Do Coyotes Really Lurk?

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It happens every summer, a coyote is noticed for a fleeting moment in Oakland County and suddenly neighborhood Facebook chat groups explode with sensationalized reports of a coyote that is “lurking” about.

Words have power. “A deer was lurking in the woods and watching me” would be a laughable sentence. But when it comes to coyote sightings, “lurking” seems to be a word that makes its way into a descriptive sentence. Coyotes don’t lurk. They watch. They listen. They sniff. They observe. They act. And they respond to human behavior. Continue reading

Great Crested Flycatchers: Often Heard – Seldom Seen

Great Crested Flycatcher

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

It’s never good to pick favorites, but when it comes to flycatchers, the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus Crinitus) is mine, hands down. These beautiful and boisterous flycatchers are more often heard than seen. Their favorite summer habitat is high up in the leafy canopy of tall forest trees where they nest within deep tree cavities across much of the eastern half of the United States.

I first became keenly aware of the flycatchers last summer when I became completely frustrated by them on South Manitou Island: island overlooking the often stormy Manitou Passage that is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Whenever I heard their unmistakable territorial call echoing through the woodlands, I stared into the tops of the tall trees in hopes of discovering the source. I failed every time. The melody remained a mystery until the near completion of my 30-day stay on that wilderness island as the National Park Service lighthouse keeper. That’s when a backpacker noticed me craning my neck upwards as the song came from the tree tops. She casually commented that she was happy to discover Great Crested Flycatchers near her campsite overlooking a wooded bluff on the island’s south shore. It was that moment that brought “Bird ID Happiness,” a feeling best understood by birders. I now had a name for the bird that had been just a mysterious, yellowish-brown flash of wings that carried a beautiful song. But try as I might, I was never able to capture a single photo of those island-life loving flycatchers of South Manitou. They stayed in the tree tops and I stayed on the ground, except for when I climbed the 117 steps to reach the catwalk of the 1871 lighthouse. Continue reading

“In Wildness is The Preservation of The World,” and it Starts with You

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“A bear’s wild nature is evolved, over hundreds of thousands of years, to carry the impulse to roam at will over a territory of hundreds of square miles. When you put a bear in a cage, it paces relentlessly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until its paws bleed. The bleeding paws tell the zookeeper, if she is listening, a story; a story of wide open space, of rushing rivers teeming with fish, of wriggling grubs in the moist soil under the rocks, of the fragrance of wild blueberries carried for miles on the wind.”

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Oakland County’s Quintessential “Seagull”: The Herring Gull

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Oakland County has no seagulls. Not even one. So just what are those raucous birds that fly around boats, docks, beaches and picnic areas on Memorial Day Weekend? They are not seagulls. Seagulls do not exist.

There is no such thing as a seagull. The word “Seagull” however, is an acceptable layperson’s term to describe all species of gulls whether they are soaring over ocean shoreline, following fishing boats on the Great Lakes, or just “hanging out” near picnickers at Stony Creek or Kensington Metropark, or any large park or lake in our county. My use of the word seagull today refers exclusively to our quintessential seagull, the often maligned Herring Gull (Larus argentatus). The Herring Gull is a beautiful bird, but unless it stays motionless, the beauty of this gull is often overlooked.

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Chipmunk Secrets at the Dawn of Spring

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“The chipmunks are back!” That comment e-mailed to me, followed by a second sentence, “Where were they all winter?” inspired this chipmunk tale. The story starts with food. Unlike nectar sipping Ruby-throated Hummingbirds or our majestic fish-eating Osprey that fly thousands of miles to return to their breeding grounds in Oakland County, chipmunks just migrated about two feet when the snowflakes of November fell. Adaption is the key to survival for all species, and it’s all about the availability of food. Hummingbirds cannot store nectar, nor can Osprey store fresh fish so they flew south. Chipmunks can store nuts, but there’s more to this tale of vanishing chipmunks. Continue reading