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

Bullfrogs and Green Frogs: Ambush Hunters of the Wetlands

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

IMG_3138The American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) is the largest frog species of Oakland County, or for that matter anywhere in North America. Some specimens weigh over a pound and may be 10 inches long. They are a meaty mouthful for many predators and a slippery handful for a naturalist. Several years ago I encountered a Goliath of a bullfrog along the West Bloomfield Trail, a beauty of a beast, blocked from its wetland by construction screening. After a quick photo shoot, I carried him to freedom and have been a fan of these beauties ever since.

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