Spring is maturing into a full blown season now

Barbara Hootman Columnist

It is past the mid-month of May. It seems only yesterday that it was March looking forward to May. Bees are working the flowers, and the Orioles are as loud as the Blue Jays.

The plants and birds know when the season is well established. The bears are still waiting for spring to mature with some real food. The plants don’t forget any more than the animals do. Man fears that a sudden cold snap will kill the plants. There is always a dilemma of when to put seeds in the soil. Plants and wildlife don’t spin and toil like man.

It isn’t memory with plants like it is with people. It is their response to the rhythm of time. Man has forgotten that fine art, if he ever knew it.

The Orioles are back, and busy with elaborate nest-building. Lake Tomahawk has Orioles, as does Owen Park. If you don’t have them in your backyard, don’t deprive yourself. May is the peak month of nest-building and egg-laying. June is the prime hatching month for many songbirds.

The Oriole offspring are noisy little creatures that alert you to where the nest hangs. Often it takes the female up to a week to weave her nest, which is a work of art. The male may bring nest materials occasionally, but usually does nothing but guard the female. The whistling song of the Baltimore Orioles can be heard in the treetops near homes and parks. Stand still when you hear the whistling melody and look up, and you may get a spot a male and female setting up housekeeping for the season. The male defends only the territory closest to the nest. Other Orioles are welcome close to his territory.

The female Oriole weaves her long, hanging nest (often three to four inches deep) from slender, pliable fibers. These birds are fond of fruit, nectar and insects. Some bird lovers put out special feeders holding grape jelly for them. They are unlike Robins, and they are fruit-loving birds in that they seem to prefer only dark, over-ripe, dark-colored fruits. They select the darkest mulberries and ripest cherries. They select the darkest purple grapes and ignore the green ones. They also ignore yellow cherries even at their ripest. They are very color connected to fruits.

They feed on fruit in an unusual way with their brushy-tipped tongues. They stab the long bill into fruit and then open their mouths cutting a swath through the fruit drinking the nectar as they go.

Most Orioles are back on winter grounds in Central America by late September. The stragglers that remain in the South during the winter usually do not make it through the changing seasons. Perhaps age or weakness prevents them from migrating, but researchers are not sure.

Those who feed Orioles in their backyards have found that the bird enjoys oranges. Slice one in half and hang it from a tree limb. There are also Oriole feeders that hold nectar that the birds enjoy. If you offer grape jelly, be careful to not put out too much at one time because they may get the sticky substance on their feathers. They also enjoy over-ripe raspberries, crab apples and trumpet vines. During the summer they are heavy insect-eaters

Black bears are on the prowl looking for anything edible, and for them that includes most everything. Secure your garbage and bring the bird feeders inside by late afternoon. In nature bears are feeding on tender grasses, cucumber trees that are blooming and Indian paintbrush. They supplement their natural diet with human garbage and birdseed and grubs.

When walking in the woods, watch your step. Yellow lady slippers are in bloom and crush easily. You will find them under trees and in grassy area. They are one of our most beautiful native orchids. They are among the “ladies” of the forest, and we want to keep them in their native habitats.

Warblers are still moving through the Valley, but not in waves like they were the first week of the month.

Young beavers are emerging from their lodges. Young coyotes are out of dens and learning to hunt. If you value your house cats, you will not let them roam. Keep small dogs on leashes at all times.

The peak of bird song now is at daybreak. It is worth getting up to hear.

Bobcat kittens are born from mid-May to mid-June.

Listen for wood thrushes singing at dusk.

Keep out plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.