A Magical Wintery Morning

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

December 1st, Sunday morning at 7:30 – Misty rain was falling across most of the county, but in the higher elevations of northernmost Oakland County, snow was winning out over the hail pellets that bounced off my porch railings. Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers switched into a feeding frenzy mode at my window feeder in response to my offering of sunflower seeds. They were restless and so was I. I am an unabashed partisan of hiking in almost any weather, even when others would rather stay home. With that thought in mind, I called a friend who would likely be up for an early morning snowy adventure. Forty-five minutes later we were en route on back roads through a world of swirling white to the Lost Lake Nature Preserve, a 537-acre sanctuary that encompasses sections of Oakland County’s Holly Township and Genesee County’s Grand Blanc Township. It first opened to the public in the fall of 2015 and I had been there three times since then, but always as an attendee at official events sponsored by Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC) and never in wintery weather. Continue reading

A Sundew Kind of Morning!

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The Ice Age was coming to an end. Shuffling its 6-ton frame, a shaggy mastodon laboriously crossed a steep esker and trudged towards melt water from a giant block of ice left behind by the Pleistocene Era’s last local retreating glacier. The mastodons that once roamed Oakland County are now extinct, but the glacial evidence of nature’s land sculpting power is unmistakable in many sections of our county. Some of those sites, that once provided habitat for Mastodons, now harbor carnivorous flora and rare secretive creatures. One of those locations is within the Shiawassee Basin Preserve, a 600-acre site in northwestern Oakland County managed by Springfield Township Parks and Recreation. Continue reading

Lakeville Swamp Sanctuary: A Sacred Place of Cedars

Wilder Side of Oakland County 

“I enter the swamp as a sacred place”— Henry David Thoreau.

Cedar swamp habitat takes on a special beauty that is mysterious, captivating and full of wonder in winter. It’s also a vital place of survival for rare species of flora and fauna, functions as a water storage location, and often as an aquifer recharging site. The Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary, managed by the Michigan Nature Association, is one the highest quality wetland complexes found on the Wilder Side of Oakland County. One week has passed since I trekked into that swamp under a light drizzle laced with wet snow flakes. I emerged with mud caking my boots, ankles, knees and backside. I was a bit bruised and slightly scratched, rather wet and tired, yet exceedingly happy and eager to return on a day when the sun shines. 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.

Continue reading