Itâ€™s baby time! From the tiniest toad tadpoles to the adult-sized Bald Eagle chicks, animal babies abound in our area during June. Bird species usually time their nesting to coincide with an abundance of food. While owls were nesting as early as February, other birds, such as the American Goldfinch will wait until July to nest. The Goldfinches are timing their nesting to the maturing of native thistles. The birds use the thistle down for their nests and the seeds for food. Minnesota is in the second year of a six-year long citizen-science effort to identify all the birds which nest in the state. The state has been divided into blocks, some of which are â€˜priority blocksâ€™ in which more effort is being made to document the full range of breeding birds. Hastings has three priority blocks within a 10 minute drive of downtown. Your backyard may actually be in a priority block. If you want to learn more about getting involved in this project or to report unique nesting birds -please check out www.mnbba.org.
If you are hiking in the Wildlife Management Area on the southeastern part of town you will probably see the beautiful Eastern Bluebird. Iâ€™m sure those of you who have children, or live near a rambunctious family of toddlers can identify with those harried bluebird parents are they fly to and from the nest box with beakful after beakful of tasty, crunchy insects to feed those ever-chirping, insatiable babies. The parental duties of many birds not only includes feeding, incubating, and protecting the chicks, but often the parents have to clean up after the voracious nestlings too. Nature is fascinating but being a bird parent can be pretty gross. When chicks defecate it is often surrounded by a gelatinous coating so that the parent bird can pick up the â€˜fecal sacâ€™ in its beak and fly it out of the nest and dump it in order to keep the nest clean and safe.
While many wild animal parents are running themselves ragged caring for their little ones other animals takes a hands-off approach to parenting. Itâ€™s a good thing since one female toad can lay 15,835 eggs! The tiny 1mm diameter toad eggs were laid in wetlands in mid-May and have now hatched into small black tadpoles. In only 6-7 weeks these tadpoles will become miniature toads. The change from fish-like tadpole to land-dwelling amphibian is more than just growing a set of legs and absorbing the tail. The intestines of our native frogs and toads actually shorten from the long coiled intestines common for vegetarian animals to the shorter intestine of carnivores!
Itâ€™s the time of year when young Eastern Cottontails are found in backyards around town. When rabbits are the size of a tennis ball they can already take care of themselves. The larger White-tailed Jackrabbits are also found in the Hastings area, but you are more likely to see them on the outskirts of town. Unlike the Cottontail who is born with its eyes closed, the Jackrabbit is born with its eyes open and can run within an hour of birth. As we move into the heat of late June the Jackrabbit will use its huge ears to dissipate heat!
Here at the Nature Center the wild Bald Eagle pair has successfully raised 2 eaglets which were banded by wildlife biologists from Aududon Minnesota and executive director, Jim Fitzpatrick. These large, full-grown, dark brown chicks will likely take their first flights from their huge nest in a few weeks. The light-weight aluminum identification bands help scientists around the globe study the migration patterns and survival rates of wild bird populations and ultimately help in the conservation of species. To learn more about the science of bird banding, consider stopping by Carpenter Nature Center on the fourth Friday of the month for our free program. RSVP requested by phone 651-437-4359.
This photograph was taken by Jeff Fischer this year of the eagle nest on Gray Cloud Island.