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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Gallagher Creek Park – A First Look

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

A skittish doe and her tiny fawn, a pair of killdeer, yellow-throated warblers, over a dozen robins, various vireos I could not identify, a northern oriole, a “chilly-appearing’” leopard frog, territory proclaiming red-winged blackbirds, a whole lot of crayfish and at least two human families could not wait for the upcoming grand opening of 15-acre Gallagher Creek Park next Thursday afternoon. Neither could I. And so last Saturday morning, under a clear blue sky that rapidly turned gray, I set out to explore this small creek-side, wetland embracing park that is located on the north side of Silverbell Road immediately east of Adams Road within one of the more densely populated areas of Oakland Township. Continue reading

Exploration of the Davisburg State Wildlife Area

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Situational Awareness. That is the one item you must have with you before setting foot in the Davisburg State Wildlife Area. Never heard of this beautiful wildland gem in Springfield Township? Most people have not. If you are looking for a place with a trail system, signage, established parking lots, creature comforts, and other hikers, this is not the place for you. Want to get lost? This might be the place. The landscape has diverse terrain with rolling hills, abundant wetlands, including murky soils that can just about suck boots off your feet, an icy cold stream, a wooded swamp, a hidden lake and excellent habitat for our federally protected swamp rattler, the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. And don’t forget patches of poison sumac at a face-slapping height and skin-scratching thorns. Continue reading

Ephemeral Wildflowers of Tenhave Woods

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

They emerged right on schedule in the small window of time that starts soon after wild turkeys began to gobble, but will end before trees leaf out, creating patterns of dappled sunlight on the forest floor. For that’s the way it is for ephemeral wildflowers that add spectacular beauty to the woodlands of Oakland County. This year I did not miss the spectacular and still ongoing southern Oakland County show.

Signs of spring creep slowly but steadily from the southern end of our county to the ever so slightly colder and higher elevation of the more heavily wooded northern hills of Oakland County. With that in mind, last Saturday I headed to Tenhave Woods in the highly developed “flatlands” of the City of Royal Oak in the southern part of our county to greet the wildflowers of early spring that thrive in our midst. The word ephemeral, meaning transient, fleeting, or short-lived is almost always used when describing early spring woodland wildflowers. Their delicate blossoms don’t last long, but their appearance signifies that spring is firmly entrenched. Continue reading