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COLUMNS

Slow down and enjoy nature

Hans Kunze
A male and female Baltimore Oriole enjoy oranges and suet in this photo by reader Janie Ferguson.

Summer just officially started but it seems like it is already zooming right along! The weather has been very summer-like and the flora and fauna seem to be doing just fine.

The Covid-19 issue has changed many lifestyles due to the stay-at-home protocol in so many situations. People have taken to doing many more things at home since they are home much more than they normally would be. Among those things at home are more gardening and more bird feeding and nature enjoyment.

I have been hearing from more people than normal who have questions on birds and gardening and expressing interest in joining me on bird and garden walks. With our region entering phase 4 all of us will have more opportunities to enjoy the summer season taking in beauty at the various surrounding parks and nature centers.

Right now, the bird world is very busy with adult birds tending to their nestlings and fledglings and teaching them how to find food on their own while protecting them from predators. As I mentioned before, some birds are in their second nesting already while others are just starting with their first nesting.

As we travel the roads, we all need to be cognizant of the younger birds out there as they aren’t aware of how fast an automobile can approach them. In general, please be cautious when driving and don’t assume that the bird in the road ahead will get out of your way! The same is true for young animals including fawns – and remember that where there is one deer, there is likely another. I spoke to our collision repair garage recently and it is deer hits that are keeping them very busy.

As the various species of swallows start fledging more of them will be perched on fences and utility wires along the roadsides. We need to keep our speed under control and remember that just reducing our speed by 10 or 15 miles per hour can make all the difference of whether or not birds can get out of the way.

Recently a beautiful red-tailed hawk was killed by car. Next to the dead hawk was a small snake. The hawk was likely was about to catch the snake crawling over the road. It also could be that the snake had been killed by a car and the hawk was coming down to grab the road kill treat.

Speaking of road kill, it is amazing how many birds and animals benefit from it. Fresh road kills of squirrels, snakes, and chipmunks are generally snatched up by foxes, crows, and birds of prey. The heavier road kills like woodchucks and raccoon generally decay on the side of the road and the turkey vultures clean them up. So, if you see turkey vultures in the road ahead of you, please slow down so you don’t hit them when they try to get out of your way. They are doing their job to clean up! Often if there is a dead woodchuck near your home, it is a good thing to remove it from the road and put it in the roadside grass. The turkey vultures will find it and if they don’t the normal decay process will take place compliments of the flies. They immediately lay eggs on the carcass which hatch quickly and become maggots which do their job. As much as we don’t like flies, they have a purpose! Flies and other insects also are an extremely valuable food source in the great big food chain.

Over the winter we all see plenty of deer road kills which have been a key food source for the bald eagles when other food sources aren’t as easy to come by. Deer road kills may be a key reason why the bald eagles have become so common in winter and throughout the year. Our eagle population has done well thanks to many conservation programs. No matter how many eagles you may have seen, every new sighting of these powerful majestic birds is a great experience.

On another note of conservation, the NYS bird – the Eastern Bluebird – has done very well over the last few decades after a severe population decline in the middle of the 20th century. Still, bluebirds need our help in the form of manmade nest boxes being placed in their natural habitat. If you have nest boxes, now is the time to be vigilant in monitoring them. The cool spring made the first nesting of bluebirds pretty much a disaster. Some bluebirds are looking for a different nest box to use so make sure that you have one or two available. Make sure that ants aren’t infesting an active nesting of bluebirds right now! It is not too late to attract a pair of bluebirds! Call me with any questions.

Yes, it’s summer and the birds are thriving right now. As always, I encourage you to enjoy all the beauty of the birds that you can every day. Remember that summer is zooming by and before you know it, many species of birds will already be thinking of heading south.

Finally, keep your hummingbird feeder full and don’t forget to plant some nice perennials that the hummers like. Right now, we are enjoying our many delphiniums approaching full bloom and seeing the hummers work among them is a joy! Keep the jelly and/or oranges going for the orioles as they still like a little snack mixed in with their normal natural diet. Remember to slow down and enjoy everything that God has blessed us with!