We are up at the lake for the race, the famous canoe race. Canoe race weekend is an important time for us as a family and I have written about this weekend in past years. The canoe race is always the last full weekend of July.
The canoe race is begins in town and ends 120 miles down the Au Sable River in Oscoda, Michigan where the river empties into Lake Huron. For many, the race defines this town, but Grayling is much more.
The rivers have been important where trapping along the three rivers – Au Sable, Manistee, and Muskegon – which begin here in the Michigan Highlands was the first industry when Europeans arrived in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Grayling, the town, was established as a logging town when it was settled in the late nineteenth century. Logging, forestry, and wood products are still key industries in town, but tourism – hunting, fishing, and recreation – is the industry that sustains this little town near the headwaters of the Au Sable River.
When the pandemic began last year, the cottage along the lake was my hideaway. I spent the last two months of the 2019-20 school year teaching remotely from our place on the lake up here. I felt safer away from our densely populated home region. In many ways we were safer here – there are significantly less people in the county and the reported COVID cases were significantly lower here than our suburban county.
And because there are less people wildlife thrives and is more abundant in the absence of people.
During this time by the lake shore, the beginning of the pandemic, change, real lasting deep change, began for me and my family.
We spent more time paying attention to nature and spent more time walking. I walked more last year with my wife and kids than I remember. I also stopped listening to music, podcasts, or audio books when I walked and I started listening to the birds, the trees, and nature around me.
And, I have paid more attention to nature.
For Father’s Day, my wife gave me a couple for bird feeders and shepherd’s double crook to hang the feeders for our lake house. I placed it just off the deck where we can see it when we are sitting in the front room or on the deck.
I have two feeders a hummingbird and a seed feeder. I’ve watched hummingbirds visit since the first day I put it up. My wife comments and calls my attention to hummingbirds when she sees a hummingbird sipping from the feeder. One evening she counted 42 sips. I’ve seen mostly blue jays at the seed feeder. The jays swoop down and hang on the feeder, but when I point a camera or my phone – they fly off.
Thursday, I heard a bird call. I don’t know my bird calls; I am just beginning my learning about birds. I am really a novice. I noticed there was a bird perched on a tree next door. It’s the kind of tree that’s seen better days. The moss-covered tree has long wound along its trunk and the perched on it searching for insects. The tree provided the bird a spot to keep a watchful eye on the seed feeder. From its perch swooped toward the feeder then at the last moment, it would fly away and hide in another of the neighbor’s tree, then return to it’s perch facing the feeder.
I watched the bird do this much of Thursday afternoon. More than intrigued by the bird’s behavior I grabbed my camera and trained the lens on the tree and snapped several photos of it. I still couldn’t identify it, but I had a hunch it was a juvenile.
Friday morning, my wife saw the bird perched on the feeder and I was able to take several photos of it while it ate from the seed feeder. The photos were taken inside the house through the window and a screen but it’s clear from the photo that the bird has the beginnings of red feathers on its head and thus it is a red headed woodpecker. I’ve seen adult red headed woodpeckers along the lane and in the woods here many times.
It’s Saturday morning and it’s raining; the canoe race starts at 9 PM regardless of the weather. I’ve got indoor chores, always do, and I have a good book – Harry’s Trees. It’s going to be a great day, so I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, slowing down to see what is happening around me.
What’s making your day count today?