Published On: Wed, May 4th, 2016

Field Notes

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Last week the rains finally arrived. The Observatory recorded more than three inches over the last six days which will go a long way toward jump-starting lawns and gardens.
Spring migration is in full swing and the cavity nesters have taken possession of nearly all of the birdhouses on the grounds. The Bluebirds arrived first and had first shot at the real estate. So far, 10 out of 20 boxes have bluebird nests and eggs in them. A 50 percent occupancy rate is better than normal and a couple of others will probably be occupied by blues before the tree swallows and wrens take over the rest.
One somewhat unusual nester this year is a White Breasted Nuthatch which has laid three eggs in a box in my backyard. They usually are more reclusive, searching out old woodpecker holes and avoiding man made homes, so it’s good to see somebody different.
Other common cavity nesters like kestrels, screech owls, Wood ducks and Mergansers can sometimes be enticed into larger, well-placed structures.
The first family of Wood ducks marched into the wastewater ponds at the observatory April 29. The where-abouts of the nest den was unknown and Momma Woodie may have walked her 10 young in from some distance.
As luck would have it, we bumped into each other as I was passing by on a bicycle. Chaos and mayhem erupted at that point as she tried to get the young ones through the woven security fence and down to the safety of the ponds.
While the hen flopped around dragging a wing and doing the injured bird routine to mislead me, the young scattered and strung out up and down the road. Eventually one group of five ducklings ended up in a tight knot on one pond. Four others along with the female ended up on another pond. One lone duckling took the tourist route straight away and was corralled in the tall grass, captured and taken back to join the others.
Hopefully both groups were able to find each other later and return to their family group.
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Last summer Mary Meeks saw a sow bear with four cubs on the observatory. Having four and even five cubs happens occasionally, but two or three young is more the norm.
Walkers have recently seen a large sow with four yearling cubs in the area, so all must have survived the winter in good shape. In June, Momma bear will send the young out and away on their own as she prepares to start the cycle of life again.
Early reports show spring turkey hunters are having a lot of success. It appears that turkeys wintered well and are plentiful. Gobbler season will continue through May 14.
Dave can be contacted at davecurry51@gmail.com

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