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.

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Groundhog Day and Signs of Spring: Fallacies, Facts, and Fun

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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THE BIG DAY IS ALMOST HERE! Crowds will soon gather around televisions for the final countdown. When will he appear? What will he do? Punxsutawney Phil, the furry weatherman from Pennsylvania has been slumbering in his hibernating den since late autumn. But on February 2nd Phil will stop procrastinating and make a statement at Gobblers Knob in front of an array of cameras. As crowds surge forward for a better view, he will yawn once or twice, and then without further ado will predict the weather. If he sees his shadow, he dives back into his den and we have six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, he lounges topside and that signals that spring will soon embrace the countryside. It’s a great tall tale, and Phil always has a 50% chance of being right.  Continue reading

When the Moon Shadows Dance

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Night hiking is always an adventure, but it becomes a five-star adventure on a winter’s night. Hiking with a good friend, a group of friends, or like-minded adventurers adds to the pleasure, but even solo night trekkers are never really alone. Unseen creatures rustle through brush, or crunch through crusty snow stirring our senses into hyperactivity. The hooting of owls is a thrilling and comforting sound that brings smiles for those in the know. Yet sometimes, the whinnies of Screech Owls, deep melodious hoots of Great Horned Owls and the caterwauling conversations of the swampland-loving Barred Owls send shivers down the backs of folks who never tread trails after the sun sets. Continue reading