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Kids everywhere

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The sound of kids in the neighborhood refreshes. Light happy voices scurrying with energy thrills us. Neighbor kids are busy in their yard and sometimes bring us chicken eggs. They always have stories to share. Our grandkids explore the trails, and their mom tells about forts, hiding places, and adventures from her kid days.

The solstice has past and adult birds quiet territorial songs as their kids fledge nests. Like human teenagers, wild youngsters venture into an exciting world of food and plenty. They follow parents to the best feeding grounds and to the most secretive hiding places. It builds essential skills necessary for them to reach adulthood. 

It is amazing how difficult it is to find birds sleeping after watching large numbers feed in the yard, woods, and streamside during daylight hours. 

Fuzzy unkempt adolescent birds visit the bird feeders. Often they beg for food on the feeder by vibrating wings and making sounds. The food is right there but they are still in the habitat of wanting mom to feed them. It does not take long before they get the message to feed themselves. 

An American Robin explores the yard with tilted head and sharp eye searching for creepy crawlers. Warblers hop among tree branch tips, middle branches, and treetops looking among leaves for caterpillars and other insects. I enjoy watching a Chestnut-sided Warbler in shrubs picking tiny insects that seem too small to be worth the energy effort. White-breasted Nuthatches climb tree trunks to find a meal in bark crevices. Instinct helps each species reach success for filling its stomach in its specialized ecological niche.

House wrens forage and return to the nest box with a beak full of food for hungry kids. While the adult gathers food, chicks sit quiet and still. Upon the parent’s return they noisily call for food. Once fed, the mother reaches below a fed youngster to pick up a fresh leathery fecal sac in its so-to-speak diaper. The parent flies with it from the nest and drops it in the woods where some creatures will find it to nourish themselves or their kids. 

Look for newly hatched insect kids on young delicate vegetative growth or on freshly opened flowers where they feast. Some insects like bees do not leave the nest until they are mature. Bees and recently matured flies entertain us with magnificent color patterns and are easily observed visiting a spectacular array of blooms. Waiting on flowers are brilliant white crab spiders with gorgeous red abdominal striping. They remain still with outstretched crablike front legs ready to nab visiting insects. Spiders are essential and important predators.

Do not fear bees or spiders busy at work trying to fill their stomachs. While they are busy at work gathering food, they are not interested in your presence. If you decide to mess with a ground nest of bees or wasps, you will encounter adults defending the lives of their young much like we guard our young. Many dangers face animals besides human disturbance. 

Adult mosquitoes, deer flies and ticks seek blood from mammals and birds to nourish their eggs. We seldom notice most insects because their activities do not involve us. Insect numbers feeding on the beautiful trees found in our yards are kept under control by parasitoid insects or insect parasites in addition to being directly eaten by other insects, birds, mammals, and amphibians. The world is dangerous for kids of all kinds.

Use of pesticides often increases insect pest numbers after a short reduction because the kids of garden eating “bugs” rebound quicker than their predators and parasites. Many methods exist for us to live in harmony with fellow native creatures. We can limit our harmful impact on wild kids. Exotic species like the imported gypsy moths, emerald ash borers, and hemlock woolly adelgids are causing great ecological damage because their kids do not have natural predators on this continent. Exotics disrupt the lives of wildlife. Make your yard a haven for wild kids everywhere and enjoy them daily and nightly. Don’t miss fireflies sparkling at night with green flashes. They are advertising to mates so they can replenish the yard with more wonderful kids.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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