June is greenest month in the cycle of seasons

Barbara Hootman
  • June is the most tranquil month in the spring cycle and a transitional one into summer
  • June brings out baby raccoons just old enough to follow their mothers and learn to hunt.
  • June is a time of velvet for male white tail deer, and peak time for fawn births.
  • June is a time for turtles to lay eggs, and marks the end of spring migration for birds

June has a “foreverness” about it. It seems to be a time that always was and is and always will be. June is timeless for those who work with the soil.

The cold winds of January and the bite of frozen earth are lost now. It is hard to imagine anything but the new greenness of the month, the bird song, the rush to growth, and blooms everywhere. It is a magical time in nature.

For those working in the vegetable garden or flower gardens, there is not time to contemplate the complexities of the world. There is weeding, planting, transplanting and trying to keep up with the frantic growth of everything green. It takes time to outsmart the ever-nibbling rabbits, but the tiny mowing machines must be thwarted.

The flower gardeners are in a frenzy of keeping the too-heavy peony blooms off the ground, deadheading the roses to keep them blooming, guarding the delphiniums for the sheer pleasure of enjoying the spirals of blooms. The daylilies are a gift from the flower God, because they demand so little care and provide so much enjoyment.

June marks a definite turn in the seasonal cycle. The days grow longer, reaching some 15 hours of daylight. The solstice approaches, and the first rush of growth that came with spring is at an end. Now comes maturity.

With late spring comes the tanagers, bringing with them splashes of tropic color in the backyards .

For most of the year, the cardinals are the only red birds in Western North Carolina. The scarlet and summer tanagers change that playing field during breeding season. With splashes of vivid red and rosy red coloring there are two new red birds.

With a vivid red body accented with black wings and tail, the male scarlet tanager is one of the most beautiful birds of summer in WNC. Male tanagers stay high in the trees, making them hard to spot until they sing their rich, complicated songs.

The female scarlet tanager is a yellowish green with black wings. By fall the male will shed the beautiful red feathers and look a lot like his mate, ready for the trip back to South America.

The nest is often parasitized by the cowbird. The tanagers can’t tell the difference in their eggs and that of the cowbird, nor can they tell a difference in the youngsters. They end up raising the cowbird baby along with their own.

The tanagers eat mainly insects and fruits, including ants, moths, butterflies, beetles, flies, cicades, leafhoppers, termites and grasshoppers. If it is an insect that flies or crawls, the tanagers will eat it.

They are monogamous during the breeding season, but usually choose different mates for the next season.

The summer tanager is more uncommon in the mountains than the Scarlet tanager. They sing more like a robin, while the Scarlet tanager has a more scratchy sound. The summer tanager has rosy red feathers, rather than the vivid red ones of the scarlet.

The female summer tanager can range in color from yellow-green to a golden brown. The male does not molt his rosy red feathers to return to South America for the winter.

The summer tanager is a bee and wasp specialist, catching them in the air, and then beating them to death on a tree branch. Before eating a stinging insect, the tanager rubs the insect on the branch to remove the stinger. If they can find where the larvae are, they will consume them also.

The female summer tanager builds the nest and finds the material, however the male may accompany her on her forays. The male forages, preens and rests while the female incubates the eggs. When the chicks hatch, the male becomes vital in bringing food to them. The young leave the nest around the 10th day after hatching and can barely fly, so they stay in low-growing vegetation until they perfect their abilities to stay in the air. The parents feed them for at least three weeks after hatching, and it is a precarious time for them since they make easy prey.

As you become aware of the tanagers, you will be surprised at how many call WNC home for the spring and summer.

Gray squirrels are beginning second breeding season, and wild turkeys are in full molt. Baby turkeys are still hatching. Pond turtles are laying eggs.

Black bear juveniles are roaming, trying to establish territories of their own.Females out with cubs are out feeding on fruits.

Keep the feeders full and fresh water in the birdbaths. Take the birdfeeders in at night to get them out of reach of the bears.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.