When Thunder Roars!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The sultry days of summer have faded, but the season of powerful electrical storms is not over in Oakland County, or for the rest of our Great Lake State. Nature’s way does not always follow the calendar and in the last few weeks I’ve witnessed boaters on our local lakes pursuing their passion as thunder was clearly audible, picnickers waiting out a storm under an open picnic shelter instead of retreating to their cars (a much safer option), and most worrisome, kids playing sports in fields to the accompaniment of not so distant thunder. Continue reading

A Sundew Kind of Morning!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Ice Age was coming to an end. Shuffling its 6-ton frame, a shaggy mastodon laboriously crossed a steep esker and trudged towards melt water from a giant block of ice left behind by the Pleistocene Era’s last local retreating glacier. The mastodons that once roamed Oakland County are now extinct, but the glacial evidence of nature’s land sculpting power is unmistakable in many sections of our county. Some of those sites, that once provided habitat for Mastodons, now harbor carnivorous flora and rare secretive creatures. One of those locations is within the Shiawassee Basin Preserve, a 600-acre site in northwestern Oakland County managed by Springfield Township Parks and Recreation. Continue reading

Ten Signs Summer is Fading

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The beauty and wonder of nature’s way as summer slowly fades welcome us to the trails, woodlands, wildlands, rivers and fields of Oakland County. Walk slowly, stop often, look and listen and it’s easy to sense the slowing pulse of the season. The official end of summer does not occur until the Autumnal Equinox; that’s on September 23rd, but the approach of Labor Day weekend signals that summer is in its waning days. And with next week being the final full week of the unofficial end of summer, today I salute ten signs of the season’s transition from summer to autumn. Some are subtle, and some can’t be missed.

This Top Ten ramble was inspired by Dmitri Schoeman who shared his encounter with nature’s way with photos captured last week in Columbia, South Carolina. “I was walking the dog when I saw something in an odd shade of green and went over to see what it was.” For the next hour he watched the emergence of a cicada as it wiggled out of its exoskeleton. His photos might well be entitled “Alien Birth,” for they capture the emergence of an other-worldly looking winged creature as it slowly abandoned its exoskeleton. Continue reading

House Wren Housekeeping Secrets!

House Wren hatchlings have prodigious poop output. That’s just one of the many visual discoveries I uncovered while spying on a nesting box for the past few weeks. A confession is in order: I do not consider myself a birder. And I do not keep “life lists” of bird species as so many birders do. But when any wildlife species sets up housekeeping near me, I take notice and observe. In the case of these House Wrens, they moved into an old nesting box I had installed three years ago against the interior wood frame of my arbor, a site I use as my outdoor office and an escape from city life. The nest box is less than ten feet from my arbor desk and that gave me a bird’s eye view of their life, including diaper duty. For like all newborns, things poop. Some more than others.


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Yellow Goat’s Beard of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

In the sultry days of August, meadows, fields and un-mowed roadsides of rural sections of Oakland County present colorful potpourris of wildflowers of every size and shape. Many are native species, others are naturalized plants that crossed the oceans with early immigrants and now thrive in our midst. The flowers attract butterflies and insects of all sorts, as well as human admirers. Among the mix in Oakland County is Tragopogon dubius, a lesser known species with several common names including yellow goat’s beard and yellow salsify. It’s an attractive, but rather unremarkable yellow flower whose presence often goes unnoticed; however its three to four-inch globe-shaped seedhead is eye-catching and resembles a giant dandelion on steroids. And when the sunlight hits the seedhead just right, it’s stunning. Continue reading