One Week into the Wonders of Spring!

An Eastern Bluebird looks down from his perch on a branch, the background in the image is blurred.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“At the end of winter, there is a season in which we are daily expecting spring, and finally a day when it arrives.” – Henry David Thoreau The Journal, 1837-1861 (Thoreau, 2009)

The Spring Equinox is an exciting symbol of rebirth, growth, and awakening. Creatures that hibernated are stirring, birds are returning from distant lands, and the earliest of spring’s woodland wildflowers are pushing up through thawing soils. For me, that moment of recognition of the passing of winter was not the appearance of lawn-hopping robins or the emergence of crocuses. It occurred on the first day of spring at Bear Creek Nature Park in Oakland Township. That’s where a friend and I watched an Eastern Bluebird perched on a tree limb, waiting for an insect to appear in the meadow below. Perhaps its sudden downwards plunge and the capture of a bug that followed was confirmation to the bluebird that, as Thoreau once wrote, “ . . . and finally a day when it arrives.”

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Frigid February Feeder Frenzy

A male Cardinal perched on a tree with frost-covered red berries and branches

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Woodlands fell silent as winter’s grasp tightened and temperatures plunged to single digits. However, blue sky mornings added beauty as birds hunted for frozen berries and feasted at feeders while our coldest weekend of the year approached. Birds actually manage quite well on their own without human handouts, but bird feeders offer never-ending sources of entertainment, enjoyment, and education. They become center stage for kaleidoscopes of brilliant colors, insight into the ways of nature, and sometimes fast-moving drama.

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Nature’s Way Almanac 2021

4x3 tiles in a collage of nature scenes

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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