Lilacs are a favorite flower of late April

Barbara Hootman Columnist

Among the most pleasant scents of spring are the profusely blooming lilacs. Always sure to please, the lilacs of late April are always appreciated. Although not native plants, no other spring flowering shrub is more typically spring.

The lilacs are generous with spring perfume and blossoms. Late April and lilacs are as synonymous as spring birds and the season. We anticipate them and the pleasure they bring. Lilacs are native to Persia, but have been common in Europe since the 16th Century. The earliest settlers brought lilacs to the colonies. The houses may be gone and the families scattered, but the lilacs persist flourishing in beauty.

James Poling spotted Eastern Kingbirds at Owen Park on Saturday, April 16. He said they were flying across the lake, weaving in and out of the trees. He thought they were two males competing for nesting territory. Baltimore Orioles and Warbling Vireos nest close to the Kingbirds, so that the duties of spotting and avoiding predators is shared. Kingbirds aggressively protect their nests, even from crows, hawks and herons many times larger than their few ounces (size doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting offspring). Their nests are not too difficult to spot since the female usually adds a bit of colorful trash she has found.

Cowbirds take over the Kingbirds’ nests, but the male and female throw out the intruder’s egg recognizing it as being different from their eggs.

Kingbirds like tall trees and open spaces with water. They catch insects on the wing while migrating and nesting. They eat bees, wasps, ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and flies. They like fruit, and in winter, they eat only fruit.

The Kingbirds are long-distance migrants from the Ecuador-Peru region. They stay in the Valley until August, and then they start the long journey back to their winter grounds.

The Eastern Kingbird is a large flycatcher and is easy to identify since it is black and white. Its back, head and wings are black. The tail feathers are tipped in white, and the wing feathers are edged in white. Its breast and neck area are white. It is an elegant-looking bird. There is a red crown patch that is rarely visible.

Black bears are not only up and about, but on the prowl for food. Spring and summer are times for bears to build up fat layers for winter and its dearth of food. Bears’ spring food needs to be highly nutritious and easily digested. Now there are fresh green grasses, new leaves, bird seed, the occasional ant larvae, but not much else.

Black bears climb tall trees to feast on new buds. Pine nuts, also on the black bear’s spring menu, are nutritious, high in protein and easy to digest. Bears don’t have a lot to eat until berry season opens in the summer. Secure your garbage, and take the bird feeders including the hummingbird feeders, inside at night. Bears are persistent when it comes to food.

House wrens are nesting. The male house wren builds a stick nest in many places including cavities, and other nooks in the territory. When a female moves in, she decides which nest she wants and lines it with soft material. Wrens have been found to nest in woodpecker holes, empty bird houses, abandoned hornet nests, flower pots, hanging ferns, old hats and boots, and even tin cans.

House wrens are the wrecking birds of their species. Each one, less than a handful in size, looks cute and harmless with its rotund little body. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Invaders of other bird’ nests, they can be found in the midst of abandoned avian families. Their having multiple mates doesn’t ruffle feathers in a world that accepts partner swapping without so much as a wag of a head. They murder by destroying other bird nests, piercing eggs and throwing newly hatched babies out of the nest. They do not make good neighbors for other birds.

The male visits as many cavity sites as catch his attention, and any eggs found are pierced. He allows no competition in his territory. As soon as one female is sitting on eggs, the male belts out up to 500 to 600 songs an hour to attract another female and the process starts over again. The male does little to support the second family, and the female is left to take care of the baby birds and hunt for food. Her offspring are usually not as well fed as those of the primary female.

Late April is peak time for gray fox births.

Young groundhogs are born.

Indigo buntings are arriving and hummingbirds continue to arrive.

Area ducks are hatching babies.

Keep out plenty of fresh water for bathing and drinking.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.