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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Oakland County’s Highway Patrol: Red-Tailed Hawks

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I first become aware of Red-tailed Hawks in rural Connecticut. I was a five or six-year-old nature-hungry kid running barefoot through the meadow that led to a musty barn full of magical things, and then it was on to my favorite forbidden destination: “grandma’s shack”. Red-tails soared above the meadow and I fell in love with their sharp cry. My dad told me that the neighbors called them, chicken hawks. He liked them; so did I. I vaguely remember the horror of seeing some hanging dead on fences. Those are my first recollections of any bird of prey. But the history of birds of prey, and the way humans interacted with them go back thousands of years to the sport of falconry.

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Woodpeckers: Master Excavators of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Adult male Pileated Woodpecker searches for bugs and beetles in a dead Oakland County tree

Winged, wood-whacking, carpenters have been practicing their craft all spring. Evidence of their excavation skills is abundant, but sometimes almost hidden in plain sight. Contrary to myth, woodpeckers do not get headaches from banging away on a tree, a telephone pole, or the wood siding of a home. These master craftsmen have evolved powerful neck muscles, thick skulls and chisel-like bills that let them chip away at tree trunks with ease as they search out bugs, or create the perfect nesting cavity. Woodpeckers have a special skull bone, the hyoid bone, which functions a bit like a seat-belt for their brain. Their hyoid bone design diverts impact and vibrations away from the cranium and the woodpecker pounds on, free from headaches.

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