While the effects of summer put most park visitors into a swimming beach state of mind, folks with an eye for nature know it’s never too hot to enjoy the fauna and flora at Lake James State Park. For starters, it’s baby season! Summer is the season for great abundance of insects that birds rely on to feed their babies. Over the years, park staff have placed dozens of bird nesting boxes throughout the park. The beautiful eastern bluebird is the most common tenant, but the boxes are also home to Carolina chickadees, tree swallows, tufted titmice and brown-headed nuthatches from time-to-time. All of these birds are cavity nesters, meaning they lay their eggs in hollowed out trees. Typically, that means old, abandoned woodpecker nests, but nest boxes make excellent substitutes when natural cavity options are limited. By now, most nesting songbirds are raising their second broods of the season. Bluebirds will often nest as many as three times a year and mourning doves go as many as four or five!
Bald eagles and ospreys, our two big, fish-eating birds of prey have fledged their chicks by now and the youngsters are learning the ins and outs of catching their own supper. Until they leave for the winter there are more ospreys on the lake now than any other time of year. White-tailed deer fawns are following their moms around the forest and can often be seen on the side of the park road during the early mornings and late evenings. This is a great reason to slow down as you enter and exit the park, as the spotted youngsters have even less common sense than their mothers when it comes to cars and crossing roads. The same could also be said for the black bear cubs and turkey poults that were born earlier in the year. Folks who hike on the Holly Discovery Trail should keep their eyes peeled for swarms of baby toads on the pathway. The toads have recently metamorphosized from their aquatic, tadpole phase and emerged from the wetland next to Paddy’s Creek. The miniature toads are often underfoot and are vulnerable to careless hikers.
Nature-watching during the summer has its challenges; heat, biting insects, crowded waterways, etc., but it also has its special rewards. See you out on the trails.