Focus on Nature: Nature takes the summer heat in stride

07/26/2011 5:00 AM |

The heat that hit us over the past few weeks kept us indoors, out of the sweltering 80 and 90 degree weather. If it wasn’t the temperature that knocked us out, it was the humidity. Yet there was always some activity going on around our place — like today, when we looked into the little pond under our picture window and the three frogs that wintered over there jumped out to sit on the rocks and enjoy the humid day.

They’ve doubled in size since they emerged from the bottom of our little garden pond, which was covered over for the winter. We’ve never seen them catch anything, although they are under constant observation. You’d think one of us would have seen them snatch a fly or bug with their sticky, rubber-band tongues. Not to be left out as survivors of the winter, our two big goldfish also made it through and are lazily nibbling algae around the edge of the pond. Their big job, of course, is to eat mosquito larvae.

We have woodlands around our home so, of course, it goes without saying we have deer almost every day. However, we did miss them for a while recently and then realized why. Our daughter and her grandchildren were walking through the woods and they spotted a fawn curled up at the base of a tree, not blinking an eye. Here was the reason we had not seen any deer around for a while: They were evidently busy with the newborns.

Yesterday we saw two of these new fawns frolicking in joyful play in the yard, stopping only to try to nurse when the mother approached. Evidently this wasn’t the time for feeding, as she led them off into the woods. Today, three spotted fawns were having a drink at our fish pond down the driveway.

Not only have we seen the young deer around but a number of our resident birds have brought their young to our feeders. First to arrive were the chickadees. The young were so unafraid they would sit on the table or on our knees or arms, calling all the time to be fed. As the parents approached with food the young trembled with excitement. Then the titmice family followed, along with the cardinals and sparrows.

When they first arrived, the young sparrows were so noisy calling to be fed that they arrived they caught our attention and Barbara tried to photograph them. As they lined up on a tree limb they were facing the wrong way and all she was able to get was their four little butts. It reminded me of years ago when I was photographing a family of nuthatches. The young all decided to make their way out on a limb and wait to be served. Slowly, one at a time, they slipped off. It was fun to watch and I caught it on film as you can see.

And finally, the biggest of all, the crow family arrived and took over the back yard. We watched as a young crow walked up and took a taste of a five-inch mushroom, which wasn’t to its liking. They walked around under the bird feeders picking up leftovers and chasing any squirrels that believed they were there first.

In the high heat and humidity you could see these large crows cooling off with their bills partly opened. Birds, like dogs, open their mouth to cool off in hot weather. We’ve seen the lawn ripped up where moss was growing and believe the crows are turning it over to find bugs and insects to feed the young or teach them how to find food for themselves.

At the end of the day — as we watched for the deer to return across the lawn, the bats to come out for their evening insect meal, and the fireflies all over the place lighting up the yard — we noticed something going up the ramp just alongside the pond. Looking closer, we could see it was Mr. Raccoon. He also checked out the feeder fallout and then was off across the lawn to see what he could find in the garden. A baby rabbit has been enjoying the new lettuce leaves in the garden and runs completely across the lawn occasionally as if something were hot on its heels.

We ate lunch outside one nice day outside and, to our surprise, we spotted perhaps this same raccoon climbing up a tall cherry tree along the pasture fence. We could hardly believe our eyes and were curious what it was doing. After a while Barbara walked across the lawn and watched as this raccoon, 30 feet up in the tree, stood on its hind legs and reached for a small limb, pulling it down as it picked off the cherries, ate them and dropped the pits. As Barbara stood there trying to get a picture of this through all the leaves, pits were dropping all around her. That was a new one for us.

So it seems all is well with the creatures of the wild during this humid hot spell, for they are all busy with their everyday survival activities.