Hopping down the bunny trail

June 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A bunny has hopped through the trefoil here

bunny_0566_275There are two young cottontails visiting the grassy areas along the millpond trail this year. I suspect they are offspring of our resident rabbit who I haven’t seen lately. She’s probably nursing another batch of bunnies in her burrow.

The rains we’ve had this month have been a bonanza for the Bird’s-Foot Trefoil which is normally only 3″ tall on this oft-mowed expanse. It’s now more than 6″ tall. At a rabbit’s eye view, you can see trails through it that the bunnies have made (top).

The USDA Forest Service considers this trefoil an invasive weed in many states, but the Michigan State University’s Extension feels it’s a good source of nutrients for grazing cattle in our climate. It’s actually a legume and its sweetpea-like blossoms are a bright, yummy yellow.

Bird's Foot Trefoil is 6" tall in this field

Shine on, Rabbit #2!

January 15th, 2013     3 comments     permalink

The wild cottontail watches the photographer to judge if he's a threat

“Eye shine” is a major problem when photographing wildlife at night. Sometimes, I retouch eyes so they aren’t so distracting. In these shots, Rabbit #2 looks demonic or like he’s internally illuminated. A furry nightlight! During the thaw, I found him beyond the edge of his usual territory (north of the Fire Station) snooping under the leaf litter for green things to eat. It’s not a problem this winter. Grass is still slightly green in most areas instead of its characteristic dried tan.

With the snow gone, it's time to search for new shoots growing under the leaf litterEver wary, the rabbit evaluates exit strategies

Since the millpond trail brings plenty of humans through his territory, he’s not particularly disturbed by our presence. Yet, as a prey species, he’s hardwired to never let his guard down entirely. As I moved closer, he evaluated his escape strategies and finally bolted to seek the safety of an evergreen tree on his own turf.

Rabbit #2 walks the plank

December 29th, 2012     2 comments     permalink

Rabbit #2 found himself between humans with no place to run

There weren’t many footprints of park wildlife along the millpond trail. With 5-7″ of powdery snow on the ground, the mammals preferred to stay in their burrows until conditions improved. But some had to venture out to find their evening meal. On return trip to the end of the trail, I found wild Rabbit #2 had hopped onto the boardwalk in search of food. He was drawn to it because it had been plowed.

As I walked toward it, my boots crunched the snow against the wooden deck causing loud sounds to reverberate.. The rabbit responded to the noise by hopping in the other direction until he discovered he was between two sets of humans. A father and young son blocked his escape path. For a moment, he considered scooting under the side rail and jumping six feet down, but decided that was a dangerous solution. Finally, he casually hopped past the father and son as they stood still. Soon, he was back on land where he went about his business of finding dried grasses and twigs to nibble on.

Antonio’s Rabbit

November 7th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

A blog can never have too many bunnies. I posted a talented one just days ago. I’m posting another one because I promised Antonio I’d email it to him if he’d text me his address. He did. I was standing beside him when he sent it, but it never reached my phone. So here ya go, Antonio! Here’s the rabbit I photographed on our walk along the millpond path Sunday evening. I’m pretty sure it’s the cottontail I photographed in the same territory last April because of the colors around his left ear and hind flank. He’s pudgier now because he’s bulking up for winter weather. Except when snow is on the ground, rabbits have been posted here often. You can see all of them on one page, if you wish.

The Christie Brinkley of bunnies

November 4th, 2011     0 comments     permalink


Rabbits are fussy models when posing for photographers, but this young one was happy to comply. In fact he willingly snapped into several noteworthy poses without being asked. The top photo was his Heroic Rabbit pose suitable for a bronze statue in the millpond park. Below left, he established a natural seated pose with none of that typical ready-to-flee “tensed hind leg” attitude of other models. His attempt to do a handstand was less successful, but he really gave it his all. I lied and told him it was perfect, but his hind legs never reached the proper vertical position for Olympic competition. If he’ll just work with me to get rid of that “eye shine” when my camera flashes …

Whispering to Rabbits

September 25th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

The Brighton millpond park isn’t a wild environment. The “wild” residents are used to living near humans. Some of the critters are especially tolerant once they know you. Yeah, that’s right. The mammals and ducks recognize specific people just like dogs and cats can. I’ve photographed this fellow several times this year. As I approach, I talk and whisper to him so he knows I’m not threatening him. I know that sounds crazy, and maybe I’m wrong, but I think it relaxes him. People “baby talk” their house pets all of the time, but it’s different in a public park. I’ve raised a few eyebrows when people watch me talk to ducks and rabbits.

If I make an unpredicted move, even though he knows me, he’s outta there in a flash. Prey species are like that. BTW his eye isn’t red. That’s from my camera’s flash reflecting off of his retina. Sometimes I retouch eyes on this blog so they don’t distract, but I happen to like this glowing red orb on this rabbit. Click the photo to see it larger.

Relaxed Rabbit

August 1st, 2011     1 comment     permalink

The rabbits near the millpond aren’t typical. There are at least three of them, two adults and one youngster. All of them are tolerant of humans unlike truly wild ones. I suspect a regular park visitor brings them food but I haven’t met him or her. “Rabbit 2” roams the grass near the fire station.

I am able to get within three feet of him if I move slowly as he grazes on clover. As you can see in both of these shots, he’s not a bit nervous and carries on with his usual activities instead of being braced to hop away at one false move.

Bunny time!

May 23rd, 2011     0 comments     permalink

The first wave of spring Cottontails have left their nests and are foraging on their own now. They are born blind and helpless but within 5 weeks, they are on their own and can create their own families within six months. This young rabbit was feeding on crabgrass on the millpond shore and didn’t seem a bit disturbed by me photographing him.

Since rabbits have sizable litters, I suspect I’ll see a brother or sister of his in the millpond area as the weeks go by.

The Easter Bunny lives at the millpond

April 24th, 2011     1 comment     permalink

The Easter Bunny resides at the Brighton millpond during his off season. He spends most of his days munching grass and bark, but does leisurely hopping to keep in shape for delivering baskets on Easter morning. I don’t know where he keeps that colorful suit he wears on Easter. I’ve never seen him wearing it around the pond. It’s probably stored at the dry cleaners so the satin doesn’t get moldy in his burrow.

How to read a rabbit

April 3rd, 2011     0 comments     permalink

People who have rabbits as pets might disagree, but I’d say bunnies have expressionless faces. I’ve discovered, however, they express themselves in other ways. Here’s my take: This rabbit (above) is saying “hello.” He just spotted me approaching him. He isn’t stressed, just interested in what I’m doing in his pondside neighborhood. His ears are perked up but his neck is relaxed and his front legs aren’t poised to flee.

The bunny on the left (above) is bored with me. He’s given up trying to figure out why I’m holding that boxy thing that flashes every once in a while and knows I’m of no use to him. But he’s keeping an eye on me just in case I become a threat.

The rabbit on the right was photographed last summer. You can tell he’s ready to bolt if I don’t behave myself. His ears are rigid, his tail flagged upward, his front legs braced for fleeing, and his back ones are ready to bound away in a millisecond.

Below, the rabbit is curious. His stance says,”Do you have anything for me?” He’s comfortably facing me so he isn’t contemplating a quick exit. I have a hunch someone feeds him regularly. A truly wild rabbit wouldn’t be this trusting of humans.

Wild Rabbit Befriends Millpond Swan

April 1st, 2011     2 comments     permalink

There was a traffic jam last night at Brighton, Michigan’s millpond. After midnight, passersby were stopped in their tracks by a swan paddling around the pond with a wild rabbit on its back.

“They’re not going to believe this at work tomorrow unless I can get a good shot,” remarked a bartender who had just gotten off work as he snapped several photographs with his iPhone.

“That goose’s nose is the color of a carrot. Maybe that’s why the rabbit jumped on,” a college student suggested as she sat shivering from the cold night air. Her obviously intoxicated friend corrected her, “Don’t be a fool. That’s not a goose. It’s a swan, and it’s a bill, not a nose.”

Swans mate for life unless they have irreconcilable differences. This one arrived with his beloved about a week ago. They are nest building at the northern end of the Mill Pond so there might be baby swans, called cygnets, by early summer. The rabbit is a year ’round resident of the park and, in all likelihood, will have a few babies of its own for you to see if you walk along the Mill Pond trail.

The chances of you seeing the rabbit hopping on the swan are slim, however. He only does that once a year. While the rabbit had its midnight ride, you’ve been taken on one, too. Happy First of April, everyone! :-)

The Other Rabbit

March 26th, 2011     0 comments     permalink

There may be other bunnies on the millpond path, but I regularly see two of them in their own territories. After winter kept them hidden, they have now reappeared. I saw bunny 1 a week ago. The second one made its 2011 debut to me last evening and posed for this pondside portrait before leisurely hopping off into the darkness. The fire in his eyes is from my camera’s flash. He’s actually quite relaxed and often nibbles on twigs while I photograph him.

A Well Wintered Wabbit

March 19th, 2011     2 comments     permalink

Even though rabbits remain active all winter, I hadn’t seen any along the Brighton millpond path for several months. I saw their tracks in the snow on occasion. My first sighting of the year happened yesterday when I spotted this very healthy eastern cottontail. It may be the same one that gave me directions in November, 2009. Note the markings on his right cheek and right hip. Both photographs were taken in the same territory. In captivity, rabbits can live 7-12 years, but wild ones aren’t so lucky. If they survive their dangerous first months, their adult world isn’t much more forgiving. It’s filled with foxes, owls, feral dogs and cats, and fast moving cars.

Where Rabbits Romp

June 29th, 2010     0 comments     permalink

A small field covered in 'meadow vetchling'

Close Up of Meadow VetchlingI try to make the Brighton millpond appear bucolic, but it’s not. Sometimes, signs of the park’s urban surroundings are within a dozen feet of the shots I take. One of my favorite spots to photograph muskrats is within 40 feet of the 5-lane highway running through town.

Pictured here is one of the few postage stamp “fields” along the path. It’s the rabbits’ stomping ground. There is a 5′ wooden fence behind it shielding piles of scrap metal, auto parts, and lumber. Tiny flowers grow on this plot between mowings by the city. Now, it’s covered with bright golden flowers less than an inch in diameter that look like miniature sweet peas. From an online picture I found, I think it’s “meadow vetchling” with the scientific name of Lathyrus pratensis.

Photographed directly above the plants

Bunny Report

June 22nd, 2010     0 comments     permalink

A white-Tailed Rabbit

As I’ve previously reported, the millpond has at least two residential rabbits that I see weekly. They stay in their general areas and aren’t too afraid of the people who walk by them. This week, one of those two introduced me (not willingly) to its offspring. It’s already half-grown. Baby rabbits are independent very quickly after birth so I’m surprised I haven’t seen this one and its siblings earlier. Unless predators got them, I’m sure I’ll see a couple more soon.

Resident Rabbit Offers Directions

November 22nd, 2009     4 comments     permalink

directions_4089_600

“Go past the first park bench and you’ll see a clump of wild currants. Don’t touch them. They’re mine. Hang a right where the grapevine twines about the young maple.”

directions_4089_138pxThis rabbit greets me at least once a week on the Brighton Millpond walkway. In the spring he was a tiny fellow but he’s had plenty of greens to eat and has grown into a fine adult. The pointing is real, but the eye is fiction. Retinas shine brightly on critters flashed at night so I often rebuild eyes so they don’t distract. Hey, I’ve got Photoshop and I’m not afraid to use it! The original is at left.

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