Wonderful Woodpeckers of Winter’s Approach

woodpecker on tree branch

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It goes without saying that if you spend the day constantly hitting your forehead against a tree trunk, you will end up with a severe headache, at the very least. A concussion or brain injury may be more likely, but that’s not so for a woodpecker. Woodpeckers can spend all day pounding their heads against tree trunks at 20 times per second in search of hidden grubs and hibernating bugs and then come back for more pounding the next day. The activity is so fast that the human eye does not even notice that with each successful pounding, a woodpecker’s beak penetrates the bark, and its long sticky tongue zips in and out, snagging hidden insects and larvae.

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Gifts of the Glaciers

glacial boulder on grass

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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.

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It’s Totally Tamarack Time!

yellow tamarack trees

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The ephemeral beauty of eye-catching October tree colors faded as the winds of November strengthened. But what a month it was to explore nature’s artistic way in Oakland County and the rest of Michigan. Hikers and trail runners often paused in our parks to observe perhaps the best kaleidoscope of leaf colors in a decade, a gift from Mother Nature that coincided with an equally colorful forest floor display of fantastic fungi. Gone are the bold, brilliant shades of deep orange of sugar maples. Gone are the reddish hues of sassafras, sumacs, and red maples. Gone are the dazzling, wind-driven yellow “sparkles” of aspen leaves that quaked in gusts of wind.

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Raccoons: Masked Bandits of Oakland County

raccoon in tree branch

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

October brings falling leaves, ripening pumpkins, and roving raccoons. Raccoons are among the most widespread mammals of Michigan, and have adapted extremely well to life in Oakland County. These clever creatures can be found everywhere, from our farmlands and wildlands, to the city streets and suburbs of Rochester, Southfield, and Pontiac. Although raccoons are chiefly nocturnal, it’s not at all unusual to see one at dusk or in the dawn’s early light, as they prepare for winter’s approach by putting on pounds and searching for denning sites.

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Poison Sumac: An Autumn Beauty to Avoid

Autumn is the season for a plethora of nature-embracing outdoor activities under canopies of kaleidoscope colored leaves and restless winds. It’s the time to hike the woodlands, explore our network of cyclist friendly trails, fish, camp, share a quiet picnic on a lakeside hilltop, and kayak our beautiful lakes in a soon to be mosquito-free environment. It’s the season when young children chase after long-leaping leopard frogs hidden in moist meadows and collect colorful leaves for their parents. Autumn accelerates our hunt for wild mushrooms, with chicken of the woods being at the top of the list, and entices foragers to gather the last of the wild blackberries. We dodge falling black walnuts and bid farewell to Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Sandhill Cranes and Ospreys in these early days of autumn. Perhaps best of all, we are at the cusp of the season to embrace pumpkin-spiced everything! Continue reading