July is the payoff for spring’s efforts
July marks high noon in the seasonal cycles. Everything from flowers to vegetables to wild critters rush to maturity. It is a short time from nest to migration, and from den to being on your own.
Elderberries are in full bloom and are full of promise. Raw elderberries contain a cyanide-like chemical, and unless they are cooked, they can prove toxic to humans. Better leave them to the birds. Cardinals, bluebirds, robins, catbirds, mockingbirds and woodpeckers enjoy the fruit. Ticks are especially fond of elderberry bushes for shelter.
It took some human help for the mountaintop bluebirds not to fall victim to a hungry rat snake that made it to their nest box. Michael Crowley pulled it off the tree and returned it to the garden. A baffle was made from a large canine collar, and Crowley taped it to the tree, a dogwood. The babies were safe, and the snake lived to hunt another day.
Coyotes are roaming the woods with pups in tow. Not only must the mother and father eat, but the pups have to be taught to catch prey. Coyotes are not like wolves. They concentrate on small prey like mice (a delicacy), chipmunks, cats, small dogs and an occasional small deer. They don’t protect large territories like wolves.
Coyotes mate for life, meaning they re-mate when one dies. A family is made up of the female, male and pups. Generally they do not hunt in packs but may be seen traveling together until the pups disperse in late fall. The den is used to rear the pups, and usually only the female enters to nurse them. Coyotes sleep in the open.
Coyote dens are usually located in hard-to-reach places, protected by rock crevices or dense briars. The dens face south and are well-drained. A mated pair may use the same den for several years. Once you’ve heard the coyote howl, you won’t forget it.
Coyotes carry the familiar canine diseases, including Parvo, canine distemper and Lyme, They can also contract rabies; mange is common. They are also known to carry heartworms and numerous parasites.
A fenced yard will help protect your dogs from coyotes, but it needs to be five to six feet high, with a top and bottom wire apron.
Coyotes jump, climb and dig. Electric trip wires at the base of the fence are effective, and a top wire apron will prevent them from climbing the fence and dropping into the yard.
Coyotes are here to stay, so humans have to learn to live with them safely and to keep their dogs and cats safe. A free-roaming, outside cat is coyote bait.
Black bears are beginning to gain weight. They are eating cherries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The high sugar content puts on weight.
Chickadees are beginning to return the feeders, having fledged babies. These little dynamos that are such welcome sights at winter feeders eat a summer diet of 70 percent insects and 30 percent berries and seeds. They enjoy caterpillars, spiders and other bugs. In the winter, they eat whatever they can find and can eat their weight daily in sunflower seeds. They also will monopolize suet feeders and strip hemlock cones.
The chickadees flitting to and from feeders now are lone birds. They remain inconspicuous during breeding and nesting season. By August, they will flock together in small groups. If you are lucky, you will have an adult with fledglings in tow, learning to eat from feeders. They shed their feathers in August, and when their new ones grow, they are at least 25 percent thicker, giving the tiny bird winter insulation.
When chickadees bring young ones to the feeders, they will not feed them more than one or two seeds before taking a seed for themselves to a close-by branch. The babies will stay on the feeder and beg whomever will listen.
Chickadees are generally monogamous, staying with the same mate for life.
If you feed suet in the summer, make sure it is the type that will not go rancid in the heat.
Listen for the feeding screeches of young Barred and Great Horned Owls. Wood ducks and Mallards are molting into their “eclipse” plumage and cannot fly for several weeks.
Bird breeding and nesting ends at the end of the month, except for the Goldfinch and a few late bluebirds.
It is more important with the high temperatures and humidity to keep the water clean and birdbaths scrubbed. Also, keep your bird seed dry and fresh to prevent deadly mold.
Keep out plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing
May you always hear the whisper of wings.