nature 06.21 baby bunnies

It’s that most stressful time of year, the time when all the baby animals and birds are running amok, willy-nilly and without a care in the world for their own safety. Baby bunnies hop about, often right up to people or dogs, not realizing everyone’s not as warm and fuzzy as their brothers and sisters.

Little squirrels play chicken in the roadways and barely fledged birds with only a suggestion of flight ability make a racket as if every predator in the neighborhood isn’t already looking for them. If only I could ignore them. Instead, I suffer all sorts of stress, and I’m not even related to them.

All this careless activity causes parent birds and animals to run hither and yon, wondering what happened to common sense. Did it get thrown out with the eggshells? Did they feed too many juicy worms and not enough crunchy spiders? Their young ones seem unabashed and unconcerned as they face the future with limited skills and what seems like unlimited challenges.

Turtles aren’t helping my anxiety levels much, either. They cross busy roads whenever and wherever they wish. Slowly. Slowly doesn’t go well with fast cars. And yet on they go, one scaly foot after another. Hard shells are wonderful things, but they offer no contest to metal monsters weighing several tons. Turtles head to where they were born to carry on the family egg-laying tradition. Nothing deters them, including roads, fences, buildings and walls. I’ve seen turtles push against concrete foundations as if they will eventually push the house out of the way. Slow down if you see a turtle crossing the road. It’s only doing what instinct tells it to do.

Insects are hatching out all over. Hundreds of thousands of insects. Many will never make it to adulthood. They will be eaten by birds, mammals, toads, frogs, fish and even other insects. Some will drown, some will bang into things, some will succumb to poisons.

I watched a dragonfly spread its still-damp wings the other day. It had just crawled out of its juvenile exoskeleton. As a nymph it lived underwater, but now it was in the air and had wings. Imagine that sort of transformation! It takes a while for dragonfly wings to dry and strengthen, and once they can fly they often head for a protected area like a sunny wooded spot or a meadow, away from the water. This offers them a somewhat safer place to harden up their shiny new wings, but it is not uncommon to see these newly hatched beauties get snapped up by swallows or kingbirds. Other birds will partake in a dragonfly snack, as will bullfrogs.

Little fish are filling our ponds and lakes as well as our bays and open ocean. Some are still quite tiny. A scoop of a net will snare dozens, sometimes hundreds. A big fish can down hundreds of these with one gulp. The same is true with so many of the creatures born in water. Tiny crabs, jellyfish, lobsters and more get gobbled up in huge numbers every day. I always think Mother Nature was wise when she decreed these animals would lay their eggs and never know their young. Losing something like 80 to 90 percent of your young each year would be pretty devastating.

And then there are the plants. How many young plants get eaten by rabbits and deer before they’ve had a fair chance to grow strong and tough? How many get pulled as weeds or trampled by hundreds of feet? How many trees get cut down to make way for roads and houses?

As wonderful as it is to see all this new life around us, it can be stressful, too. Not all are going to survive and that can be hard to accept, especially if we are witness to it.

I think of a certain friend of mine at this time of year. One of her favorite folk expressions when things are tough is, “It sure ain’t easy!” I think many wild animal and bird parents would agree with her sentiment. I know I do.

Mary Richmond is an artist, writer, naturalist, and educator who grew up on the Cape and lives in Hyannis. More information at www.capecodartandnature.com.

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