Why Hike Now? Why Not! Here’s Why.

An asphalt path winds through a wooded area

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

If you aren’t a hiker, you may hold unanswered questions as to why your friends seem excited about meandering through the woods for an hour or two on a chilly and overcast day, or look forward to spending a week trekking backcountry trails with a backpack tugging at their shoulders. Perhaps it’s the words of T.S. Eliot that drives the latter group, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” Today’s nature ramble however will focus on those that want to get started in the nearly cost-free, extremely healthful and lifelong, often nature-embracing, activity of hiking. Continue reading

Mysteries of Red Efts and Red-Spotted Newts

A red eft, red and orange in color with small black spots, sits on a log.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The lifestyle and behavior patterns of the elusive red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) is very strange, at least in the eyes of humans. The red-spotted newt, and its reddish-orange terrestrial sub-adult stage known as the red eft, is perhaps our most beautiful salamander, a creature herpetologists refer to as a “gape-limited predator.” For the lay person, that translates as “If it fits in your mouth, its food.”

Most people have never seen an adult red-spotted newt in the wild, unless they are an amphibian lover that flops down on their belly and stares into a vernal pool in the early days of spring on a rainy night, hoping for a glimpse of their underwater courtship ritual. That takes planning, persistence and patience. Encountering the juvenile land-trekking terrestrial form of the red-spotted newt, known as the red eft, is far more likely for those that wander woodlands with an eye to the ground, watchful for movement among leaves on the forest floor. Continue reading

Ethics, Wildlife and the “Perfect Photo”

A coyote stands at attention on dune filled with weeds and wildflowers

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It happens about once a month. I receive a question about a wildlife photo that’s included in my Wilder Side of Oakland County blog, or that I have shared on Facebook or used in a presentation. “How close were you to get the photo?” is the most common question. I try to answer as honestly as I can, even when the answer is, “I’m not real sure, I was focused on watching its behavior and just kept clicking.” I smile when the other type of question comes my way, “I hope you did not scare it away!” I interpret that as coming from someone who was raised to not disturb wildlife: a person that practices ethical photography when it comes to wildlife – even if they don’t realize it.

Buck in autumn wildflower meadow Continue reading

Plan your Spring, Summer, and Fall Camping Adventures!

It’s time to plan your next camping adventure in Oakland County! With two wonderful campgrounds run by Oakland County Parks and Recreation, you won’t have to go far. Addison Oaks in Leonard and Groveland Oaks in Holly offer individual, family, or group camping sites. Both parks offer cabins, yurts, modern, and group sites as well. Your camping adventure awaits – call 248-858-1400 and make your reservation today!

  • Addison Oaks 2018 Camping Season: Friday, April 27th – Wednesday, October 24th
  • Groveland Oaks 2018 Camping Season: Friday, April 27th – Sunday, October 7th

Check out our video to see all of the fun that’s in store!

Continue reading

Independence North: The Northern Jewel Of Independence Oaks County Park

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

My early morning hike of solitude on a sultry summer day at Independence Oaks County Park – North was a near magical experience. Wispy cirrus clouds added definition to the clear blue sky. Spider webs sparkled with diamonds of dew. Sandhill cranes trumpeted from a wet meadow. An American Goldfinch and an Eastern Kingbird perched in treetops to bask in sunlight, as did a Red-tailed Hawk high up on a transmission line tower. The music of crickets and the rustle of aspen leaves in the morning’s gentle breeze softened the rumble of traffic on nearby Sashabaw Road. That all happened in the first ten minutes last Sunday morning. The next ten minutes were well-spent grazing on juicy blackberries, suffering some significant scratches in the process. A sudden faint buzzing sound near the base of the shrubs made me wonder if there was a hidden cicada down low. Or perhaps, just perhaps, an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake thought I was too close. The blackberry thicket would be a good place for a rattler to ambush a mouse. So I hiked on, that mystery unsolved. Continue reading