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Posts Tagged ‘belle isle park’

Detroit’s Belle Isle Park is a big place. It spans about 950 acres, and it includes woodlands, canals, and small inland lakes and ponds. It is located in the middle of the Detroit River, one of the busiest waterways in the world. Canada is on the south side of the island and the city of Detroit is on the north. It is the largest island park of its kind in the U.S., and it was designed in the 1880s by Fredrick Law Olmstead, the same landscape architect that designed New York’s famous Central Park.

In addition to the winding streets and pathways that cut through the interior of the park, there is an outer ring road that circles the island. It is a 5-mile loop around the island starting and ending at the foot of the Belle Bridge that connects the island to Detroit’s mainland. It’s a beautiful, leisurely ride on a bicycle, especially in the early morning or late evening.

On the Northeast side of the island is a good-sized inland lake with beautiful blue water. Lining the shore of the lake are big, bushy Weeping Willow trees that stand around 70 feet tall. When I rode by there the other evening on a casual bike ride, the lake was still and calm, without a ripple to be seen.

Looking at the northeast end of the lake as I rounded a corner, I was immediately in awe of what I saw. The gently setting sun had highlighted the water’s deep blue color, and reflecting across the smooth surface was the vibrant green Weeping Willow trees. The reflections were a perfect crystal clear mirror image of what was growing on the banks of the lake. The reflections of the lake-lined trees were dreamlike in their beauty and surreal in their appearance. As the sun drifted lower, the effect slowly faded.

Here is a sampling of what I saw on that little lake on the island as I slowly pedaled by.

Belle Isle #5_7636

Belle Isle #3_7656

Belle Isle #6_7653

Belle Isle #4_7661

Belle Isle #2_7648

Belle Isle#1_7641

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On my bicycle travels in Detroit I see lots of birds. There are the proverbial pigeons that seem to hang out in the parking lots downtown. They never seem to move as I ride near them, almost standing in defiance, daring me to hit them. I also see them on rooftop overhangs doing what they do best, making a mess of the sidewalks below. Canadian Geese are everywhere along the riverfront and seem to have taken over many areas of Belle Isle Park. Like their pigeon friends, they too can leave quite a mess.

I’ve heard cardinals singing long before I spot them, and Red-winged Blackbirds love the cattail plants and bogs near the canals on the far eastside of the city.  Plus, there are the everyday robins, woodpeckers, sparrows, grackles and many others that make Detroit their home.

Surprisingly, game birds, in particular Ring-necked Pheasants, are not that uncommon in Detroit. I see the plump, copper-colored, red-faced birds quite a bit as I ride through sparsely populated streets, now lined with fields and grassy prairies. Sometimes they are standing in the street, oblivious to their surroundings, pecking away at whatever it is they eat. As I approach them, they tend to scurry, rather than fly, into a nearby desolate field or overgrown lot. Once there, they stand silently and motionless in the brush watching me slowly pedal by, hoping I don’t spot them.

Pheasants are quick to run and hide in the brush

As I found out early on while riding along the city’s many fields, they are low flying birds. One of the first pheasants I saw on my bike rides nearly flew into my helmet. I was pedaling along, minding my own business, when one of the 2-lb birds sprang from the nearby brush and came right at me. It scared me half to death as I ducked low to avoid a possible collision. A bird of that size could do some serious damage to an unsuspecting bicyclist like yours truly.

Since then, I’ve encountered the flying birds many times. Frequently, I’ve been startled to a point of near heart attack, especially when I scare them up while riding across some field. Not so much because of their size, but the loud, distinct wing flapping sound they make upon takeoff. It’s a low piercing, shuttering sound that reminds me somewhat of rapid gun fire.

A colorwall pheasant wall painting in Detroit

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