Spring is the time for many creatures to have lots of babies.
The rapid flush of plant growth and emergence of prey in spring makes circumstances especially suitable for reproduction.
Birds are producing many eggs. We found one of the more unusual clutches in a bluebird nest with two speckled cowbird eggs in a nest with the four bluebird eggs. . I have never seen this occur on our Virginia farm. It is interesting the adult bluebirds do not recognize the totally different color of the parasitic eggs and may end up raising cowbirds instead of their own offspring.
Baby robins lie still instinctually to avoid predators until parents approach with food.
Four adorable killdeer babies appeared this week on our driveway. They are cute but so fragile and helpless against predators.
The parents try to lure predators away with a broken wing display feigning injury. But coloration is their best defense, which helps them blend in with small rocks and dirt - but not grass.
These plovers made a nest, if you can call it that, among the stones in a bare spot and the eggs are well camouflaged if the adult is not incubating. It seems a strange lifestyle but their closest relatives live on beaches in Gasparilla Island so the killdeer looks for stony open ground to make its home. This often turns out to be a parking lot or driveway so they can need our help in protecting their family.
William Dunson, Ph.d., professor emeritus of biology at Penn State University, splits time between Southwest Florida and his farm in Galax, Va. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Many young have left the redwing nests in marshes and tall grassy fields. Adults watch them carefully and protest loudly if you approach their precious young.
The young turkey poults hatched out in these same fields are now following Mom around and learning how to forage for insects. They are vulnerable until they can fly but they are quite good at hiding.
Robins and mockingbirds have also hatched. It is difficult it is to identify young birds in the nest. They are all so similar without feathers and many have yellow gapes to attract food from parents.
Feed me, feed me they seem to be saying as loudly as possible!
Until the adults arrive with food the babies lie still to avoid attracting the attention of predators.
We have had a large crop of baby rabbits this year and predators such as red-tailed hawks are enjoying this abundance of prey. Since I decided to enjoy rabbits instead of shooting them to diminish damage to the garden and flowerbeds, it is interesting to observe what they eat and to watch their antics.
It seems that the chipmunks, voles and deer are much more damaging to most of our plantings than the rabbits. If I were dependent on a garden for survival I would not likely be so tolerant of the herbivores, so it is easy to understand how a real farmer would see them as varmints.
n Two flower beetles mating on a daisy illustrate the procreative act under way across all phyla.
n Normally placid northern water snakes engage in a frenzy of mating activity even while sunning on a log.
Enjoy the wonderful spring babies. They will soon enough be grown up or in the belly of a predator serving as important futures for the health of the ecosystem.