The Eastern Garter Snake, a Common “Garden” Snake

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. A summer vegetable garden is not only beautiful, but in the eyes of an Eastern Garter Snake, it’s an oasis of plenty. There, slugs, snails, spiders, grasshoppers, millipedes, bugs, and the occasional low-to-the-ground tree frogs may be hunted. Thamnophis sirtalis, more commonly known as the Eastern Garter Snake, is without a doubt the most commonly seen snake of Oakland County.

A bit of name clarification may be in order as well, for as much as garter snakes are attracted to gardens, there is no such snake species as a “Garden Snake” or “Gardener Snake.” The incorrect name Garden Snake seems to stay with us, and is sometimes repeated by teachers and even park professionals without a strong knowledge of snake species. Continue reading

The Ghost Flower of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Indian Pipe (Monotopra uniflora) is emerging in the moist woodlands of the wilder side of Oakland County. Recently its growth has been accelerated by rains and warmth. Ghost Flower is another common name for this strange and beautiful plant that has a near total lack of pigmentation. Its ghostly, waxy white coloration leads some to call it the “Corpse Plant.”

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The Mighty Praying Mantis

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Summer has started with a sizzle and environmental conditions are excellent for a creature that many kids and adults love: the Praying Mantis, an odd-looking insect that has walked the earth since the Cretaceous Period. The fossil record confirms some evolutionary changes occurred over the past 100 million years that added to their success as the ultimate modern day hunting machine: most noticeably those efficient prey-grasping spines on their forelegs.

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“In Wildness is The Preservation of The World,” and it Starts with You

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“A bear’s wild nature is evolved, over hundreds of thousands of years, to carry the impulse to roam at will over a territory of hundreds of square miles. When you put a bear in a cage, it paces relentlessly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until its paws bleed. The bleeding paws tell the zookeeper, if she is listening, a story; a story of wide open space, of rushing rivers teeming with fish, of wriggling grubs in the moist soil under the rocks, of the fragrance of wild blueberries carried for miles on the wind.”

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Eastern Bluebirds On the Dawn of Summer

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

With its brilliant royal blue back, and rusty-red brown breast there is no mistaking a male Eastern Bluebird. They are heralded as one of the first Oakland County birds of spring. Naturalists and writers have long associated the arrival of bluebirds with spring. On March 2, 1859, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The bluebird comes and with his warble drills the ice and sets free the rivers and ponds and frozen grounds.” It is now the 23rd day of June in 2017 and the heat of the summer has already arrived. Bluebirds keep warbling, not to melt ice, but to announce round two of their nesting season. The fact of the matter is clear, many of our bluebirds did not migrate and ate old berries and fruits all winter, with occasional visits to suet feeders.

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