November: A Great Month for Hiking

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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November trails are mosquito free. The air is rich and crisp. Crowds are gone. In November, leafless woodlands are home to peaceful solitude and delicate beauty. Go for a hike on the trails of our county and you just may embrace the timeless words of Henry David Thoreau, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

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Witch Hazel: Mystery Tree That Flowers in October

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

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The witch hazel tree is a small, hidden in plain sight, understory tree with gnarly-looking branches. Perhaps one of the strangest and least recognized native trees of Oakland County, it thrives in most parks with rich woodlands. Witch hazel spans the American countryside, from the deep forests of Maine and the Green Mountains of Vermont, to the hills and hidden hollers of the Appalachian Mountains, down into the lowland forests of the South.

With Halloween just around the corner, this tree, with a delightful mix of myth, mountain lore and scientific fact, is flowering right on schedule. Unlike most northern plants, that select spring as the season of blooms, the witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) waits until the cool, short days of October to produce delicate clusters of spidery, fragrant, yellow flowers. Few, however, notice the flowers, for they are lost in kaleidoscopes of rich colors in the woodlands on the wilder side of Oakland County. But when the strangely beautiful, little blossoms are framed by a dramatic backdrop of red maple leaves in their deep crimson finery, they draw the human eye and make one wonder what the previously unnoticed blooms might be.

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Outwitting Fall Foliage Poison Ivy

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

As the days shorten and the nights cool, the woodlands of Oakland County are transforming into kaleidoscopes of color. Golden hues of sugar maple, the deep crimsons of sassafras and the scarlet-red shades of red maple are the dominant colors on nature’s autumn palette. However, there is one troublesome plant that hides in the showy mix, a plant dressed in alluring shades of red: Poison Ivy.

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Autumnal Equinox: Confirmed by Red Squirrels

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Tamarack trees in the swamps of Oakland County are tinged in smoky gold. Straggler monarchs are winging south as days shorten and winds roughen. Crisp evening air is rich with the rhythmic song of crickets. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are in near frenzied activity at feeders. Geese are beginning to gather on palatial lakeside lawns and golf course greens in preparation for migration as flocks of robins and more than a few eastern bluebirds strip berries from dogwood thickets. All these signs of nature’s seasonal change signal the dawn of the autumnal equinox. But it is the accelerated nut-gathering activity of boisterous red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) that finalize the fact that the season of warmth is drawing to a close.

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Oakland County’s Tart and Tasty Invasive Species

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Autumnberry is an invasive exotic species gone feral that thrives on the wilder side of Oakland County. It is one of the best kept wild food secrets of our county and perhaps the most abundant wild fruit across a large slice of North America. Most know this land-conquering plant, that outcompetes many native species of flora, as Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). However, the United States Department of Agriculture has renamed the plant as Autumnberry to draw attention to its fruit. Continue reading

The Red Fox: Master of Adaptation

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

A red fox watches closely after he detects a human ( Jonathan) watching him in the Brandon Township woods they both share.

A red fox watches closely after he detects a human ( Jonathan) watching him in the Brandon Township woods they both share.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes fluva) is found in every county in Michigan, and is very much at home on the wilder (and not so wild) sides of Oakland County. These rusty-red colored predators with bushy white-tipped tails and black legs are not restricted to large woodlands, parklands and fields. Sometimes, red foxes will den near suburban homes or even in industrial areas that offer good hunting and a hiding habitat.  Fox commonly hunt near golf courses, where rabbits are easy to find and have no place to hide. It’s all a matter of adapting to opportunity and adjusting to the ways of humans that dominate their landscape.

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The Dog Days of Summer & Cool Cat Nights

Dog Days of Summer

The Oakland County Animal Control & Pet Adoption Center has been hard at work all summer to save more lives. Since June 1st, the Center has helped more than 680 animals find or return to their forever home!

This Saturday, the Center is hosting its final summer pet adoption event. The Dog Days of Summer & Cool Cat Nights will be held on August 9th from 10am – 4pm at the Oakland County Animal Control & Pet Adoption Center in Auburn Hills (click HERE for location & contact information), and will be offering a special discount on adoptions.

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