June introduces lots of fauna pleasures to Vermont

What unfolds in Northern Vermont during the month of June?

As we move into summer, heat shapes our activities and daylight approaches 16 hours. The giddy energy and excitement of spring have dissipated yet there’s still plenty of action in the natural world, even if it’s obscured by leafy canopy, verdant understory and fast-growing ground cover (yes, dandelions, too).

We await the annual visit of our neighborhood snapping turtle. For many years she dug a nest hole for her eggs in our driveway to take advantage of the heat that would incubate her offspring over the summer. Last year, she chose not to cross the busy road (a good decision) and laid her eggs at the edge of the pavement not far from the pond she calls home.

I’ll be on the alert during the first two weeks of June. Over the years I have been startled to encounter her while hanging laundry or weeding our garden. One never wants to mess with an adult snapper.

Birds and waterfowl are sitting on eggs or caring for their young. Through binoculars on a recent paddle, I spotted an adult osprey returning to the nest carrying a fish. It then used its hooked beak and talons to tear off pieces of flesh for an attentive juvenile, whose head was visible over the side of the nest. A teaching moment at the dinner table.

It’s common to see parades of goslings trailing a pair of Canada geese on land or water. These families will remain together through the summer, as well as both fall and spring migrations. Only next spring will the yearlings, not sexually mature for another year or two, leave their parents as the latter start another family.

Loons are flourishing in Vermont this year. Photo by Janet Steward courtesy Vermont Center on Ecostudies
Loons are flourishing in Vermont this year.
Photo by Janet Steward courtesy Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Later this month and into early July, loon chicks will hatch. They are immediately capable of swimming and diving for minnows. Most loons in the state nest on quieter lakes with less traffic than Lakes Champlain and Iroquois, but both have supported loons in recent years. If you spot a nest, keep a safe distance and slow down as wakes can swamp and endanger a family of loons.

Vermont is home to 12 species of snake. The world has warmed enough by late May that these reptiles are out and about. In recent weeks I’ve been startled by a few garter snakes, tongues wagging as they slither across the leaf litter. Common garter snakes and eastern ribbon snakes are most numerous in the state. The tongues of snakes are information gatherers, collecting chemical information signals. If a scent is stronger on one side than the other, the forked tongue delivers that data to an organ below the nasal passage that interprets — is this food or danger?

After they emerge from winter slumbers, green, black and yellow-striped garter snakes sun themselves near their dens. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies writes that they then search for mates, occasionally creating “mating balls,” multiple males competing for the attention of a single female.

The less common ribbon snake is found most frequently in fields and open areas near water. It sports black and yellow stripes with a deep chestnut stripe running along its side and white markings on its face.

Anyone who reads Front Porch Forum knows that bears, both adults and young, are out and about in Charlotte. If you have not already done so, please, please take down your bird feeders. Once bears find an easily accessible source of calories, they are likely to return, putting residents at risk, particularly if there is a cub with the mother. Bears that return may be tagged and ultimately euthanized if they become an ongoing risk to humans.

An unalloyed pleasure of summer is the sparkle of fireflies. Starting life as larval glowworms, they pupate in late spring and soon emerge as winged beetles. These fireflies court mates during our dark hours. Each species of firefly has a characteristic pattern of flashes used to attract the opposite sex at night. It’s a wonderful, silent light show.

Savor the pleasures of June!