Winter Avian Action

Collage of four photos of birds

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As I write these words, I’m watching about a dozen species of birds flitting about my bird feeders, seemingly unaffected by wintry blasts of cold air as the temperature once again slips into single digits in Oakland County. Other wildlife species have different winter survival pathways. Some hibernate, migrate or simply acclimate to the conditions on hand.

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Pileated Woodpeckers on a Whim

Pileated woodpecker

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Pileated woodpeckers are North America’s largest species of woodpecker. These beautiful forest birds have a wingspan of up to 30 inches and measure from 16 to 19 inches in length, with a size and shape that’s most noticeable when they cling to the trunk of a tree.

Their eye-catching triangular red crest that sweeps off the back of their heads is a perfect identification clue, even for a novice birder. As for the name “pileated,” it refers to the species’ red crest, and is derived from the Latin word pileatus which means “capped.”

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Celebrating Cedar Waxwings

A Cedar Waxing perched on a branch

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“With thin, lisping cries, flocks of Cedar Waxwings descend on berry-laden trees and hedges, to flutter among the branches as they feast.” Lives of North American Birds (Kaufman, 1996)

Nature’s way is rich with memorable moments of wildness. Some of these moments brighten the spirit and remind us that nature has predictable patterns. Sometimes, we have to search for those moments, but other times we just stumble upon them and are left in awe and feel like celebrating. The latter happened to me in the first week of June, along a trail I know well.

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Our Elusive Black-billed Cuckoo

A Black-billed Cuckoo perched on a tree branch with its head cocked to the left

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.” – John Burroughs Locusts and Wild Honey, (Burroughs, 1895)

I never knew Black-billed Cuckoos existed until a few hours after an early evening encounter near the end of May, and that’s where this bird tale begins. First, however, I must establish I do not qualify as a “birder” by any means. I have no interest in creating a life list of bird species I have seen, but I take great pleasure in watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeder and listening to the cheerful song of House Wrens nesting in my arbor.

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Wild Moments of May

A 2x2 collage of photos that includes a yellow lady slipper orchid, an Eastern Bluebird, a shagbark hickory terminal bud, and a white trillium

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each.” – Henry David Thoreau The Journal, 1837-1861 (Thoreau, 2009)

Nature’s way springs to life in May with greening of the woodlands, the blooming of wildflowers, bird song at sunrise, and delightfully longer hours of daylight. It’s the month that not just every naturally curious child, but every adult, should embrace the joys of nature’s way. May is also a month of surprising finds and totally unexpected encounters in wetlands, woodlands, and along our trails.

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