Spring is out the season gate
In just three days, summer will arrive by the calendar. It has been nudging spring out of the seasonal gate for several days now with hotter, and more humid, days. The summer solstice ushers summer in on June 21.
First clutches of birds are out of the nest, with second ones in progress. Baby raccoons, opossums, skunks and coyotes are following their mothers, learning to hunt, and what it takes to survive on their own. Baby bears are following their mothers, learning the same basics as others, as they will do so for a full year. This year’s cubs are still nursing.
Nature writer Hal Borland best described summer as a promissory note signed in June and up for repayment in January. Think about that - what you are enjoying now will have to be paid for a few months. Sounds familiar in our society doesn’t it?
June gives man fully leafed trees, again providing a canopy of green with dappled sunlight and cool shade. Early summer is a more leisurely time in nature. The intense heat of summer that drives nature to maturity is yet to come. With robins and tanagers still singing, there is still birdsong throughout the day.
Wild turkey hens have clutches of babies following them through the woods, constantly looking for food. Turkeys talk to each other with over 200 clicks, clucks, gobbles and alarm calls. The adults can run up to 25 miles an hour and fly up to speeds of 55 miles an hour, making them difficult for predators to catch. But not the babies.
Young turkeys - poults - need their mothers. They aren’t like songbirds, maturing and out of the nest in a matter of a month. The turkey hen is the center of their universe for several months. They seek the warmth of being under her wings periodically during the day and at night. They panic when separated from her. The mother and chicks hunt together, chase grasshoppers, take dust baths and sun bathe. It is a tight family unit.
For the first few weeks, the mother and chicks sleep on the ground. Her wings are spread over the babies. It is a perilous time with predators stalking the woods. By the second month of life, the babies are able to fly up on low branches, making sleep time safer. The poults stay with their mothers for at least half of the year. The males provide no parental care.
Baby crows are out of the nest, noisily cawing throughout the day (which translates to begging). A crow family is usually made up of the parents, several young hatched the previous year, and other relatives. The family unit has the goofy-looking one-year-olds, as well as adult sons and daughters. Some of the “kids” stay with the family up to five years. Some crows even “adopt” the young of unrelated neighbors.
There are family feuds, fights and wars with neighbors. March and April are devoted to nest building. The male and female usually stay together for a year. During breeding season, the male follows the female everywhere, guarding her from other interested males. The yearlings are usually a dull brown rather than glossy black, and their feathers look ragged most of the time.
During April the female incubates eggs. The male and their helpers bring her food. When the eggs hatch, they feed the babies. June and July are the loudest time for crow families. Nestlings are leaving the nest but stay around close in the trees. They beg loudly throughout the day.
Juvenile crows spend a lot of time playing, even wrestling with each other. Sometimes one even pulls the tail of another, instigating more play.
Many people say they have never seen a young crow. They have, but don’t recognize it as being a youngster.
Most young crows spend a lot of time sitting and looking around, taking in the sights and sounds of their world. It seems to be wondrous to them.
When approached, many seem to be naïve, even trusting. They have hesitant take-offs and awkward landings.
Baby crows start practicing their verbal repertoires by fall. They string together all sorts of funny sounds, learning crow talk. By winter, they are functional members of their families, having learned the basics of survival.
Crows are mature by the time they are two years old, but usually don’t reproduce until later. They are smart and social creatures.
They develop their own dialects that differentiate them from crows in other areas. By fall, they will have grown full flight, wing and tail feathers
Bears are on the prowl for food. Take in the birdfeeders by late afternoon. Keep out plenty of water for drinking and bathing.
May you always hear the whisper of wings.