Red Oaks Nature Center – An Urban Gem

Exterior photo of building at Red Oaks Nature Center

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Natural wonders of spring are appearing along the trails and in the woods of Red Oaks Nature Center in the City of Madison Heights. If you are a birder, this hotspot of biodiversity is one of the best places to be in these early days of May. I was there earlier this week on an overcast morning that hinted of rain to come. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a watchful snacking squirrel perched on the edge of the parking lot fence.

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Magnificent Morels of May!

Two morel mushrooms

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“April showers bring May flowers.” We heard that saying frequently when the spring rains came and crocuses and daffodils bloomed. April showers, however, bring more than May flowers. They create ideal emergence conditions for morel mushrooms (Morchella esculenta).    

In this blog post, Magnificent Morels of May, readers will be introduced to the basics of morels and morel hunting, with a word of necessary caution: never consume any wild fungus unless you know its identity and edibility with 100 percent certainty. Although all of the accompanying photos show morel mushrooms, there is a great variation in the color and size of individual specimens. Some morels are so large you could insert a smaller one inside as an eye-catching photo opportunity!

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Hopping & Slithering Into Spring!

Eastern milk snake

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Song birds are singing, daffodils will soon appear, and one of my favorite, often overlooked signs of spring has entered its kitten-fur phase. Kitten-fur? The “furry” feeling catkins of pussy willow are now at their peak and free of snow from Monday’s mini squall in northernmost Oakland County.

Their blossoms produce abundant pollen in the early days of spring, a discovery I learned from watching my foraging honey bees.

The blue sky days of spring are taking hold, and with increased hours of daylight and thawing of vernal ponds and frozen earth, the great awakening of our snakes, frogs, and toads is accelerating. Today I’ll be sharing snippets of information on a dozen of my favorite snakes and frogs that are slithering and hopping about. They have been waiting longer for spring than you and I have been. Let’s welcome them!

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Stony Creek on the Dawn of Spring

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundreds of little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.” Aldo Leopold

Embracing the ebb and flow of our seasons is much like awaiting the return of a long absent friend that departed months earlier. We know the return will eventually occur, but never seem to know exactly when our friend will arrive back in town, especially if their name is spring. Spring’s arrival is fickle. Sometimes spring can sort of sneak into town unobserved—and then its warmth is here! However, one thing is certain: no matter where you wander in woods and meadows; those introductory words of Leopold are so very true. I am glad they are!

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 A Garden for Healing and Renewal

Butterfly statue in Garden of Healing and Renewal

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Aldo Leopold once said, “There are some who can live with wild things, and some who cannot.” Leopold, a conservationist, naturalist, and philosopher, was one who could not.

Those poignant words of Leopold are from his heart-warming and insightful book about nature’s way titled, “A Sand County Almanac.” They have been a part of my life for as Iong as I can remember. Those words came to mind again late last month on a snowy, yet intermittently sunny morning as I wandered in the Garden of Healing and Renewal at McLaren Clarkston.

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