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It’s all about procreation

Spring keeps chugging along and with it the lives of many different creatures. Below are photos of some of our local residents rolling with the flow. A nestling blue-gray gnatcatcher waits for one of its parents to deliver protein. The lichen-covered nest is in a maple tree on an island in our parking lot. It was spotted by sharp-eyed Ranger Dakota.

Lichen covered nest of blue-gray gnatcatcher.
Male parent makes visit to nest.
Female brings in morsel of food.
Both parents stop in as duty calls.

Unlike gnatcatchers, brown-headed nuthatches nest in tree cavities.

Brown-headed nuthatch pauses near entrance to nest hole.
Nuthatch prepares to drop down to nest hole.
Nuthatch hops along trunk of birch tree in which nest resides.

On April 23, I reported on brown thrashers nesting in a wintergreen barberry in the garden in front of the Butterfly House. The nestlings have fledged and are getting lessons on food finding in and around the garden.

I happened to spot one of the fledglings out of the corner of my eye as I ascended the ramp leading from the Butterfly House.

Fledgling brown thrasher in mulched garden.
Parent thrasher eyes me watching its young.
As fledgling watches, parent demonstrates the art of thrashing around in leaf litter and mulch for food.
Youngster catches on.

While rounding the corner of the boardwalk in Explore the Wild, I eyed a recently fledged eastern phoebe on a low hung branch next to the walkway. Just moments later the bird was huddled up next to its siblings a dozen feet away.

The birds were being fed insects by their parents every few minutes, or as quickly as the adults could capture and deliver the goods.

Recently fledged eastern phoebe.
The siblings huddle.
All heads turn toward parent, and juicy insect in its bill.

Great blue herons are often seen feeding in the shallow water of our wetland. Sliders sometimes accompany them, presumably to pick up any scraps from the heron’s captures.

Great blue heron stalking aquatic prey. Note two turtles nearby.
Turtle ready to salvage any leftovers.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are named for a patch of reddish feathers on their belly. The belly patch is not often seen as the bird, when seen, is usually belly-up to a tree trunk. The male red-bellied below is excavating a nest hole in an American sycamore.

Male red-bellied woodpecker showing pinkish belly feathers.

Red-shouldered hawks have fledged. Here a bird in immature plumage learns patience as it hunts from a perch. I watched this hawk make several attempts at capturing prey, only to come up empty.

On ground after unsuccessful attempt to catch prey.
Looking for a frog, snake, vole…
Switch to a different, more productive perch.
Patience is an essential trait for a perch-hunting hawk.

I watched the hawk for some thirty minutes. It flew off without food in its talons.

And finally, a butterfly, a folded-wing skipper. It’s a male zabulon skipper. This small butterfly would consistently return to this sweetgum leaf after sallying forth to investigate other butterflies in the area and repel if necessary. It is, after all, time to seek a mate.

Male Zabulon skipper on the lookout.

Get outdoors and see what’s happening!