Now where was I? Ah yes, tramping around chilly Kensington Park one morning last week. I was checking out the herons on a dreary overcast day with spitting snow and drizzling cold rain.
And, as you know, I left the herons after a few minutes of attempting to get decent images in the low light and headed into the woods in hopes of finding skunk cabbage, a sure sign of spring here in lower Michigan.
And of course I hoped to spend some time with my little birds too. Those chickadees and titmice and downy woodpeckers and nuthatches that hang around visitors begging for a snack.
Since it was early, and the weather was bad I was probably the first person to venture into their woods that day. I knew the birds out on the boardwalk were hungry, they had already told me so. And the little ones back in the woods were ravenous too.
As I was being swarmed by a small cloud of birds I heard the sound of a red-bellied woodpecker high up in the trees. As I fed the little ones I watched him watch me.
Down, down, down he moved. Slowly, from one tree to another, pretending he wasn’t interested in all the activity. Not interested in those luscious peanuts or succulent woodpecker suet balls in my outstretched hand.
He even did a couple fly-overs, as he gaged the risk versus reward, but he couldn’t make himself land on my hand.
I waited patiently, camera held in one hand, the other outstretched filled with delicacies. Eventually my shoulders ached and I dropped a few treats on the ground and proceeded up the path and around a corner, intent on getting further into the woods.
He immediately dropped to the ground and gathered up his breakfast. I laughed and went on my way.
But just around the corner a new batch of birds waited for their snacks. I spent quite awhile there, photographing them in the branches and on the grasses near by, as they waited patiently for their turn for a treat.
Then I heard it. The distinctive sound of the red-bellied, and there he was, just out of reach in a tree near my head. Once again I held out my hand, and once again he flew over but couldn’t trust me enough to land. And once again I tossed him a peanut or two and went on my way.
Further into the woods a nuthatch was chattering loudly, and I stopped to give her a treat.
A bluejay showed up, and darned if that red-bellied wasn’t far behind.
Sighing, I moved over a bridge to the other side of a wetland, one of my favorite places to stop and feed the birds. Several littles were waiting for me and you know who followed me over there too.
As I was leaning over to put some seed on a bench for everyone to share I heard a gobble to my right. And there was a magnificent manly turkey, with his three wives strutting down the path.
He was so handsome that I pulled the camera away from Mr. Red-belly and focused it on the big boy showing off just feet away from me.
Mr. Red-belly wasn’t having it and he dive bombed my head while I was looking toward the turkey. As the turkey harem moved on down the path I left my increasingly rude stalker with a few seeds and moved on in the other direction.
And that’s the way the rest of my walk went. Wherever I stopped to feed a hungry bird, the red-bellied and increasingly fat bird followed. I finally dropped a whole lot of treats on the ground and got away.
I think he followed me for at least an hour and more than half a mile. He never came to sit on my hand but he knew he didn’t have to. If he was just persistent he’d get a contactless treat.
Though I describe him as a stalker and a pig, I actually smiled each time I’d hear his call. I’d look for him and there he’d be, a tree or two over from me, acting like he was entitled.
I guess he was.
As I scurried away I heard a munching sound in the underbrush. What kind of bird was making a sound like that?
Ahh….the infamous little red squirrel bird. He never blinked as I stood and took his picture. This guy didn’t notice me either.
Everybody was hungry that morning, and I realized I was too. No one was standing around offering me breakfast, so I decided it was time to head home and find something to eat.
But wait! I was in the woods looking for skunk cabbage, looking for a sign that spring has indeed come to lower Michigan. Did I find any? Or was I too distracted by the bird drama swarming my head?
Well of course I found it. And it made me smile too.