A Winter Picnic for Muskrats

A muskrat stands on two feet on a lake that's beginning to melt.

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

The woods fell silent last Friday afternoon as I slowly made my way along a seldom used trail, perfect conditions for my stealthy approach with a photographic mission in mind. My plan was very simple: photograph Black-capped Chickadees that frequent a sheltered thicket on a bluff that overlooks a small lake. I expected those boisterous little fellows to greet me with their cheerful chickadee-dee-dee melody. I was certain they would, for with the sky a radiant shade of blue and the mercury climbing over the fifty degree mark, the chickadees would be flitting about and singing like it was spring.

My stealthy approach failed and not a chickadee was in sight. Continue reading

Coexisting with Urban Wildlife at Winter’s Approach

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared landscapes with humans. They were part of the ecological matrix within which Homo sapiens evolved. They were part of the psychological context in which our sense of identity as a species arouse.”

“The teeth of big predators, their claws, their ferocity and their hunger, were grim realities that could be eluded but not forgotten. Every once in a while, a monstrous carnivore emerged like doom from a forest or a river to kill someone and feed on the body. It was a familiar sort of disaster-like auto fatalities today – that must have seemed freshly gruesome each time, despite the familiarity.” — Monster of God, David Quammen

Oakland County lacks the man-eating predators of history that still seem to haunt our minds and exaggerate our fears. But as the cold days of November shorten, and some species of wildlife move closer to our homes to forage under bird feeders, we still behave at times as if our lives are at risk by the very presence of wildlife. Negative comments about opossums, raccoons, deer, wild turkeys and the much maligned Eastern Coyote seem to spread like wildfire as Thanksgiving draws near. Some neighborhood social media sites fuel misinformation about urban wildlife with comments such as, “We saw a coyote lurking in a field.” Deer, rabbits, turkeys and coyotes might be seen in a field, but none lurk there: a reminder that the usage of certain words can be powerful and lead to fear-mongering. Continue reading