The days are short, and darkness comes all too soon. The dawn of winter draws near. We may feel sleepy at times, but there is no long winter nap awaiting the beaver (Castor canadensis,) the largest rodent of North America. Contrary to the belief of some, beavers do not hibernate. Beavers are true architects of the wildlife world. Although these highly-skilled engineers are almost never seen in winter, the evidence of their activity is everywhere, from the most rural sections of our county to the wooded banks of the Clinton River in the city of Pontiac.
Aldo Leopold wrote: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” I consider myself an unabashed member of the latter group. Coyotes certainly represent “wild things,” but they are not restricted to rural sections of our county. They are extremely adaptable creatures, and it’s perfectly normal for them to be noticed not only in our State Recreation Areas, Oakland County Parks, and Huron-Clinton Metroparks, but also in our suburban and urban areas. Coyotes are found in every city and town in our county, including populous Pontiac, Royal Oak, and Rochester, nor are they strangers to the city of Detroit.
This excellent video of a coyote hunting meadow voles in a roadside field at Detroit’s Rouge Park, as a deer casually watched, was filmed last week and shared with me by my nature friend, Donna Croaker Hall.
Oakland County is a landscape created by the incredible power of glaciers. Glacial erratics are perhaps the most intriguing of all our glacial landforms, but the name “erratic” often causes confusion for those unaware of our natural history and the science behind glacial geology. It should not be, for in reality, there is nothing mysterious about those two words: glacial erratic, when they are used in combination. Glacial erratics are rocks and boulders of any size that were scraped up from the earth, or fractured from bedrock by a glacier, and then carried by the glacier, and finally deposited in an erratic fashion as the glaciers melted and retreated. That event last occurred during the end of the Pleistocene Epoch about 13,000 years ago, a time we refer to as the Ice Age. It was the time glaciers covered much of our planet and created the landforms and lakes of present-day Oakland County.
Oakland County woodlands, meadows, and lakes are attractive throughout the year, but take on a special aura of beauty in autumn. As shades of summer green surrender to the fiery scarlet of sassafras, glittering yellows of aspens, the reddish-orange hues of maples, and finally, the misty pale yellow of swamp-loving tamaracks, our changing patchwork of kaleidoscope-like colors against a sky of blue can almost overwhelm the human eye. If that’s not enough to lure a nature lover to our hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of acres of parks and wildlands, fantastic fruiting fungi in a rainbow of colors is also emerging along our trails.