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

Can You Identify a Red-Headed Woodpecker?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the hours of daylight lengthen in these early days of March, the woods become alive with early morning songs and the rhythmic drumming of woodpeckers proclaiming territory and taking part in their spring courtship rituals. Most of those woodpeckers go unnoticed by unsuspecting human eyes. That is, of course, with the exception of woodpeckers that frequent feeders filled with suet, or perhaps discover, much to the chagrin of the homeowner, that drain pipes and metal trim on homes are places where the resonance is best. Continue reading

Oakland County’s Quintessential “Seagull”: The Herring Gull

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County has no seagulls. Not even one. So just what are those raucous birds that fly around boats, docks, beaches and picnic areas on Memorial Day Weekend? They are not seagulls. Seagulls do not exist.

There is no such thing as a seagull. The word “Seagull” however, is an acceptable layperson’s term to describe all species of gulls whether they are soaring over ocean shoreline, following fishing boats on the Great Lakes, or just “hanging out” near picnickers at Stony Creek or Kensington Metropark, or any large park or lake in our county. My use of the word seagull today refers exclusively to our quintessential seagull, the often maligned Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). The Herring Gull is a beautiful bird, but unless it stays motionless, the beauty of this gull is often overlooked.

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Great Blue Herons: Master Hunters, Delayed Migrators

 WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Whether poised motionlessly in the protected wetlands of Rose Oaks County Park, or along an urban creek amidst the bustle of the City of Pontiac, one thing remains certain about the Great Blue Herons: they are a majestic sight. Bird migration is well underway in these crisp days of autumn, but our Great Blue Herons, the largest and most common of the North American herons, are not going anyplace soon. Some will loiter in Oakland County into early November. Others may never leave.

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