Big · Round · Pine
Cart 0
 

Naturalist's Calendar

 
Great-Egret-by-Tony-Iwane.jpg

For those of us who enjoy the outdoors, the local climate is the single most influencing element that determines the plants and animals in the area and what activities we do. While each day is different, there are a variety of general patterns characteristic of this area. Our lakes lie at the center of the North American continent in an area with a humid continental climate with minimal ocean influences, featuring delightfully coolish summers and downright cold winters. The prevailing winds are generally westerly, but more often northwesterly in the winter and south to southwesterly in the summer. Extreme cold in the winter is common and can last for weeks. Hot spells are less common in the summer and generally have a shorter duration. Temperatures above 90 degrees usually occur on only a few days of the summer. Most precipitation occurs in the warm season months with June being the wettest month. The winter months can often be as dry as the desert, but when the temperature is below freezing, what little precipitation that does fall as snow sticks around.

Also be sure to check out the article "Attracting Backyard Wildlife" at the bottom of this page. And how to make homemade suet.

January

vlcsnap-2017-01-27-09h09m33s725.png

Average High 22 - Low Temperature -2 Mean Temperature 11.2
Sun angle is 25 degrees. 50 % Mean Sunshine

For non-hibernating wildlife, winter is the most difficult season. January features short cold days and long starry nights. January 25th is on average the coldest day of the year. Even so, the first sounds of the coming spring can be heard. Animals are now most active at midday and try to stay out of the wind, rest in the sun, move through shallow snow, established trails in the woods or along roadsides, while hibernators slumber for days on end. Squirrels rely on their sense of smell to locate their stashes of stored nuts and seeds. Downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers begin drumming to establish their territories. The black-capped chickadee begins its spring “fee-bee” song in response to lengthening days. Nuthatches and woodpeckers join chickadee flocks to help in the lookout for predators. Owls begin hooting to advertise their territories. Some years feature an invasion of nearly tame northern owls like gray and boreal owls from the north seeking easier to find food. Bobcats can be seen in the woods on the lookout for rabbits, patiently waiting for their chance at a fresh meal. White tailed deer limited by deep snow yard up near food sources and in frozen swamps or sheltered in deep woods. Bear cubs are being born. Muskrats are active under the ice feeding on roots and water plants or resting in or even eating their cattail houses.

February

february alt.jpg

Average High 30 - Low Temperature 9 Mean Temperature 15.0
Sun angle is 34 degrees. 56 % Mean Sunshine

The best of winter with less severe temperatures, more sunshine and plenty of snow is happening right now. The average snow depth reaches it’s greatest point at about 16 inches. By mid-month the warmth of the sun becomes noticeably stronger. The days continue to lengthen and the extreme cold moderates. Icicles form on rooflines and snow begins to melt even on sunny days with the air temperature well below the freezing point. Groundhog day is on the 2nd indicating six weeks of more winter or a rapidly oncoming spring. Birds become very active at feeders. Northern cardinals begin singing. Cedar waxwings seek juniper berries and redpolls feed on birch seeds. This is the beginning of the mating season for squirrels, coyotes and timber wolves. White tailed deer shed their antlers. Red osier dogwood shrubs are showing bright red twigs that intensify in color as the days lengthen. The warm sun activates carpenter ants inside hollow oak trees and pileated woodpeckers are busy searching for them. Tracks in the snow show that all kinds of animals are active in the cold. Winter activities for humans like ice fishing, kite flying, riding on snowmobiles or ATVs, skiing, snowshoeing and skating out on the lake ice reach their peak. The camping, sportsman, boat and vacation shows are going on in the city.

March

marchthaw.jpg

Average High 39 - Low Temperature 17 Mean Temperature 28.1
Sun angle is 45 degrees. 57 % Mean Sunshine

The worst of winter is now over and signs of spring are everywhere. Spring officially arrives late in the month, but brief cold snaps and a few potent snowstorms can still be expected. The increasingly warmer daytime temperatures allow for more moisture to be held in the air leading to heavy wet snowfalls. The dominant wind pattern switches to the southwest and south. Southeast winds often signal the arrival of spring storms. The lake ice slowly turns gray signaling that it’s time to bring in the icehouse. It’s maple syrup time too. Thawing days followed by freezing nights trigger the maple sap flow. The buds on maples and aspens begin to swell. There is now two more hours of daylight since the winter solstice and the resident flock of birds chirp, call and sing full of spring cheer. By the second week of the month the early spring migrations have begun in earnest. Flocks of crows and hawks return. Ravens and eagles venture from close by open water areas and begin their aerial courtship acrobatics. Male red wing blackbirds arrive at wetlands and sing “o-ka-leee” to establish their territories. Females follow a few weeks later. Doves begin to coo. Early in the month the first flocks of robins, Canada geese, sparrows and bluebirds arrive on moist southerly breezes. Later herons, blue winged teal, wood ducks, mergansers and gulls arrive at open patches of water. Hungry deer and rabbits begin to browse on twigs, shrubs and any green shoots uncovered by the melting snow. Pussy willows begin to bloom. Chattering chipmunks emerge from hibernation and squirrels in love chase each other wildly over bare tree limbs through the forest canopy.

April

pexels-photo-382418.jpg

Average High 56 - Low Temperature 31 Mean Temperature 44.3
Sun angle is 57 degrees. 58 % Mean Sunshine

The daily high temperature increases dramatically over the course of the month and daylight savings time begins. Late spring snowfalls melt quickly in the powerful sunshine. Ice out on the lakes usually happens by mid to late in the month. A warm stiff breeze can quickly break up and clear away any remaining ice off the lake and it only takes minutes afterward for the first boats to be out on the water. Grass begins to green up and farmers begin fieldwork. Catkins on birch, aspen and alder enlarge and begin to droop. Bright green sprouts signal that the woodland plants have awaken from their frozen slumber. Canada geese are now laying their eggs while chorus frogs begin to sing in the wetlands. Loons arrive and immediately begin to sing to establish their territories. Flocks of mallards, mergansers and pintails gather in patches of open water before moving northward. Grouse drum atop fallen logs in the forest. Sapsuckers bang on whatever they find that makes the loudest noise. Sparrows, creepers, flickers, kingfishers, warblers, thrushes, swallows and herons are all carefully scooping out the surroundings looking for suitable nesting sites. Famished mammals like raccoons, skunks, opossums, bears, deer and woodchucks awaken from general inactivity and seek out food. Dandelions are popping up everywhere. Hepaticas, wild ginger and other woodland flowers bloom on the forest floor. Bees and other insects begin to become active on warm sunny days. Anxious gardeners begin to plant cool season plants and start their seed flats inside. Warm breezy days often lead to stormy nights. Look for the flash of lightening and then listen for the first crack of thunder signaling the first storm of the season.

May

Beuk_(Fagus_sylvatica),_ontluikend_blad.jpg

Average High 70 - Low Temperature 42 Mean Temperature 57.5
Sun angle is 65 degrees. 59 % Mean Sunshine

The beginning of May marks the arrival of the best weather of the season. The warming power of the sun grows stronger still. The forest takes on a green tinge as the trees begin leafing out. Woodland flowers like trillium and columbine put on a showy spectacle on the forest floor. Pine tree buds burst, flower and sprout candles. Wild fruit trees, grape vines and lilacs are in full bloom and look spectacular. The sound of lawnmowers can be heard across the lakes. The last frosts of the season have passed and the warm growing season is underway. Farmers are now planting corn in the fields and gardeners are making treks to the nurseries for garden plants. Wild asparagus and ferns sprout feathery leaves. Daffodils, bluebells, bleeding hearts, creeping phlox, strawberries and tulips are now blooming in the garden. Goslings and ducklings are following their parents around the lakeshore. Summer perching songbirds like orioles, swallows, warblers, wrens and hummingbirds return for the nesting season and let loose a cacophony of songs. Early risers catch peak singing lasting from sunup to about eight. Bluebirds and wood ducks are already hatching. Monarch butterflies arrive from Central America and Mexico. As the water warms, the mayfly hatch on the lake is underway. Muskrat families have outgrown their winter homes and are on the move looking for food. New fox pups are taking their first peeks outside the den and spotted deer fawns are in the woods. The rainy season is underway. Sudden and violent thunderstorms are most frequent this time of year. It seems to rain for at least part of every Memorial Day holiday weekend.

June

june.jpg

Average High 76 - Low Temperature 51 Mean Temperature 66.2
Sun angle is 69 degrees. 63 % Mean Sunshine

The sun is now at its most intense. The bug season is well underway too and mosquitoes, gnats and ticks out for blood are being quite bothersome. Crappies and sunnies will eagerly grab any tasty looking worm on a hook. Plants are growing at their fastest rate of the season. Sun soaked lake pondweed grows an inch a day as it shoots its flower spike to the surface and blooms. The freshest leaves, shoots and flowers of the new season are grazed upon by the passing wildlife. Most native trees are now shedding enormous amounts of yellow pollen followed by tiny seeds a few days later. Female eastern cottonwood, maple and elm trees are shedding a snowstorm of fluffy seeds. Farmers are already busy cutting the first crops of hay and alfalfa. Garden perennials like poppies, peonies, daisies, lilies and astilbe begin blooming. Snapping and painted turtles are laying eggs. Woodland frogs and toads trill, call and croak in the evening. The bird-nesting season reaches its peak. Male hummingbirds with bright red chest patches fly courtship loops and chirp to impress females while warblers rustle the ground to gather twigs and grasses for their nests. Look for baby loons and ducklings bobbing out on the water with watchful parents close by. Geese are molting and are flightless for the next few weeks. In the shallows bass and sunfish tenaciously guard their lake bottom nests. The lake temperature reaches 70 degrees and it’s time to jump in for a swim. This is the wettest time of year and afternoon and evening rain showers are quite likely. Television screens frequently flash alerts warning of approaching thunderstorms. The Summer solstice arrives late in the month marking the longest amount of daylight during the year with over 15 ½ hours.

    July

july.jpg

Average High 82 - Low Temperature 58 Mean Temperature 71.0
Sun angle is 66 degrees. 72 % Mean Sunshine

The finest weather of the season is here with the warmest temperatures and the most sunshine. The third week in July is statistically the absolute summer best of the year for all kinds of lake activities. Most days are calm and sunny, although wild thunderstorms can occur, frequently at night. Many folks are at the lake for summer vacations and boat activity on the water is heavy on any sunny day. The lake water is now the warmest of the season. Speedboats pulling skiers and tubers are racing all across the lakes. A hot spell often draws crowds of swimmers to the water. Flotillas of pontoons bob in the middle of the lake while eagles swoop in to catch a fresh meal. Herons patiently patrol the shorelines looking for frogs and small fish. Forest animals feast on ripening fruits, seeds and nuts. Raspberries and pin cherries are ripening, and the first harvest of garden vegetables like cucumbers and cherry tomatoes begins. Daylilies, coneflowers, hostas, daisies and thistles are in full bloom. Roadside ditches are filled with a riot of blooming prairie flowers like bergamot, fireweed and various tall grasses. Newly hatched birds are growing rapidly and testing their wings. Some parents begin building a second nest. They feast upon enormous armies of various insects and worms crawling about the leaf litter on the forest floor. Hummingbirds, bees, ants and other insects gather sweet nectar from showy garden flowers. Fireflies, crickets, cicadas and grasshoppers can now be seen and heard. Raccoons prowl the lakeside trashcan circuit and a whiff of skunk is in the air too. Lake visitors savor the peak of the season.

August

august.jpg

Average High 80 - Low Temperature 57 Mean Temperature 68.5
Sun angle is 57 degrees. 68 % Mean Sunshine

Less intense heat and shortening days signal that the summer season is beginning to wind down. August starts sunny and warm, but by the end of the month cool northwest breezes and less daylight signal that a big change is ahead. The Perseid meteor shower around the 11th is usually the best celestial event of the summer night sky. Shooting stars come out of the northeastern sky and flash all across the horizon. Farmers are very busy tending and harvesting field crops. Gardeners are enjoying the last stands of their beautiful flowers and eating fresh produce from their gardens, roadside stands, and from the farmers markets in local towns. Nothing beats eating a delicious ear of fresh picked sweet corn or a sun ripened tomato. Blackberries are now ready to pick and apples begin to ripen later in the month. Goldenrod and aster are in full bloom. Yellow jewelweed flowers, soon to form exploding seedpods, are blooming along the lakeshores. Noxious purple loosestrife can be seen too. Late in the season populations of tiny algae in the lake water increase dramatically and the water takes on a greenish tinge. Monarch butterflies are beginning to gather for their migration. Flocks of sparrows and swallows begin to congregate on power lines. Herring Gulls, swans and ducks from the far north begin to pass by on their way south. Most songbirds have stopped singing and the forest has become very quiet. The remaining birds are busy chasing insects or at feeders fattening up for the long migrations ahead. Pesky wasps try to chase speedy hummingbirds away from nectar feeders. The goldfinches, last of the songbirds to nest, are busy collecting seeds to feed their hatchlings. Migrating flocks of nighthawks pass through moonlit skies overhead while gulls stop on the lake to rest. Baby turtles are now hatching. The first leaves of summer stressed trees come down and flashes of red sumac appear. Acorns begin dropping from oak trees. After a wet spell, deer, bears, squirrels and mice are drawn to pungent mushrooms popping up from the woodland forest floor near the lakeshore. Chipmunks stuff themselves to bursting in preparation for seven months of hibernation.

September

september.jpg

Average High 69 - Low Temperature 46 Mean Temperature 59.3
Sun angle is 46 degrees. 60 % Mean Sunshine

Cool nighttime temperatures signal the big change has come. The leaves begin to slowly float down in a riot of stunning color. It gets darker in the early evening and up comes the brilliant harvest moon. Steamy fog rises from the warm lake into the cool morning air. The rainy season is ending and the cool, dry season is approaching. Frost is a possibility on clear still nights. A few more summer like days and then its time to put the boat away and take in the dock before it gets too cold. Farmers are finishing harvesting yellow soybean fields, wheat and corn for silage. Prairie plants have withered, turned golden and gone to seed. Garden mums, sedum and turtlehead give a final splash of color to the garden. Milkweed pods open and scatter their seeds on feathery parachutes. Aromatic black walnuts begin to fall from trees and are quickly gathered up by gray squirrels. On warm fall evenings flying squirrels are actively searching high up in the trees for acorns and refilling their hidden stockpiles to overflowing. White tailed deer nibble on scrumptious white oak acorns. Flocks of insect eating songbirds from the north are quickly passing through, but are less noticeable because their bright summer plumage has faded. Flocks of ducks, coots and loons gather on the water and then move on. Canada geese begin to gather in noisy agitated flocks out on the water. Fawns have lost their spots and now like their parents sport a reddish brown coat. Beaver and muskrat are gathering sticks and cattails to repair their lodges or to eat as food.

October

october.jpg

Average High 57 - Low Temperature 36 Mean Temperature 47.5
Sun angle is 35 degrees. 55 % Mean Sunshine

Winds often blow strongly from the northwest ushering in much cooler air. The first frost is expected any time now. Clear, cool and crisp October mornings are followed by bright, warm sunshine filled lazy afternoons. Look for the hunter’s moon in the evening. Farmers are quickly wrapping up the harvest of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, potatoes and sugar beets. Gardeners are preparing their plots for the cold season. A spectacular show stopping season finale of colorful leaves on the trees turn every shade of yellow, gold, orange and red and then tumble to the forest floor. Yellow birch and aspen leaves fall first followed by elms, bright maples and lastly the crimson oaks. The last of the songbirds are searching for one final morsel before moving on. Some scrappy looking, sometimes injured, stragglers work their way southward as best they can. Every few days a new wave of birds passes through. Huge noisy flocks of ducks, geese and swans come circling in to land, then gather out on the water and take flight all at once when disturbed. Cattail heads puff out and release thousands of tiny seeds. The white tailed deer rut is on and scrapes and rubs can be found throughout the forest. Squirrels are frantic in their search for seeds, nuts and acorns.

November

4234165885_50e43c16c7_b.jpg

Average High 41 - Low Temperature 24 Mean Temperature 31.2
Sun angle is 25 degrees. 41 % Mean Sunshine

Bears search out for good den locations deep in the forest. Those animals that do stick around are busy nosing around or digging for a warm cozy hole to curl up in. Even insects have burrowed down into the soil or laid eggs for the next season. The boats are out of the water, the docks have been pulled in and it seems like almost everybody has headed out somewhere else. Many seasonal folks have now returned to the city or gone south for the winter. Year round residents relish the quiet stillness. As the weather turns harsh the last flocks of ducks and geese pause on the lake before quickly moving on. Those that don’t will not survive the coming cold. Trumpeter swans, coots and ducks nibble on lake weeds in the last remaining pools of open water. Red and Gray squirrels continue to fatten themselves on seeds and acorns. Eagles begin to migrate toward open water on creeks and rivers or farther south. The skies turn gray with low clouds for days on end. The first snowflakes of the season fall and as the cold takes hold the lake surface begins to freeze solid.

December

deer-in-the-woods-2.jpg

Average High 25 - Low Temperature 6 Mean Temperature 17.0
Sun angle is 22 degrees. 40 % Mean Sunshine

A fresh coating of snow gives the land a winter wonderland appearance. The days are cold and temperatures can plunge well below zero on clear starry nights. When the weak sun does appear, it’s low on the horizon and offers little warmth. Darkness arrives by late afternoon and the nights are long and cold. Mysterious booming noises seem to come from nowhere as the shifting lake ice continues to freeze and expand. Eager fishermen cautiously step out onto the ice. Many old or weakened animals do not have the strength to survive the increasingly harsh winter conditions and eventually die. Mammals like woodchucks, skunks and raccoons safely slumber their winter days away. Mice and voles tunnel under the snow. Winter residents like northern cardinals and juncos flock to feeders and suet cakes, usually beginning just about 30 minutes before sunrise. Pileated woodpeckers drill holes in hollow trees looking for ants. Pheasants and turkeys patrol farm fields looking for corn stubble. Owls roost in thick evergreen trees away from harassing crows. Occasional wild winter storms with heavy snow and fierce north winds force everybody and everything to seek shelter. The winter solstice arrives just before Christmas and gives hope that warmer, sunnier days are ahead.

Attracting Backyard Wildlife

EASTERN_WHITETAIL_DEER_-_DOE_AND_THREE_FAWNS_AT_BACKYARD_APPLE_TREE.jpg

One of the great pleasures of the living where we do is being able to watch the local wildlife. Native wildlife viewing opportunities on the lakes, on land and at numerous locations throughout the local area are excellent. Observing insects, birds and animals is easy, interesting, educational and fun to do, but sometimes it’s hard to get a good look at what’s out there. There are a number of simple things you can do to help make your yard an attractive habitat with native berries, nuts and seeds where wildlife will want to stop allowing you the chance to get a good look at them. Knowing what environments to provide, at what time of year and where to look can make your own yard a special place to see wildlife up close and personal.

Wildlife can travel far and wide, so keep in mind that many creatures, while fun and interesting to look at, may be observable only under certain conditions and at certain times. Also keep in mind that not all creatures are welcome visitors. Almost everyone appreciates watching and listening to the local native wildlife, but not all birds and animals in large numbers are desirable. Many animals by their nature are often destructive to homes and gardens and some are even predators. Be sure that your efforts are directed toward attracting wildlife that you and your neighbors can appreciate and not unwanted animal pests.

Consider planting trees, shrubs and plants that are preferred by wildlife. Remember that dead trees and limbs are attractive nesting and perching sites. The more plant cover you remove from your yard, the less wildlife you’ll see. Chemical treatments of powerful lawn fertilizers and insecticides will kill off most nearby insects and drive away the birds and other wildlife that feed upon them. Your lawn may look beautiful, but it will also be sterile and unappealing to wildlife. If you must apply chemicals to your yard, do so carefully and sparingly. Whether you have pets and what kind can also make a big difference of what kind of wildlife you’ll see. Good neighbors always keep their pets under control and not out on the loose roaming about the neighborhood chasing away any potential wildlife visitors. Many animals mark their territories with potent scents that signal other creatures to stay away. Barking dogs and prowling cats can also thwart the best efforts at attracting wildlife.

Birds

garden-bird-feeder-1479465887Kks.jpg

The easiest visitors to attract are the birds. There are about 40 species of birds in the local area that are year round residents. Most of these are seedeaters that will readily show up at your birdfeeder. Migrating birds are visitors for just weeks, days or hours as they pass by on their way to and from their traditional nesting grounds. Some migratory birds come to stay just for the summer and a few show up only during the winter months. Ducks, geese, loons, swans, gulls and eagles can only be found in the presence of open water with abundant fish and water plants for food. You usually won’t see them until the lake opens up and they’re gone for the season when the lake freezes over. Summer songbirds are mainly insect eaters or seek sweet nectar and likewise you’ll never see them at your seed feeder. They show up in your yard as the first insects of the season hatch and you’ll need to provide an attractive habitat where their foods naturally occur, and stocked with plentiful nesting materials for them to stick around. Placing dried grasses like straw, colorful ribbon, string or yarn out for birds to use is easy and the bright colors help you locate the nests in the heavy vegetation.

For the local crowd, the bird feeder is the most important attractant. There are numerous styles ranging from practical to whimsical to choose from. The placement is critical because some birds feed at different heights, with or without vegetation close by. Chickadees, jays, woodpeckers and nuthatches feed higher up while sparrows, cardinals and juncos prefer dinner to be served further down toward the ground. Feeders mounted on a pole are simple and effective. Hanging feeders are best at keeping away animal pests like squirrels and mice. Many birds feed only from platforms with screen bottoms and some prefer to find their food scattered about on the ground. A mix of all different kinds of feeders will attract the most interest and the most species. A baffle can be used to deter pesky squirrels and to keep seed dry. There are so many different kinds of bird foods available and not all are as effective. Birdseed mixes often contain undesirable filler seeds like millet that are discarded and may even germinate a weed patch around your feeder. By far the most effective food with high protein and fat content that attracts the greatest number of desired species and is the easiest to manage are sunflower seeds. Resident black-capped chickadees can eat about 150 sunflower seeds a day in the summer and up to 250 in the winter. That means that on short winter days a chickadee must find, open and eat one seed every two and a half minutes and a small flock will make your yard a hub of activity. Niger or thistle is another food that is easy to use in tube feeders and attracts members of the finch family including the beautiful and melodious goldfinch. Safflower seeds, rich in oil, attract Grosbeaks, nuthatches, finches and waxwings. Cracked corn, millet and milo are less desirable foods because they attract sparrows, pigeons and mourning doves. You can use shelled peanuts to attract woodpeckers, jays and nuthatches. If you have room in your yard for only one feeder, pick a tube feeder and fill it with sunflower seeds for the best results. Another valuable bird food is suet. Downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers love suet and it can be a rich source of energy for them in cold weather or the year round. Suet cakes are available in stores or you can make your own. Place the suet in wire mesh feeders or scrape onto pinecones and hang from a tree branch.

Here are two homemade suet recipes:

  1. Melt 2 cups lard and 2 cups of peanut butter. Then add 4 cups of cornmeal, 4 cups of oats, 1 1/3 cups flour and 2/3 cup of sugar.
  2. Melt one cup of animal fat like bacon grease and add one cup of peanut butter, 2 cups of cornmeal, 2 cups of oatmeal, one cup of flour and several finely crushed eggshells.

Place in containers or spread in a baking pan and cut into squares. You can also spoon the mixture onto a platform feeder or in holes drilled in a hanging birch log.

You can attract summer songbirds by putting out sweet nectar. Nectar eaters are attracted to bright colors, especially red. If you have a garden with bright flowers you will naturally attract the attention of nectar feeders. Native bergamot, sometimes called bee balm, is a favorite hummingbird food. Put out some hanging baskets featuring bright red flowers. Another option is to place a small amount of fruit jelly on a platform feeder or put up half an orange on a tree trunk, and once they’re found, orioles and hummingbirds will make frequent stops. These birds also come to hanging nectar feeders. Mix up one cup of sugar and about four cups of water for a tasty mixture. Some folks bring this mixture to a boil on the stove to make nectar syrup. While the lake is right close by, don’t forget about water. Birds love to splash about in a birdbath. A heated birdbath in the winter will make your yard a very popular place. Once you’ve gone to all the effort and birds begin to show themselves, it’s time to move them in closer for a better look. As birds become more familiar with your yard, the feeder and the tasty food, begin to move the feeders closer to locations that afford better and closer observation. You’ll have a front row seat to all the activity and be able to identify more species.

Birdhouses are another way to bring wildlife into your yard. There are many popular books and websites that tell you all about birdhouse and which ones birds prefer most. There are way too many details on this subject to present here, but putting up a birdhouse or two will increase your chances of having nesting birds in your yard. Also keep in mind that many other creatures use birdhouses as their homes too.

Insects

ladybug-in-the-grass.jpg

Insects are incredible because of their sheer power of numbers. With favorable conditions, their numbers can become enormous. You don’t really attract them, because they’re already here. Some folks jump at the sight of a spider, but most people can admire insects for their adaptability and beauty, although from a safe distance. Most insects we see are an important food source for other wildlife. One example is the amazing number of mayflies that feed hungry fish hatching in the warming lake waters each spring. As the season passes, creaking crickets, armies of ants, sparkling fireflies and buzzing mosquitoes eventually take over the outdoors and humans take refuge. Spring songbird migrations are timed so that eggs are laid and new babies hatch at about the same time as hordes of new insects hatch. Many insects hatch right from the lake or crawl up on shore. Some insects like butterflies, walking sticks and honeybees are beautiful, beneficial and interesting species to observe. Since different species have preferences in both color and taste, a wide variety of nectar rich garden flowers will attract insects to your yard. Honeybees are attracted to blue and yellow flowers. Groups of the same plants are easier for insects to detect than a single flower. Try plantings of aster, black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, marigold, daisy, phlox, and purple coneflower. In the fall, bumblebees gather together into a buzzing ball for warmth. You may find them wrestling on unoccupied bird’s nests or in birdhouses.

Larger Animals

11bears2-jumbo.jpg

Most large animals are too destructive to your home, yard and gardens to have around with any frequency. You’ll enjoy seeing them when they pass by, but you and your neighbors really don’t want to have them hanging around all the time. Bears and raccoons are two animals that can’t resist food of any kind. Be careful that any foods you put out such as birdseed or suet don’t attract the wrong animals. These smart animals will keep coming back to any food source so you may have to discontinue any feeding until they move on looking for other natural food sources. One creature that is good to have around are bats. Bats are nocturnal and eat half their weight in insects every night. They come out at twilight and disappear into the night looking for dinner on the wing. Hang bat house boxes with rough surfaces for climbing, hanging perches inside and an entry no more than one inch wide on the bottom. Bats are warm-blooded creatures and need temperatures of 80-90 degrees to survive so they most often nest in groups. Placing black tarpaper or dark paint on your bat house will absorb heat and provide insulation keeping the house warm. Place them at least 15 feet up on a large tree trunk, protected from the wind where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. Take a long walk along a country road out into the open to get the best looks at larger animals in the area. White tailed deer, turkeys, raccoons and opossums wander through field and forest all throughout the lake area.