Fawns stashed on doorsteps
The annual flood of spring breeding and birthing definitely is on the rise in the region.
Fawns are being spotted everywhere — literally. Several residents have called or stopped in to report a motionless little deer pressed to the ground right alongside their homes or other buildings. Dr. Donald and Sally Jacobs found one fawn curled up like a dog on the mat on their doorstep Friday morning.
While it might seem strange behavior, the fawn may have become confused or the doe even selected the yard as a safe zone to stash her baby — predators are less likely to poke around where humans live, at least during the daytime.
The pair of sandhill cranes that hang out along M-69 near the Dickinson County Road Commission facilities just east of North Dickinson School had two fuzzy “colts,” as the chicks are called, toddling between them as they foraged along the highway on several days in the past week.
Turtles are laying eggs in the sandy driveway of our home at Six Mile Lake. Wildlife rehabilitator Phyllis Carlson said she received three tiny raccoons Wednesday that, judging by their dehydrated state, probably lost their mother to a car or some other fatal mishap. Though they barely have teeth, they still growl at her as she feeds them a goat’s milk formula; she’ll hand them off to another wildlife rehabilitator who specializes in young carnivores.
A hen duck of some type tried to shepherd her brood through downtown Iron Mountain on Thursday near the Daily News office. These might have been the same ducklings that ended up spending the night in Carlson’s garage after she was contacted by Iron Mountain police.
These young wood ducks are notoriously difficult to raise in captivity, as they have an instinct to jump in an enclosure — as they would from a nesting box — to the point of exhaustion, Carlson said.
But she employed the same technique she’d tried last year with orphaned wood ducks: Take the ducklings to an area pond where wood ducks are known to nest and let them start peeping until they draw in a hen. Within an hour, the entire band of 10 were swimming behind a new mother, “and Phyllis is grinning from ear to ear, ’cause it worked again,” Carlson said.
She also had a curious mallard hen show up, which makes her wonder whether this same practice might be used for that species as well.
One bird that isn’t nesting yet is the cedar waxwing. Like American goldfinches, cedar waxwings hold off until midsummer to start producing young, because they have a specialized diet that isn’t available early in the season — goldfinches need seeds, waxwings fruit for their growing chicks. And like goldfinches, waxwings have a built-in defense against cowbirds that might try to slip an egg into their nest — the cowbird chick will starve on the fruit diet fed to the waxwing hatchlings, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Waxwings are a fairly common bird in the region but can be difficult to see as they forage in chokecherry and other fruit or berry trees. Their thin, high whistles and larger flocks can be an easier way to know they’re around.
I’ve seen a number of bees this spring, in particular the very large, very furry common eastern bumble bee, picking their way through the spring flowers. Another type that can be easily spotted in the region is the tri-color bumble bee, so named for the wide orange band on its tail.
At the start of the season, usually in April, these bees all are queens, as young queens produced and mated the previous fall are the only ones that survive over the winter.
They will set up a new underground chamber to lay eggs for this summer’s workforce, which should begin emerging this month. When autumn arrives again, the colony will turn out a number of males and new queens for the next year, with the males, workers and old queen dying as winter sets in, experts say.
With domestic honeybees struggling, the importance of these native bumble bees has grown in helping ensure plants get properly pollinated. Some farms even have taken to cultivating colonies of bumble bees to take the place of the honeybees.
Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or firstname.lastname@example.org.