Poison Ivy Pointers!

Two people walk through the a grassy field on a nature exploration

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Summer is a great time for outdoor adventure. It’s the season for picnics, fishing, hiking, gardening, yard work, and early-morning trail running. But don’t end up like poor Leo. Leo is now homebound and totally miserable because of poison ivy. An extremely itchy, red rash with painful blisters covers his arms, legs, neck, upper chest, and much of his face, a face that’s slathered with calamine lotion. Note: “Leo” is not an actual patient I have treated or observed while working as an ER paramedic.

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Celebrating Cedar Waxwings

A Cedar Waxing perched on a branch

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“With thin, lisping cries, flocks of Cedar Waxwings descend on berry-laden trees and hedges, to flutter among the branches as they feast.” Lives of North American Birds (Kaufman, 1996)

Nature’s way is rich with memorable moments of wildness. Some of these moments brighten the spirit and remind us that nature has predictable patterns. Sometimes, we have to search for those moments, but other times we just stumble upon them and are left in awe and feel like celebrating. The latter happened to me in the first week of June, along a trail I know well.

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Summer Solstice Solitude & Wildlife Adventure

A red fox stands in tall grass

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Summer is the season nature’s way may appear to slow, but that only holds true for those that do not venture out onto our trails or into our parks and wildlands. Walk alone in solitude in the dawn’s early light and the landscape will come alive with hidden secrets, or hike with your nature-embracing companion, and pleasures will increase through the art of sharing. Walk slowly, stop often, look, and listen, and a new world of nature will spring to life. I thought about and now share, some of my favorite creatures that thrive on the wilder side of Oakland County as the dawn of the summer solstice draws near.

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Our Elusive Black-billed Cuckoo

A Black-billed Cuckoo perched on a tree branch with its head cocked to the left

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.” – John Burroughs Locusts and Wild Honey, (Burroughs, 1895)

I never knew Black-billed Cuckoos existed until a few hours after an early evening encounter near the end of May, and that’s where this bird tale begins. First, however, I must establish I do not qualify as a “birder” by any means. I have no interest in creating a life list of bird species I have seen, but I take great pleasure in watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeder and listening to the cheerful song of House Wrens nesting in my arbor.

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Bullfrogs: Masters of the Swamp!

A young bullfrog in pond, its bottom half is submerged in the water

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Nothing exists for itself alone, but only in relation to other forms of life.Charles Darwin

Darwin’s timeless quote might just be the perfect mantra for the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), the largest frog in North America. This giant of a frog is heard far more often than seen. It is a major player in Oakland County ponds and wetlands and an integral part of its watery environment.

Bullfrogs can weigh well over a pound and be almost eight inches long. Their appetite is even larger than their size. Unlike other frogs that just wait patiently at the edge of a swamp to snag a passing bug or dragonfly with a lightning-fast sticky tongue, bullfrogs lunge open-mouthed at unsuspecting passing prey.

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