Hike for Your Health at Ortonville State Recreation Area!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”

John Muir’s memorable words inspire adventurers to hike, and that’s a good thing. Hiking is excellent for our health and general well-being, and it doesn’t require a gym membership or any expensive equipment to get started. Being out in fresh air and away from the chaos of our daily lives, the frustration of traffic jams, and distracting technology allow us to reconnect with nature’s way, and that creates a feeling of peace and a sense of well-being. And any hike through a beautiful forested area, even when trails may be slippery as the duel between winter and spring accelerates, can calm nerves and lift our spirits. Hiking is also fun! 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

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.

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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