Wonderful Woodpeckers of Winter’s Approach

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WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It goes without saying that if you spend the day constantly hitting your forehead against a tree trunk, you will end up with a severe headache, at the very least. A concussion or brain injury may be more likely, but that’s not so for a woodpecker. Woodpeckers can spend all day pounding their heads against tree trunks at 20 times per second in search of hidden grubs and hibernating bugs and then come back for more pounding the next day. The activity is so fast that the human eye does not even notice that with each successful pounding, a woodpecker’s beak penetrates the bark, and its long sticky tongue zips in and out, snagging hidden insects and larvae.

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Can You Identify a Red-Headed Woodpecker?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the hours of daylight lengthen in these early days of March, the woods become alive with early morning songs and the rhythmic drumming of woodpeckers proclaiming territory and taking part in their spring courtship rituals. Most of those woodpeckers go unnoticed by unsuspecting human eyes. That is, of course, with the exception of woodpeckers that frequent feeders filled with suet, or perhaps discover, much to the chagrin of the homeowner, that drain pipes and metal trim on homes are places where the resonance is best. Continue reading

The Wonderful World of Winter Woodpeckers

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The feeder frenzy of November is about to begin. Shortly after the crimson and gold colors of autumn disappear, and the first snowflakes swirl about beneath a panoramic sky of gray, an ever-changing menagerie of Eastern Bluebirds, Blue Jays, House Finches, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Cardinals and Black-capped Chickadees will appear at feeders, almost as if by magic. Hang some suet and add extra sunflower seeds to the mix and the woodpeckers of winter may quickly join the feast. The one-ounce Downy Woodpecker, North America’s smallest woodpecker, and our red-crested forest giant, the Pileated Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker of North America, are among the mix of local species that frequent the feeders on the wilder side of Oakland County. Continue reading

Northern Border: A Year’s End Salute to Hiking

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Sixty-five! That’s how many times I set out on a trail within the boundaries of Oakland County this year. Most were short meanders of three or four miles that followed designated trails in our Oakland County Parks, the Huron Clinton Metroparks or wildlands managed by local units of government. Some hikes were adventuresome treks of ten or more miles in our State Recreation Areas and State Parks managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. All were pleasurable, even when mosquitos swarmed, thunder rumbled, the mercury plunged, or humidity glued my shirt to my chest. Song birds sang, snakes slithered, owls hooted, turkeys trotted, Sandhill cranes trumpeted, turtles sun bathed, and once at dusk a coyote yipped. On a snowy day, both a cardinal and a deer froze for photos as I meandered close by both of them. It was a good year and I met people who shared the passion of the wilder side of nature’s way. Continue reading

Rose Oaks on the Dawn of December

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and places to pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir
Rose Oaks County Park is that kind of place.

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An early morning walk through this 640 acre protected wildland in the northwest corner of Oakland County at the dawn of December offers rich rewards, reaching beyond the obvious benefits of healthy hiking and fresh air. Solitude, natural beauty, and a chance to embrace silence without distractions are three of them. The radiant glow of morning sunlight on trees enriches forest stillness, and warms the human spirit.

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