Wednesday, May 30, 2012


photos by Jonathan Schechter

Once upon a time in an Emergency Department parking lot of a busy urban hospital in Oakland County there was a fox squirrel with some very bad eating and work habits.
 Barely 10 feet from barbed wire edge of the lot is a woodlot. That woodlot contains nut bearing trees, mulberry bushes (The leaves are tasty,so says my country living fox squirrels) and bird nests with young should a sudden urge for wholesome meat hit the squirrel. Yet, this squirrel that asked that her name not be used, may soon be in need of health care because she suffers from poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and rodent obesity resulting from her one perfected skill: SITTING!

I have come to know this squirrel rather well and observe her habits when I am on break from that emergency department that employees me as a paramedic.
 As a matter of fact when I sit outside under a shelter in that parking lot that has a few tables, mismatched chairs and a trash can the only company I often have is the squirrel.
(But that's another story.)
 I like being outside. The squirrel lives outside.
Do I dare say we are friends? I think we are.

Here is what I know.  On numerous occasions I have noted patrons of the hospital, more properly called patients, heading for the ER door. And many of those patrons snuff their cigarettes out almost in front of me and then stuff their assorted scraps of fast foods and donuts in the trash can.
(I never have figured out the need for a smoke and bad greasy food before entering the doors of ER,
 but there is much about the human species I do not understand.)
And at that moment in time of trash stuffing, Ms. Squirrel crawls down from her slouching branch of laziness wanting others to do her work and then plunges into the trash can for goodies. Unhealthy goodies.  And then she climbs up, sits down and 'pigs out'.
And that is where this once upon a time tale ends.
But I hope her life does not end too soon .
 Her exposed view in the lower picture is evidence she is a veteran mom and may soon leave her kids as orphans.  For if her bad dietary habits don't clog those rodent arteries, her slow moving scamper with a bloated belly from daily gluttony may just draw the attention of my other and much healthier parking lot friend: A red-tailed hawk that perches on the rooftop security globe and works hard.
And he knows she is there.
Moral of the story: The lazy one loses in the end.

Friday, May 25, 2012

WATER WORLD: Frogs, Turtles, Bugs, Blooms

A bullfrog emerges from the duckweed!
All photos by Jonathan Schechter
Holly State Recreation Area - Groveland Township, Michigan

In these closing days of May shallow ponds and secluded bays of inland Oakland County, Michigan are alive with aquatic reptiles and amphibians, dragonflies and beetles and a myriad of water-loving wildflowers.
These photos are to supplement the Oakland Outdoors hiking column in the May 27 issue of The Oakland Press (  that profiles the short McGinnis Lake Nature Trail at the Holly State Recreation Area. I could not help but recall the timeless words of Darwin as I stood in  a mix of  rich mix of organic life-giving muck and duckweed  - a primordial soup of nature - and watched the endless dance of nature swirl around me.

"...from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." The Origin of Species 1859

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Rescue Me!" Is not what the fawn is saying!

Photos by Jonathan Schechter
May 21, 2012 
My meadow in Brandon Township, Michigan

I am a very lucky man. The wildlife that shares 'my' 11 acres has come to know my ways and trust me. But they remain cautious and that  is good. Wildlife needs to be wild.  
And that means fawns too.
I have slowly come to know the ways of the deer in my life.
 I will not enter the meadow behind my barn again for several months until the new fawn is moving with her mom in the rest of the woods and meadows and swamps that are home for them and a pleasure for me.
  Today the fawn was frisky, exploring the new world as mom stayed in the shadows.
My presence within the fenced area and my  human scent might dramatically change the dynamics. 
A passing coyote or dog would certainly detect my scent.
And that just could bring a quick end to this fawn.

Not all fawns in fawn tales have as much of a chance for survival as "my" fawn. 
Here is why:
All too often well meaning humans caught up in what many biologist call The Bambi Syndrome will  try to "rescue" a seemingly abandoned fawn.  After all, how could a caring human walk away from such a beautiful and curious creature with those big eyes? But the facts and the ways of nature indicate a fawn by itself is rarely abandoned. Michigan DNR wildlife ecologist Sherry MacKinnon remind us, "Even if a fawn appear to be abandoned, its mother is almost always nearby. MacKinnon goes on to explain, "It's not uncommon for does to leave their young unattended for up to eight hours at a time, an anti-predator strategy that minimizes scent left around the newborn animals."

Today I sat just outside the fenced section of meadow and watched the fawn frolic. The fawn ignored me for she has not been taught to be fearful, not yet.  And after her spontaneous romp of exploration she returned to her mother in the shadows at the very edge of the old fence and did what she does very well; she nursed.
And mom watched me, perhaps a bit torn in her emotions.
 She trusts my  outside of the fence presence, but as a protective mom, she watched my every move. 
(And should you wonder, I stayed back and used the telephoto lens). 
As I write these words well after dark I can only image the gentle beauty a few hundred feet from me: A  doe sheltering her fawn in the meadow under a beautiful sliver of a moon.  And I reflect on the timeless words of John Muir, 
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world"

Monday, May 21, 2012


All photos by Jonathan Schechter, May 20, 2012
Brandon Township, Michigan

 I am glad, very glad, I listened to my  nature-savvy, sky-watching friend Amanda who called to remind me a solar eclipse is about to start: "I think we can see it here in Michigan too!" Just minutes earlier the radio newscaster was stating rather clearly that the viewing was to be had only in the western United States. 
News reporter was wrong. Amanda was right! 
Although the famed "ring of fire" around the moon was not visible in Michigan, these photos show the media dropped the accuracy ball! 
The first bites of the hungry moon on the sun were clearly visible.
With the sun dropping rapidly behind my neighbor's stately evergreens to the west I grabbed my camera, ran for my hill top and waited.  Ten minutes later image number one (above) was "mine".
Brother Moon took a bite out of the lower right side of Sister Sun.
 The low cloud bank obscured most of the rest of the sky show, but made for awesome colors  and images of the slightly muted sun as it sank in the Eastern USA. 
 Two of those images are below.
(NOTE: no filters used, no color adjustments, no cropping.)


Thursday, May 17, 2012


All photos of barn residents by Jonathan Schechter

The letter came to me as a surprise. A township official had comments for me about my barn that has stood proudly on my property since the late 1850's, a remnant of our rich agricultural history.
It was noted in that letter my barn is "Abandoned"
It is not! 
Turkey vultures perch proudly on the metal roof after sunrise and catch the morning rays.
A nursing red squirrel stores black walnuts on the upper beams.
Screech owls perch in the corners and one day last winter a great horned owl paid a visit.
One, perhaps two, north flying squirrels live in a hole in a cracked beam.
And the meadow behind the barn provided cover for fawns last year and this year a young buck often naps on an old leaf pile adjacent to the barn.
Abandoned? You decide!

Fawns next to barn's stone foundation

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moose Tree Nature Preserve: Why the name?

The "Moose Tree"
All photos by Jonathan Schechter

The Moose Tree is an oak tree with a strange growth on the trunk that looks like a moose's head!
It is actually a growth known as a gall, tissue growth within the tree that is stimulated by fungi, insects or bacteria It's not harmful to the tree and  this oddly shaped tree gall is a delight for children at the preserve. 
And that answers the question posed in  my Oakland Outdoors hiking column in the Sunday, May 13th edition of The Oakland Press that explores the trails and landscape of Lake Orion Community School's Moose Tree Nature Preserve.

Below, more tree images from this 35 acre sanctuary in Lake Orion, Michigan.

High winds have created windthrows: large trees that in their death support new life.

A large leaning black cherry is supported by his 'brother' oak.

New red maple leaves sprout from a stately old red maple at the swamp's edge.

Another large ash tree has succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer

The preserve's trees provide habitat for countless species and ring vernal ponds

Home sweet home for the eastern chipmunk!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Morels & A Gray Treefrog

All photos by Jonathan Schechter
Look closely: Do you see the treefrog?
 Hint: upper right corner!

With just a touch of humidity in the air I wandered down to the edge zone of my meadow, the place were the woodland meets the dogwood shrubs and tall grasses grow and does give birth to fawns. 
The object of my search? Morels! 
And again it was a failure in a very small way: no shrooms.
But it was a wonderful moment in nature's way when I bent low under one more shrub searching for that elusive mushroom of spring. And that's when I noticed something a bit out of place, a shape that did belong and that shape had a moist shine.  The picture above shows the gray treefrog of my meadow (actually one of many that live in my world on my the 11 acres) taking an afternoon siesta. In the first image I did not use the telephoto and noted that the frogs eyes moved every so slightly as I leaned forward ever so slowly.  
He remained motionless but alert. 
The pictures below were proceeded by the slight noise of the telephone lens extending. 
Were those his thoughts? 
I have no way of knowing, but I'd like to think that this master of camouflage that can change his color from gray to green somehow knew that I meant him no harm.
I bid him farewell and walked back up hill to my home at the edge of his homeland.

Monday, May 7, 2012

RAINY DAY RUCKUS: Crows & the Hawk

photos by Jonathan Schechter  5/7/2012

Light rain was falling. I could hear the ruckus of crows from inside my house. When crows speak loudly  they have a message. And the message is usually an alarm call to warn their brethren that a threat is about.  In Brandon Township that threat can be a human; but they never alarm for me.
They know me. 
But most of the time the loud ruckus means they have detected a hawk, an owl, a cat or fox. 
And I believe their warning is as much a case of crow harassment, perhaps for the excitement of their venture and the social gathering as it is a true warning of danger. 
 I grabbed my camera and slipped and slid my way across my rain-soaked meadow.
One look through the zoom lens of the camera exposed the secret. My friend, the red-tailed hawk had been detected. Look closely at the top picture. The shape in the right hand corner is the hawk.
And the photo below from a slightly different angle shows the soggy red-tail in the same tree.
The dance of nature is endless and beautiful and the hawk and the crows know the rules.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Full moon rising over my meadow and maples in January of 2012
photo by Jonathan Schechter

"It raises high tides, it makes dogs howl, it wakes you up in the middle of the night with beams of moonlight stealing through the drapes. If a moonbeam wakes you up on the night of May 5th, 2012, you might want to get out of bed and take a look..  This May’s full Moon is a "super Moon,” as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full Moons of 2012."  
So says  NASA Science News.
Great to know those science geeks have a poetic writer's heart that would make H.D. Thoreau proud!.

Armageddon doomsday folks claim that this super moon rising will cause earthquakes and other end of world, run for the hills, scenarios. 

  Folklore holds that all kinds of wacky things happen under the light of a full Moon. And in my life as a paramedic I have seen weird things happen on full moons--and nights with just a sliver of a moon.
But ever since the Middle Ages there has been a belief that the full moon causes mental disorders . And NASA scientists confirm that  the word "lunacy," meaning "insanity," comes from the Latin word for "Moon."   Perhaps I suffer from full moon lunacy for you can bet I will be outside in my meadow trying to capture the moonshine as she rises above the trees. And I will also talk to the deer.
 It will be perfect evening for me among the dancing moon shadows.
How I wish I could be at Sleeping Bear Dunes to watch the moon rise above the dunes!

 Some coastal dwellers worry about high tides. It's  true that a perigee full Moon creates extra-high tides," but before you head for the hills know that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, "In most places around Planet Earth the lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual."  
You won't be needing to build a Noah's style ark for this event.
If I lived by the ocean I would camp on the shore tonight! 

And here is the final word from NASA SCIENCE:
"The scientific term for the phenomenon is "perigee moon." Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon's orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side ("perigee") about 50,000 km closer than the other ("apogee").  Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon's orbit seem extra big and bright.
Such is the case on May 5th at 11:34 pm Eastern Daylight Time when the Moon reaches perigee.  Only one minute later, the Moon will line up with Earth and the sun to become brilliantly full.  The timing is almost perfect." 

My final word: Enjoy all wonders of Nature and her ways and this magical moon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


                           WILD ASPARAGUS, LAST WEEK OF APRIL, 2012                       

I am not one of those "Armageddon is coming soon, prepare for doomsday, dig a bunker!" type of survivalist". I do however take great pleasure in traipsing about the woods and meadows in search of wild edibles. Last week it was harvest time for wild asparagus, one of the greatest treats of Mother Nature. 
But now that the rains have come and the first day of May is upon us, my hunt switches to my favorite fungi: The magnificent morel!