Bald Eagles: Skilled Hunters, Opportunist Scavengers, Masters of the Sky

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Bald Eagle is in a word, majestic. When it’s seen in flight against a clear blue sky in a pristine wilderness setting, the image is stunning. One need not travel to the wilds of Alaska or the rugged lakeshores of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to encounter bald eagles; more than a few winter right here in our midst.

Sightings of bald eagles in Oakland County are no longer rare events, and they are not restricted to the “wilder side” of our county. Close encounters may even occur in highly developed areas with significant human intrusion. During the winter months in northern climates, it’s all about available food. Where the food is, the eagles are. The favorite food of the bald eagle is fish, and that takes us to nearby Monroe County, home of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the nation.

Continue reading

Stony Creek’s Habitat Trail: A Winter Wonderland

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

We only had three hours to hike and Stony Creek Metropark offers 27 miles of tempting trails. That made for the most pleasant dilemma on a bright, blue sky day on the wilder side of Oakland County. With those thoughts in mind, a fellow nature enthusiast and I headed to the 2.5-mile-long Habitat Trail in the northwest corner of the park, for a slow-paced journey into nature’s way in winter.

Continue reading

Milkweed Bugs of October Meadows

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

October is the season of the Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), a colorful but lesser known bug of Oakland County’s milkweed-rich meadows, fields and trailsides. They are spectacularly beautiful creatures that lure the attention of nature hungry little kids, nature savvy adults and university entomologists. However unless one walks slowly amidst the milkweed plants, and looks for them, they often go unnoticed, even with their brilliant colors. Don’t let them go unnoticed. Continue reading

Mountain Biking At Stony Creek – A Wilder Side Confession

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Stony Creek Metropark extends from easternmost Oakland County well into Macomb County and entices hundreds of visitors on crisp autumn days. Some come for birding with hopes of seeing the resident Bald Eagles, others visit the nature center, while many just come to hike the trails, fish, or take photos of colorful leaves. Others have a late season picnic, or just jog, walk or bike around the scenic 6.1-mile paved trial that circles Stony Lake. The Stony Creek Metropark brochure, which may be viewed online, or acquired at the entrance contact station makes mention of the “heart pounding excitement of riding miles of mountain bike trails.” I tended to always ignore those words, but that is where this true life confession Wilder Side of Oakland County trail tale really begins. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading