Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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During my daily walks now in the time of summer solstice, I regularly hear 20-30 species of birds singing. Most are regulars at particular places, telling me that they are not only singing here, but they are also nesting at these sites.
As May is the month of greening, June is the month of growth. Anyone trying to maintain a lawn or garden is well aware of this fact. Long days with a sunrise shortly after 5 a.m. set nearly 16 hours later, after 9 p.m. The long sunlit hours combined with the ample rainfall and warmth equals ideal conditions for this rapid growing time.
Walking in the woods of early June is an amazing experience, quite a change from a month ago. Now this site is shaded under the thick arboreal canopy that has grown during the last couple of weeks. Before these leaves emerged, the forest floor was filled with the sun-loving and quick-growing spring ephemerals.
Along with all the other unfolding of spring at this time, May is a month filled with migrants. Early in these 31 days, we noted the return of hermit and Swainson thrushes, phoebes, tree swallows, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, flickers and a few warblers, yellow-rump, black and white and palm. With the warmer longer days of mid-month, the pace increased and the more birds were heading north. It seemed like each woods walk revealed new avian returnees, located by sight and sound.
As usual, I began to see flocks of Canada geese about the middle of March. These early groups were usually flying over, composed of dozens of individuals and quite loud. At this time, the returning flocks are welcome signs of spring. With the lakes still under ice cover in March, these aquatic birds find refuge in the opening waters of local rivers. Eventually, the flocks dispersed to be pairs and I watched as a pair — hard to tell male from female — selected our swamp as a place of interest.
As we get further into May, walking in the woods is one of constant discoveries. Often our eyes are kept on the trees to locate and take a closer look at the newly arrived migrants. Songbird migrants have been with us for several weeks already: robins, blackbirds, grackles, sparrows and phoebes. But now in this warming and greening month, I seek more returnees.
When I step outside this morning I realize that with the dawn temperature of nearly 50 degrees, I don't need the coat I wore in the morning walks of early April. In the calm conditions, I hear that others are up and active as well.
The weather during the first week of April this year was a bit of an anomaly. For the most part, the winter was mild and months of temperatures above normal became normal. And where the first half of March produced mild temperatures, we looked like we were headed for an early spring.