Monday, January 30, 2012

Shad + Shallow Water = Bald Eagle's Buffet!

Bald Eagles at the Monroe Michigan DTE Power Plant   
 (Above: Barrie Lynn Totten Wood photo)
Western shore of Lake Erie - January 28, 2012
photos by Barrie Lynn Totten Wood  and Jonathan Schechter

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature he finds it is attached to the rest of the world"
Those timeless words of John Muir take on a new meaning at the DTE Monroe Power Plant.
Bald eagles are common at the power plant during winter for the fishing is easy
and the living is secure because man tugged on nature.
And where is why the eagles come!
Slightly warmed water from the heat exhangers of this coal fired facility - one of the
cleanest coal plants  in the nation - flows through shallow canals and ponds to Lake Erie.
Gizzard shad like warm water and congregate in the shallows.
Bald eagles, with their excellent eye sight, ability to hover, and powerful talons take
 advantage of the opportunity of abundance and feast on the shad, the main entree
at this all you can eat  power plant fish buffet.

Shallow water eagle habitat - photo by Jonathan Schechter

Eagle watches the water for fish movement -  photo by Jonathan Schechter

A perfect kingfisher-like hover! - photo by Jonathan Schechter

A final flight adjustement - photo by Barrie Lynn Totten Wood

Juvenile bald eagle soars high overhead - photo by Barrie Lynn Totten Wood

A six foot wing span - the bald eagle - soars over the trees
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Americna coots paddle beneath the eagles and among the old giant lotus stalks
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Another moment of magestic hovering - photo by Jonathan Schechter

  Joann Van Aken of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance chats with Jamie Lanier,
the Visitor Services Manager of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge who coordinated
the  2012 Eagle Tour with the cooperation and assistance of the DTE Monroe Power Plant.
This secure facility is normally closed to the public. 
 I took part as an escorted guest on the tour sponsored by the  DTE Energy
 Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Friday, January 27, 2012

Timberland Swamp Trees: Twisted, bent, snapped and downed.

One of the many windthrows of the Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary
All photos by Jonathan Schechter
January 2012

The Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary is a backwoods wilderness in Oakland County's
Springfield Township. The sanctuary  is operated by the Michigan Nature Association and is
the surviving remnant of a massive swampland.
Today's  blog is a photo supplement for the Oakland Outdoors trail story column in the 
 January 29th edition of The Oakland Press.

Never wise to hike here on a windy day!
                                   A raccoon ambled away from a stream as I trudged along.
                                                                    A tree with many arms!
                                                                    One of many den trees.

                                                                        Twisted trees!
                                                    And at the base of many trees: Snow fleas!
                                                    These tiny creatures are offically called Springtails and are not fleas. They are
                                tiny insects with the uncanny ability to jump with a spring-like appendage that unfolds
                       and launches them great distances.    They feed on decaying organic matter on warm winter days.
                        And in late January her swamplands, streams and reflecting puddles are still not frozen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012



Three more months will pass before our native gray treefrogs, the chameleon of our frog world,
beautiful frog with large suction cup toe pads reappears in the woodlands of Michigan.
Search all you want now and none are to be found for gray treefrogs have evolved the
"I'll become a popsicle" technique of hibernation to survive winter.
When late fall arrived, a special chemical in their body allowed their body fluids to take
on a slush like composition and not freeze solid. All heart beats and respirations ceased. 
Yet they are alive and well in earthy hideaways, And there they will remain in a state
of suspended animation until vernal ponds thaw and warm rains soak the earth.

Does your little one want to see a frog now?

Then head for the amphibian house of the Detroit Zoo. I'ts climate controlled to the liking
of  tropical frogs and one species, a tree frog of the Amazon is drawing crowds.
Meet the Milk frog!
The mission golden-tree frog ( Trachycephalus resinifictrix) lives high in the canopy of
 South Americas tropical rainforest and breeds in tree cavities. Robust breeding acitivy among
 the  mission  golded-tree frogs  (also known as the blue milk frog because of the milky white
toxin it secretes through its skin when threatened)  is also occuring at our Detroit Zoo National Amphibian Conservation Center.  About 50 tadpoles are in various stages of metamorphosis.

There is a great opportunity for zoo visitors to see these tadpoles up close.
 Some are still in the early stages of metamorphosis while others have formed hind and
 fore limbs  and absorbed their tails.  Others have already transformed into tiny froglets!

Hop on over to  details on hours, fees and zoo location.

New milk frog froglets at the Detroit Zoo!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Paddles on the Icy Huron!

All photos on the Huron River by Jonathan Schechter
Oakland County, Michigan
 January 14, 2012


The section of the Huron River near the town of Milford between Kensington Metropark
and the Proud Lake State Recreation Area is a busy place during summer
 months. In winter, it's a river of solitude, incredible beauty and some dangers.
The photo above has captured a silent killer -- not the woman in the kayak.
The tree in the river (above)  is a 'strainer'.  During times of fast water a capsized
kayaker could be held against the limbs by the current and drown. 
The river water strains though, the victim is trapped.
Water is powerful and nature can be unforgiving.
But with a bit of caution and a PFD (life jacket) the Huron is a sweet
temptress for this nature writer with a flare for 4-season adventure.

A great way to start a winter day!

The river is a winter highway for more than paddling humans!
Look closely on the right bank: See something up ahead on shore?

A trio of mute swans rested along  shore and wached our  silent passage.

Nothing like downy feathers for a face wipe or head rest.

Winter: A time to hike, cross country ski, snowshoe and kayak!

And this one is me, with a zip lock bag around my neck to protect my camera from splashes.

"Wolf Pack" and "Tri-City Kayakers" at our half way point on the Huron.
And we all came home! (this photo courtesy of Scott Reid)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Michigan has Rain, Israel Hail!

German shepherd explores hail coating  Israel's Mediterranean coast
(Israel Internet/Media photos)

Weather is skewed this winter.On this foggy Tuesday morning the temperature is
 in the low 40's and light rain falls in southern Michigan. Not a single snow flake remains.  
 But a few days ago in  Israel a hail storm swept onto the Israeli coast leaving crunchy
white on sidewalks, yards and the beaches.  Does not take a weatherman to
know that Mother Nature is changing her patterns.
Today, rainy Seattle gets up to a foot of snow.
And here in Oakland County Michigan: Nothing!

Friday, January 13, 2012

HIGHBUSH CRANBERRY: Tart Treat or Gag & Spit?

Highbush Cranberry,  January 6  2012
Holly State Recreation Area - Oakland County, Michigan
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Winter drifted back into southern Michigan early this morning leaving our woodlands in
shades of brown and  white exclusive of the green of evergreens.  But if you hike near a
  marshy area you may encounter  bright splashes of dangling red. 
Highbush Cranberries are easy to spot.
They are not so easy to eat.

Almost every field guide lists them as edible and boasts they are good in jams and jellies but
often add words like tart, or acidic in flavor. They got that right. Squish them and
smell your fingers and you might even think old kitty litter box! And perhaps that is a reason
that the berries persist well into winter. My guess, with not a shred of scientific evidence, is
that this member of the Viburnum family (with no connection to the cranberries we all know) is
 not a favorite  treat of mammals and bird. But I have seen deer tracks in winter that seem to
 indicate they are consumed and have seen birds pecking about when little else is to be
 had.  Regardless of palatability and flavor this plant bears another name going back to its
traditional history, "Crampbark". A quick literaure search indicates it may have
strong antispasmodic properties.

I like this plant when I hike the woods for it warns me that when snow is deep the hidden earth
 underneath my be as much water as land, a good thing to know when off the beaten trail.
And the road or trail less travelled is my way!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Horned Owls: Songs of the Night

Great horned owl photos courtesy of Ulanawa Foote
Lake Erie Metropark, January 2012
A deep  whoo, whoo, whooooooo resonated through my woods not far from my
 swamp the night of the first full moon of January. I hoped to capture an image of
  my reclusive resident owl but had no success. But the very next morning Ulanawa Foote,
 a wonderful photographer and sometimes blogger living near Flat Rock posted pictures
of a great horned owl from her hike at Lake Erie Metropark and graciously shared them with me. 
 Her  skilled "capture" is  just perfect exposing the horizontal lines across the breast and the long tufted ears that spawned the  name  "great horned". The hoots of this fearsome night predator that hunts rabbits, skunks, voles  and  mice are not for my entertainment and primordial spirit.
Hoots define territory and great horned owls are now entering their breeding season. Before this month ends some of these winged warriors that fly on silent wings will be on their  nests making
them one of the  earliest breeders of the bird world.
(Ulanawa's blog )

Friday, January 6, 2012

BEAR CREEK NATURE PARK: No bears, but upscale raccoon in tree den

Five Star High-Rise Apartment!
all photos by Jonathan Schechter
Bear Creek Nature Park,  January 3, 2012 Oakland Township, Michigan

NOTE: These photos are a supplement to my hiking column on the Bear Creek Nature
Park  now on-line  on The Oakland Press website and to
 be in the print edition on Sunday, January  8th.
My hiking columns appears every Sunday in The Oakland Press.

Bear Creek Nature Park, a unit of Oakland Township Parks, is not wilderness by
 any  streach of the imagination. But these 107 acres of rolling glacial terrain,
woodlands, wetlands and fields in Oakland County are  rich in nature's way.
All you need do is look. And be patient. Sometimes very patient.

ABOVE:  The oak tree above is more than a tree with "a big hole in it".
 A watchful  person may spot the inhabitant, a raccoon that considers this a
high rise luxury apartment. And for the raccoon it is just that.

 #1 The upscale raccoon at rest.
#2 A not so empty cattail marsh: many creatures under ice.
#3 A muskrat lodge in the marsh.
#4 Now frozen vernal ponds are spring breeding areas for amphibians.
#5 A windthrow is perfect winter shelter for many small species.
#6 A red-tailed hawk, back to the wind and me waits for a rabbit or vole.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Open Letter of FINAL WARNING to a Squirrel!

photos by Jonathan Schechter
January 3rd, 2012

Dear Mr. Squirrel:  Here's the deal. Listen up and pay attention!  A few days before New
Year's Eve you discovered my BIRD feeding station. Please note the word BIRD.  It is NOT a
squirrel feeding station! You Mr. Fox Squirrel (For humans reading this fox squirrel is the
 species of  squirrel in these pictures) are meant to be hanging out in leafy nests high up in oak
trees and  munching on black walnuts and acorns.
You are not!

 From sunrise to sunset you are at my feeders. You sit in the platform feeder swinging away
and spilling a good portion of the seed in the process and eat the rest. When chickadees or
other small birds fly in you brace yourself and almost swat at them. 
That is just rude and must stop!
And now when it gets windy  you move to my window feeder and you climb
 inside and actually sprawl your pathetic body out on the seed as you eat like a
FAT FARM PIG* and ignore my tapping from my side of the window.
 (*Sorry farm pigs, no insult intended) 
This too must stop!
This may be politically incorrect but fact of the matter Mr. Squirrel; Just look at yourself!
You are becoming a morbidly obese ball of  lazy fur and if you think in spring a foxy lady
squirrel is  going to want any of your fat tail, you have another think coming. 
 I do not know if you are susceptible to  heart disease but your days are numbered.
And here are the two main reasons:
1. You are becoming too fat to escape from a fox or coyote.
2. You are already too fat to scurry from a red-tailed hawk.

And if you do not pay attention to my warning and get back to your wilder ways of life
I have a good friend who told me that seed fed squirrel meat is just delicious.
Respectfully yours and with best regards,