Nature Notes; The Young and the Nestless

The weather hasn’t been all that propitious

    It is the season of procreation.
   Arnold Leo called last week, concerned about a spotted white-tailed deer fawn, if not a newborn, then very close to it, that was sitting in the center of a yard near Georgica Pond on a property he had been caretaking. He was able to go up to it and touch it, and the fawn didn’t move a hair. He was worried it might have been abandoned, but as it turned out, the fawn had been “parked” by Mrs. Deer, probably while she was off foraging. She came back for it later on.
    Parking is a common occurrence in deer rearing. The fawn is programmed to sit very quietly, without moving a muscle, during which time it is odorless and has no scent to be picked up by a passing predator. Such protection apparently works very well, especially so in an area where there are no large predatory cats or canines.
    The migrating warblers and other songbirds that breed farther north have mostly passed through by now. Those that stay and nest are well into the period of egg incubation and feeding young. You can tell when the young are ready to fledge. The males no longer sing their territorial songs, but utter warning notes: “Keep your heads down, a crow is flying over.”
    As the season grows progressively more songless, you know that the serious business of raising and fledging young is well under way. The weather hasn’t been all that propitious and some nests have already failed. Fortunately, most birds that nest locally can nest again after a failing the first time around. Not so for the larger birds like the raptors, however.
    Joann Dittmer got back late from Florida only to find that the ospreys that have nested next to her house at Lions Beach on the west side of Hog Creek for nearly a score of years were only slightly in attendance. No incubation, no feeding young, just an occasional visit by one of the ospreys depositing a stick or two in the nest.
    The female osprey that arrived early and laid eggs early on Sag Harbor Cove east of Bay Point was still sitting low in the nest, head only visible from Long Beach Road, on Sunday. Maybe the eggs are not going to hatch.
    Two Wednesdays ago, my wife and I walked down our driveway preparing to walk on Long Beach in Noyac when we spotted a good sized menhaden, or bunker, appearing quite fresh but headless on the asphalt. Had an osprey been disturbed by crows while eating it atop one of our large oaks, or had it dropped it after eating only the head? Two days earlier, an osprey circled around and around overhead with a fish in its talons; it could have been the same osprey, but with a different fish.
    The cool dank weather is affecting the foliage of many trees. The pitch pines on both sides of Montauk Highway on Neapeague are looking frazzled. The sycamores along Further Lane in Amagansett are looking wan. Flowering dogwood leaves here and there are showing blight and signs of anthracnose damage. Large clumps of fungus-y oak leaves, almost black in color, have been dropping around the house for a week now. Something unhealthy is going on overhead.
    We need a few sunny cloudless days to straighten things out and return everything to proper order.