Nature Notes


It doesn’t take much to realize the season is rapidly turning from Spring to Summer. As the mercury edges ever-higher, wildlife is getting down to the business at hand. For most critters living in and around Lake James, it’s the most important season of the year – it’s baby season!

For birds the migration is mostly over. Many species have already laid their first clutches of eggs and a few are already feeding nestlings. Among the earliest nesters are the resident songbirds that do not fly south for the winter or travel just a short distance. Mourning doves, Carolina chickadees, eastern bluebirds and northern cardinals all fit into this category. Some birds of prey are already hatched and developing towards flight. Bald eagles and great horned owls lay their eggs during the winter months to time the long period of growth their chicks must complete with the greatest abundance of prey. Neotropical migrants like warblers, tanagers, thrushes and hummingbirds are starting families of their own.

If you find a bird nest, either in the woods during a hike or near your house or work, it can offer an amazing and detailed look into the lives of these iconic creatures. Often the activity level around a nest will be fast and furious when there are chicks demanding food as fast as the parents can bring it. Later, as the young try out their wings, things get even busier. It’s important to remember as you make your observations that getting too close or intruding too often can have catastrophic consequences for the birds. Sometimes parents will abandon their nest if they are interrupted frequently by what they perceive as predators. Actual predators, like house cats, raccoons, opossums and even squirrels and chipmunks (yup, even chipmunks) are attracted to bird nests by the presence of human scent.

As you drive through the park on your way to the swim beach or your favorite hiking trail, keep a watch out for whitetail deer crossing the road. Late May and early June is birthing season and where there are does, there will be fawns. Few things in life can ruin a perfect summer’s day at the park than the emotional trauma and financial repercussions of a vehicle-versusdeer collision.

The weather is beautiful and it’s time to be outside. See you out on the trail!