Goldfinches Love Thistles!

A Goldfinch in Oakland County, Michigan

The American Goldfinch is among the most colorful and musical bird you will find in an Oakland County summer. Even a novice birder, such as myself, can identify Goldfinches with ease. Goldfinches are members of the finch family, as their name implies, and are not “wild canaries” as they are sometimes mistakenly called. The male’s eye-catching, gold and black plumage of summer is unmistakable. With a bit of experience, Goldfinches are recognizable from the distance by both their undulating, roller coaster like flight pattern and flight song. They thrive in the rural, thistle-rich fields of our county and are very much at home in the open spaces of parks, trail edge zones, and many of our urban and suburban neighborhoods.   

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Screech Owls: Your Secret Neighbor

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I had not thought much about Screech Owls until recently, when two things happened this month. A few weeks ago I began to hear their annual high-pitched whinnies and magical sounding soft trills coming from the edge of my woods. It’s a sound I know well and hear every February, especially if the bedroom window is open a crack, as it usually is, even on cold winter nights. It’s a sound that makes me smile.

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House Wren Housekeeping Secrets!

House Wren hatchlings have prodigious poop output. That’s just one of the many visual discoveries I uncovered while spying on a nesting box for the past few weeks. A confession is in order: I do not consider myself a birder. And I do not keep “life lists” of bird species as so many birders do. But when any wildlife species sets up housekeeping near me, I take notice and observe. In the case of these House Wrens, they moved into an old nesting box I had installed three years ago against the interior wood frame of my arbor, a site I use as my outdoor office and an escape from city life. The nest box is less than ten feet from my arbor desk and that gave me a bird’s eye view of their life, including diaper duty. For like all newborns, things poop. Some more than others.


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An Oakland Audubon Birding Adventure & More!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland Audubon Society offers free, fun filled trips for birders of all ages. They are enriching family-friendly events where participants often encounter the unexpected. As expected, my hike with their “young birders” last Saturday morning at 2,454-acre Indian Springs Metropark was no exception. Thirty-six species of birds, including five different species of swallows, were encountered during our two and a half hour meander, but my two favorite species of wildlife encountered were not birds. One had scales, the other fur. It’s not every day I witness an eastern garter snake up in a tree or go face to face with a pair of young thirteen-lined ground squirrels, but on Saturday I did.

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To Migrate or Not? That is the Question.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The classic image of bird migration at the approach of winter is the sight of Canada Geese flying high above our lakes, parks, towns and cities in V-shaped flocks. As winter fades, local television newscasters sometimes bubble with excitement at an alleged sign of spring’s return, robins on a snow speckled lawn. They salute the American Robin as the first returning bird of spring when robins are reported stalking about sunny suburban lawns searching for worms between patches of melting snow. These romanticized images of bird behavior and migration are less than accurate. Continue reading