A Walk to Big Valley

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo Leopold

If Leopold was still living I believe I would have greatly enjoyed his company on my “Walk to Big Valley.” It was my first introduction to an eye-opening, nature-embracing 157-acre Michigan Nature Association sanctuary, hidden away amidst the glacially sculpted rolling hills of Rose Township, one of Oakland County’s most rural townships, a township with 25 lakes and just under 6,500 residents. Had Leopold reached the bluff that serves as a natural overlook of the sanctuary I am rather certain he would have smiled and thanked those who worked so diligently for the Big Valley’s acquisition and protection. Continue reading

Michigan’s Most Endangered Species

Poweshiek Skipperling

Wilder Side of Oakland County

Beautiful and Rare, Springfield Township discusses an endangered butterfly, pictured above by CMU Research Assistant Michael Belitz.

“Springfield Township’s Shiawassee Basin Preserve, known for protecting one of the highest quality prairie fen wetlands in Michigan, is also one of the last places on earth to sustain a critically endangered butterfly known as the Poweshiek Skipperling. The Poweshiek Skipperling is a small (<1.25” wingspan) butterfly that depends on high quality prairie habitats like our fen for its survival. Until recently, the Poweshiek was one of the most common prairie butterflies in North America, being found in many states and provinces from the Great Plains region to the Midwest, but around 2005 the population began a mysterious decline in abundance. Today, there are less than five hundred individuals occurring in only a handful of locations across their former range.”

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Navigating Nature Centers in Oakland County

If you’d like to learn about the wilds surrounding your everyday life, you’ll love our map of nature centers in Oakland County. This interactive map, created by Oakland County’s award-winning GIS team, will lead you on a journey across the county, from center to center, helping you plan a trip to any one of these great locations to learn about the natural world. Sunshine or rain, summer or winter, these nature centers are there for you to help grow your pool of knowledge!

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Heritage Park in Farmington Hills. Photo credit: Jonathan Schechter

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Oakland County’s Yellow-Necked Reptile: The Blanding’s Turtle!

Blanding's Turtle

Wilder Side of Oakland County

Looking for a yellow-necked timid dinosaur? I’ve got the next best thing: A Blanding’s turtle! Signs of these ancient creatures may be a slow-moving dome lumbering across the road or a mysterious shell appearing like a glistening algae coated rock at the edge of a marsh. If the turtle’s long neck is extended and the dazzling golden-yellow throat and chin are exposed, the confirmation is certain, you are viewing a Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii); a “Species of Special Concern” in the State of Michigan. Species of special concern are generally described as:

“any species of fish or wildlife that does not meet the criteria as endangered or threatened but is particularly vulnerable and could become a threatened, endangered or extirpated species due to restricted distribution, low or declining numbers, specialized habitat needs or limits, or other factors, or is a species likely deserving of threatened or endangered status, but for which insufficient data are currently available.”

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Green Dinosaurs and Orange Meadowhawks: Secrets of Springfield Oaks

Springfield Oaks

Wilder Side of Oakland County

“Wherever I go, I see little bits of nature, little bits of animal behavior. And nobody else is watching…”  Those are the words of iconic conservationist Jane Goodall in her 2018 interview titled, “Living with Chimps” that appears in the BBC publication, Science Focus. I had just finished reading the text of her interview last Friday about her controversial career and how her observations transformed the way we see our primate cousins. It was then time to head off to Springfield Oaks County Park for the grand opening of the 2018 Oakland County Fair. Jane Goodall was not on my mind nor was wildlife observation, but sometimes things change quickly.

Springfield Oaks County Park is not where folks generally go to embrace the wilds of nature or seek solitude. Springfield Oaks bustles with popular crowd oriented activities. The Oakland County Parks website makes no mention of passive nature exploration at their 333-acre multi-use park, but quite correctly boasts of the crowd-attracting venues:

“Springfield Oaks is home of the historic Ellis Barn and annual Oakland County Fair, which draws 100,000+ visitors annually to the 10-day event. The 1884 Ellis Barn is 14,000-square-feet and features an indoor riding arena, 11 box stalls, mechanical exercise ring and cavernous second floor for hay and straw. The barn was donated by former major league baseball players Kirk Gibson and Tim Birtsas and moved from its original located on Dixie Highway to Springfield Oaks in 2005. Today, the barn is used to host weddings and special events like the Ellis Barn Dance and the Michigan Antique Festival. The park also offers a multipurpose room for banquets, reunions and seminars as well as exhibit hall space. The grounds include two outdoor arenas.”

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