Ten days have raced by since snow blanked Oakland County, and the mercury plunged to ten degrees below zero. Spring has accelerated her annual duel with winter, and no matter how long it takes, spring always wins. The sights, signs, and sounds of nature’s way in February’s last days are everywhere.
Woodlands fell silent as winter’s grasp tightened and temperatures plunged to single digits. However, blue sky mornings added beauty as birds hunted for frozen berries and feasted at feeders while our coldest weekend of the year approached. Birds actually manage quite well on their own without human handouts, but bird feeders offer never-ending sources of entertainment, enjoyment, and education. They become center stage for kaleidoscopes of brilliant colors, insight into the ways of nature, and sometimes fast-moving drama.
The days are short, and darkness comes all too soon. The dawn of winter draws near. We may feel sleepy at times, but there is no long winter nap awaiting the beaver (Castor canadensis,) the largest rodent of North America. Contrary to the belief of some, beavers do not hibernate. Beavers are true architects of the wildlife world. Although these highly-skilled engineers are almost never seen in winter, the evidence of their activity is everywhere, from the most rural sections of our county to the wooded banks of the Clinton River in the city of Pontiac.
The sighting of a Snowy Owl is a memorable and magical moment of nature’s way. This stunning lead image, and the final in-flight image were both captured during the last week of November along the east shore of Lake Michigan by nature photographer Jenifer Selwa’s long lens. She graciously shared them with me, along with critical coexistence advice, as these powerful owls of the High Arctic tundra continue on their journey.
Aldo Leopold wrote: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” I consider myself an unabashed member of the latter group. Coyotes certainly represent “wild things,” but they are not restricted to rural sections of our county. They are extremely adaptable creatures, and it’s perfectly normal for them to be noticed not only in our State Recreation Areas, Oakland County Parks, and Huron-Clinton Metroparks, but also in our suburban and urban areas. Coyotes are found in every city and town in our county, including populous Pontiac, Royal Oak, and Rochester, nor are they strangers to the city of Detroit.
This excellent video of a coyote hunting meadow voles in a roadside field at Detroit’s Rouge Park, as a deer casually watched, was filmed last week and shared with me by my nature friend, Donna Croaker Hall.