Nature’s Way Almanac 2020

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

January

January is the month that some lament the onslaught of winter storms, but for those that love the ways of nature, it’s a month of grand adventure and discovery. It’s a time to hike and breathe deeply under evergreen trees and, if Mother Nature cooperates, snowshoe on backcountry trails. It’s a refreshing time of renewal. Pileated Woodpeckers, our red-crested forest giant and the largest woodpecker of North America, chisel deep rectangular shaped holes into dead trees in their search for carpenter ants and other meaty morsels. January 10th bring us the wolf moon. There are no wolves in Oakland County, but listen for the night howling and yips of eastern coyotes that have adapted to our ways on that full moon night. January is full speed ahead for cottontail rabbits. Some scrounge under bird feeders for food while others stay hidden under shrubs, venturing about after dark in a world full of predators. Continue reading

Winter Solstice Wonders

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The arrival of astronomical winter, the Winter Solstice that occurred on Saturday, December 21st at 11:19 p.m. EST, reminded me that the phrase, “the dead of winter” is an oxymoron. Winter is never dead, a fact that comes to life with excitement for those that make an effort to enjoy the wilder side of our county during the days of diminished daylight, days when even those that do not arise early can watch spectacular sunrises at 8 a.m. Winter brings treasures of nature to be discovered, from sparkling ice under clear blue skies to eastern bluebirds fluffed up against biting winds, and of course the deep soft hoot of Great Horned Owls, sometimes accompanied by the yips and howls of our “song dogs,” the eastern coyotes that have colonized our county.

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Meet the Wary and Watchful Red Fox

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Winter’s approaching and with the changing season, a seldom seen predator with luxurious fur, a large bushy tail and a reputation for “craftiness” accelerates its stalking of fallow farm fields, meadows, parks and yards in its endless hunt for mice and meadow voles. Easily recognizable by the stunning contrast of its rusty-red coat against snowy meadow backdrops, the red fox is well adapted to life in Oakland County. Over the years I’ve captured a few photos of red fox in the wild, as well as images on my trail cameras, but none are even remotely as stunning as the image above. It was shared with me by Ann Brokelman of the Coyote Watch Canada Outreach Team who photographed this beauty at Algonquin Provincial Park in the wilds of Ontario. Continue reading

A Magical Wintery Morning

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

December 1st, Sunday morning at 7:30 – Misty rain was falling across most of the county, but in the higher elevations of northernmost Oakland County, snow was winning out over the hail pellets that bounced off my porch railings. Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers switched into a feeding frenzy mode at my window feeder in response to my offering of sunflower seeds. They were restless and so was I. I am an unabashed partisan of hiking in almost any weather, even when others would rather stay home. With that thought in mind, I called a friend who would likely be up for an early morning snowy adventure. Forty-five minutes later we were en route on back roads through a world of swirling white to the Lost Lake Nature Preserve, a 537-acre sanctuary that encompasses sections of Oakland County’s Holly Township and Genesee County’s Grand Blanc Township. It first opened to the public in the fall of 2015 and I had been there three times since then, but always as an attendee at official events sponsored by Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC) and never in wintery weather. Continue reading

Be Thankful for Our “Wilder Side” Lands

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County has a diverse array of protected wildlands and hundreds of miles of trails, thanks first to the forces of nature, and then to the dedicated work of planners and civil engineers, and finally the support of trail advocates and the general public. And so today, on this Thanksgiving week, I’ll profile ten of my favorite wilder side sites for outdoor adventure and “nature embracing” in any season of the year, starting with Kensington Metropark.

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