Panda-Monium at the Detroit Zoo

A red panda looks up at the camera.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Monday morning was pure panda-monium at the Detroit Zoo. However, neither the heavily overcast sky, nor the frigid temperatures dampened the heartwarming enthusiasm as Detroit Zoo’s latest major habitat expansion, the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest, was unveiled to an excited gathering of media, honored guests, and students from Holy Redeemer Grade School in Detroit. They were all invited for an exclusive first tour of the newly renovated and expanded home for three charismatic creatures: two-year old Ravi, three-year old Ash and 13-year-old Ta-shi. The trio are Red Pandas, an endangered species with unforgettable and intensely cute faces, but sometimes the totally adorable factor is not enough to ensure survival. Continue reading

Bewildered on the Wilder Side of Holdridge Lakes

A trail winds through a heavily wooded area. A trail marker indicates the entrance to the trail.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Backwoodsman and legendary folk hero Daniel Boone is alleged to have said, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” I have new respect for Boone’s words, for during Monday’s wintery mix morning hike in the Holdridge Lakes Mountain Bike Area of Holly State Recreation Area, I reached a point on the trail when I realized I had no idea where I was. Lost? Not quite. I knew I was on a trail, just not the trail I thought I should be on, nor did I know where it would lead. To me the word lost infers hopelessness, and so I, like Daniel Boone, settled on bewilderment to define my predicament. But the bottom line is clear, for as series of events unfolded, some planned, some not, my two-mile hike became an 8.5 mile trek of endless adventure and natural wonders. I’m glad it all happened though, for the adventure reminded me there really is a wilder side of Oakland County. Continue reading

Why Hike Now? Why Not! Here’s Why.

An asphalt path winds through a wooded area

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

If you aren’t a hiker, you may hold unanswered questions as to why your friends seem excited about meandering through the woods for an hour or two on a chilly and overcast day, or look forward to spending a week trekking backcountry trails with a backpack tugging at their shoulders. Perhaps it’s the words of T.S. Eliot that drives the latter group, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” Today’s nature ramble however will focus on those that want to get started in the nearly cost-free, extremely healthful and lifelong, often nature-embracing, activity of hiking. Continue reading

A Thanksgiving Feast – For the Birds

A woodpecker nibbles on suet from a caged bird feeder, while a female cardinal and several yellow finches eat black oil sunflower seeds from a hanging tray beneath it. It's a wintery day and snow is blowing sideways.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Wintery weather arrived early in Oakland County and with it came a flurry of bird feeding questions; among the top of the list were two questions. The first was actually more of a comment with a negative connotation, but I considered it an implied question: “Squirrels keep robbing seed from my feeders!” The second most common question contained various renditions of how to attract birds “that I want to see.” The answer to both is a three-part answer; it’s all about food, location and accessibility. If you are a veteran bird feeder, you’ve probably gained lots of insight into the foods “backyard birds” prefer and how to present them and most likely have accepted the fact that squirrels are one of nature’s most resourceful, and perhaps cunning creatures. One fact is clear. If your feeder offers food they want, squirrels will spend hours, perhaps days, first exploring and then exploiting ways to reach it. But if you’re just getting started in the immensely popular hobby of winter bird feeding, today’s pre-Thanksgiving Day blog may reduce frustration over initial attempts to attract winter birds to your feeders. It’s also good to know that sometimes after a new feeder goes up, it may take a while for birds to come in and feed. I often see cardinals perched in a nearby tree when I refill my feeder, but twenty or thirty minutes may pass before they fly down to feed. Continue reading

Raptors Enthrall West Bloomfield Families

A close-up photograph of a Barred Owl taken indoors. The owl, with large brown eyes, a yellow beak, and brown-and-white-striped plumage, looks at the camera.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The first snows of the season came early this year, adding majestic beauty to the woods of Oakland County. Walk quietly in woodlands at dusk and the rhythmic music of our “eight hooter,” the Barred Owl, may enliven your journey into nature’s way with its unique musical repertoire. It’s perhaps best described as mournful, rather rhythmic eight-hoot baritone melody of “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for y’all?” Sharp listeners will note the distinctive ending, a drawled-out note that is sometimes described as a southern twang. I am lucky, for every now and then I hear and see Barred Owls just a few hundred yards from my house. However, on Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of going eye to eye with a Barred Owl, and other species of raptors, from within the comfort of the Marshbank Lodge, a beautiful facility of West Bloomfield Parks located within Marshbank Park, an easy to access 108-acre park in a suburban neighborhood of the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

A barred owl, sits perched on branch on a snowy, winter day. It has brown-and-white-striped plumage and its eyes are closed. Continue reading