Nature’s Way Almanac 2021

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“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.

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Goldfinches Love Thistles!

A Goldfinch in Oakland County, Michigan

The American Goldfinch is among the most colorful and musical bird you will find in an Oakland County summer. Even a novice birder, such as myself, can identify Goldfinches with ease. Goldfinches are members of the finch family, as their name implies, and are not “wild canaries” as they are sometimes mistakenly called. The male’s eye-catching, gold and black plumage of summer is unmistakable. With a bit of experience, Goldfinches are recognizable from the distance by both their undulating, roller coaster like flight pattern and flight song. They thrive in the rural, thistle-rich fields of our county and are very much at home in the open spaces of parks, trail edge zones, and many of our urban and suburban neighborhoods.   

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The Mighty Osprey!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Majestic! Magnificent! Unforgettable! Those three words do a superb job of describing an Osprey’s behavior when it’s time to fish for dinner. Ospreys are amazing fish-hunting birds that are found along ocean coasts as well as the shorelines of many large lakes and wide rivers on all continents, excluding Antarctica. They are a truly remarkable raptors, well deserving of their colloquial name, the Fish-Hawk.

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Timberdoodle Tales

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I know of a field with heirloom fruit trees (a location I shall keep secret), where Timberdoodles hide in plain sight to incubate their eggs and dance in the sky. That’s where this wilder side tale really begins a few months ago on my spring hunt for morel mushrooms. Now you may ask, what do morel mushrooms have to do with Timberdoodles (American Woodcock), one of the strangest appearing birds of Oakland County you may ever encounter? More than you may think, for “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks,” a quote from John Muir that so often comes to life for me. That day in May was no exception.

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House Wren Housekeeping Secrets!

House Wren hatchlings have prodigious poop output. That’s just one of the many visual discoveries I uncovered while spying on a nesting box for the past few weeks. A confession is in order: I do not consider myself a birder. And I do not keep “life lists” of bird species as so many birders do. But when any wildlife species sets up housekeeping near me, I take notice and observe. In the case of these House Wrens, they moved into an old nesting box I had installed three years ago against the interior wood frame of my arbor, a site I use as my outdoor office and an escape from city life. The nest box is less than ten feet from my arbor desk and that gave me a bird’s eye view of their life, including diaper duty. For like all newborns, things poop. Some more than others.


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