Northland Nature: Otter families on the move
Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, 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 via Katie Rohman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s the fourth week of June, and the summer solstice has come and gone. Sunrises and sunsets continue to be later each day and very slowly, the daylight starts to get shorter.
This is the time roadsides and fields show a diversity of wildflowers. Spring is over when the flowering of open sites outnumbers the woods’ florals. Daisies, hawkweeds, buttercups, vetches, yarrows and clovers all add their colors to this summer bouquet.
And I’m glad to see irises along the edge of the pond that I walk by are in bloom, adding blue to the yellows of pond-lilies floating further out.
Chokecherries that had teamed with lilacs for arboreal blooms have faded and are being replaced by viburnums, dogwoods and mountain maples, while red maples form new seeds.
The growing month continues with plants, but we see plenty with wildlife as well.
Bird songs continue each day. The singing males proclaim territorial ownership to home sites for raising the young. Besides songs of these birds, sounds of chipping nestlings also come from the trees. Young crows, ravens and owls can be heard each day, often following the parents. Babies of geese, ducks and mergansers also stay with the adults in local ponds and swamps while the chicks of sandhill cranes explore fields, with supervision.
Turtles use these days to travel up from the water to find a proper site to deposit eggs, while the summer frogs, mink and green, add their calls to the persistent gray treefrogs at the lakes.
At numerous wetlands, dragonflies of several species climb out of their aquatic youth and take wing as adults.
Among all the flora, we can see a variety of butterflies daily. Along with the mosquitoes at night, this is the time of large moths, luna, cecropia and polyphemus, with breeding fireflies contributing bioluminescence to the scene.
Often, we’ll see young mammals of the year (or last year), sometimes without us searching for them. I have noted a young beaver that moved into a pond recently where there was none last year. In a similar way, a muskrat appeared in a swamp. They show signs of dispersal from their families.
And as I sat in the yard a few days ago, a young bear came by to explore. Finding this site already occupied, it decided to wander off.
However, the local chipmunks and squirrels continue to stay. It has been interesting to watch the activities of adult squirrels as they leap through the trees, followed by the young. Parents perform some daring jumps between trees to find more food or to escape the young. In the roadsides, young rabbits pilfer while a couple spotted fawns follow the doe off into the woods.
I should not have been surprised as I walked between two swamps one morning when I saw an otter family. Looking ahead on my road route, I observed a critter cross from one swamp to the other. I was able to recognize it as an otter. It was carrying something in its mouth; I suspected prey. When it returned, I realized that it was not prey, but she was coming back for another young to be taken.
It took three trips to transplant the family from one wetland home to another across a road. She was able to avoid the dangerous traffic. And when I got closer, I watched as the family swam off in their new territory, most likely completely oblivious of me.
Yes, June continues to be a growing time for local flora and fauna.