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The Roving Sportsman… New Beginnings

It happens every spring, without fail. It has been happening for several weeks now, and if you are fortunate, you may witness this phenomenon over the next few weeks as well. It is Mother Nature’s replenishing of the species — the birth of birds and mammals throughout our fields and forests. If you have been spending time outdoors recently or will be doing so over the next few weeks, you might just come across newly hatched grouse or turkeys or have the opportunity to watch the antics of this year’s fawns or the newborns of other species.

Near the house, the robins, and an increasing number of brown thrushes, have built their nests and laid their eggs — some of which have already hatched. The mothers are now busy bringing the demanding chicks, worms, and insects to satisfy their appetites. Baltimore orioles, cardinals, and wrens are nesting nearby, as evidenced by the occasional sighting of both the males and females, and often listening to them calling in the early morning hours.

The nearby fields are dotted with several dozen bluebird boxes. Every season in late fall or winter, I open the boxes and clean out any nesting material, sometimes discovering that a field mouse has taken up residence there. As in past years, the tree swallows are the first to arrive and build a nest in the boxes. After they have reared their clutch of young and have left the box, nearby bluebirds take over and occupy the box where they raise a clutch of young and sometimes raise a second litter of young before they return to the nearby woods for the winter.

Over the years, the wild turkey population in my area has been in a slow and steady decline. This spring, it has been encouraging to watch the occasional presence of a hen turkey as she leaves the nearby woods and enters the fields, where she slowly scratches and pecks her way in search of insects, seeds, and grasses. She shows up every few days in the same area, so there are high hopes that she has a nest nearby. Any day now, she might just bring a brood of young turkey poults with her on her feeding routine.

Meanwhile, just four days ago, while hiking on a nearby state game lands trail, I came across several very young grouse chicks. There were a mere three inches or so tall and were just gaining their ability to fly. As I rounded a turn in the trail, the chicks, which had been on the edge of a field, flew into nearby pine trees, landing in the lower branches and rocked back and forth as they attempted to gain their balance on their perch of the small branches. As I stood quietly observing the chicks, the hen grouse that was rearing them softly clucked nearby, no doubt directing them to safety from the threat of a potential predator.

Every spring, on a nearby pond, Canada geese will drop in for a short rest on their way north, and from time to time, they are joined by mallards, wood ducks, and the occasional teal or other waterfowl. More often than not, the usual visitors are the wood ducks — usually in mating pairs of drakes and hens, but sometimes a single male or female will present themselves as they swim out into the open water from the protection of the grasses along the shoreline. Last week, as I noticed a wake being made on the pond, I raised my binoculars to get a closer look at what was on the water. Much to my surprise and amazement, a hen wood duck was slowly swimming across the pond, and trailing along behind were seven baby woodies!

Perhaps the most widely enjoyed observations of newborns are the much-anticipated birth of the whitetail fawns. Spring gobbler hunters are often the first to report the spring sighting of them since these hunters spend many waking hours in the woods and fields in pursuit of wild turkeys. For the last several weeks, more and more fawns have been born, and I still see the occasional doe that appears to be carrying a fawn that has yet to be born.

Yes, this is truly the time of new beginnings throughout the world of nature and provides us with opportunities for enjoyable observation of the young of all species of birds and mammals.