Chicory: More Than a Roadside Weed

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Chicory thrives along the side of many rural county roads.

Chicory thrives along the side of many rural county roads.

For the chicory plant, any part of Oakland County that does not come under the mower’s blade or is not bathed in herbicides becomes the “Wilder Side of Oakland County”. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is one of our most common, easily recognizable and delicately beautiful roadside weeds of mid-summer. But for me, and perhaps thousands of of others across the county, chicory is more than an abundant roadside weed. Chicory is a nutritious and highly versatile wild plant that holds a history of domestic use going back to a time before the American Revolution.

Continue reading

Advertisements

OSPREY: Oakland County’s Amazing Fish Hawk!

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) are experiencing resurgence in Oakland County.  The comeback story of these amazing raptors – they dive into shallow water to catch fish – is perhaps nature’s finest salute to the Wilder Side of Oakland County, and the habitat protection efforts of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

The story begins back in 1972, when the Environmental Protection Agency banned the deadly insecticide DDT; before this ban, the osprey population was dire. Twenty-six years after the ban, the MDNR decided to re-introduce osprey to the lower half of Michigan. And now, the osprey’s population is growing at a healthy rate.

Continue reading

Northern Water Snake & Baby Painted Turtle – Best Friends Forever?

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Northern water snake watches me at Seven Lakes State Park.

Northern water snake watches me at Seven Lakes State Park.

Wetlands, swamps, marshes and lakeshores of Oakland County are the perfect habitat for the northern water snake, a darkly colored semi-aquatic carnivore that forages along the water’s edge for prey.

The northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) is often mistakenly called a “water moccasin,” a venomous snake of southern swamps named after the shoe it resembles.  Frogs, fish, tadpoles, crayfish, baby muskrats, small birds and even turtles comprise much of the diet of this seemingly always hungry hunter of the Wilder Side of Oakland County.  There is nothing shy about the behavior of this thick-bodied, non-venomous snake that can be three feet long and eats its prey alive. And sometimes, their behavior is unpredictable.

Continue reading

Tree-Climbing Secrets of Our Eastern Chipmunks

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Chipmunks are small ground-dwelling rodents.” 

If chipmunks knew how to read, they would cringe at that frequently used sentence to describe their habits and habitat.  Chipmunks do not read, so perhaps that is why these “ground dwellers” are so adapt at tree-climbing and posses arboreal skills that would make a red squirrel proud.  

Chipmunk

Continue reading

Poison Ivy: Humans fear it. Birds eat it.

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

Poison ivy thrives in the sultry heat of summer.  This cantankerous producer of human misery is very much at home on the Wilder Side of Oakland County; including along the trail sides of Oakland County Parks, Huron-Clinton Metroparks, Paint Creek Trail and the Clinton River Trail and the meandering Shiawassee River Heritage Trail.

This poison ivy vine along the Shiawassee River towers more than 15 feet above the head of six foot tall Jim Lloyds, a  board member of the Six Rivers Land Conservancy  (www.sixriversrlc.org  ) and leader of their Adventure League.

This poison ivy vine along the Shiawassee River towers more than 15 feet above the head of six foot tall Jim Lloyds, a board member of the Six Rivers Land Conservancy (www.sixriversrlc.org ) and leader of their Adventure League.

Continue reading

Exploring the Shiawassee River – by kayak and paddle board

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

“Conserving the woods , fields, streams, wetlands and other natural resources in the headwaters of the Clinton, Flint, Shiawassee and Huron rivers”North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy (www.nohlc.org )

The North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy believes in conservation collaboration for, and public awareness of, the wilder side of Oakland County. Last Sunday they sponsored a public paddle on the Shiawassee River. There is no better way to embrace the raw radiance of the wild rivers of our county than from a canoe, kayak — or even a paddleboard. The seven-mile stretch of the Shiawassee that was paddled meanders through meadows and woodlands and flows under train tracks and through culverts with tiny rapids and even passes over a small beaver dam on her journey from Holly to Fenton. It’s an exciting adventure, for the Shiawassee River is as old as the glacial retreat that enriched Oakland County with lakes and rivers and as new as the most recent paddle.

Continue reading

Fantastic bug-eyed frogs of Oakland County

The Wilder Side of Oakland County is almost everywhere—if you are a frog!

A  'bug-eyed' green frog waits in silent ambush among a carpet of duckweed.

A ‘bug-eyed’ green frog waits in silent ambush among a carpet of duckweed.

Frogs are found in misty swamps, big puddles, shallow lakes and sometimes in these humid days at the dawn of summer— high up on tree limbs. There are approximately 90 species of frogs in the United States. The most seen species this time of year in Oakland County are the green frog, bullfrog and gray treefrog. Frogs are much loved by great blue herons, snapping turtles, raccoons and Ryan. The first three species eat them. Ryan does not. He appreciates them.

Continue reading