When Night Shadows Dance

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

We may think they are strangers in the night, but when the sun goes down and night shadows dance, a nocturnal cast of nature’s characters appear. They are not strangers in the night, but under the cover of darkness, dramas of life and love, predator and prey and human avoidance go on. If I was to select just one species that increases activity by leaps and bounds at night, and sometimes trips my concealed motion-activated trail cameras, it would be our eastern coyotes. They inhabit every corner of our county and their yips and howls sometimes stir Facebook chat rooms into phobia-creating chatter resembling, “The coyotes are coming! The coyotes are coming!”

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Maple’s Sweet Story at our Metroparks!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.” John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons (1886)

Eastern bluebirds had been flitting about my meadow for the past few weeks. Skunk cabbage emerged from frozen mud down at the marsh. Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stalked the edge of our county’s wetlands as the duel between the seasons accelerated. Those signs all teased of the approach of spring and then the county was bathed in blue sky with temperatures flirting with the 50 degree mark last weekend. Continue reading

Screech Owls: Your Secret Neighbor

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

I had not thought much about Screech Owls until recently, when two things happened this month. A few weeks ago I began to hear their annual high-pitched whinnies and magical sounding soft trills coming from the edge of my woods. It’s a sound I know well and hear every February, especially if the bedroom window is open a crack, as it usually is, even on cold winter nights. It’s a sound that makes me smile.

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Hiking the Boonies

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Hiking with Boy Scouts is never a quiet event. It just does not work out that way. And if the hike is an off trail adventure in “the boonies” of a snow-covered hardwood swamp, with each footstep crunching in snow or crackling over partially frozen puddles, you can be assured every deer and coyote will flee at the not so stealthy approach. Extremely fresh tracks in the snow confirmed my assumptions that our intrusion was quickly detected. But before I share this tale of an adventure like none other I have been on in my three decades in our county, I will mention Sammy, the six year old that hiked with us. He was quiet most of the time and very proudly crossed tiny creeks with a bit of parental help and was attentive to the surrounding landscape. His moment of pure joy was climbing up onto the seat of a rusted bulldozer that held half century old secrets about a peat harvesting operation in Oakland County.

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