By Ranger Steve Mueller
Celebrate special opportunities. Today I was sitting on the back porch, when I would rather walk trails and explore Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary nature niches.
It was a comfortable 77 F. The sunshine felt too hot. A flycatcher landed on a dead tree branch and it was difficult to identify the species. I thought it was in the Empidonax flycatcher group that has several look-a-like species. To separate species vocal calls or songs are required.
I narrowed the choices to Alder Flycatcher or Least Flycatcher but finally decided I was still wrong. It was most likely not an Empidonax species but an Eastern Wood-Peewee. It did not have an obvious white eye-ring. Wing bars were faint. Its behavior of perching, flitting out to prey on insects, and then return to the perch is typical for peewees. I usually expect the peewees to be in the dense forest but this one found the forest opening good for hunting.
While contemplating the flycatcher identification, a Cooper’s Hawk flew through the backyard about six feet above ground. It was in view for only a few seconds. Its size was too big for the look-a-like Sharp-shinned Hawk and it had a rounded tail instead of being squared off. I enjoy a visit to the yard by the bird eating hawks. They are seldom successful in capturing a meal.
I rejoice with them when they succeed in filling their stomach or get food to feed their young. They are a natural and healthy component in nature niches. Predators prevent other species from over abundance whether they are insect predators, bird predators, or mammal predators. I take sorrow in the death of birds, butterflies, or creatures I work to support with food, water, and shelter. Life is not easy for any creature but each has it place. Predators are welcome.
Despite my sorrow in one creature’s death, I celebrate the continued life of another. Unfortunately, several species native to other parts of the world have established in our area and are disrupting ecosystems, causing the death of species, and causing millions of dollars in damage to crops, landscapes, and species we cherish.
A Pileated Woodpecker flew over, brightened my day and was quickly followed by another that called as it passed. It was my birthday and I pretended it was wishing me a fine day. I am pleased my efforts over 35 years have created conditions for life. I reap benefits and joys of nature in the yard daily.
Closer to the ground level Giant Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple butterfly, Cabbage White, and Clouded Sulphur butterflies traversed yard openings. A Pearl Crescent landed on the dog. I spend the most time watching birds and butterflies, but in late summer, dragonflies like meadowhawks are abundant. Grasshopper populations are peaking and provide energy for birds getting ready to migrate.
Many people do not approve of Cooper’s Hawks filling their stomach with birds, but the same people have no objection to insect eating birds killing and eating their prey. If managed ideally, our yards will provide healthy conditions for a balanced biodiversity that supports life forms including all predators.
Sit, observe and celebrate occurrences of minute to large wildlife in your neighborhood.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the email@example.com Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.