Who’s Doing the Tall Bloomin’ of June?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the month of May faded, frisky fawns frolicking in meadows drew attention away from emerging spring wildflowers. But by the middle of June, the fawns will retreat into the protective shelter of woodlands where they will continue to learn the ways of the wild under the watchful eyes of the does. The meadows, woodlands edge and lakeshores are now ablaze with some of summer’s finest and tallest wildflowers, and by the time the heat of July takes hold, they will be at peak beauty. A half dozen of our tallest and most beautiful wildflowers of summer are now competing for center stage, and the fawns go unnoticed. Continue reading

Secrets of the Lawn Lobster Chimneys!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Mysterious miniature “chimneys” have emerged in wet meadows and moist lawns all across our county. They are gateways to the secret underground world of several species of crayfish, collectively known as Chimney Crayfish. Mudbugs and crawdads are two other frequently used common names for crayfish, a group of arthropods that look very much like miniature lobsters. I like to use the eye-catching title of Lawn Lobsters to describe them when writing about them, and that’s just what I did four years ago when creating text for an interpretive sign for Oakland County Parks that featured the chimney construction skills of Cambarus Diogenes, a local species commonly known as the Devil Crayfish. It is also one of the most widely spread crayfish of the United States.

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Seven Trails for May

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” That often quoted sentence from John Muir takes on a special meaning for me in May, for May is the month that I am most often asked, “Where should I hike?” There is no easy answer, but May is the perfect season to enter the world of hiking for pleasure, and if the word “hiking” sounds too rigorous, just call it “meandering.” The results will be the same; for hiking is fun, healthful and there are bonuses in May: The beauty of ephemeral woodland wildflowers, the delightful songs of birds, and the choruses of frogs and trilling of toads will be your trail companions. Meander along slowly on your new adventure, stop often, look and listen and you will find more than you seek.

Today I share snippets of seven trails that are perfect for Oakland County trail meanderers, trails where the magic and music of nature’s way in May unfolds. Continue reading

Oakland County’s First Week of Spring

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Sandhill Cranes signaled me it was time to ignore the weather naysayers, for after a hard-fought weeklong contest, spring has won the annual duel with old man winter. Signs of spring are everywhere if one just takes the time to walk a trail, stroll through a woodland, embrace a swamp or just go outside and look about.

Today I share fourteen confirmations that spring is here to stay, starting with Sandhill Cranes. These red-crested beauties have returned to the wet meadows, fields and marshlands of Oakland County and often enliven the mornings with their magnificent rolling, trumpeting sound. Hikers who walk slowly and silently along wetland embracing trails may even be able to witness their magnificent courtship dances that proclaim spring is here to stay, a wonder of nature I have observed at Rose Oaks County Park, Addison Oaks County Park and Indian Springs Metropark. Continue reading

Rose Oaks – A Wonder in Winter

An interpretive sign next to a large boardwalk over wetland that is covered by snow.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Rose Oaks County Park is a nature-embracing and easily accessible winter wonder that presents wide-open vistas, glacially sculpted wooded hills and hidden secrets of nature exposed by tracks and trails in the snow. Six hundred forty acre “Rose” is one of my favorite parks managed by Oakland County Parks and Recreation. I look at her wildness as an early morning wintry haven of solitude enhanced by wind whistling through groves of evergreens, the chatter of chickadees, gurgling waters of icy streams, the near magical mesmerizing booming of lake ice expanding and contracting, and in a few more weeks, the magnificent rattling bugle calls of Sandhill Cranes. The sounds of nature in winter make every trek a delight for those that walk slowly, stop often and listen. The song of coyotes in the moments before sunrise just might be your greeting, and as the sun climbs higher, the distinctive call of the Pileated Woodpecker signals the woods are awakening. Continue reading