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

Wandering Lyon Oaks on a Winter’s Day

A man walks along a winding trail in the woods on a gloomy winter day.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Lyon Oaks County Park is tucked away in Lyon Township in the far southwestern corner of Oakland County. It’s best known perhaps for its Arthur Hills-designed 18-hole golf course and a very popular 13-acre fenced dog park. The busy I-96 Freeway parallels the southern property line. An industrial park saddles up to a large section of its eastern perimeter, and a major underground natural gas pipeline bisects the park almost straight down the middle in a north-south orientation. With those thoughts in mind I decided to wrap up my weekly 2018 “wilder side” trail treks with a slow-paced 5.8 mile “discovery” meander at Lyon Oaks to see what secrets of nature would be exposed on a cold and heavily overcast end of December winter’s day, my first time at Lyon Oaks in over four years. Continue reading

Nature’s Wilder Side Almanac 2019

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

JANUARY

The first days of January signal a New Year of adventures along the trails, and in the parks and wildlands of Oakland County. Snowy Owls, the denizens of the Arctic tundra irrupt into Michigan most winters confirming the season of snow has arrived – even when it’s delayed. Snowy Owls have already been sighted not far from our county. They perch motionlessly on fence posts and telephone poles near farm fields, spacious meadows and frozen lakeshores to wait for meaty entrées, perhaps mice and meadow voles, or a duck that did not wing south. January is the month that early rising hikers and trail runners find their favorite trails of solitude and solace, crisscrossed with tracks of our apex predator, the eastern coyote. It’s the season I look forward to sharing sunrises on a wooded, often snowy bluff that overlooks Buhl Lake, a four season gem of Addison Oaks County Park.

Continue reading

Homes for Bluebirds on the Polly Ann Trail

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Henry David Thoreau’s writings include a sentence that is often quoted by naturalists and outdoor writers. “The bluebird carries the sky on his back” is one of my favorite Thoreau quotes. A well placed trailside bluebird box is one of easiest and most rewarding ways to do something good for the environment and it adds increased visual enjoyment for trail users – thoughts that gave wings to this week’s blog for the birds: the Eastern Bluebirds that live in our midst along the Polly Ann Trail. Continue reading

Panda-Monium at the Detroit Zoo

A red panda looks up at the camera.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Monday morning was pure panda-monium at the Detroit Zoo. However, neither the heavily overcast sky, nor the frigid temperatures dampened the heartwarming enthusiasm as Detroit Zoo’s latest major habitat expansion, the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest, was unveiled to an excited gathering of media, honored guests, and students from Holy Redeemer Grade School in Detroit. They were all invited for an exclusive first tour of the newly renovated and expanded home for three charismatic creatures: two-year old Ravi, three-year old Ash and 13-year-old Ta-shi. The trio are Red Pandas, an endangered species with unforgettable and intensely cute faces, but sometimes the totally adorable factor is not enough to ensure survival. Continue reading