June is a buffer between spring and summer

Barbara Hootman

The green canopy of June is a sight you won’t forget year to year. June is a month of full blooms and dense leaf canopy. Leaves appear almost suddenly. As they unfurl, they are tender and limp and have trouble turning their faces to the sun. Every tree is a complex natural factory.

June arrives with its own quietness and tranquility. It brings growth and continuity as the season approaches summer. June brings some of the most pleasant porch nights of the year.

Babies are filling Mother Nature’s nursery to overflowing. Robins are among the earliest of songbirds to nest. Baby Robins are big birds for a nest. After they are fully feathered, the mother returns to roosting on a tree limb close to the nest rather than on top of the babies in the nest.

Parent Robins identify their babies by sight and sound like humans do. For the first week after hatching, baby Robins are transparent. Look closely and you can see the greenish gall bladder, and orange yolk sack. At first they are almost completely naked, with just a few tufts of fuzzy feathers. When hatched, they weigh about as much as a quarter. Their eyes remain shut for the first five days.

Both parents share in feeding the offspring. For the first four days of a baby Robin’s life, the parent birds regurgitate partly digested food into its mouth. On the fifth day, earthworms are added to the feedings. After the first week the parents feed them insects and whole worms. The large babies take a lot of food. Researchers have learned that, in a day, parents may make as many as 100 feeding visits to the nest.

Baby Robins have enormous eyes when first hatched. Since they are so transparent at hatching, it is a good chance to learn how big a bird’s eyes are. When they grow feathers, you will be able to see only a small portion of the eye.

Down feathers grow in quickly, making the babies look fluffy and helping them stay warm when the mother isn’t sitting on them. It takes only a couple of weeks until the awkward, almost naked, babies are fully feathered and pushing each other around in the nest. They reach the size of their parents in only two weeks. By the time three weeks rolls around, they are making practice flights. They will beg for food from their parents for weeks.

The Eastern Kingbird is back at Lake Tomahawk and Owen Park. This bird and the Blue Jay always seem to be dressed in their best business suits to tend to business. The Eastern Kingbird has a big head and broad shoulders. When it raises the feathers on its head, it seems to have a crest. If you see it in profile, sometimes it can be hard to identify because without the raised feathers it looks like a chubby gray and white bird. These birds have no idea how small they are. They have no fear about crows, Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons and others birds invading their territory. They spend winters in South American and switch to almost an all-fruit diet

The Eastern Kingbird is North America’s largest flycatcher. It always has a white-tipped tail and is related to the much smaller Eastern Phoebe. It is adapt at catching insects in midair. It also hovers over prey on shrubs and lawns. Fruit and insects make up the summer diet. It eats a lot of beetles, wasps, bees, winged ants, grasshoppers, flies and other insects.

The female is the sole builder of the nest, but both parents feed the babies. They can recognize a cowbird egg and will toss it out of their nests. Tree-climbing snakes, Blue Jays, Crows and squirrels are nest predators. Eastern Kingbirds migrate in groups and travel mostly by day. Many songbirds migrate at night.

Bears are plentiful this year and are on the prowl for food. Their feet may still be a little tender, since they shed the pads from their paws in late winter and early spring. The pads protect the bear’s feet and muffle the sound when they walk. The pads become brittle in the winter. Only when new pads are in place and hardened can a bear travel a long distance.

Keep the bird baths clean and filled with fresh water for bathing and drinking. Take the bird feeders inside by late afternoon.

Wild turkeys are hatching. After hatching their babies can eat on their own as soon as their feathers dry.

Watch for fireflies to start blinking.

Turtles are laying eggs.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.