posted on 5/1/24

May Nature Notes

Big News – the Jungle Birds are Moving In!

If you woke this morning to the sounds of Baltimore Orioles, they are n0w arriving in Marion County, along with the hummingbirds and the numerous warblers, grosbeaks, buntings, and the list goes on.  At the end of this monthly column, notes the safest and best recipe to assist nectar rich plants. A hummingbird consumes half of their body weight in bugs and nectar per day.

WOW! We are amid an a-ma-zing event occurring right now! According to BirdCast (live bird migration forecast maps), over 300 million birds are predicted to be migrating into the U.S. this evening, April 30, 2024. These birds will be using the light of the moon to move northward. BirdCast uses real-time analysis maps that show intensities of actual nocturnal bird migration as detected by the US weather surveillance radar network between local sunset to sunrise.   Watch for colorful warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, buntings, cuckoos, gnatcatchers, chimney swifts, common nighthawks, bobolinks, dickcissels, A. redstarts, cuckoos, and many, many more.

May’s full moon, The Flower Moon, is May 23, 2024.

Saturday, May 11, 2024 is World Migratory Bird Day.

Friday, May 19 is National Endangered Species Day. It’s a good time to celebrate, learn about, and take action to protect threatened and endangered species!

Migrant monarch butterflies should be trickling through Iowa this month and laying eggs along the way. The milkweed will be pushing through the soil soon. Other butterflies to watch for are meadow fritillary, cabbage white, question mark, American ladies, tiger swallowtail, spring azure, Eastern tailed-blue, silvery checkerspot, and many more. May is a great month for butterflies.

May is “American Wetlands Month”: The water warms, the underwater insects are flourishing, and some are ready to become airborne. Beaver kits are growing, wood ducks will be out with their young, Canada goslings are swimming with their parents, and dragonflies and damsels are beginning to make their appearance around the area. Salamander nymphs are hatching and growing legs, donning feathery gills under the water. Painted and snapping turtle eggs will continue to hatch. Watch this month for adult turtles migrating from bodies of water to land areas to lay eggs, this will continue into the first part of June.

Bats are the only true mammal fliers and many of our migrating bats will return this month. To name a few; the forest dwelling Eastern red bat, Hoary bat, and the Silver-haired bat.

The forest spring wildflowers are still bursting away. They must come up, bloom, and go to seed before the tree canopy fills in. These understory plants are some of the last to bloom and will be flourishing; Solomon’s seal, false Solomon’s seal, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, green dragons, mayapple, showy orchis, and large twayblade orchids. Maidenhair fern doesn’t bloom but makes a most beautiful presence along some woodland creeks. The buckeye trees are currently blooming, and the tulip trees will be blooming soon. The fragrant basswood blooms have a beautiful scent that travels hundreds of feet away. Take a moment to inhale the sweet fragrance of the woodlands.

The end of May is considered peak songbird nesting time.

As the late Spring season unfolds, the morels, dryads saddle, oysters and a few other edible mushrooms can be found. Ask an expert, if you are not aware of what you are finding.

May is such a great month for discovery– Happy earth walking

Materials for hummingbird nectar:

• 1/4 cup refined white sugar
• 1 cup boiling water
• Bowl
• Spoon

Note: Please do not substitute honey, which can promote dangerous fungal growth, or use red food coloring, which is not necessary and could also prove harmful to birds. 


1. Mix sugar and boiling water until sugar is dissolved. 
2. Cool and fill feeder.
3. Hang up your feeder outside and wait for the hummingbirds to come.

*During hot weather, change the sugar water every two days. In mild weather, 5-7 days.  Clean the feeders thoroughly with vinegar and water before filling with new nectar. Feeders should be cleaned at least 2x a week.

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