What a wonderful month June is. By now most resident and migrant songbirds are nesting. Some are feeding hungry mouths. And some of those little nestlings have already fledged. Two such species of wild birds are among them — the eastern towhee and the ovenbird. Most people familiar with eastern towhees first become aware of a towhees' presence by hearing them. Calling its name towhee throughout the thick understory of the forest is the common call-note drink-your-tea, but the towhee also calls chewink and joree.
Two more species of brilliantly plumaged neotropical migrant songbirds have returned to the northland once again — the scarlet tanager and the indigo bunting. Sights that are certain to delight, these birds are one of a kind. In fact, in 1951 the state legislature debated on designating the scarlet tanager as Minnesota's state bird. Ten years later, 1961, the common loon was adopted as the official state bird instead.
Without fail I observed my first Baltimore oriole around Mother's Day weekend. If memory serves, it seems that each spring I typically see hummingbirds a day or two before I catch sight of an oriole's vivid orange and contrasting black markings and hear the telltale call-notes of vocalizing males. A week following Mother's Day, something happened that I've never observed before. There evidently was a massive influx of migrating orioles to the countryside, because I wasn't the only bird lover that noticed it.
I stopped at the Becida Bar and Grill in downtown Becida recently for Taco Tuesday. Tasty tacos, a bowl of chips and salsa, and great conversation. Some friends and neighbors were there and it wasn't long and we were all talking about the welcome spring weather, wild birds, and other species of wildlife. One friend asked me, "What are ya gonna write about this week?" "Hmmm", I pondered, "I'm not sure yet. Have any ideas?" "Well", he answered, "ya wrote about hummingbirds last time, so ya can't write about them again."
Minnesota's tiniest wild bird, the beloved ruby-throated hummingbird, has made its way back to Minnesota in recent days. Although I haven't observed a hummingbird yet, a friend of mine 90 miles to the south reported seeing his first one on May 9. Indeed, by the time many of you read these words, I'll bet a 10 pound bag of sugar that some of you have observed your first "hummer" here in the northland, too.
About a week ago I heard the distinctive call of an eastern phoebe — "fee-bee ... fee-bee ... fee bee." Indeed, springtime has definitely arrived when this charming species of flycatcher arrives here in the northland. Known for the incessant jerking of their tail downward while perched, few other birds are as endearing as the eastern phoebe. This beloved species of bird that has a penchant for building their little nests on houses and other structures and objects, seemingly almost dependent on we humans for places to construct their delicate nests upon.
Springtime is the best time. It's the season of rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation. As the snow and ice slowly fades away becoming yet a distant memory, migrant songbirds and other species of wild birds continue trickling northward and arriving in our backyards, fields, and forests.
This past winter a black-phase gray squirrel, evidently the smartest of the lot, figured out that if he or she climbed the nearest bur oak tree adjacent to the platform feeder that is truly squirrel-proof from the ground, and took a running leap from the least flimsy of the limbs 15 feet above the feeder, that said squirrel could launch itself into the air in a death defying leap and land with a startling thud on top of the platform where the prize of all prizes resides—a birdfeeder plumb full of scrumptious black-oil sunflower seed.
Spring is a time when a lot of scavenging is going on out there by resident wildlife. Drive any major road where deer tend to cross and are struck by motor vehicles, you'll see raptors and corvids — eagles, crows, ravens, and magpies — sitting on top of deer carcasses strewn throughout the ditches. The abundance of deer isn't good for the forest, but deer carcasses provide wildlife with plenty of food at the end of a long winter. Coyotes and wolves in particular, but other species take advantage of this resource as well.
My dear mother Darlene who just passed away a little over a week ago loved wild birds. We often talked about birds, feeding birds, seeing birds, listening to birds, and identifying birds. Indeed, she loved talking about the first time she'd seen bluebirds as a little girl on the farm and she loved listening to my stories about anything having to do with wild birds.