The Great Backyard Bird Count

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free, fun, and easy event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the four-day event and report their sightings online at birdcount.org. Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can participate from your backyard, or anywhere in the world.” National Audubon Society

I like birds. I do not, however, look at myself as the kind of birder that maintains a life list of birds seen, nor, perhaps with the exception of Snowy Owls, will I drive a hundred miles or more to see a bird that rare in Oakland County. But after reading background information on the GBBC, and recognizing the importance of this annual worldwide bird survey citizen-scientist event, now in its 22nd year, I decided I would attend a GBBC event sponsored by the Oakland Audubon Society. The information compiled during the bird counts assists researchers at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society in their study of bird species populations, and how to protect the environment we share with them. With those thoughts in mind, I promised my naturalist and avid birder friend Kathleen Dougherty from Oakland Audubon that I would accept her invitation and take part on Day 2 of this year’s event that ran from Friday, February 15th through Monday, February 18th. Continue reading

Raptors Enthrall West Bloomfield Families

A close-up photograph of a Barred Owl taken indoors. The owl, with large brown eyes, a yellow beak, and brown-and-white-striped plumage, looks at the camera.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The first snows of the season came early this year, adding majestic beauty to the woods of Oakland County. Walk quietly in woodlands at dusk and the rhythmic music of our “eight hooter,” the Barred Owl, may enliven your journey into nature’s way with its unique musical repertoire. It’s perhaps best described as mournful, rather rhythmic eight-hoot baritone melody of “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for y’all?” Sharp listeners will note the distinctive ending, a drawled-out note that is sometimes described as a southern twang. I am lucky, for every now and then I hear and see Barred Owls just a few hundred yards from my house. However, on Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of going eye to eye with a Barred Owl, and other species of raptors, from within the comfort of the Marshbank Lodge, a beautiful facility of West Bloomfield Parks located within Marshbank Park, an easy to access 108-acre park in a suburban neighborhood of the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

A barred owl, sits perched on branch on a snowy, winter day. It has brown-and-white-striped plumage and its eyes are closed. Continue reading

Northern Cardinals: Habits, Habitat, History

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Encounters with the natural world accelerated at local bird feeders during the first week of January as blizzards slammed much of the eastern U.S. and temperatures plunged into single digits in Oakland County. Many of those encounters were with the “redbird,” more properly known as the Northern Cardinal, a permanent year round resident of Oakland County. With their striking red plumage surrounded by a sea of swirling snow, they are in a class of their own for stunning beauty, a fact that has not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, cardinals are noticed more easily here in winter than in summer, and in seven states this easy to recognize bird is honored year round. Continue reading

To Migrate or Not? That is the Question.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The classic image of bird migration at the approach of winter is the sight of Canada Geese flying high above our lakes, parks, towns and cities in V-shaped flocks. As winter fades, local television newscasters sometimes bubble with excitement at an alleged sign of spring’s return, robins on a snow speckled lawn. They salute the American Robin as the first returning bird of spring when robins are reported stalking about sunny suburban lawns searching for worms between patches of melting snow. These romanticized images of bird behavior and migration are less than accurate. Continue reading

Snowy Owls: Visitors from the Arctic Wilderness

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Snowy Owls are charismatic, majestic and mysterious. They are the heaviest of all North American owls with some weighing almost six pounds. Their yellow eyes, massive talons, feathered feet, eye-catching white plumage and diurnal hunting behavior appeal to almost everyone, even people who normally would rather shop in a crowded mall than walk in the silence of a woodland. Naturalists and birders are smitten by their unpredictable movement patterns, and the spirit of the remote arctic wilderness these amazing raptors represent. However, unless you plan on visiting the high Arctic tundra of North America or Eurasia, the chances of seeing Snowy Owls in the wild is usually nearly zero. But maybe not this December.

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