Elk Rapids Almanac-June 2018
June 9-This year is a forest tent caterpillar year. This is a native insect with abundant populations on 10-15 year cycles, and that means a good year for birds that rely on the protein these insects provide.
There are two species in our region in particular who are associated with spiny caterpillars: the black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoo. These uncommon and elusive birds with a quiet call are not often seen or heard, and interestingly they have been said to be a harbinger of rain, so for that reason according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website they are sometimes called "rain crows". Listen for them in shrubby edges of forests in the evenings and hopefully you'll hear their enigmatic vocalizations during the summer months. I recently heard a black-billed cuckoo--- just before a rainstorm! _ Angie Lucas, staff naturalist, GTRLC.
June DNR posting-Hungry forest tent caterpillars are munching leaves in forests and woodlots across Michigan, according to a news release from the state Department of Natural Resources. The caterpillars eat leaves from sugar maple, aspen and oaks and leave strands of webbing in the trees. The insects are natives and occur in outbreaks every 10 to 15 years. The most recent outbreaks peaked in 2002 and 2010, according to the news release. The caterpillars have been reported in the Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula. Outbreaks generally last two or three years, according to the news release, and some areas are in their second or third year. Forest tent caterpillars rarely kills trees unless the tree has some other problem, said Scott Lint, DNR forest health specialist. To find out more about forest pests: www.michigan.gov/foresthealth.
June-week of 16-23-Following reports of red-winged blackbird encounters near Kid’s Pond Kid’s Pond, with unsuspecting pedestrians being aggressively pursued, here is some helpful background: To defend his territory and attract a mate, male perches on high stalk with feathers fluffed out and tail partly spread, lifts leading edge of wing so that red shoulder patches are prominent, and sings. The nest is built by the female, made of grass, lashed to reeds or small bushes in marsh growth such as cattails. Both male and female are very aggressive in nesting territory, attacking larger birds that approach, and loudly protesting human intrudersThe female lays and incubates 3 to 5 pale blue eggs. Incubation will last about 12 days and the young will leave the nest in 10 to 13 days after hatching. Both parents feed nestlings (but female does more). Young leave nest about 11-14 days after hatching. They feed on seeds, grain, insects and spiders. More information at: www.audubon.org
Red-winged Black Bird, photo by James Dake