Monday, March 28, 2011


photo by Jonathan Schechter
photo by Jonathan Schechter
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Snows melting, spring winds are blowing and the fields and cattail marshes are dry. And that means it
just  takes a spark, a tossed cigarette, an unsafe burning of brush, a downed power line or an act
 of nature in the form of a lightning bolt to kick off our spring wildfire season.  Few things are certain
 in the uncertain world of nature - excluding fire.  The time for situational awareness and caution is now.
If your city or township does not allow burning: Do not burn! If they do, be sure you have a burning
 permit and follow the rules. One rule is omitted from most regulations: Common sense. Use it.
The Oakland County wildfire season is at the doorstep.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Myth of Robins

Robin on a sunny afternoon worm hunt.  Saturday, March 26
 (photo by Jonathan Schechter)

Contrary to the common myth that robins are harbingers of spring, they are not.
Many robins overwinter in Oakland County.  Then why does that 'false fact'of nature's way
keep spreading? Fact of the matter is clear: When the snows begin to melt exposing grasses, 
 robins emerge from sheltered woodlands and thickets and hop about where we are on their endless
 hunt for worms. And we are out now more too, so we see them more.
Yesterday afternoon about a dozen robins were in my field, tilting their heads, listening, looking,
hopping, hoping, dreaming.
Worms beware: Robins are on the hunt!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hiking Rose Oaks County Park--before all the snow melts!

The Richardson Lake beaver lodge

Beaver dam on the SE corner of Richardson Lake
 These images  illustrate  hiking columns from last Sunday and today in the Oakland Press; hiking columns exploring the nature and wildness of Rose Oaks County Park in the earliest days of spring.  Rose Oaks is a great for a hike on natural surface trails anytime of the year.  Hike now and you will need good footwear. The melting snows feed the wetlands and frozen grounds hold rain.  Is it fun? You bet! Will you be alone there? Not if you consider deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, sandhill cranes and the beavers that flooded the trail on the SE corner of Richardson Lake as good trail companions: I do!  To access the  columns on  Rose Oaks, a park on the wilder western side of Oakland County : and type Jonathan Schechter in the search box. Oakland County Parks:
Ruffed grouse tracks in fluffy spring snow (all photos by Jonathan Schechter)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oakland County Law Enforcement Officers Meet the Appalachian Trail; one will hike the sidewalk of Hot Springs

As you read these words the first of 28 hikers  - many of them Oakland County law enforcement officers- have started hiking the entire 2,181 mile long Appalachian Trail (AT) to raise funds for specially adapted homes for seriously disabled American soldiers. Sgt. Pat Fanning of the Novi Police Department started the five month relay  today as he departed Springer Mountain, Georgia.  Read the story on this relay team of American Hero Hikers in the Thursday, March 24th edition of The Oakland Press at or in the print edition.
Why this "special report"?  One of the hiker's trail trek will take him through the mountain town of Hot Springs, North Carolina, an area I know well, a unique section of the famed Appalachian Trail, for in Hot Springs, the AT emerges from the forested hills and follows one mile of sidewalk right down main street before crossing the French Broad River and heading back into the mountains and the northwards towards Maine. I have hiked this section- down the sidewalk - and dined at her trailside cafes and soaked in her hot springs, an other wordly experience for trail hikers. And off course I spent a night at the Iron Horse Station,  a landmark inn, restaurant and tavern. Where else can  you be lulled to sleep by the romance of a late night freight train rumbling through town and walk out the front door onto the Appalachian Trail at dawn?

For more on the AT:

To follow the hikers on Facebook use "American Hero Hikers"

On-line donations:

Trail journal: 

These pictures give life to that mile of sidewalk that hiking boots tred. (All photos by
Jonathan Schechter from his 2010 explorations of the Hot Springs section of the AT.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bald Eagle Update: Optimism Soars!

The bald eage continues to mend from gunshot wound and flaps his wings. 
Photo credit: DNR

The eagle is prepared for another X-Ray at the Canton Center Animal Hospital.  
Photo credit: DNR

BACKGROUND: Last Valentines Day an American bald eagle was shot in Gaines Township
 (Genesee County )and located and recovered  by DNR wildlife biologist Julie Oakes and other
 DNR personal with assistance of licensed falconers and the Detroit Zoo.  The eagle is believed to 
 the same adult bald eagle that had often been seen in northwestern Oakland County.  News stories
 solicited tips on the Report All Poaching Hot Line of the Michigan DNR.  Several weeks
later - based on your good tips- Conservation Offficer Mark Papineau had sufficent information to
 move ahead in his detailed investigation.  A warrent was issued for the arrest of 65 year old
James A. Nelson of Gaines Township. (Information on the shooting and arrest can be found on
previous Earth Almanac Blogs)

THE GOOD NEWS:  Yesterday I was contacted by wildlife biologist Oakes and informed
of  excellent news.  New X-rays show that his fracture site is healing well and the eagle is being
transferred to a flight cage to gain strength.  The next few weeks should tell the outcome of this eagle.
 It is hoped that one day this spring the eagle will soar  free in our sky as high as the guarded
optimism  of Dr. Andrew Granowski and his team at the Canton Center Animal Hospital and the
dedicated biologists and  conservation officers of our Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

Kudos for a job well done!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lightning Awareness! Severe Weather Season Draws Near

photo by Jonathan Schechter

Mother Nature rumbled across Oakland County on the first night of spring with powerful rolling thunderclasps and brilliant bolts of lightning; a reminder to us that severe spring weather season draws near. If  a religious icon on the peak of a  cathedral  in Santa Fe is protected with a lightning rod, the message to us should be clear.  Look at the clasped hands. Perhaps the message is prayer is not enough.
  Practice situational awareness, watch the weather, listen to your NOAA Weather Radio and enjoy the new season. Staying safe is up to you.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On The First Day of Spring----A prayer of thanks from a squirrel.

This is a photo of the squirrel that begs from deer --and talks to me.
His message/prayer is below. (photos by Jonathan Schechter)

A prayer of thanks from a slightly rotund  female fox squirrel

"On this first day of spring I want to thank the guy that lives in the old yellow house on the
 hill (Hey!That's me the squirrel is praying about!) for being something of a slob and spilling lots
 of bird seed and corn all winter. I never once had to dirty or break my nails digging  for a buried
walnut. Just take a look at my nails, clean and manicured, I can hold cracked corn-- or pray.  And that means back to prayer. I offer thanks that big coyote found a field full of plump and juicy mice.  And if anyone cares, I am also the one that told the coyote about the feral cats next door: I think he ate them too; I'm glad, the cats no longer bothered me at the bird feeder on the cold snowy days.
Maybe that's why the coyote did not eat me: Safety for information exchange. He got to eat cats and mice, I got to live. Not a bad exchange.  Oh yes, I also want to thank the  rabbits that did not eat the young acorn seedlings about 150 years  ago. They had a chance to grow tall, good places for my leafy nests. And I want to thank that  guy (me again) for sometimes leaving the old garage door open just a bit too much. I snuck  in a  few times and hung out in the rafters with my new squirrel friend guy.And here is a secret: I think I feel my belly stirring, got to build a bigger nest!  Almost forgot, also want to thank the deer that usually visit at night when I am asleep, but sometimes come in the day, butt against the feeder and knock more goodies to the ground. I suvived winter!
Life can be good for a squirrel on the first day of spring.
WAIT WAIT--WHAT'S THAT?----oh no! Nuts!  
....I just saw a shadow overhead--It's a hungry red-tailed hawk and I am too chunky to run fast.
This could be it for me on the first day of spring. But maybe I can duck under the deck and
have a new season of adventure on a hill top in Brandon Twp.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Super Full Moon Rising!

The winter solstice full moon of 2010 rising over my barn in Brandon Township -
framed by walnut trees and atmospheric ice.
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Look to the east at sunset on Saturday, March 19th and you are in for a celestial treat: a beautiful
swollen orb slowly rising into the sky and looking so close you might think you can reach out and
grab hold. The folks at NASA SCIENCE NEWS state, "The last full moon so big and close to Earth
occurred in March of 1983."  The moon appears bigger-- no it did not grow -- because of the
oval shape of our moon's orbit around the Earth and the moon's position in relation to the Earth.
This moon is called a super perigee moon and may appear 30% brighter and 14% bigger
 than a 'normal' full moon.

NASA science geeks say the best time to look at and take photos is when the moon is near
 the  horizon and smaller objects are in the foreground to frame the moon.  Kind of like a trick
 fisherman know well: Hold that small bass way out in front of you and your small fish looks like a "monster" bass. Will the moon being close to Earth spawn more earthquakes?  Statistics say no,
but the fact of the matter is clear: There will be a slight increase in gravitational pull and the moon might efffect tidal waters by up to six inches. But you can be sure that if another deadly quake or tsunami hits our battered and bleeding planet on the19th our beautiful moon will take much of the blame.  
Deserved or not.   

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Mount St. Helens, Washington State, May 1980  USGS photo

Last Friday a meagathrust 9 earthquake moved Japan eight feet closer to the United States. The giant tsunami that followed caused only a few deaths in the United States and "just" millions of dollars of damage along our west coast, but it  was an  unforgiving 25-30 foot wave of death on parts of the Japanese coast that pushed inland for six miles and left a crushed and heartbroken nation at the doorstep of multiple nuclear meltdowns.  It is likely the death toll  from the quake and tsunami will soar to five figures.  In 1980 our Mount St Helens errupted sending a cloud of ash around the world as a pyroclastic flow and mud slide killed 57 in Washinton State.  These events are closely related; not by ramblings of apoplectic preachers seeking donations for their churchs, or Mayan Calender devotees, they are connected by the
Ring of Fire.

Japan sits right on top of one of the most active sections of this 25,000 mile long "ring" that incircles the Pacific Basin, including the entire west coast of the United States. 90% of the world's eathquakes occur in this ring as do 452 volcanoes. The events of last week - caused by the shifting of the tectonic plates that create and rock the ring - were catastrophic, but even more powerful events than the horrifying deaths by the crush of tsunami we witnessed from Japanese videos can and most likely will occur.The death tolls were held somewhat in check by new construction methods, expanding tsunami warning systems, highly skilled search and rescue teams and data from the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research, NASA and other scientific reseach (some of which is now being threatened in the U.S.A. by budget cuts).   Geologic time bombs simmer, our Yellowstone Super Volcano is one of them--if that one day goes---- well, many, many of us go too and nothing will ever be the same.

Unless we want to behave like tiny drowning brainless fleas clinging  to a large shaking wet dog it's time to encourage our government to continue to fund science and research.  Mother Nature was not warning us to be careful, but it would be wise for us to take the events of the past week as a warning and work toward a new mindset, a mindset that is more concerned about the enviroment and nature and humanity and the wonderous forces of geology under our feet and seas than materialism and Charlie Sheen.  But that takes effort and courage and the desire to work for a common good without quick reward. Just saying a prayer may make you feel good, but will not change facts on the ground.
First rate science education and research will help.

 It is time to breathe deeply, look at Japan, and realize that they are us, and we are one people on our fragile and restless Planet Earth and her Ring of Fire. 
The tectonic plates will move again: The California section of the Ring of Fire is overdue for  catastrophic movement, it is not a matter of if, it is WHEN. If you don't understand that you are not paying attention.
The big wet dog will shake again.

Japan after the tsunami hit. March 11, 2011  
Credit: AP photo from BBC News

Saturday, March 12, 2011


The bald eagle that was shot Valentines week is hooded for transport for emergency care. 
photo with permission from MDNRE
According to the Genesee County Prosecutors Office an arrest warrant has been issued for 65 year old James A Nelson on charges of  violation of  the Bald Eagle Protection Act and  Reckless Discharge of a Firearm.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment became aware of the injured eagle in a corn stubble field  in Gaines Township shortly after Valentines Day. A rescue team organized by Senior Wildlife Biologist Julie Oaks of the DNRE, with assistance from  Detroit Zoo bird experts and several licensed falconers captured the eagle. When X-Rays confirmed the gunshot, the law enforcement division of the MDNRE began a field investigation and shared information with the media in the hopes of getting tips.

Shortly after the shooting was reported in this blog, and later shared with other news outlets, tips came into the DNRE's 24 hour Report All Poaching Line (800-292-7800).  Several tips - supplied by the public after reading the news reports - lead Conservation Officer Mark Papineau of the DNRE  to the suspect's residence. After  interviewing the suspect and collection of balllistic evidence that was tested at the State Police Lab and incriminating statements made by Nelson, the warrant was issued.  Nelson, a resident of Gaines Township will be arrainged on the two charges in Genesee County  District Court on April 4th.

Eagle Update:  It is believed that the eagle is the same one that frequented northern Oakland County and had been seen numerous times near Seven Lakes State Park and the Village of Holly. The eagle, a five year old adult male, remains in rehab in Monroe, Michigan  and according to Papineau is doing extremely well.  It is hoped the eagle may be able to be released to the wild this spring.  (Updates will be posted on Earth Almanac when available)

Kudos to CO Papineau for his excellent detailed investigation and to the public for their  valuable cooperation in this senseless shooting of our federally protected bald eagle. Your tips led to the arrest warrant! For more on your Michigan Dept of Natural Resources and Environment Conservation Officers see   Be sure to see the DNRE video, Shields of Gold showing some of the work of your CO's.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Love and Lust in the Vernal Pond: But first more rains and the big snow melt must arrive

Don't let the cap of fresh snow and melting ice underneath fool you.
Vernal ponds are about to be wild with lustful little creatures.
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Vernal Ponds are places of wonder and re-birth. But without the  rains of March and early April 
the life cycles of many amphibians would end.  These highly sensitive, under-protected and often vanishing woodland ponds that also go by the name ephemeral ponds are the source of life for many
of our frogs and salamanders.  An evolutionary miracle of nature is about to occur in
Oakland County. Wood frogs, one of our tiniest frogs, will soon thaw from their rock hard cyrogenic
 state of suspended animation and hop to the icy ponds. This mass nocturnal migration is
 usually sparked into activity on the first night of late winter or early spring with rain when
the temperature  is near 50 degrees. In our neck of the woods that often happens within
a week of St. Patricks Day, even if ice edges the pond  and even if they (must attempt to) cross roads
or trails to reach breeding ponds.

After a very short courtship, "Hey, Wanna mate?" these tiny  frogs with a dark mask on their
 faces pair off "OK then, let's hook up!" and eggs are laid in communal masses without a hint
of modesty. And they will not be alone in their ponds of passion, for salamanders will emerge from
 under decaying logs and march off enmass to the ponds for lustful lunges at most anything that
moves.  And sometimes they get it right!  Fact of the matter is clear:  Lackluster appearing vernal
 ponds are about to be alive with sensual seduction,  kicking and swimming,  mating and egg laying 
and then a new race begins -- a race for the eggs to hatch and mature before the ponds dry out in
early summer. And that raises the question: Why not just mate in a lake and be done with it? 
The  answer is actually not a secret. If that happened the "big night out" for our seductive
amphibians  would be a bust and the fish in the lake would feast on the lustful gatherings.
 And young amphibians need the shallow and shaded nutrient rich waters of vernal ponds for
their rapid spurts of growth. Nature's way if often beyound our understanding. But it works.

Let the rains come, for this is the way of nature to restore our vernal woodland pools of sex,
love, wonder and beauty--at least for our amphibians.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stories on the Trail: Scat and Pellets, Evidence Does Not Lie.

Coyote scat is similar to wolf scat with the same twisted pattern, but smaller. 
 photo by Jonathan Schechter

A fresh owl pellet is evidence of an owl that is an excellent hunter, and perhaps a rabbit that was not wary.
Photo by Jonathan Schechter

Wildlife sightings are always exciting for me, be it just a glimpse at a spring peeper
 before it plunges back into water, a muskrat with a mouthful of greens, or a coyote
that  turns on a trail for one last look at me.  But sometimes it is the evidence that creatures
leave on a trail that stirs excitement; indisputable evidence of their passing.
A recent day time hike on the Habitat Trail at Stony Creek Metropark revealed little in the
 way of wildlife but the signatures of their activity were everywhere. And not just tracks.
An owl pellet - a regurgitated mass of indigestable fur and bones - told me that a great
 horned owl nested in the woods and hunted the adjacent field at night. One less rabbit will be
chewing on tender acorn seedlings this spring and baby owls had a meal of tender rabbit meat. 
 And a fresh deposit of coyote scat, prominently  deposited on a high part of the trail told me that a
coyote was using the trail as his trail and left behind a sign post message for other coyotes:
"My territory"

For more on Stony Creek see the hiking column in Sunday's Oakland Press -March 6 
(Go to the search box and type in my full name for all hiking columns )

Saturday, March 5, 2011


photo by Jonathan Schechter
It is never the time to dial 911 when the outdoor warning sirens located on fire stations, utility poles and buildings throughout  Oakland County scream their warnings. Yet every year when severe weather season arrives that's exactly what many residents do.  As an outdoor writer with over 20 years experience working in emergency services I can assure you that the last thing 911 Operators, the Oakland County Sheriffs Department, your local police and fire departments and the news media want or need is you calling to plead your ignorance with the dreaded question, "Why are sirens on?"   If you do not know by now, well, you are in a clueless state of existence, unless perhaps you are brand new to life in Oakland County.

Let me tell you something: It is not our government's job to protect you from your own sad lack of situational awareness.  Nor is it the government's job to force you to take shelter or become weather aware. Emergency Services will be plenty busy dealing with the aftermath of a storm. Fact of the matter is clear: Your 911 call of inquiry during the three minute wail of our 231 sirens or afterwards as you plead, "Why were the sirens on?" slows down emergency preparedness and  response.

It is your job to use common sense, protect your family and stay in the gene pool, or if you chose to ignore the forces of Mother Nature and the weather warnings, then go ahead and put yourself on the fast track to the Darwin Awards list. (Darwin Awards are for humans who weed themselves out of the gene pool forever by foolish, often ignorant and usually fatal behavior.) Just don't endanger the rest of us!

Sirens sound today, Saturday March 5th at 1 pm as a test of the Outdoor Warning Siren System.
It is only a test! Tests are usually on the first Saturday of every month during storm season.

Severe weather season is at our doorsteps.  You need to pay attention to the weather and take action when warning sirens sound. And keep in mind you may not hear the sirens in your house or car or if you are self-absorbed in high-tech musical ear bud melodies.  
The sirens are meant to warn those of us that are outside. 
When the siren's activiation signal is transmitted by Oakland County Emergency Management, Response and Preparedness it means the National Weather Service issued a Torndao Warning and/or a Severe Thunderstorm Warning  with winds of 70 mph expected.
And when that happens it is not time for you to make your plan.
The time for that is now; before a weather emergency.

Dialing 911 is not a plan.
 It is a sign of your failure to be a responsible citizen.

A final tip: Buy a NOAA weather radio with battery back up and alert tone notification. These radios sound an alert 24/7 and give emergency weather situational awareness information.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Spring is here: The truth is in Ortonville!

The outside deck of Ortonville's  landmark A&W overlooks Duck Creek.
Ortonville's A&W on M-15
It's just south of  tiny Duck Creek and Ground Zero for the dawning of spring.

Forget the red-winged blackbirds calling from icy marshes. Ignore the robins.  And the
dripping of maple sap is not the definitive sign of the new season. Nor is the return of the
turkey vultures. And don't listen for the gobble of wild turkeys to signal spring.  Torndao sirens
will wail this weekend in tests for  severe spring weather, but that 3 minute blast does not announce
spring. Walk the streets of Birmigham and you will smile at the heartless mannequins in store front
windows with their sensual smiles: They are dressed for a fashionable spring, but they  too, just like the flabby  groundhogs with their toothy grins are false prophets. But I found the truth at noon today in my small town of  Ortonville.  The A &W has reopened! So listen one and all and celebrate.
Spring is here! The moment the first customer walked up to the window, or car customers ordered
from under the canopy, spring arrived.  The new season is here, but watch out for the freezing rains~!