Bullfrogs and Beaver Ponds: A Spring Day in December

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

A bullfrog emerging to sit on a log during the warm December weather.

On December 13th, the temperature soared to a record-setting 62 degrees in Oakland County. Even though the sky was overcast and trails were muddy, that Sunday afternoon was perfect for a nature-embracing hike on the Wilder Side of Oakland County. With camera in hand, a compass in my day pack, and a spare pair of hiking boots in the car, I set off for the Ortonville State Recreation Area. The park is 5,400 acres of wildland managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that spans Genesee and Oakland Counties. That’s where this tale of bullfrogs and beaver ponds on a spring-like day in December takes root. Continue reading

Winter Preparation on the Wilder Side: Adapting for Survival

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

Osprey breed in Oakland County, but must wing south before lakes freeze.

Osprey breed in Oakland County, but must wing south before lakes freeze.

Osprey, the fish-eating raptors of Oakland County, winged south weeks ago. They overwinter in the Florida Keys, Cuba, the Caribbean and deep into Central and South America. They serve as a reminder that birds know no borders. Central America is the destination for the nectar-sipping Ruby-throated hummingbird, the tiniest bird of Oakland County. The journey is an amazing feat for a bird that weighs just 1/8 of an ounce with the ability to cross the Gulf of Mexico without refueling. The osprey and hummingbird have no choice but to depart for warmer climates, not because it’s getting cold, but because their food sources will be unavailable until next spring.  Continue reading

Thanksgiving Memories and the Solace of Nature

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

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There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week. I am thankful that as a little kid in rural Connecticut I was never surrounded and drowned in a sea of electronic toys or endless hours of staring at a television. My parents fueled my desire to explore and let me get muddy and skin my knees. Flipping through the magical pages of National Geographic at a very early age had me staring in awe at big cats, jungles, wild rivers, incredible terrain and strange people in faraway lands that looked nothing like me. A big world was waiting, travel-lust fever was incubating, and my quest to know more was born. Continue reading

Rose Oaks County Park: 640 Acres of Outdoor Adventuring

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

Rose Oak County Park.

A chewed tree is the sign of beaver in Rose Oaks County Park.

Located near the town of Holly, Rose Oaks County Park remains one of the lesser-visited wildland gems of Oakland County Parks. That may change as the diverse user groups that explore, hike and ride the park’s 5.5 miles of equestrian-friendly trails spread the word of the park’s natural wonders and increased trail connectivity. With winter just around the corner, cross-country skiers will soon enjoy the solitude and beauty of the meandering back country trails. Continue reading

Walk Slowly, Stop Often, and Listen

Wilder Side of Oakland County

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Walk slowly, stop often, and listen. I have been sharing those six words of advice with friends and blog followers that inquire how I manage to find so many species of wildlife to photograph. “Such cool stuff,” as one Facebook follower said. Critter encounters remain exciting and sometimes totally unexpected in November. The best viewing opportunities are the days between the leaves falling and snow carpeting the earth. Many creatures; winged, furry, feathered and a few with scales, are active trail side and often hidden in plain sight. Walking briskly along while chatting with friends, or walking silently staring down at a smartphone, is not the way to discover the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

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