Monday, January 20, 2014


All photos by Jonathan Schechter  Oakland County, Michigan
Squirrel Appreciation Day is here; like those little creatures or not.  January 21st is the day to look at America's favorite rodent as something other than pancake-flat road kill, a clever bird feeder-robber  or free entertainment for a frustrated window watching cat.  Take time today to appreciate their  adaptability and ability to not just survive but thrive in our midst.  This slightly nutty 'holiday' is saluted by the National Wildlife Federation and was founded in 2001 by  Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator  in  North Carolina. Despite the fact that many nut crazed  hungry squirrels fail to look both ways before crossing a highway even squirrel haters should salute these creatures that bury nuts; helping to spread trees to areas where the nuts did not fall.  In Oakland County the squirrels seen in winter are the evergreen  tree loving red squirrels, the rusty orange colored fox squirrel (Above; obese fox squirrel after dumpster-diving for muffin remains)  and the gray squirrel, a squirrel of the great American hardwood forests that is sometimes jet black.   We are also home to the  northern flying squirrel;  a nocturnal creature that is more common than many realize!  Our local chipmunks are seldom seen in winter and our 13 lined ground squirrel are under ground snoozing until spring thaw. Today belongs to squirrels.  Treat them at the feeder today.

                                                                 Red squirrel 
                                                                A black gray squirrel

                                                       eastern chipmunk in seed bin

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On the trail of a white-footed mouse; - - - - - or was it a meadow vole?

MEADOW VOLE OR WHITE-FOOTED MOUSE   (all photos by Jonathan Schechter)
       The red fox does not care if tiny tracks were made by a meadow vole or a white-footed mouse.
           Both of them are tasty treats on the cold days of winter!
Fox image captured in my meadow on trail cam.

White-footed mice tracks are extremely common in the woodlands of Oakland County.
Two characteristics that distinguish mice tracks from the meadow vole are the opposite placement of the tiny feet as they hop on the surface of the snow and the occasional drag mark of the tail.  
The next two photos show tracks of the common white-footed mouse.

Note the opposite placement of the mouse tracks even as it ran in a circle!

 And in this image (above)  the mouse tail drag marks are very clear.

Meadow vole track (opposite placement of feet) and plunge hole.

Adapting for winter survival is a struggle for both the meadow vole and the white-footed mouse.
The vole makes winter nests of grasses under the snow. In summer they feast on grasses, sedges 
and herbs but after snow blankets the land they tunnel in search of  tender bark, roots and tubers.
Every now and then  voles travel above snow leaving  distinctive tracks  before  plunging 
back into a world of under snow hidden safety; except from the fox that can hear it move 
under the snow!  When the snow melts in spring their hidden tunnels become visible.
Meadow vole tunnels after spring melt.
The white-footed mouse  usually travels above the snow and climbs shrubs and trees in search of seeds. 
They are active mostly during the night and some fall prey to screech owls and great horned owls.  
Before sunrise mice return to their winter nests, often an empty bird nest safely located above ground.

 A typical winter refuge/nest for a white-footed mouse

Monday, January 6, 2014

FIRE AND ICE FESTIVAL: Volunteers needed!

Fire and Ice Festival  photos by Jonathan Schechter

Oakland County Parks and Recreation Seeks 
200 Volunteers for Fire & Ice Festival !!!
             OAKLAND COUNTY – Oakland County Parks and Recreation seeks 200 volunteers
              for the Rochester Fire & Ice Festival weekend, Jan. 24 – 26, 2014.     

“We couldn’t make the event the success that it is without our volunteers,” Volunteer Program
Supervisor Rachel Boyd said. “The service requirement is only 2.5 hours total over the course
of the three-day event. In return, we offer our volunteers a free Oakland County Parks and
 Recreation waterpark pass and hand warmers. The Rochester Fire Department will also provide
 volunteers with free hot chocolate to keep warm.” 

Volunteers are needed for numerous activities at Fire & Ice Festival. 
Previous experience is not necessary. The Fire & Ice Festival features an
 ice skating rink, snowshoe and cross-country ski demonstrations, tube sledding, 
dog sled demos, ice sculptures, fireworks,marshmallow roasting, trolley rides,
 light show and more.Call the volunteer coordinator at 248-975-9717 or
 email for details about volunteering for this fun annual 

The  Festival takes place in downtown Rochester.
Friday, Jan. 24 from 6 – 9 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; and
Sunday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Download the Fire & Ice Festival volunteer
flyer at For more winter fun activities, find Oakland County 
Parks and Recreation on Facebook and follow on Twitter @DestinationOak.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Wildlife Condos and Shelters: Free of charge after the ice storm!

photos by Jonathan Schechter  Oakland County, Michigan
Note the red squirrel perched on shattered tree bark.

The ice storm that left tens of thousands of Oakland County residents without power for almost a week late last month had a side effect: woodland renewal for wildlife.  Tree limbs from forest giants, dead ash trees killed by emerald ash borers and thousand upon thousands of smaller trees came crashing down across a wide swath of Michigan.  And now as winter tightens her grasp on the land the great transition to new opportunity  is under way.  Unlike humans that are devastated by rapid-fire change, wildlife quickly responds.  For wildlife it is simple; Adapt or Die.  A tree with a gaping cavity is an inviting  shelter for a squirrel, raccoon or screech owl even if the sign proclaims Keep Out! Tangled limbs on the ground offer cover for rabbits and song birds and are  prefect sites for wild turkey nests next spring.  And large trees that are flat on the in forested areas will become ideal drumming sites for ruffed grouse in spring and provide protective shelter late next autumn for hibernation woodland frog and salamanders.

Nature's way is always full of change ; an ice storm draws human attention to that change.