“Rail-trails are multipurpose public paths created from former railroad corridors. These paths are flat or gently sloping, making them easily accessible and a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Rail-trails are ideal for many types of activities–depending on the rules established by the local community–including walking, bicycling, wheelchair use, inline skating, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.”
“January observations can be almost as simple and peaceful as snow, and almost as continuous as cold. There is time not only to see who had done what, but to speculate why.” A Sand County Almanac (Leopold, 1949)
We are two weeks into the new year, and with increased hours of daylight, we have more time to both observe and to speculate about the “whys” of nature’s way. For some of the answers, naturalists look to phenology: the study of how the life cycles of all animals and plants change in response to seasons and varying conditions such as temperature, length of daylight, soil moisture, and climate change. Here’s a look ahead to a new year of nature’s way in the world of phenology.
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.
The sighting of a Snowy Owl is a memorable and magical moment of nature’s way. This stunning lead image, and the final in-flight image were both captured during the last week of November along the east shore of Lake Michigan by nature photographer Jenifer Selwa’s long lens. She graciously shared them with me, along with critical coexistence advice, as these powerful owls of the High Arctic tundra continue on their journey.
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.