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Monthly Archives: June 2014

bigbear-1

A quick update of recent observations:

There has been a lot of bear activity around the house over the past few weeks. Today the sow with her two last year cubs were feeding on the far side of pond. I doubt those are the bears that caught and killed the young fawn the other day. Maybe he’s the bear in the photograph – he’s big and and even though the photo is a few years old, he might still be around.

Living with bears is something you have to do if you live in the woods around here, but I have to admit I’d like if the bear population was lower.

There’s been a doe deer moping around the house, and we suspect she’s the deer that lost her fawn to a bear. We haven’t seen another fawn here; there might not be another.

Last night Lil heard a mallard and suspected it was a hen moving a newly hatched clutch. A few minutes later I saw the hen on the pond, 8-10 ducklings in tow. It’s the first hatching of ducks on the pond in a few years.

The mosquitoes are the worst I’ve seen in the 20 years we’ve been out here. It’s the weather. But we did hear a whip-poor-will the other night. They must like all the insects.

A touch of frost last night. Some of last years dead grass that got a mowing had ice crystals this morning. The thermometer said it was +2 C.

 

And it’s the middle of June.

fawn-1

At least one of the does that hang around the house has had a fawn. We’ve watched her with it a couple of times, in the tall grass and sedge that ring the beaver pond. Only one, though, but it’s still early. No sign of any bucks.

And it is an active beaver pond again. A pair of beavers moved in a few days ago and are doing renovations on the old house. This should make for much more interesting wildlife viewing over the rest of the summer and into the fall, as it seems when beavers are active in the pond a lot more wildlife uses it. I suspect it’s partly that they keep the water levels up (provided there is at least some rain), and partly because of their feeding habits, which impacts on both the terrestrial and aquatic vegetation, which seems to be a positive. Since beavers also warn of strangers, maybe that’s something the other creatures also appreciate. Within days of the beavers showing up, there’s been a hen hooded merganser on the pond constantly (is she not nesting?) and a drake ring-neck showed up this morning.

Entomologists are forecasting an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars this year, which is supposedly good for cuckoos, and true to form, Lil heard one calling this morning. Three coos, so that makes it a black-billed cuckoo. We haven’t seen or heard either one in a number of years.

It went from winter to summer in less than a month and while things were hot for a couple of weeks, the last two days have been cool. Yesterday and again today dawn greeted us with a temperature of only plus 3 C. That’s cool, and actually inhibits plant growth (growing degree days are plus 4 or more). The hot weather brought out morels and fiddleheads, but they grew so quickly there were only a couple of days of picking, and for the most part I missed out. Maybe a few more morels will sprout with the cooler weather.

Of note, the white-nose syndrome affecting bats hasn’t killed them all, at least not in this neck of the woods. We have a bat house up on the wall of the original log house built on the property, and once again it is inhabited. I’ll have to try and get a count one evening.

So summer is here and a lot is happening.

Update: Bad News. A bear killed the fawn this afternoon (June 9). Very sad.

nighthawk-1

In June this year, the full moon is on Friday the 13th. I expect the police and social workers in major cities are bracing for some, er, strange activities from the usual suspects.

But the full moon in June is also prime time for seeing or hearing some wildlife; one being the whip-poor-will. The whip-poor-will, a close relative to the nighthawk (pictured here) tends to peak it’s calling intensity during the June full moon (right around dusk). Like many of the so-called Goatsuckers, a term coined in Europe for members of this order of birds because they were believed to subsist by milking goats, populations of whip-poor-wills, nighthawks and swifts are mostly on the decline.

No one really knows why, although chimney swifts don’t have near as much nesting habitat – big chimneys in big buildings – as they used to. It’s simply a function of what’s happened as society has switched from burning wood and coal for heat to more efficient modes of energy. Habitat changes could also be significant for whip-poor-wills and nighthawks and others in the Order. Over the past few decades, there has been considerable aging of the forest at the landscape level as well as loss of small woodlots in agricultural areas. Whip-poor-wills, for example, like mixed-wood forests where there are numerous small openings. They don’t like solid closed in woodlands, nor open agricultural areas that are prairie-like. Nighthawks can thrive in urban and natural areas. All goatsuckers feed on insects while flying.

I doubt population declines of these species mean they are headed to extinction. These days, every time a population does decline, that seems to be the cry, I think it’s unreasonable to think population decline is inherently a bad thing. Often, it’s just the response to environmental change, which is an on-going process. What is needed is more monitoring, research and understanding of population dynamics of a whole host of species.

On the other hand, wide-spread use of insecticides almost everywhere can’t be a good thing for species that depend on insects for survival. Maybe that’s the crux of the problem.