October Snake Tales

snake with tongue out

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home.” That is perhaps my favorite quote from Gary Snyder in his celebration of the ways of nature in The Practice of the Wild (Snyder, 1990).

I have friends who revel in Snyder’s words. They share stories of wildlife encounters with excitement and joy. However, when it comes to sharing encounters with snakes, sometimes their words and phrases confirm their extreme anxieties and near-phobic horrors of even seeing a snake. These colorful days of October remind us of winter’s approach. That means, it’s time to share snake facts with a disclaimer: although I am not a herpetologist by any means, I am an unabashed partisan of these slithering creatures that often take center stage for a few weeks during the season of leaf fall. Perhaps you are too.

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Fall Foliage Adventuring

fall foliage

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County woodlands, meadows, and lakes are attractive throughout the year, but take on a special aura of beauty in autumn. As shades of summer green surrender to the fiery scarlet of sassafras, glittering yellows of aspens, the reddish-orange hues of maples, and finally, the misty pale yellow of swamp-loving tamaracks, our changing patchwork of kaleidoscope-like colors against a sky of blue can almost overwhelm the human eye. If that’s not enough to lure a nature lover to our hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of acres of parks and wildlands, fantastic fruiting fungi in a rainbow of colors is also emerging along our trails.

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Oakland County’s White-Tailed Deer

a buck in green field

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

White-tailed deer are the smallest members of the deer family, which include moose and elk, but without a doubt, they are the largest and one of the most frequently seen mammals of Oakland County. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay. Our diverse natural habitats, landscaping practices, and travel corridors gift them with an abundant food supply, places to take shelter, and the opportunity to leisurely graze on a great variety of seasonally changing wild plants and fruits, including leaves, grasses, forbs, fiddleheads, mushrooms, acorns, twigs, nuts, wild fruits, and at times, our vegetable and flower gardens, and farm crops.

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Poison Sumac: Tale of a Toxic Trailside Beauty

red poison sumac

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the crisp days of autumn draw near, I increase my explorations of the wondrous world of our wetlands, swamps, and marshlands. They take on a special peaceful splendor in the waning days of summer, especially in the dawn’s early light. The wetland-embracing trails on the wilder side of Oakland County lure me in as surely as honey bees fly to flowers for nectar and pollen. However, this year as in the years before, I will be watchful for and ever wary of one wetland plant in particular. This plant presents a clear and present danger to humans that have the misfortune of making physical contact. Even touching or brushing against any part of this toxic trailside beauty may lead to a world of woe and in some severe cases of exposure, a visit to an emergency department follows.

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds as Summer Wanes

black and red hummingbird

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The shortening hours of daylight as summer’s end draws near has accelerated activity of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have again honored me, and perhaps you, with their beautiful iridescent colors, incredible flight patterns, and pleasing presence. From the moment of dawn’s early light until dusk, they are constantly flitting between my suction cup window feeder, an array of potted flowers, and a hanging feeder in my rustic arbor.

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