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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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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The Red-Crested, Tree-Whacker of Oakland County

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

A male Pileated with a noticeable red cheek stripe creates a cavity to search out insects.

A male Pileated with a noticeable red cheek stripe creates a cavity to search out insects.

Pileated Woodpeckers are the loudest and most striking forest birds in the woodlands of Oakland County. They are also the largest woodpecker species to be found in North America, with the exception of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker: a magnificent bird that once haunted the southern swamps of the United States and forests of Cuba. Sadly, most ornithologists believe that the Ivory Billed is now extinct due to habitat destruction. In 2004, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy put a team together to investigate a dramatic sighting of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Their findings remained inconclusive but leaned toward credibility; the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker remains the Holy Grail of ornithology. Continue reading