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

The Magic of May: A Time to Discover Nature’s Way

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Rains on the first day of May accelerated the growth of delicate woodland wildflowers and the spring prize of the fungi world, morel mushrooms. It sent frogs to every puddle and pond, and skunks meandering for grubs at dusk. May sees Sandhill Cranes and Osprey back on their nests. Turkey Vultures now perch on rural barn roofs to catch the morning sun. Turtles bask on logs and goslings explore their shoreline world. Snapping turtles and northern water snakes swim through the shallows. Fawns wobble in dappled sunlight, and beavers come on shore in the cover of darkness to fell trees for their home improvement projects. This is the way of the magical month of growth and birth and renewal, a month we call May, a time to discover and share nature’s way. Continue reading

GOATS ON THE POLLY ANN TRAIL

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The non-motorized Polly Ann Trail is a vital and increasingly popular segment of the growing network of trails and greenways in Southeast Michigan that enhance the quality of life, provide healthful outdoor recreation opportunities, and serve as windows to the world of nature. The easily accessible 14.2 mile long Oakland County section of the Polly Ann Trail begins in Orion Township and meanders north through the Village of Oxford, Addison Township, and the Village of Leonard. Woodlands, trailside wetlands, and farmlands dominate the Wilder Side of Oakland County trail landscape as it nears the Lapeer County line. On any spring day, hikers, joggers, walkers, and cyclists will hear the territorial songs of birds and courting frogs, and may see sunning turtles, soaring hawks and an abundance of small mammals and the occasional deer.

Continue reading

Oakland County Is Coyote Country!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The eastern coyote (Canis latrans) is an intelligent, curious, and highly adaptable animal. Although once confined to the great American deserts and prairies where they were targets of ceaseless eradication campaigns, coyotes have now colonized our nation from coast to coast. “Unlike wolves, which succumbed quickly to predator control measures, decades of intensive persecution did not eradicate coyotes – the unrelenting pressure on them did invoke an ancient coyote biological imperative: It triggered larger litters of pups and colonization behavior that pushed them into new settings everywhere.” – Dan Flores in his 2016 book Coyote America. Continue reading

More Than A Walk In The Woods: Graham Lakes Trail

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

1-img_7049

Bald Mountain State Recreation Area is a 4,637-acre multi-use wildland managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR describes the landscape accurately with their frequently used sentence of, “The Park contains some of the steepest hills and most rugged terrain in southeast Michigan and features fifteen miles of marked hiking trails.” I knew that. I thought I knew all of the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area trails very well. I did not. Somehow, in all my many adventures at Bald Mountain, I missed four miles of forested trail that circles West Graham Lake, East Graham Lake, and hidden vernal ponds. As John Muir wrote, and I have shared before, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Once again his words were accurate, and they will be for you as well, if you walk slowly, stop often, look and listen. Continue reading