Monday, February 27, 2012

Wildlife Tracks: A gift of fresh snow

all photos by Jonathan Schechter
February 26, 2012
Brandon Township, Michigan

I am quite certain that the deer, turkey, fox, skunks, coyotes and a host of
other creatures that let me share their land know my ways far better than I know
theirs. That is the way it should be. My 11 acres are their habitat and their very presence
 increase the value of my land  and the quality of my life in immeasurable ways.  After each
snowfall I take great pleasure in wandering the woods to see who went where and when. Tracks
 tell the tale. And sometimes when I am patient I am gifted with sightings as in the case of the
 doe (above) that passed close in front of me as I chatted to her,
"Hey girl. It's just me."

A pair of turkeys trotting to their swamp

Red squirrels leave impacts in soft snow when they jump from a tree trunk.

A large buck shelters in the swamp of the turkeys

Tiny tracks and tail drag marks of a white-footed mouse on the run!

Skunks wander at night looking for love in the swamp of the deer and turkey.

The larger side by side hind feet point  direction of travel of the rabbit.

Deep imprints of a large coyote parallel the tunnel of a meadow vole.
 Who came first? The coyote, for if not I suspect there would have been leap and jump
marks where my apex predator, the coyote crunched down on a warm and furry dinner. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tracks, Trails and Buhl Lake Wildlife Signs

Track of the Eastern Coyote
All photos by Jonathan Schechter at Addison Oaks County Park
February 19, 2012

These photos are a supplement the Addison Oaks County Park Buhl Lake Loop
 hiking column now on line and appearing in the February 26th edition of The Oakland Press.

Coyote scat on the paved trail is not from a sloppy coyote. It defines territory!

Raccoon tracks frozen into snow and ice!

High rise wildlife condo with a ground floor oak door.

Muskrat lodges in the shallows of Buhl Lake, a wildlife paradise

Non-native mute swans are naturalized in Michigan. A few over-wintered on Buhl Lake

Mallard ducks walk the very edge of thin ice

Red squirrels feasted on spruce cones!
Rowboats remain in hibernation, wildlife is more active!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge wants you!

FWS logo
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is seeking volunteer amateur naturalists, birders, botanists, and students interested in working with biological and environmental science to conduct biological field surveys during spring, summer, and fall of 2012 and beyond.
A minimum of two hours per week is all that is required.
marsh wren
Monitoring marsh wrens on June morning at the Brancheau Unit
An ideal opportunity to receive training and use biological monitoring techniques across the 16 Refuge Units along western Lake Erie. This data will be used to monitor and develop research on ecosystem response to invasive species management and habitat restoration projects.
Contact USFWS Biologist Greg Norwood
734.692.7611 or

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eastern bluebirds,Thoreau and a graying hippie

Eastern bluebird photos by Jonathan Schechter
(photographed in my yard:  Brandon Township, Michigan  Feb 20, 2012)

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "I went to the woods because I wished to see if I could not
learn what life had to teach --- and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
That timeless quote of Thoreau has been with me ever since my hippie days back in the
hills of Plainfield Vermont when he was my author of choice and I was a
long-haired, bearded, tree-hugging nature loving student at Goddard College.
 And it was there in the meadows of my dreams that I first discovered bluebirds.
Some things have changed:
Hair is much shorter--and much thinner
Beard is gone.
Some things have not changed:
Still  a hippie at heart.
Bluebirds thrive in my Michigan meadow and alight on old fence posts.
Thoreau also penned, "The bluebird carries the sky on his back."
 I know that to be true. For on gray Michigan days the bluebird's sky-blue back makes me
 smile  and  drift back to  happy days of discovery in Vermont where I became a fan of
Thoreau's words in  meadows,  meadows above the Winooski River and near covered
bridges where bluebirds led me deep into the world of nature.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trail of the Turtle Spirit

All photos by Jonathan Schechter

This Trail of the Turtle Spirit blog is meant to accompany the Lakeville Swamp hiking
 column now on line and appearing in  the February 20th  print edition of
The Oakland Press 
The Lakeville Swamp is a Michigan Nature Association Sanctuary
The trailhead is located on the west side of Rochester Road just south of
 Lakeville Road  in Oakland County, Michigan 

This natural growth on a trailside beech trail reminds me of a Loggerhead Sea Turtle,
thus the name I used for the trail: Trail of the Turtle Spirit

The stream is a magnet for wildlife and an 'artery' for the life of the swamp.

Watercress is already greening up as spring flirts with winter!

The tunneling, leaping trail of a white-footed mouse.
Small boardwalks guide hikers through the swamp

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tracks of the night stalker!

The "landing imprint" of a white-footed mouse!
photos by Jonathan Schechter
Oakland County, Michigan  Feb 13, 2012

This night stalker is not a wolf, wolverine, cougar or a ferocious beast of early man's nightmares. 
 The nocturnal white-footed mouse of Michigan woodlands is seldom seen and
best known to great horned, barred and screech owls.
They like them: For dinner.
But after a fluffy layer of snow falls, tracks and trails of this tiny tree-climbing  rodent are unmistakable. Above: The body imprint where a mouse leapt down from a low branch
and then tunneled into the snow.  Below: The characteristic leaping, tunneling  and
 trail dragging race to the next tree before winged death descends.
Why trees? They provide safe shelter in old bird nests and tree cavities.
And of course old cones, seeds, nuts and acorns provide nutrition in the late days of winter.

The tunneling and leaping tracks of a white-footed mouse racing for shelter

Monday, February 13, 2012


Photos by Jonathan Schechter

Cattails are a signature species of marshlands in Michigan. 
Every child and most adults with a love of nature know the cattail seed head turn brown in
 autumn and persist into winter.  On a hike a few days ago I noticed that some stalks  at a nearby
 marsh were torn apart from the middle. A bit of observation and detective work as light solved
 the mystery. Mice tracks were  near the base leading me to the conclusion that these
tiny rodents were scurrying up the stalks to  gather bedding material. If I was  a mouse I too would
 love to sleep in a bed of warm dry fluff! And just as I made that conclusion a chickadee alighted on
 a stalk and snatched a hunk of  fluff as well. Perhaps the unseasonably warm weather of the past
few weeks made the chickadee think that cattail was her nest building supply store while the
 mouse looked to the cattails as a bedding store.  But for me,cattails remain one of my favorite
 wild edibles and come next spring I will feast on this plant loved by man and beast.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Secrets of Tobico Marsh

all photos by Jonathan Schechter

Tobico Marsh in Michigan's Bay City State Recreation Area is one of the largest open-water
 marshes of Saginaw Bay, a historic bay on  the western shore of Lake Huron.
These photos   supplement the Sunday, February 12 hiking column in The Oakland Press
 ( that profiles the 2,200 acre marsh, the State Recreation Area and
their upcoming winter festival.  Tobico Marsh highlights for nature-loving  humans include
 a boardwalk,  two 40-foot foot observation towers, a floating marsh dock with mounted
 spotting scopes, beautiful  interpretive signs and  The Saginaw Bay Visitor Center.  
For wildlife it's home!
Go hike and make your own discoveries!
NOTE: After the last photo you find advance notice on a new Michigan wildlife book!

The paved Anderson Trail leads from the visitor center to the edge of the bay.

Interpretive signs tell the tale of water-loving wildlife and plants.

Mute swans rest on thin ice

Spotting scopes or a zoom lens make the photo capture easy.

Beavers engineered part of the marsh with dams of cattails and mud. See their lodge?

Here's  a close up look at luxury lodging for a beaver family.

A newly rebuilt observation tower at the wood's edge is a trail highlight!

A bird's eye view of the edge of the marsh and Anderson Trail.

This summer local Michigan author/journalist Elizabeth Shaw will have her book,
The Lone Wolverine – Tracking Michigan’s Most Elusive Animal, on bookshelves. 
It is co-authored with Jeff Ford, the self- made naturalist and rural science
teacher that tracked the wolverine for 370 days before capturing her first photo
 in  2005 on the far side of Saginaw Bay and ended when the wolverine was found
dead  five years later. The wolverine (above) is now displayed in the Saginaw Bay
Visitor Center at the  trailhead of the Anderson Trail. The Lone Wolverine offers
 an unprecedented visual and factual chronicle of our wild wolverine in its natural
habitat and her documented struggle for food and survival. 
 It can be preordered now at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A lone, perhaps lonely California wolf

A Michigan gray wolf - photo by Cheanne Chellis
(NOT California Wolf  OR7)

California has 37 million people, five million cows, 500,000 sheep, 30,000 black bears, 5,000 mountain lions — and one wild wolf. The wolf, officially known as OR7 is a new immigrant from Oregon that arrived in the Golden State the old fashion way.
It walked there.
  California Dept of Fish and Game states: "The male wolf known as “OR7” was born in northeastern Oregon in spring 2009. It weighed approximately 90 pounds when collared with a radio transmitter by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in February 2011. It is referred to by biologists as OR7 because it was the seventh wolf radio-collared in Oregon. Its collar transmits location information to satellites daily and is expected to continue to function until at least 2013"

  He left his pack in northeast Oregon and began a 1,000 mile wandering trek across the high desert of eastern Oregon and the rugged Cascade Mountains before heading south and crossing into California on December 28th coming within a few miles of the spot the last wild wolf was trapped  in California back in 1924. Much has changed.  The moment this gray wolf crossed the state line he became fully protected by the federal endangered species act administered by the US. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The wolf's apparent lovelorn trek is  being monitored and mapped by Federal and State agencies as he explores his new land of opportunity. 
And with a wolf in California there is controversy brewing that already mirrors the thoughts of humans who despise Michigan wolves. For those that claim wolves will kill "their deer" I say wolves have more right to the deer than a hunter does and just as much right to wait for a kill opportunity at a deer hunter's bait pile as the hunter. 
Wolves are free-roaming  predators that keep the wild in wildlife and establish an equilibrium.
That is the way of the wolf.
Monitor OR7 wanderings on Facebook at: California Wolf
On Twitter at: CaliforniaWolf
  ADDENDUM: I am saddened and angered to add this  comment on the evening of Feb 10.  
I have just learned from Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife that OR7's
pack brother wolf, OR9 has been shot and killed by a trophy "hunter" in Idaho.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sand Tale of A Red Fox Trail

photos by Jonathan Schechter
Tawas Point State Park, Michigan
Feb 5, 2012

Winter weather has been skewed in southern Michigan, but the lack of shifting snows on the
shores of Lake Huron give new opportunity to explore the cryptic lives of many species: the
 red fox among them. Tracking and the art of seeing (perhaps I should say understanding
 instead of seeing)is pure pleasure along the  shoreline of Tawas Point State Park. These red
 fox tracks led from a nearly obscured den in tall grasses and shrubs on the leeward side of a 
dune down to the very edge of the shifting floes of ice.  Perhaps the fox went for a drink.
Perhaps he went to sit, watch and listen to the ice. Only the fox knows. I suspect it was both.
 But the tracks also went to a  fresh pile of feathers.
The fox slept with a full belly; the story in the sand told me so.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Young  groundhog (woodchuck)  munching tender leaves in my mulberry tree last spring.
Groundhogs are related to squirrels and can and do climb trees!
The climb to avoid predators and at times to feed.
photo by Jonathan Schechter  June, 2011

The legend of groundhogs day claims that if the groundhog emerges from his hibernation den
and sees his shadow its a bad omen and six more weeks of winter remain.

(I have yet to understand why winter is considered bad).

Groundhogs are perhaps the worst nature forecasting creatures ever, but
 the legend has persisted for centuries and is a combination of myth, wishful thinking
and illusions of reality. Mostly illusions of reality.
Fact of the matter is clear; the Spring Equinox occurs on March 20th, but
first  we need a real winter to keep our seasons and sainity in order. 
  And I wonder how many groundhogs may not survive our lame winter this year, let alone
 make a weather forecast, for  their earthen burrows have not been hidden by or insulated with
protective blankets of snow.  Snow over burrow entrances is nature's way.
Perhaps Punsutawey Phil will fall victim to Global Warming?
That may be his shadowy message of warning this year.