A Winter Picnic for Muskrats

A muskrat stands on two feet on a lake that's beginning to melt.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The woods fell silent last Friday afternoon as I slowly made my way along a seldom used trail, perfect conditions for my stealthy approach with a photographic mission in mind. My plan was very simple: photograph Black-capped Chickadees that frequent a sheltered thicket on a bluff that overlooks a small lake. I expected those boisterous little fellows to greet me with their cheerful chickadee-dee-dee melody. I was certain they would, for with the sky a radiant shade of blue and the mercury climbing over the fifty degree mark, the chickadees would be flitting about and singing like it was spring.

My stealthy approach failed and not a chickadee was in sight. Continue reading

Beavers, Muskrats, Lodges, Dams, Caches and Push-ups!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The shortest day of the year draws near. First ice is already forming in the shallows of marshes and wetlands. Those signals of natureโ€™s way indicate that the clock of winter preparedness is rapidly ticking away for two semi-aquatic mammals that live in our midst, and are often confused: the beaver (Castor canadensis) and the muskrat (Ondatra zibenthicus). Both species are dependent on aquatic environments. Both species build lodges in the water. Both species can stay underwater for about fifteen minutes. Both have the ability to created dens in river banks and lakeshores by using the claws on their front paws. However, the muskrat loses out totally when it comes to felling trees. The beaver, and the beaver alone, is the master logger. Continue reading