Each day in May offers new wildlife happenings to enjoy as spring progresses. Ferns are unfolding and Canada mayflower leaves carpet the woodland floor. I have had reports of blooming trailing arbutus along the carriage paths.
I heard a tapping sound coming out of a tree one day as I passed by. It turned out to be a chickadee working on a nest hole. These popular little birds excavate their nest in partially rotted wood. Birches are often used because the bark is strong and intact while the inside wood is soft and rotten. Chickadees carry away the excavated wood from the nest site to keep it less noticeable. Both males and females take turns carrying off the wood chips.
Chipping sparrows are nice birds to see now. This sparrow is a little smaller than most sparrows and has a fairly long tail and a chestnut-brown cap. It is smaller than a junco. You’ll often see it on the ground where the grass is short. Listen for its trilling song. This bird builds a rather flimsy nest, but it works for them. They like many kinds of good bird seed scattered on the ground.
Edward Forbush, famous for his bird knowledge and books, wrote something about this bird that I really love. Since I am at an advanced age, it really hits home. He called the sparrow “a little pensioner of dooryard and lawn …It comes for crumbs shaken by the thrifty housewife…” I remember those days!
Black-throated green warblers are heard everywhere in the woods in May. Their call is a dreamy ‘zee zee zee zoo zee.” The sound has a lisping quality made through the teeth. The male of this species has two white wing bars and a bright yellow face that is framed by a black throat. Females are similar but her colors are more subdued. Both are beautiful.
These warblers are commonly seen here until mid-October. Although they feed high in the trees, they are not shy and often let you get close to them.
Neighbors of mine reported seeing either a mink or an otter this past week not far from where I live. They were not quite sure which it was. The otter is much bigger than a mink, but either one is possible on this island, especially near water. The river otter weighs 11-31 pounds. A mink weighs 1-4 pounds, or less. Both travel far and wide looking for food.
Otters avoid eating carrion but they travel great distances from their home base looking for fish, frogs, crustaceans, mollusks and insects. They are excellent swimmers, preferring freshwater lakes and streams, but you will find them near salt water and on the beach sometimes.
Otters are streamlined for swimming with their stocky bodies, short legs, webbed feet and long tails. These interesting mammals breed in December through April and the babies are born 10-12 months later. Youngsters from the previous year move out before the new litter arrives. Otters are most active from dawn to dusk.
This is a wonderful time of year to be outside. Enjoy it all and let me know what you are seeing or if you have any questions or interesting observations.
Send questions, observations or pictures to [email protected].