Rabbits on both millpond shores

May 7th, 2016     0 comments     permalink

The Eastern Cottontail grazes on the lawn surrounding Brighton's city hall

The young bunny often seen by Brighton’s city hall last summer is now a full grown Eastern Cottontail (above). He’s not as skittish as he was last year. He’s still quick to flee when approached, but allows people to come closer than he did last year. He’s know at Civic Rabbit on this blog.

The rabbit's darker right eyebrow might also be a permanent identifying traitOn the other side of the millpond, two adult Cottontails can be seen between between Stillwater Grill and the Wooden Spoon restaurants. I haven’t seen Rabbit #2 in a couple of months now, but I imagine she’s still around busy raising her first litter of the year. The second rabbit, named Rabbit #4 (left and below), might approach you if you don’t make quick movements or loud sounds. This rabbit arrived last spring. I believe it was hand-raised and then dumped at the park because the first time I met it, it hopped up to me looking for a handout. If it sees me feeding ducks, it usually hops over to join the birds and it enjoys duck chow.

Rabbit #4 is quick to show up when it sees ducks being fed near Stillwater Grill

Note the area of missing fur on the left hipRabbit #4 is easy to identify now. It has lost a swath of fur on its left flank near its back leg. I assume that’s a permanent mark received during the winter, but the hair may grow back. Perhaps it survived an attack from a unleashed dog or raccoon, but it might have scratched itself hopping through underbrush. There’s no open wound, just a large band of missing fur.

A citified rabbit

January 31st, 2016     3 comments     permalink

The rabbit near Brighton's City Hall is in his first year and in fine shape

I haven’t seen Rabbit #2 yet this winter, but that doesn’t mean she’s left the area or died. She might be spending her afternoons and evenings in a warm burrow. But I have seen a full grown Cottontail Rabbit grazing on grass on the lawn in front of Brighton’s City Hall. I’m sure it’s the same rabbit that was often seen in the same area last summer as a small, skittish bunny. It’s more confident now and doesn’t flee when it sees me although I can’t approach him as close as I can Rabbit #2 on the opposite shore of the millpond.

The Cottontail fleeing when I get too close civicbunny_4307_235

Cottontail connoisseur

June 8th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

An Eastern Cottontail enjoys viewing John Piet's "Dancer Two" on the City Hall lawnThe Eastern Cottontail residing beside Brighton’s City Hall since its birth in 2014 took time out of its midnight lawn grazing after a busy day of amusing city employees to enjoy one of the city’s contemporary sculptures, “Dancer Two” by John Piet.

Few people realize how much rabbits appreciate modern art. I suppose it comes from their brethren being the subjects of celebrated artists. Salvadore Dali painted “Down the Rabbit Hole” in 1969, and Picasso let his dashshund chew up a cardboard rabbit he cut out of a candy box in 1957. Detroit’s own Cass Corridor artist, Michael Luchs, constructed a series of memorable rabbits out of found objects while he still lived in the city. One of them graces the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A hungry momma?

May 12th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The cottontail rabbit is either still nursing bunnies or just stopped

Triumph and his mate greeted me along the millpond trail. As we chatted over kibbles, the park’s resident cottontail hopped up to see if she could partake of a few pellets of food being offered the ducks (below). Triumph, ever the protector of his hen, lowered his head to let the rabbit know she could have a few if she kept her distance.

The cottontail approaches the ducks cautiously She nibbles on duck chow out of the ducks' ranges

It’s not unusual for the rabbit to approach me. We’ve known each other for three years now, but her arrival was quicker and closer than it normally is. As she came toward me, a half-grown bunny hopped into the hedgerow beside the shore. I suspect it is our rabbit’s offspring, but it looked old enough to be independent now. Young rabbits are on their own within 4-5 weeks old. If mom is still nursing a litter, that may explain why she was especially hungry last evening.

The rabbit has dark marks on her forehead as she sheds her winter coat She looks healthy and is very alert

As I’ve stated before, there is no question this rabbit was hand-raised before it was abandoned in the park. No wild cottontail would approach humans like this one does. She looking very healthy and has been lucky so far. The average life expectancy for the species is only 15 months in the wild though they can live to be at least nine in captivity. She’ll be fortunate if she can live to be five in this urban setting. I think there’s a greater chance of her colliding with a vehicle on Grand River Avenue than losing her life to a predator in the park.

A well organized rabbit

April 5th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Easter Bunny is perfectly calm the night before delivering baskets

April 3: You’d think the Easter Bunny, a year-round resident at the millpond, would be frazzled the night before departing to deliver baskets, but look at her.* She’s cucumber cool. Her secret? Preplanning. She assembles the baskets in winter while she remains in her burrow most of the time.

I hadn’t seen her for several months and was glad to find her near the fire station Friday night. Her organizational skills are quite amazing considering she doesn’t own a computer or a Bic pen. Where do you think she stores all of those eggs and chocolates? Think of all the egg dying and ribbon tying tasks she has. Magic has to be involved.

*Yes, the Easter Bunny is a female (aka doe) although she impersonates a buck for the festivities. The ruse wards off amorous advances from male rabbits while delivering baskets. You’d have figured that out if you gave it any thought. Would a self respecting buck be caught dead in that pink and lavender outfit with floral trim and sequins?

The millpond’s winterized rabbit

January 2nd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The millpond's resident rabbit is faring well on this early winter evening

I was wondering if our resident Eastern Cottontail had left the area or this world. I hadn’t seen her in a month. She came out to greet me on New Year’s Eve wearing a very stylish, well tailored winter coat that surely keeps her warm on winter nights. Though it was early in the evening, she appeared sober. I suspect she had no plans for partying though she has reason to celebrate — she won’t see Ryan Seacrest at midnight.

The meadow’s lone bunny

July 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The young cottontail is quite happy spending its evenings in the millpond meadow

The adult rabbit in the background may be the bunny's motherFor the past month, a young rabbit has frequented the “meadow” along the millpond trail south of the fire station. It’s the largest stretch of grass in the park and dotted with clover and meadow vetchling.

I found our resident doe cottontail paying the bunny a visit on a recent night (left). It’s possible the little one is her offspring. It’s quite skittish, not as calm as its mother, but it still allowed me to come close to take these photos as it ate and individually selected each clover on a long stalk to eat (below).

Selecting each long stalked clover appears to be important to this picky rabbit

Visiting with the millpond rabbit

July 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Summer provides a time to relax near the millpond with abundant vittles

The rabbit enjoys relaxing on the car wash lawn near spruce treesIt’s always a pleasure to meet up with the millpond’s resident Eastern Cottontail. She’s been around for more than a year now and seems happy with the neighborhood. Summer lets her loll on the cool lawn of the Rainbow Car Wash in the shade of the blue spruce trees. When she has a hankering, she nibbles on rich grass below her chin or bounds to shore for a drink.

We didn’t talk about the first family she produced this spring. I think she was glad they had left her territory. A couple of bunnies have established feeding grounds south of her and I saw her visit one of them on a recent evening. I’ll post those photographs on another day.

While we chatted, the rabbit nibbled on nearby flowers She complained about the influx of bunnies in her territory

Then it was time for the rabbit to leaveShe indicated life was good now, the days warm, and dew was an added treat while grazing on vegetation during the night. She hasn’t seen any evil raccoons or opossums recently, but dogs are still annoying in the park when they chase her.

As usual, she abruptly turned and hopped into the underbrush. Her tolerance with me rarely extends beyond five minutes.

A chat with our resident rabbit

June 3rd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The rabbit told me about a Dachshund who pestered her

And she complained about the mosquitoesI had a chance to chat with our resident cottontail on Sunday evening. She’s our only dumped rabbit, obviously hand-raised and abandoned at the pond because no wild rabbit would come when it hears the rattle of a jar of pelletized food.

She told me about a Dachshund who chased her (above), and complained about the onslaught of mosquitoes since warm days arrived (right). When I politely suggested she was rather grumpy, she told me the grass tasted pretty good and the fresh buds on the crabapple trees were still tender.

Winter wear for rabbits

November 8th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Forced to eat waterlogged veggies, the rabbit has to venture out in the rain

Our resident rabbit endures the cold rains but doesn't look happy about themIt’s hard to tell what a rabbit is thinking, but its body language tells me it’s not amused by another cold rainy night. We had several of them, but it’s sunnier today.

Our resident millpond park rabbit is modeling the latest fashion trend for winter — bunny fur rainwear! She has a thick coat and PETA will be happy to know no animals were killed in its production. Reddish brown underfur is tipped with upscale black and blonde grizzling so appealing to the younger set of all species. Young bucks will find her irresistible next spring when they are ready for a short, but productive, relationship.

Motivators of ducks and rabbits

October 30th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

Ready to split if the ducks get one step closer, the rabbit considers her optionsI get a kick out of watching the interaction between the rabbit and the ducks as they eat. It much different than when the muskrats join the ducks for chow in winter. The muskrats are more like the ducks with their single minded purpose of snarfing down as many pellets as they can before the others around them grab them. They can eat close to each other but still not fully trust the other species to behave themselves.

The rabbit poses for a formal portraitThe rabbit, however, is motivated by self perservation rather than food. While the ducks shovel in the chow, the rabbit is conflicted about whether it should eat or flee.

Even though the ducks could do little to harm the rabbit, the rabbit never relaxes if the ducks get within its personal space. It stops eating, gets its legs ready to spring into action, and watches the ducks grabbing pellets (above left). Invariably, one of the ducks will move too quickly or quack loudly and that sends the rabbit in a mad dash for cover. Note how the rabbit can see directly behind itself with both eyes while it’s fleeing in the opposite direction (right).

The rabbit poses for a formal portrait

Bedded down, the rabbit looks like tree roots up against an large cottonwoodOn a return visit to the rabbit’s territory after feeding her earlier, I found her in tall weeds with her tail pushed against a large cottonwoood trunk (right). In dim light, her coloration made her look like part of the tree’s root system.

My new more powerful flash allowed me to take a nice formal portrait of her from a distance that didn’t send her running from me (above).

My friend helps me lighten up

October 26th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

You can see the tiny hairs in the rabbit's ears!

A friend of more than three decades presented me with a wonderful gift yesterday, a compact flash unit that increases the capabilities of my night photography. He said the gift was because I’ve provided him with helpful hints to improve his photography, but since he’s got better camera gear than me and often takes shots that far surpass anything I achieve, I think he’s just tired of hearing me blame my grainy images on my gear instead of me taking full responsibility. Whatever his motives, I’m thrilled to have this gift. Thanks, friend!

All sorts of details I could never capture before are apparent nowBeing male, I tested the new flash last night without reading the instruction booklet so, of course, I’ve not learned how to properly use it yet. The results are astonishing even though the unit doesn’t totally synch with my older camera. There I go blaming equipment again.

These photos are of the female cottontail that likes to eat with the ducks. If you compare them to previously posted shots of her and her prodigy, you’ll see the difference stronger light makes in the grain of the images and the improved light in the backgrounds. All of these photos are taken FARTHER away from the rabbit than the comparison shots yet I’m able to get sharper images bathed in light. Look at the details in her ears (top), white markings on her face (right), and crisp eyelashes (below).

Even her eyelashes are crisp

I especially like how light illuminates backgrounds so much better. Below, you can see how this rabbit’s colors match those of the fallen leaves as she hops toward me expecting her handful of duck chow.

The rabbit looks great in a well lighted background

The additional light also enhances subtle details like the fur-covered pads on her feet. She lives directly behind Rainbow Car Wash. If winter proves difficult for her, she could get a job there buffing vehicles after they’re washed.

The rabbit comes ready for a job at the car wash with feet covered in fur to polish the vehicles before they leave

Why the rabbit is glowing

September 18th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

She's not particularly curious, but she approaches close enough to decide whether you plan to feed her

She relaxes once she recognizes youAs promised on Septmember 4th, the reason this hand raised Eastern Cottontail Rabbit glows is she’s nursing a troop of bunnies. It’s not surprising since rabbits breed three or four times each summer. Her tykes stay alone in the nest for the first two weeks. Mom only returns to nurse them. They open their eyes in 4-7 days but won’t venture out until they are a couple of weeks old.

Her coat is clean and shiny, signs she's healthyBy the time the kids are 4-5 weeks old, they are totally independent. It’s a good thing since their mom might be whipping up another batch of bunnies. Rabbits are capable of conceiving in the blink of an eye after their babies are born. Three to eight rascals are in each litter.

The rabbit near the north end of the millpond is either pregnant or nursingA few half-grown bunnies traverse the millpond trail, but there aren’t brigades of them as you might expect. Raccoons, opossums, hawks and owls keeps us from being knee deep in them, not to mention the traffic on the city streets surrounding the park. Rabbits may look ways before crossing the street with their terrific panoramic vision, but they haven’t figured out how quickly vehicles zoom. Probably never will either.

This rabbit hasn’t been seen in a couple of weeks now. I’m not worried she’s met a Ford Fiesta on Grand River. She’s simply too busy with her latest bundles of joy to wiggle her nose at me.

The rabbit's babies are still in the nest that's hidden near the millpond

A glowing rabbit

September 4th, 2013     0 comments     permalink

A hand-raised rabbit has a secretThe eye shine from my camera’s flash is intense on rabbits. Wild rabbits are skittish, but this one was probably taken from the wild as a tiny bunny this spring, hand-raised, then released in the millpond park when it reached adulthood. Shallow rabbit nests in lawns are often destroyed during mowing or pets arrive at the door with bunnies in their mouths. Like white-tailed fawns, humans think tiny bunnies are abandoned when they aren’t. Moms leave their babes alone most of the daylight hours.

This one won’t sit in your lap, but you can approach it within 4-6 feet depending upon its mood. The rabbit isn’t only glowing because of my flash. I’ll tell you more in a future post.

Ignore the cottontail

July 1st, 2013     1 comment     permalink

Wild raspberry bushes tucked in a hedgerow at the Brighton millpond.

Yeah, he’s a great looking rabbit right out of Central Casting, but who cares? Look what’s behind him. See those wild raspberries hiding behind the grape vines? I didn’t see them while I was taking the picture, but I’ll going to be heading that way tomorrow just to take a bite before the birds find them.

It’s spring. Of course there are bunnies!

May 28th, 2013     2 comments     permalink

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits can produce 3-9 bunnies in each of their 3-4 litters a year. The females (called does just like deer) can become pregnant again on the day a litter is born. You’d think the Brighton millpond would be up to its cattails in bunnies. It’s not. Predation keeps them in check — dogs, cats, hawks, owls, raccoons, opossums, and even the Great Blue Heron that visits the pond nightly.

Half grown rabbits can be seen for a moment, but they quick hide

Bunnies begin to leave their nest when they are only four ounces at two weeks old. They don’t receive much protection from their moms so they are easy pickings. This year, I’ve only seen three. This one scoots from shrub to shrub near the Stillwater Grill which is in Rabbit #1’s territory. I haven’t seen the parent this spring and thought it might have died. Rabbits have short lives, about 3 years. Maybe she’s too busy churning out the next batch of bunnies to say hello to me.

While cottontails anger gardeners in our suburban community with its expansive landscaping, the state actually has a “Rabbitat” program to boost populations on state controlled game lands and timbered areas. Besides being a hunter’s favorite small game, rabbits are an important prey species for our state’s larger mammals and birds of prey.

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.

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