Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vote on August 3rd: Oakland County Parks Are Your Parks!

These images are from Lyon Oaks County Park, one of the 13 parks managed by Oakland County Parks and Recreation - our county managed parks that promote community connections, family relationships, environmental stewardship, good health and endless outdoor recreation opportunities.  These 13 parks have 68 miles of trails with public access and diverse habitats that support both common and rare wildlife and flora. On August 3rd you are being asked to vote on the renewal of the 10 year millage of .2145 for the purpose of operating, maintaining, improving and acquring parks and recreation and facilities in Oakland County.  If your home is valued at $175,000, the homeowner pays about $21/year to support Oakland County Parks and Recreation: which in turn supports you and your life style. The accomplishments of our park system are numerous and the values they present to you are as diverse as the parks. A great nature center with year round education programs, off-leash dog parks, paved bike trails, rugged backwoods hiking trails, a greenhouse operation, equestrian and ski trails, campsites and cabin camping,  kids summer camp progams, golf courses, cricket and soccer fields, ponds, lakes, marshes and streams, fishing, boating, waterpark facilites,  universally accessible playgrounds, walking trails, picnic areas and perhaps best of all - - easy access to a lst rate family friendly park system with something for everyone! Projects planned for the next ten years include acqusition of additional parklands for preservation for future generations, broadend natural resources stewardship programs, a continuation of collaborative recreation planning assistance for local communities, upgrades of facilities and parks infrastructure and an expansion of our trail systems. $21 -less than a dinner for two- goes a long ways. I urge you to vote and vote YES.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nature's Air Patrol over St John Hospital

Red-tailed hawks are opportunist hunters, usually living at the edge of a woodland. But they are well adapted to living on the fringes of and sometimes within the city.  Most of their diet consists of small mammals: Rabbits, mice, meadow voles and squirrels are all favorites.
But sometimes when opportunity presents they will hunt and capture slower moving birds. Such is the case of the pair of red-tails that has taken to air patrols over the parking lot and adjacent grassy areas of St John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in the highly urbanized SE corner of Oakland County. The pair perches - and waits - on the antenna on the roof and the security observation globe on the 7th floor roof.  Pigeons, that used to perch on the lower level roof are strangely absent. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Wolf Pup of Cheboygan County!

My rural postal carrier broke the news to me today. And she had it almost right. "Did you hear they are releasing wolves in the Lower Pennisula?"  One missing word in this rapid fire world of  news dissemination can make a world of difference. In this exciting breaking wildlife news story that one word is "captured" as in "captured and released". Here is the rest of the story and a photo supplied by the MDNRE:  A wolf pack was verified by tracks on the ground in Cheboygan County earlier this year. An on-going effort to capture and radio-collar an adult wolf brought a surprise. The U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services, in partnership with the MDNRE trapped a wolf pup in the northern Lower Peninsula early last week.  The live-trapping (and radio-collaring of adults) allows wildlife biologists to "better monitor the distribution, activity and number of wolves in that region" according to MDNRE biologist Jennifer Kleitch.   What makes the capture and subsequent release of the 23 pound wolf pup born on 'our' soil - with an identification tag now in the ear - is that this is the first facts-on-the-ground solid evidence of wolves breeding in the Lower Peninsula since wolves were extirpated (killed off) here in the early1900's.  Kleitch added, "It indicates that we have at least one breeding pair in the region and the potential for a growing population."   And how did this small pack of wolves arrive on our side of the Big Bridge? It was not some sort of  clandestine black ops operations with secret night-running trucks or lightless helicopters hauling them south. They came here the old fashion way: They walked. Mostly likely across the frozen Straits of Mackinaw a few winters ago, for nature always finds a way. And this writer's guess is there are more than just a mom and pop and a single pup, for Canis lupus does not howl to announce arrival: Howling is communication between individuals--and packs. For information on wolf identification and a wolf  reporting form go to

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A sandhill crane, a gaggle of ducks - - - and heat.

It was just a simple bike trek on a sultry summer day  last week along the 8.5 mile paved hike/bike trail that meanders around Kent Lake at Kensington Metropark.  High noon is not the time for wildlife encounters,  but Mother Nature is full of surprise. She always is if we stay alert to her ways. I noticed movement on a small island just a stone's throw from the edge of the trail and stopped to see what drew my attention. An adult sandhill crane - note the dramatic red crest on the head - was as some would say, "just chilling" in shade of the island.  But the day was hot and humid and wild creatures too like comfort. This sandhill crane - a species that is not considered waterfowl or a wading bird - strode slowly into the shallows from his island sanctuary and preened amidst a small flock of ducks. And for the next 15 minutes as I stood  in the sweltering sun and felt beads of sweat on my forehead, neck and back, the sandhill 'enjoyed' cool water. Who is the smarter one adpating to the ways of nature and weather? The crane, or I? I think you know the answer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mammatus clouds danced over Ortonville!

Early Friday evening, July 23 a severe weather event crossed SE Michigan. Although downtown Ortonville was spared the brunt of this round of storms (more coming today, Saturday,July 24)  Brandon Township and Ortonville was treated to a colorful airshow spectacle of Mother Nature: a line of ominous appearing mammatus clouds that appeared around 8:45 pm and remained into darkness.  Mammatus clouds are also known as mammatocumulus clouds: essentially meaning breast clouds.  The name comes from the Latin word mamma (breast or udder), since many see a resemblance in shape between the pattern of the pouches of these clouds dangling down from another cloud formation spawned by the storm and human breasts. According to the folks at NOAA indivudal lobes (breasts) in the formation can last from a few minutes to over an hour.  Contrary to popular belief these clouds do not generally mean that tornadic weather is coming, for they most often appear at the end of severe weather event. But sometimes Mother Nature can be full of surprise and another powerful storm front is right behind their passing. (These photos were all from the parking lot of Brandon Fire headquarters in downtown Ortonville.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Open Letter to Mr. Groundhog, A.K.A. Woodchuck

Dear Mr. Groundhog,

Your days are numbered Mr. Groundhog.  Or maybe it's Mrs. or Ms. I really don't care. You think you are cute and lovable and have full range of the land. Let me make something perfectly clear to you.  I live on ll acres. I garden in less than sixty square feet. I have never messed with your monster mouth ways of munching on wild things in my meadows, your sucking down of the mulberry leaves from my  berry producing tree and I ignore your occasionaly mid-day raids into my cultivated wildflowers. And I know it is you and your flabby kin with bloated bodies that have dug those dens at the edge of the barn foundation. And I also know it's you that plops down and suns your fat lazy hide next to the glacial erratic. (And since you never took a geology class Mr. Groundhog, glacial erratic is the fancy name for that big rock from the Canadian shield that was pushed here during the last glacier. And you probably don't even know - cause all you do is eat and eat and eat - that your very name groundhog is interchangable with the word woodchuck.)  But now you boldy approach the very edge of my tiny vegtable garden and look at the goodies with those beedy little eyes of yours. And you seem to be saying that when I leave for work you are going to work---on my garden. Well, let me tell you something buddy! I am friends with the coyote, the red fox and the red tailed hawk. Call us kindred spirits.  And they have my blessings to do what they must do to do what they do to survive.  Let me explain that twisted sentence more clearly: THEY ARE GOING TO EAT YOU!  But there is a way out for you. Go away from the garden. Now! Don't even look back.  Run. Or maybe I should say waddle away. And then you won't meet their teeth, claws and fang. And then there will more left of you than the photo I took as you stared at me this morning.

with best regards,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Land of the 13-Lined Ground Squirrel!

These few pictures - that accompany the Oakland Outdoors hiking column of the July 18th edition of the Oakland Press - tell the rest of the story.  The 'no name trail' of the Shiawassee Basin Preseve in Springfield Township is a great place for native wildlife with specific habitat requirements and a plesant place for humans wanting a short and easy hike. 13-lined ground squirrels are thriving in the prairie and meadow habitat just outside the Civic Center. The hind leg standing ground squirrel  in this photo posed for about two seconds before plunging back into his burrow. And massasauga rattlesnakes quietly slither about their reclusive ways throughout the preserve (and large slices of northern Oakland County).  Park's Director Jennifer Tucker showed me the new rattlesnake awarness sign created by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, a sign meant to increase awarness of our native pit viper and improve the behavior of the visiting public. And if you hike this little visted trail that starts almost at the park office door make sure you stop at the overlook for a wildland view of the valley. Be sure to avoid sections of the trails that may be closed.  Bottom line:  Nature at her finest is easily accessible in Springfield Township. And if you live in that township don't forget to support your Springfield Township Parks and Recreation new millage request(in addition to the equally important Oakland County Parks millage renewal) on August 3rd!  It will help you, your property values and your quality of life--- and the wary little ground squirrels that call Springfield Township home.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our County Fair: A Behind the Scenes Rescue!

Fire-Rescue. That's a primary function of Brandon Fire Department based in Ortonville and fire departments everywhere. They are the men and women who fight the fires and in most  of Oakland County provide emergency medical services. During the on-going Oakland County Fair four local fire departments,  Springfield, Groveland, The North Oakland Fire Authority and Brandon provide first aid station coverage for the thousands of fair goers. With that scence set we jump back to 8:30 am, Monday July 12. Brandon Fire had been on location at the fair for less than five minutes and was setting up the first aid area: a staging area that had been empty for a year. When a cot was opened a ball of dry leaves, tissue paper and fur tumbled out and one very distressed white-footed mouse tumbled to the ground complete with tiny sucklings. She scampered to safety under the dual tires of Brandon's rescue truck: not a safe place. After 15 minutes of nudging and reaching and streching, firefighters Carrie, Paul and Brandon secured mom in a dust pan and the small gathering of curious fair workers and Sherrif's Deputies offered suggestions, "Ahh, take her to the birthing tent." And that's when I was able to jump into my firemedic/naturalist role and announced Ms. Mouse is a tree climbing species. We trekked her to the edge of a woods and set the furry clan at the tree trunk and like a climber heading for the summit of K-2 she began her rapid 15 second ascent to a massive oak limb. One tiny teat-hanger lost her nipple grip to be caught by Carrie--note the blue gloved hand and mouse baby in right lower side of bottom picture. Mom mouse did not know that Walt Disney said never touch a baby or mom will abandon. She added the tiny one to her teats from the safety of the limb and continued the ways of a wild mouse in a shady oak tree. And Carrie and Brandon and Paul and I returned to the first aid base and waited for the our first two-legged patient. None were as memorable as the mouse rescue that opened our 2010 fair with smiles.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oakland County Fair!

There is nothing like it: our Oakland County Fair!  It's a  lively mix of agricultural and farm events and 4-H kids beaming with pride. You will find serious livestock auctions and wilder side carnival rides. It's a place to spy on cows in labor, cheer on racing pigs, and watch horse shows, grandstand events, monster trucks and even view diaper derbys and pickle eating contests.  Of course the first rate burping contest has returned. Don't forget the  MSU extension programs including great info on weather and storms! And for people watching--this place is full of  humans of all sorts wandering about. Watch them wander and talk and eat, but remember --others are watching you and your ways and antics as you trek the fair grounds! And of course the fair grounds  are the new home of historic Ellis Barn. Look up under the barn  rafters and you may spot  swallows looking down at fair madness!  For details on the fair and all the events go to but here is the bottom line: Fair runs from July 13th through the 18th and its $10 per vehicle or $5 per walk in. Location: Springfield Oaks County Park at 12451 Andersonville Road in Davisburg.  Go there on July 13th and you just may find me ( I am an emergency room paramedic and an active member of the Wilderness Medical Society when not trekking woods and wilds or scribbling words for editors) with the fair medic/first aid team from Brandon Fire. And yes, that is me getting cozy with the goats at last year's fair.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Russians to the Rescue? Gulf Oil: Let's Swallow Our Pride!

Today, July 9th is Day 81 of the great oil disaster in the gulf. Nothing has worked yet to halt the monstrous flow created by our insatiable oil appetite and the cataclysmic explosion of the British drilling platform Deepwater Horizon. And now a new idea  that is floating on the Red horizon is being reported this morning by BBC reporter and science correspondant Katie Moskvitch. Anatoly Sagalevich of Russia's Shirshov Institute of Oceanograhy says that he has had informal conversations with a BP rep on tiny Russian subs with high tech abilites.  The pair of small Russian subs that can dive to 6,000 meters  and "would be able to cap the leak in the Gulf of Mexico" Currently these high tech submarines are deployed to the bed of the Baikal Sea, the world's deepeest lake  in their search for gas hydrates, an alternative fuel source. Yevgenii Chernyaev, the skipper of  the Mir-2, one of the two Russian exploration subs, says "Our subs are unique, there are two of them and they can submerge and work simultaneously. Also, they are powerful enought to work with any other additional equipment."   The Russains say that  if they are provided all the detail of the disaster they can build a special device to attach to their subs and help.  So why are we waiting? Is it that American and British pride is in our way? Are we still stung by the success of the Soviet Union's 1957 Sputnik flight that shocked our science community when the "communists" sent a man made object into Earth orbit, a technological first? My thought: If  Russian scientists can plug the leak in the bottom of the Gulf, welcome the Russians from the highest levels of  our government and bring'em now to help combat the worst environmental catastrophe in our American History. And lest we forget it is all one planet which means it is their oil spill too! This is not the time to play politics and bury ourselves in the nasty abyss of  our old Soviet Union  fears.  Bring on the Mirs (the Russian subs) and their team of specialists.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sweltering Heat brings Bug Monsters with Piercing and Sucking Mouth Parts

As Oakland County simmers in Day 4 of an early season heat wave with temperture hovering in the 90's and many wild creatures slowing their pace, one creature is accelerating activity.Cicadas have emerged from their time underground, time spent maturing and sucking on tree roots. They now cling to tree trunks and sound off with loud and long chain saw like buzzing noises. Translation: "Hey sweet thing, I'm over here!" This 'heat bug'  of summer is hard to spot as they carry on tree top romance, but earlier today as I sat in my rustic arbor sipping iced coffee I spotted something on my old whiskey barrel that  now serves as a potted plant platform: a fresh cicada exoskeleton - with clear evidence of their bulging eyes - still clung to the rough surface.  Skeleton there. No body home!  Had I snooped about earlier I might have spotted the recently emerged cicada  still breaking its way out of its external skelton, streching out nearly transparent wings and setting off into flight and as an adult in a brave new world of heat. That is their way.  But tonight, with summer here, it's time to sleep on the screened porch cot in the season of  heat bugs; for that's my way.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Camping on the 4th of July

If I had my way today I'd be camping in the ancient mountains of North Carolina above a clear cold stream with a canopy of stars and fireflies and a smoldering campfire.  Or I'd be more than happy to pitch a tent in the sultry lowcountry of South Carolina within earshot of high tide waves in the land of the massive loggerhead sea turtle and dangling Spanish moss. If it turned out to be that dawn brought sunrise filtering through my tent flap in the spruce-scented mountains above Sante Fe that would be just perfect too, as would be falling asleep in the Sonoran Desert to the yip of coyotes or on Isle Royale to the howl of wolves. For me, the 4th of July is more than a time to salute the uprising of our rebellious colonists against the Red Coats of the British Army; it's a time to embrace nature and wildness and  celebrate our freedom of wide open spaces, public forest and parklands and our ability to enjoy. And what better way than in a tent: 5 Star Freedom for me far from sardine-like crowds and the world of texting and cell phones and concrete madness. Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend from my screened porch in the rolling hills of Ortonville where I sip coffee and type early this morning to the chatter of a house wren and watch a hummingbird sip her first drink of the new day.