Sunday, September 30, 2012

Virginia Creeper: Tree climbing queen of early October

VIRGINIA CREEPER - my woods,  Brandon Twp. Michigan Sept. 30, 2012
Photos by Jonathan Schechter

Virginia creeper, a native vine of eastern and central North America is at its brilliant best in the early weeks of autumn.   This vine makes a rapid transformation from a drab green to a spectacular shade of scarlet-red as days shorten,  nights cool and sandhill cranes gather in flocks. Although it also grows on the ground given a good 'foot hold' it grabs onto a tree and reaches for they sky like this magnificent specimen on an elm tree just 50 feet from my house.  Many people that are not nature savvy confuse this five leaflet plant with poison ivy, also taking on shades of reddish color at this time of the season. Poison ivy however has  just three leaflets.
The color transformation of Virgina creeper signals me the color dances of sugar and red maples and sassafras trees are close behind and its time for me to address my incurable wanderlust fever.
Northward bound to bigger woods - one day soon!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eat Hearty of Autumn's Wilds: Not so fast!

Winterberry (llex verticillata) Do not eat!
both photos by Jonathan Schechter
September 20, 2012

Winterberry (top photo) is now at her peak, the red berries glistening in wetlands and the edge of swamps. And the berries persist way  into autumn and often remain long after snow coats the land. The berries are tasty and good for many species of wildlife; humans are an exception. For us they are not edible.  The photo below is of autumn olive, an invasive species that is tasty and edible  and healthful for humans and wildlife. Never follow the old adage that red berries are OK to eat and white berries are not.
Exceptions are everywhere in the world of nature and nature is not always forgiving.
Stay with me in the woods and I most likely won't steer you wrong.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) Eat hearty!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Homeless raccoon or end of summer nap tree?

photo by Jonathan Schechter
September 16, 2012 at Ortonville State Recreation Area

On the last week of summer I set out for a short (3 mile ) hike over the hills of my local Ortonville State Recreation Area, a 5,000 and some acre woodland managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. I set off into the woods about 20 minutes before the sun sank.  As I trekked up the first hillside I noted a shape in a trailside tree that seemed out of place.  I walking in slowly and more closely with the wind muffling my foot steps and snapped a shot of snoozing raccoon about 12 feet off the ground in the crotch of a tree.  About 20 feet from this tree a large hollow oak  was on the ground, shattered by an earlier wind storm.

And here is my question with an answer only known by the raccoon.
Was the raccoon sleeping in the open because the shattered oak used to be his home, or was he sleeping on a branch because he enjoyed the breezes of late summer and liked to "camp out".

A few hours later back at home I grabbed a sleeping bag and headed to my breezy screened porch to sleep.
 At that moment perhaps I had my answer.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

From so simple a beginning----

Lowland gorilla napping at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina
photos by Jonathan Schechter

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

Those timeless words of Darwin flashed across my mind the moment I saw the gorilla
 comfortably napping on his side on the edge of shady hillside of the zoo in Columbia, S.Carolina.
A few hours earlier I photographed my great niece Rachel comfortably napping on her side under
 the dining room table of her grandmothers house in Columbia, S.Carolina.

Who can doubt our common ancestry? 
I do not.

My great niece Rachel napping on her side in Columbia, South Carolina


Saturday, September 8, 2012

INDIGO MILK MUSHROOM: South Carolina magic!

Indigo Milk Mushroom  - Columbia, South Carolina
photograph by Laurie Schechter Rimon
(no editing, no color adjustment)
This  amazing indigo-hued mushroom has many names but until I arrived in South Carolina earlier today I was totally unfamiliar  even with its existence. But when the mercury dancing around the mid 90's and the sultry southern air is heavy with humidity things happen quickly in the world of fantastic fungi: a blue mushroom appears under the live oaks and loblolly pines.
 Lactarius indigo, also known as the Indigo Milk Cap, the Indigo Lactarius, the Blue Milk Mushroom and the Indigo Milk Mushroom is a shroom I will never forgot. A bit of on-line research says  it is edible and tasty and one site even says it tastes like blueberries.
I think I will stay with Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for my blueberry hunting and eat things that are blueberries, not just taste like them  In the world of mushrooms, thinking something is edible is not good enough for me. Nor should it be for you. But with marshmallow-fluffy clouds morphing into thunderheads, and rain on the way in the summer-scorched midlands of South Carolina, I'll be back in the not so wilds of my sister's urban lawn in the hills of  Columbia to hunt for more of these most beautiful blue mushrooms at dawn.
One MUST be absolutely sure of  identification before eating ANY mushroom!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Coyote Sign Posts: We share their trails!

Coyote scat on crushed gravel trail at Draper Twin Lake Park
Oakland Township, Michigan  September 2012
photo by Jonathan Schechter

The apex predator of Oakland County, the often elusive and wise to human ways eastern coyote is very active in  September.  Coyotes are very much at home in Michigan and are found in every county and even wander in SE Michigan  cities; Flint, Detroit, and Pontiac included. They thrive in the more rural areas of Oakland County, meandering though suburbia and are ever present even if most humans never see one. Golf courses, Oakland County Parks and the Huron Clinton Metroparks are all part of the world of the coyote.

During the month of September the now large pups are exploring their landscape as the adults continue to teach hunting skills.  Now and then a deer falls prey, mostly fawns or deer injured by cars.  But the great majority of food consists of small mammals. Rabbits, mice, squirrels, road kill and voles are favorites  But September is also berry season and this highly adaptable creature of great intelligence consumes fruits and berries too. Note the pit near the bottom of the scat.
Coyote scat is twisted and full of hair, fur bones and even teeth.
And why did this coyote leave his scat right in the middle of hiking trail?
 The scat is a message to other coyotes to stay away and defines territory.

Should you by so lucky as to encounter a coyote on the trails of Oakland County there is one rule to remember:
NEVER ever run away from a coyote. Running tells the coyote you are afraid and acting like a prey species.
And of course it goes without saying do not try to feed a coyote and always keep your dog leashed.
Leashed is the Law. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


A well camouflaged gray treefrog in my Brandon Township (Michigan) meadow.
photo by Jonathan Schechter
 ROYAL OAK, Mich. – One Newt has long been out of the race for President of the United States in 2012 … but the newts, frogs and toads at the Detroit Zoo are looking for a leader of their own. Amphibiville, a 2-acre wetland village that is home to the National Amphibian Conservation Center, is seeking a new mayor for a two-year term.

To join the race, candidates 7-12 years old who live in Michigan must submit an essay of 100 words or less on why they should be Mayor of Amphibiville. All entries must be submitted by October 5, 2012, to or to Mayor of Amphibiville, Detroit Zoological Society, 8450 W. 10 Mile Rd., Royal Oak, MI 48067. Entries must include the candidate’s name, age, address and daytime telephone number. The winner will be announced in November.

The new Mayor of Amphibiville will be officially sworn in and receive a plaque inscribed with his/her name displayed in the National Amphibian Conservation Center, a certificate acknowledging his/her position as Mayor of Amphibiville, a plush frog and a one-year family membership to the Detroit Zoo.

Amphibiville’s outgoing mayor is Claire Kozal, 10, of Whitmore Lake, Mich. Sworn into office in November of 2009, Mayor Kozal built her own home nature center when she was just 3 years old and says she loves all animals, “even the slimy ones.”
Amphibiville opened in 2000 featuring the award-winning National Amphibian Conservation Center, a state-of-the-art facility that boasts a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians.
The Wall Street Journal dubbed the attraction “Disneyland for Toads”.

The Detroit Zoological Society is a nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo. Situated on 125 acres of naturalistic habitats, the Detroit Zoo is located at the intersection of 10 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, just off I-696, in Royal Oak, Mich. The Detroit Zoo is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the day after Labor Day through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March. Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61, $12 for senior citizens 62 and older, and $9 for children 2 to 14 (children under 2 are free). The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March; closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free. For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

EAT THE INVADERS! (Tasty too!)

Invasive autumn olive edges a trail in Oakland Township, Michigan
photo by Jonathan Schechter   Sept, 2012

If you can't beat them; then it's time to eat them!
And that is exactly what I do with this highly invasive shrub (or small tree) that is spreading across the Midwest like a wind-driven wildfire.  The negative aspect is the ability of the plant to out compete native plants and as a result  alter habitats in ways that are not yet fully understood.  The berries are delicious and their tart flavor is just awesome.
 Great in jams and jellies too.  Perhaps they are one of the most ignored and healthy wild foods in the State of Michigan.   The berries are rich in lycopene and that's pure health for the human body.

I am finding wild competition on my free for the picking food fests: wild turkeys and a host of song birds know a good thing when they see it and they eat it too.  
The link below details history of the plant and ways to combat its spread.
Got to go know, time to do my part and eat more of them.
They are ripe! They are ready!