for a couple of my furry pals, who either took their peanut to the tree …

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… or climbed to the picnic table, where you’ll note the lovely frozen Creek in the background.

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It stopped snowing, so I left the pavilion to dole out peanuts and make my apologies for my long absence to any squirrels who crossed my path.

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The Creek was frozen over in some spots, and solid ice in others.  Looking down through the bare branches I could see the frozen banks, yet water flowed freely down the center of the Creek.

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Around the bend, a wooden dock was solidly embedded in the ice.

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The geese were honking their heads off this morning.  I could hear them just as soon as I stepped onto the perimeter path.  But it wasn’t the usual “hey we’re coming in for a landing, so move away!”  I don’t know what the problem was, but they were arguing with one other and the voices and noises escalated and carried down the Creek’s narrow passageway.  Yes, you read that right.  When they are agitated with one another, their honking reaches a crescendo and the arguing parties all honk at the same time and sometimes doing a back-and-forth between one another.  It’s so loud you can’t hear yourself think.   I stepped over to the Creek banks and stood there watching them.

Since the bushes and trees are bare, it’s kind of hard to try to hide behind them so the geese don’t see me and paddle away, but this bunch was so engrossed in their honking, they were oblivious to me.

Every so often one goose would chase another one from behind, and its long neck would stretch out horizontally, aiming at its feathered backside and then stabbing it with its bill.  That incited a mini-riot wherein the targeted goose would rise out of the water and flap its wings.

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They were making such a commotion that the other geese stopped to watch.

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Even the ducks were in awe at this uncouth behavior.

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I made my way around the entire loop without so much as a twinkling snowflake, and then the snowflakes started up again.  The header photo shows the snow twinkling down on the bench.

As you know I’ve highlighted a few of the memorial trees in the Park and I have similarly written a post on a memorial tree planted for Erica Megan Sharick, who passed away at just 21 years old.

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In the Springtime, the tree is full of white blossoms with yellow tulips underneath.   Click here to see Erica’s tree in the Springtime.

Today I noticed there was something new under Erica’s tree, no doubt placed there for the recent Valentine’s Day holiday.

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Snow was already starting to stick on the memorial stone.

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Just a hint of a breeze stirred the gossamer angel and it began to twirl around.

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Fly high and sleep with the angels Erica.

The snow flurries picked up in intensity, blowing horizontally for a time and the massive flakes began to glom together making it slick on the path.  It sure is hard to get traction in my walking regimen if there is no traction on the paths that I must travel on foot.  I decided to cut my walk short and head home.

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I put the camera away and with my head bent down, hurried to the pavilion area where I dumped out the rest of my peanuts on the picnic tables.  I noticed someone had left four painted rocks on four different tabletops.  I took photos of them, then when I got online, posted that I had found them on the “Downriver Rocks” Facebook site, a site where painted rock creators and collectors convene.

 

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Walking home, the snow was swirling and collecting on the sidewalks and streets.  Despite wearing hiking boots, I slid a few times.  I paused under cover of a large fir tree to take a photo of the newly bare wood left by a branch that must’ve broken off during our recent windstorm.

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I also stopped to take pictures of these Snowdrops … the first new growth in 2018.  Well these flowers were aptly named as I noticed snow had settled down among the tender shoots.

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Seeing the Snowdrops, I wondered if Spring is all that far off?  “Bring on Spring soon” I muttered as I peeled off my snow-encrusted clothes.

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Sometimes you just have to stop and smell …

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… the roses,  as that old cliché tells us.

But, for my furry friends … it is all about the peanuts.

I feel badly I’ve not been to Council Point Park since last Sunday following my two River treks.  In essence, I’ve been two-timin’ Parker, since I began sharin’ the love with Grady.

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But, this week’s horrid ice storm, which left every inch of concrete coated in ice, had me rethinking any trips to the Park, or anywhere else for that matter.  The ice event was treacherous, but breathtaking, as the trees and bushes shimmered, their bare branches encased in ice.  I enjoyed the view through the front storm door window.  I couldn’t have ventured out, even if I wanted to, as the freezing rain sealed my screen door shut.  And when I did head out the door, that snow was just as slick, though it was a better bet to trudge through it, rather than on ice.  I heard the crunch-crunch as my heavy boots plunged through the icy snow while I made my way to the garage to run the car, then back.  We had a brief warm-up yesterday and the sun came out – yay!  It melted most of the ice and today’s brisk breeze dried everything up … the wintry mess is all gone for a couple of days, until the snow returns late Sunday.

This furry fellow is so cute and cuddly looking.

Thursday morning was still slick and dangerous with glare ice galore.  I opened the screen door and laid peanuts on the porch and the brick ledge, then tucked five more in my pocket for the opposite end of the ledge for when I went outside.  I caught a glimpse of Grady watching me from the tree across the street as I doled out his breakfast.  Next I saw him descend that tall tree and race across the street.  As he headed up the driveway, his paws were skidding this way and that – wouldn’t you’d have thought his claws would act like ice cleats?  I went and grabbed the camera to get some pictures of Grady through the glass.

Usually, I toss out the peanuts, then shut the door and head downstairs to grab my coat and boots to go outside.  But instead, I surprised Grady by staying there at the door.

He was alone and paused on the porch steps where his eyes lit up just like a kid in a candy shop when he saw the extra peanuts I gave him for Valentine’s Day.

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I realized Grady didn’t know what to make of my appearance there, but I swear  I could hear the gears clicking in his brain.  He was thinking “well that looks like Linda, but where are her feet?”  [Hidden behind the door.]  Or “Linda always wears a black hat – what is brown on Linda’s head?”  [Hair.]  “Why is Linda staring at me like that?  [Because I want to take some pictures of you to share in a blog post.]

Grady continued to study me, perplexed why I didn’t close the door, but instead I continued to watch HIS every move.

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He paused on the porch momentarily, deciding whether or not he should risk his life in case I reached out the door and grabbed him and pulled him indoors.  [It is tempting sometimes because you’re so cute Grady.]

Part of what endears me to him is that he is so tiny that he hops and jumps to move along quickly.

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He is such a timid little soul and I know he wanted those peanuts so badly he could just taste them.  I talked to him through the door and said “go ahead Grady – I’m not going to hurt you!”  He gave me one more look, almost like a lamb being led to slaughter, then finally made a dash to the corner of the porch, under the stoop, where  I pile the peanuts  so the squirrels and birds are protected from any swooping hawks.   He was also out of my range of vision so I had to wait until he emerged in the middle of the porch again, where he dragged out a mess of peanuts.

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Wash, rinse, repeat.

Well he didn’t stay put for more than a second, then dashed over and grabbed a couple of peanuts and ate those on the porch steps.

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He then decided since he had quite a pile of peanuts, and no one to share them with, why not hide a few?

So how did that work out Grady

His first stop was the neighbor’s tree, where he paused, with a peanut in his mouth, but where was he going to put it?

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Soon he began beating a path, grabbing a peanut, then running, mostly hopping, down the driveway, his little paws persistently going out from under him on the ice.

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Grady does get an “A” for effort though, as he inspected all his favorite digging sites around the front yard, and the neighbor’s property [well, they’ll like me a lot won’t they?] 

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Grady even ran across the street to a spot by “his tree” but no go.  Finally, he determined the ground was frozen.  I suspect he was a loss where to hide those peanuts, so he tucked them here and there into the snow.

Or he figured he would just go ahead and eat them as Linda will give him more tomorrow.  [Cute and smart!]

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I think the weather will be better than originally predicted and the streets and sidewalks are clear after that warm spurt yesterday.  I might have even done a short walk this morning but the wind was gusting from 20 to 30 miles (32-48 km) an hour and I didn’t want to roll along like a tumbleweed.

Tomorrow I’ll get down to the Park and lavish some attention and treats on Parker and his buddies.  Thankfully he lives a mile from the ‘hood and won’t find out about “The Other Squirrel”.

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My heart’s desire.

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This is a selfie of me, your roving reporter, about to head out the door.  I’ve got my coat on, even a snazzy beret, but no footwear, er … paw wear.  Hmm – decision, decisions.  Do I wear shoes, snow boots, or ice cleats – what weather havoc did Mother Nature wreak today?

Our weather here in Southeast Michigan has been unbearable …  snowy and blowy, or icey and dicey, for a solid month now.  This morning the weatherman said “folks, don’t believe a word the Groundhog told you – we have another two weeks before things relax a bit.”  Grrr to the Groundhog, who likely needs new glasses.  While I’m grateful for the spurts of good weather the past several weekends, giving me a chance to get down to the Park, or explore other venues, I’m eager to get back to my walking regimen full time.  I am sure my Park squirrels are scratching their heads, (and no it isn’t just lice or fleas), wondering why the Peanut Lady abandons them during the work week.

While my heart’s desire is better weather, your wish may be chocolate, so this bear is bearing bonbons for Valentine’s Day!

The picture above is from an American Greetings Valentine’s Day card and features this vintage American bear, manufactured by the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, circa 1906, and is part of the Yenke Collection.  Through the years I collected teddy bears too, though none of them were antique or vintage bears.  I gave this greeting card to my mom one year because she was born on Valentine’s Day – she would have turned 93 today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!   I’ll leave you with this wonderful quote:

Dr. Seuss quote

 

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It’s my 6th “blogiversary” today!

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It was a cold and snowy day when my fingers flew over the keyboard to create and launch that initial labor of love.  I just went back and did a word count and that first post was 2,195 words.  Well, brevity has never been my strongpoint as my regular followers will attest to.

In many ways this blog has been a present I have given myself.  It is a gift that  keeps on giving because it is a daily affirmation that yes, other people out there in the world share the same little joys as me, and furthermore that they enjoy reading about them.

Six years – where did the time go?happy anniversary

I like things easy and uncomplicated these days.

As I have grown older, I’ve come to realize that it is the small delights in my life that give me the most pleasure.  My world suddenly became much smaller when I got laid off, then eventually hired back, but working from home.  While I enjoy my at-home gig, I was eager to get out into the world and leave the confines of the kitchen where I work at the table.  But query … how does one get out and explore and still adhere to a business work schedule?

So, I began a walking regimen in 2011 to get some exercise, after I realized, except for gardening, I wasn’t walking many steps a day and my job was too sedentary.

My friend Marge encouraged me to start a blog to write about what I saw in my daily treks around the ‘hood, but the earliest posts were devoid of pictures and there was only so much you could write about pounding the concrete sidewalks and streets.

Luckily, I discovered Council Point Park in 2013, a few months after beginning my blog.  I would go on to discover other parks along the way, but, I keep returning here because it always feels like home.

Small delights.

Very few people know that it was my dream to become a veterinarian because of my love for animals.  But my grades weren’t good enough in math and science, so I abandoned that dream the first year of college. I liked working on the college newspaper, as well as the camaraderie of the news staff.  So I switched gears and writing became my focus instead.

For me, getting out and walking in a natural environment sets the tone for the day.  There is a spring in my step, a lightness in my heart … it is very real.  A foray into nature for me is like stepping back in time … I was seven or eight years old, running through the meadow with my friends, dipping our jam jars into a creek to get pollywogs.  These were the simple delights of childhood.  So enjoying the goodness of nature brings out the kid in me.  That’s a good thing because the harshness of day-to-day living is a real kick in the pants sometimes, isn’t it?

I am happy to read your comments when I write about the antics of Parker or Grady, the “aws” over pictures of baby robins taking their first flight, or a sly cardinal that swooped down and grabbed a peanut from the trail, a duck trying to wrangle a wiggling fish … and there are your oohs and aahs over beautiful sights like crashing waves at Lake Erie Metropark or icy boulders along the boardwalk at the Detroit River.  I’m so happy to share these treks with you.

Small indulgences.

Everyone needs to have a few indulgences.  Like Dave’s Killer Bread toasted, with a pat of real butter and slathered with chunky peanut butter is one for me.  Or those instant cappuccinos – a little bit of heaven in a big mug.  And my latest find, is Pepperidge Farm’s new “Farmhouse Thin & Crispy Toffee Milk Chocolate Cookies” … it is not so good I discovered these when I’m not walking every day.

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But, indulgences aren’t just about food and drinks … after years of  snapping off the radio when there was too much gabbing, loud and obnoxious commercials and songs I didn’t know anymore, I have discovered a new radio station.  It’s a delight to be able to sing the songs I know by heart for decades, even if I can’t a carry a tune.  These songs transport me to my 20s and me walking around with my headphones clapped tightly over my ears.  I’d be working in the yard, or doing chores in the house, singing away at the top of my lungs – I couldn’t carry a tune then either.  Finally, I can turn off the all-news station more often because the state of the world gives me no great joy … too often it’s a world full of pettiness, hate and divisiveness.

Good things come in small packages.

And then there are small treasures like Parker and Grady and their assorted pals.

This morning I walked outside, grumbling about the snow as I opened the screen door, knowing tonight’s freezing rain and wintry precip event will certainly gum up the roads and the pathway for the short-term.  I turned the corner and there was Grady, up on the ledge munching away, while a male and female cardinal were noshing a peanut apiece on the porch.  I kicked myself for not having the camera with me.

Yesterday at the Park, two squirrels, running from opposite sides of the trail, collided into each other, sending the smaller one bouncing against my shin.  It was like a cartoon scene as if his eyes should be Xs and stars would appear around his head.  My sweatpants were heavy so he had a soft cushion, but since he looked a little dazed and confused, I bent down and asked “are you alright?” Five minutes later he was bopping around and eating peanuts.

This past year has been the most fun since I began the blog.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my tales from the trail – the critter encounters, especially.  I’ve enjoyed interacting with each of you as we’ve laughed at the squirrels’ antics, or oohed and aahed over photos of baby robins when they took their first flight.  We’ve smiled at goose drama while hissing and honking at their mate,  as well as their fierce love for their young ones.  Truthfully, these geese, for all their histrionics, are faithful to their mates for life, and, though their goslings may be bigger than they are, the geese parents protect their offspring against us mere mortals with a fierce love that will stop you in your tracks.

Walking and blogging are the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and, as fellow bloggers, I know you understand that passion … thank you for sharing your passion with me as well.

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Shiver on the River.

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Well, I wish I could say I coined this title, but “Shiver on the River” is an annual event held the first Saturday in February here in Southeast Michigan.  Its purpose is to lure people to the Detroit River to explore beautiful Belle Isle in the Winter.

I had planned to go to Lake Erie Metropark today, but the weather forecast called for snow and sleet this afternoon and I didn’t want to get caught there if the precip started earlier, so I found a venue closer to home.  I set my sights on Bishop Park in Wyandotte, John Dingell Park in Ecorse and then to my regular stomping grounds, Council Point Park, to round out my day.  It was not sunny like yesterday and a gray and gloomy sky prevailed.

Bishop Park was my first stop.

I wanted to check out the frozen Detroit River and that sight (above) sure didn’t disappoint.

I worked in downtown Detroit for many years and I must say that I never ventured down to the River’s edge during the Winter.  But, even from high up in an office building, the big freeze was impressive.

It was even more impressive at ground level!  As I strolled along the boardwalk, I marveled at that bulked-up ice.  I’m sure this thick ice formed during our Polar Vortex, and, despite a few balmy days, it has remained rock solid.

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There were no seagulls and I have to say that is the first time I’ve been to Bishop Park and not heard the screech of seagulls, who are an integral part of this riverfront.  I must admit I kind of missed them.  They are always good for a picture as they pose nicely and don’t need treats to entice them to stay put.

Overhead, the Canada geese were buzzing back and forth over Bishop Park.  They kept landing in one area, where they congregated and stalked around the pier like they owned the joint, making it virtually impossible for me to pass them.

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As a general rule, I usually just sidestep the geese when walking past them, but the cacophony of honks and hisses told me I was not going to venture anywhere near them today.  Besides, what if I walked on this scenic pier and they blocked my only way back?  It was really cold along the waterfront with the wind clipping along and I would not want to be held hostage by a group of geese, even if they are from Canada like me.

I saw a small break in the ice under the pier and one goose was holding court with the ducks.

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With limited places to walk on the boardwalk, I turned around to head back to the car.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge dark object in one of the trees in Bishop Park.  I figured it was a squirrel’s nest, but then it moved.  I put the camera down and took a look with my naked eye and realized it was a bald eagle.  I was ecstatic.  I took at least a dozen photos of him, trying to get a good profile shot.  I got two, including one showing how his feathers were ruffled by that brisk breeze.

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John D. Dingell Park was next on my agenda.

I’ve been to this park several times.  My first visit was about a year ago after I heard chatter at Council Point Park about how the bald eagles from uninhabited Mud Island fly down from their nests in the tall trees to fish from the ice floes.  I went that weekend and yes I saw them.  I took some photos from far away, then I returned a few weeks later with binoculars to check the eagles out again.  I understand that photographers and birders line up along the pavilion every February, the coldest month of the year and when the ice floes are most prevalent, for a glimpse at these regal birds.

So, on the heels of seeing the eagle at Bishop Park, would I see some eagles sitting on ice floes and dining on fish?  I sure hoped so.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the flag at half-staff flapping in the breeze.  The flag’s status honors the memory of former Congressman John D. Dingell, who passed away last Thursday at age 92.  He was the longest-serving member of Congress (59 years) and represented the district where I live.  This park, formerly known as Ecorse Park, bears his name.

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I noticed a few people sitting in their cars, binoculars trained on the tall trees at Mud Island, which is just across the channel from this park.  However, no photographers or birders were standing there.  It was still early though and very cold.  I asked a gentleman if any eagles had been sighted and was told there were twelve there yesterday, but none so far today.

I thanked him and went down to the boardwalk to see what was happening on the icy-cold water.  Interestingly, the Detroit River is not frozen solid here.  That is because the nearby plant churns out a lot of steam and hot liquid runs into the water, keeping it flowing freely, making it a draw for local waterfowl.  In the distance, far away from the pavilion, thick ice could be seen, and occasionally thin ice floes would lazily drift by, making tinkling noises, much like ice cubes in a glass.  The waterfowl were plentiful and they seemed unfazed by the chunks of ice that floated past them.

The many Mute swans were gorgeous and I looked for the pair of Trumpeter swans which went overhead as I was walking from the car, but couldn’t locate them.

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The geese and ducks were skittish while I was around, some of them taking flight as I stood on the pavilion’s overlook area.

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I laughed out loud at this pair of geese, where one fractious goose was in hissing mode and didn’t mind his manners with what may have been his mate … what a shame, with this being Valentine’s Day week and all.

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There were Canada geese galore, a few herons … all companionably swimming alongside the ducks and swans.   It looks like a day at the beach here doesn’t it?

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There must have been hundreds of ducks, mostly mallards, but also canvasbacks.  I’ve seen photos of canvasbacks on Dingell Park’s Facebook site and had hoped to get a look at some.  The males are striking, mostly white plumage with dark markings and a light brown head.  I took some photos, but the canvasbacks were grouped together near a faraway ice floe and the pictures were not clear, so I didn’t include them.

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There were icy ledges where some of the ducks grouped together.  Just looking at them made me cold and I wondered if their webbed feet were warmer on the ice or paddling around in the cold water?  Neither of those choices seemed like a good option to me.

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Well there were a few bald eagles and they kept their distance from the ice floes, deciding to stay up in the trees.  I saw two eagles and they flew to their perches, following one another.  When the second eagle joined the first one, it made a loud chirping noise.

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In late December I wrote a post about how Harry the Heron showed up every day to fish, and my amazement at seeing the seagulls floating in the Creek like ducks.  I learned that the shad were running.  Shad are small feeder fish and that’s why the seagulls were buzzing around overhead and sitting on the surface of the Creek.

Well, the shad were running down at the Detroit River as well.  I saw geese, herons and ducks grabbing up those wiggly fish and downing them.  While the heron usually swallows his fish whole, it’s not such an easy task if you’re a duck.

I watched in amusement as a female mallard grabbed a shad, and tried her best to wrangle that fish to enjoy it while a wistful male mallard looked on.  Ask me if she shared her fish with the drake – nope.  She twirled that squirming fish this way and that in her bill, and at one time dropped it into the water, but quickly recovered her prize with a look of pure delight.  Believe it or not, I came home with about twenty pictures of the ordeal from start to finish and reluctantly winnowed the photos down to seven for this slideshow.

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I left Dingell Park after spending an hour there, and had spent a good hour at Bishop Park too.  I was freezing, despite layering up well – my fingers were the worst to be honest.

Last stop – Council Point Park.

I couldn’t resist going to my favorite stomping grounds which is a little over a mile away from Dingell Park.  I decided to walk two loops giving me four miles today and feed the squirrels as well, since we have a week of ugly weather ahead.  The snow and freezing rain has already begun and we’ll have another round of that wintry precip tomorrow night.  Old Man Winter has worn out his welcome with me.

I’ve made this a squirrel-free post, but I do have a tale to tell later about their antics today, which left me smiling and shaking my head.

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Squirrels, sunshine and Saturday bliss.

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We couldn’t have asked for a brighter or more beautiful Saturday, despite the fact that it was only 13 degrees F (-10C) with a “real feel” of -5 degrees F (-20C) and it was windy to boot.  I bundled up in multiple layers, and, with a brand-new bag of peanuts in hand, I set out for the Park.  I figured that Thursday’s rain and mild temps had wiped out the ¼ inch of ice we got the day before, but I wore my hiking boots anyway and was pleased to find I didn’t need them and I got four miles walked today.

Before I left, I tried to get a photo op with Grady and his friend, but I was surprised they didn’t show up … maybe they sleep in on Saturdays.  So much for that idea.  No worries … one or both had stopped by, as evidenced by a trail of peanut shells and redskin chaff they left behind.

I drove to Council Point Park to give the car a run and surprisingly the parking lot was empty.  No diehard walkers today?  So, for the first hour I was there, I had the Park to myself … oh, and about 15 or 20 squirrels too.

Unlike the warmer weather, when Parker meets me in the parking lot, or the beginning of the trail, there was no welcoming committee this morning.  I thought to myself “well, you’ve stayed away since last Sunday and they probably thought you abandoned them.”

Well banish that thought as the first furry friend, came bounding over to see me moments later.  It was none other than Parker, who planted his little body in front of me and looked up as if to say “so, don’t hold back – where are my peanuts?”

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For Parker, it’s peanuts first, THEN a photo op and that’s because I’ve indulged him since day one.  But this morning, I got my photo of him taken before he could protest.

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Today, there was no carting away of peanuts to hide as he was clearly aware the ground was too frozen to find any long-buried nuts or other treasures squirreled away, long before this deep freeze set in.  About the only place the squirrels could hide peanuts now would be in the large area of mulch that is under the playground equipment in the center of the Park.  I wonder if any of them thought of that?

I gave Parker his treats and I knew he would be in peanut nirvana.  I was carrying a plastic bag on my arm to reach in for peanuts, so I shook it, guaranteed to stir the senses of each and every squirrel who might have missed “The Peanut Lady” as she started on the trail.

I had to laugh, as rattling that bag of peanuts did the trick, and soon at least ten squirrels were beating a path across the soccer field to see me.  I now know that squirrels may have better hearing than eyesight.

The bitter cold temperature and a stiff wind made it difficult to dispense peanuts while trying to take pictures. I had on gloves with liners and they kept getting caught in the camera strap, and jockeying around the bag and keeping it away from all the ground-level shots, while feeding my furry friends was difficult.  I came home with lots of shots of squirrels missing tails and snouts.

These squirrels were chasing one another in this tall tree, two silhouettes on the bare branches against a flawless blue sky.

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They saw me and quickly began their long descent to ground level.  Watching them almost made me dizzy as their sharp claws expertly carried them down the bark.

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They arrived at the base of the tree, then came racing over as they skidded to a stop and both eyed the pile of nuts placed near my feet.  I was hoping for a photo op of the pair cozying up to my boots, but that didn’t happen.  They each ate a few nuts, then took a few “to go” … only “to go” didn’t work out so well, when one squirrel tried to bury a peanut …

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… and quickly realized the ground was too frozen to do that task.  Note the sheepish look on his face, as he wondered if anyone was watching him.  Priceless!

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These same two squirrels paused a few moments together, and I got this shot.

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Then they scurried back up the tree to munch contentedly.

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By now, the word was out that I was packing peanuts and every squirrel on site was in close proximity.

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It was so quiet at the Park that I could hear those squirrels cracking the peanuts with their teeth.  Most of them ate on the ground …

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… but others preferred to munch atop a tree branch.

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This past two weeks of harsh weather has taken its toll on the Park.  Even the bushes that line the perimeter path have been stripped of their bright-colored berries, no doubt by the birds or squirrels foraging for precious morsels of food.

The Creek was frozen over completely, and, unlike last week when a small, ice-free area near the storm drain permitted the mallards to paddle around freely, today the area was barren and completely devoid of any waterfowl.  Traces of snow that fell last night stayed on top of some of the icy surface.

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I didn’t even see a single bird flitting around the trees.  How I wish we could fast forward two months when the call of the Red-Winged Blackbird would echo through the reeds and phragmites, tender green leaves would be unfurling and tendrils of ground cover would slowly be filling in the bare spots beneath the trees and bushes.  The ducks would be quacking and the geese would be honking as Spring begins in earnest at Council Point Park.

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