January 17, 2019
Yesterday and today I got the chance to explore two different nature preserves in two different towns, Kensington Metropark Nature Center in Milford and Howell Nature Center in Howell—both in Michigan. The first was on my way to visit my seven year old grandson and the second was on my way home. Both preserves are delightful, but Kensington is my favorite—mostly because of the songbirds who readily seek out humans for a handout—literally: if you’re hand is out, they’re on it!
The trails through the Nature Center have so much to offer! In the warmer months, the nearby ponds are teeming with a wide variety of waterfowl—egrets, geese, mallards, great blue herons…you name it. But this time of year, with the ponds frozen over, it’s totally quiet–except for an occasional flock of geese or sandhill cranes squawking overhead.
As I walked past the ponds and into the woods, though, I could hear birds chirping everywhere. Whenever I would stop to listen more carefully, the chickadees, nuthatches and titmice magically appeared in the nearby trees and bushes expecting to be fed! Luckily, I had remembered to pack birdseed and peanuts before leaving home, but, I barely had time to fish them out of my pocket before the birds came zooming in to grab it out of my hand. Then, once the word got out that there was free food, the cardinals, bluejays and woodpeckers appeared. The smaller birds fed from my hand and the larger ones grabbed the seeds and nuts I had left nearby.
When I feed the birds at Kensington, it’s always interesting to observe who’s the ‘bravest’ and who’s the most likely to grab the big, unshelled peanuts. The chickadees are, by far, the bravest and the boldest, I think, followed by the titmice, nuthatches and downies. As for the peanuts, I was not at all surprised that the bluejays, red bellies and cardinals wanted them, but I was totally surprised when the little downies and titmice did. Weighing in at less than one ounce, these little birds hardly weighed more than the nut they flew off with!
At one point, I had so many birds gathered around me, (as well as a few cheeky squirrels), that I felt like I was standing on the set of a Snow White re-enactment. You know, the part where she has all those little birds flying around her head and all those little creatures looking up at her adoringly?? While I do not claim to bear even a passing resemblance to the lovely Snow White, the scene itself was, nonetheless, just as magical!
When I visited the Howell Nature Center the following day, there was no shortage of birds flying around, but, unlike the Kensington birds, these birds were totally ‘untrained’ and had no idea that the large, two-legged creatures walking among them could be a source of free food! I had to enjoy them from afar.
The interesting thing about the Howell Nature Center, though, is that it has a rehab facility for injured birds and small animals. I was especially interested in seeing the bald eagles. There were two of them in permanent residence at the Center who had already recovered from their injuries but were still unable to survive on their own. Both birds were housed in a large, outdoor enclosure surrounded by a thick, chain link fence. Surprisingly, I was able to get some good close ups in spite of the fence. I would have preferred, of course, to capture bald eagles in their natural habitat, but since that wasn’t likely to happen anytime soon, I did what I could.
Every time I get the chance to spend time in nature, like I did these last two days, I try to remember how immensely lucky I am to be able to do so.
Links to the above Nature Centers: