Sunday, March 9, 2014
Not So Secrets Signs of Spring's Approach!
|All photos by Jonathan Schechter, March, 2014 |
The ways of nature and dates on the calendar are not always in sync especially as restless humans wait for spring. But natural and behavioral signs confirm spring will arrive--but more snow falls first.
Why stay in a cold tree den when 25 degree sunshine provides warmth for one raccoon?
Hepatic leaves on the south side of lofty oaks hint of pale blue blossoms to follow.
Skunk cabbage generates heat and melts through icy snow granting moss an early growth start.
A restless river crackles and moans as shifting ice lures a hiker to a bench for warm season dreams.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
COLD FACTS ON ICE SAFETY: A chilling first hand wake up reminder!
|My snowshoe tracks leading from the beaver lodge to my plunge just yards from shore.|
photos by Jonathan Schechter 2/15/2014
Oakland County, Michigan
It happened four days ago. It was a frigidly beautiful day and the third week the temperature had not climbed above the freezing mark. Deep snow added to the drama of the woods and wanderlust fever was running strong and so I set off with my camera to photograph a beaver lodge on the far side of a small lake in a wildland of Oakland County.
Less than 90 minutes after strapping on my snowshoes and walking across the lake to explore the outside of the lodge I had a a bitter cold reminder on my return route across the ice that no ice is guaranteed safe ice.
I was about 10 feet from the far shore - a glacial moraine - when suddenly there was no ice under the snow. I sank to my knees in bitter cold water. I leaned forward, spread my weight and crawled to shore. And of course I turned around to take a photo of my plunge hole.
Without unsettled weather streaming into Oakland County let my experience serve as a reminder that no one can safely judge the strength of ice by its appearance or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on many factors and in this case I failed to notice subtle warning signs there may have been a hidden spring. There was.
Ice that forms over currents or streams or small hillside seeps is always dangerous and the insulating effect of snow slows down the freezing process. And as I discovered ice near the shore is often weaker than ice further out.
(But I did get my beaver lodge photo and a cold dash of wild woods ice safety wisdom.)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Free Fishing Weekend is here: Perfect for kids, no license required!
|photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources|
Winter free fishing weekend has arrived. Children, adults, residents and non-residents alike can
all fish for free without a license in the State of Michigan on Saturday, February 15th and Sunday February 16th. The only stipulation is fishing regulations must be followed and Recreation Passport
is required to enter a Michigan State Park or
State Recreation Area with a vehicle.
This special DNR event occurs twice a year to introduce everyone to the pleasures of fishing.
(The summer free fishing weekend will be June 7th and 8th)
"Michigan is home to many fun and family friendly activities during the cold months and fishing is definitely among the most popular," said DNR director Keith Creagh."Our Winter Free Fishing Weekend is a great time for people to get outdoors and explore the broad range of Pure Michigan fishing opportunities. There is something for everyone -
on your own or with a friend or the family."
Fishing events are scheduled across the State to encourage involvement and many make it easier for children that have never ice fished. Two Oakland County sites with special events are Seven Lakes State Park in Holly Township ( Ice Fishing Derby) and Bald Mountain State Recreation Area in Orion Township has "Into to Ice Fishing" that includes instructions and loan of gear.
For full details on all Free Fishing Weekend events across the state visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing Open the 2014 Official Events Link and look for your county.
Seven Lakes and Bald Mountain even loan ice fishing equipment for this event.
Or be like my young experienced fisher friend Ryan ( below) and find your own lake!
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Groundhogs: Tree-climbing false prophets of winter!
|A tree climbing groundhog, Oakland County, Michigan (late spring 2013) photo J. Schechter|
On Sunday, February 2nd a famous tree-climbing, media-hog of a rodent on the slightly
chubby side with the name of Punxsutawney Phil will be pulled
from his burrow in Pennsylvania
and displayed to cheering crowds and TV cameras and be called
upon to predict the weather.
If Phil casts his shadow legend has it that winter is here to stay for six more weeks.
SECRET FACT: Listen up folks!
Even is there is no shadow spring is a long way away. Groundhogs are still in hibernation
with only four or five heartbeats a minute, a drastic drop from the normal rate of 80-100.
And their body temperature is still hovering just a few degrees above freezing.
Shadow looking on the 2nd? I do not think so!
Any doubt that the groundhog - also known as a woodchuck - is a member of the squirrel family should evaporate with one glance at this young chuck in a tree; a photo I took last spring at the edge of my woods. This well known rodent, also known as a whistle-pig due to its shrill warning call is the largest member of the squirrel family, belonging to the
group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Many homeowners consider them pests due to their gluttonous habits.
But groundhogs are loved by coyotes, fox and red-tailed hawks---as plump dinner entrees.
Love them or hate them Groundhogs Day is the day nature lovers and city dwellers
take time to salute this creature and celebrate the great winter weather myth~!
Monday, January 20, 2014
NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY
|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.
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
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
waterpark pass and hand warmers. The Rochester Fire Department will also
volunteers with free hot chocolate to keep warm.”
Volunteers are needed for numerous activities at Fire &
Previous experience is not necessary. The Fire & Ice Festival
ice skating rink, snowshoe and cross-country ski demonstrations,
dog sled demos, ice sculptures, fireworks,marshmallow roasting,
light show and more.Call the volunteer coordinator at 248-975-9717 or
firstname.lastname@example.org 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
DestinationOakland.com. For more winter fun activities, find Oakland County
Parks and Recreation on Facebook and follow on Twitter @DestinationOak.