Summer Solstice – Nature’s Way

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The summer solstice officially arrives in Oakland County today, June 21st at 11:54 a.m. EST. This annual astronomical phenomenon heralds the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and conversely, brings the shortest night. The longest day of the year, and all the days of summer that follow, are ideal for exploring the ways of nature in the wilds, and the not so wilds of Oakland County. The Farmer’s Almanac may be a great resource to follow seasonal changes and weather predictions, but just a simple walk in the woods and on the trails of Oakland County will confirm that summer is really here, and so today, I share some of my favorite natural confirmations of summer. Continue reading

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

The Giant Water Bug of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

This mystery bug is not reluctant to take on prey many times its size. It’s a fierce predator with a pair of powerful forelegs that are tipped with hook-shaped claws to grasp and hold prey. And then the real nightmare begins, for this voracious predator of Oakland County with a seemingly endless appetite is equipped with a rostrum, a beak-like projection that is used to pierce flesh and then inject a potent enzyme that poisons and begins to digest the victim while it’s still alive. Once the enzyme does its work and liquefies the internal parts of the sometimes still squirming victim, the rostrum is used to suck up the slurpee-like partially digested soupy mix of flesh. That’s not science fiction; that is science and the ambush hunting behavior of the Giant Water Bug. And yes, they do live in Oakland County. 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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