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May Nature Notes

posted on 5/11/22

And…The Jungle Birds are Back!

Wow! Spring migration and baby time will reach its peak around mid-May.

As Gladys Black would say, “The Jungle Birds are back!” May is the time of year when all the colorful warblers, orioles, hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, and numerous others that come from South America. Some of these amazing birds call Iowa home for their breeding grounds, others continue north into Canada to nest. It is a whirlwind of some of the most colorful birds we ever get to see.  These birds are the latest to return as they need to have enough insects to survive. They fly an incredible long journey in their most beautiful spring plumage. Many who feed songbirds, add grape jelly and oranges to feeders to provide an extra boost to these migrants.

The end of May is considered peak songbird nesting time. A few birds to note for May returns; scarlet and summer tanagers, Baltimore and orchard orioles, indigo buntings, yellow and black-billed cuckoos, yellow warblers, great-crested flycatchers, blue-gray gnatcatchers, chimney swifts, common nighthawks, Eastern whip-poor-will, Eastern kingbirds, American redstart, dickcissel, common yellowthroat, Northern parula, bobolinks and many, many more. Our mosquito feeding birds, such as the common nighthawk and chimney swift will soon be seen flying at dusk. For a list of nesting birds in Iowa https://iowabirds.org/Birds/Iowa.aspx  The Iowa Ornithologist’s Union Checklist.

Among our mammals, bats are the only true fliers and many of our migrating bats are returning this month.  To name a few; the forest dwelling Eastern red bat, Hoary bat, and Silver-haired bat. The month of June is the average time for young to be born.

Hopefully, this month we will be seeing the early migrant monarch butterflies trickling through Iowa and laying eggs along the way. It won’t be long before you may notice the pinhead size eggs.  Journey North, https://journeynorth.org/ is a great way to record sightings, follow migrations, and be a part of the comeback of our migrating monarchs and other butterflies. Butterflies that have been appearing late April, and into May are Henry’s elfin, meadow fritillary, cabbage white, E. comma, question mark, and red admirals. This month should be great for more butterfly finds.

May is “wetland month.” The water warms, the underwater insects are flourishing, and some are ready to become airborne. Beaver kits are growing, wood ducks will be out with their young, Canada goslings are swimming with their parents, and dragons and damsels (the raptors of the insect world) are beginning to make their appearance around the area. Salamander nymphs are hatching and growing legs, donning their feathery gills under the water. Painted and snapping turtle eggs will continue to hatch. Watch this month for adult turtles migrating from bodies of water to land areas to lay eggs now and will continue into the first part of June. Wetlands are a busy place!

The forest floor spring wildflowers have been running a little behind, but soon they will be done blooming and going to seed as the tree canopy fills in. These understory plants are some of the last to bloom and will be flourishing; Solomon’s seal, false Solomon’s seal, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, green dragons, mayapple, showy orchis, and large twayblade orchids. Maidenhair fern doesn’t bloom but makes a most beautiful presence along woodland creeks. The buckeye trees will be blooming very soon. The fragrant Basswood blooms will be acknowledged within the woodlands. As the late Spring season unfolds, the morels, dryads saddle, and a few other edibles can be found.