Spring is doing its best to supplant winter, but menus are still sparse for many creatures, herbivores in particular.
A few grasses are shooting up but the marsh reeds are brown and the earliest trees are just beginning to leaf out. The first flowers of the season, meanwhile, grow on plants that aren’t attractive to critters like rabbit and deer – an important trait for plants that want to get through much of their lifecycle before later and taller plants have time to shade the ground.
Squirrels make do with last year’s nuts and seeds, sometimes washed down with a sip of maple sap.
It makes sense that birds who survive primarily on seeds are particularly drawn to bird-feeders in our backyards right now.
Both the Northern Cardinal, above, and Tree Sparrow, below, have sturdy short beaks especially suited to cracking seeds. Both species eat a lot of insects later in springtime, when insects become abundant and seeds are scarce or stale.
The swarms of midges are welcomed by those who eat insects, and those who eat those who eat insects.
On a warm afternoon spiders begin to stir, though the temperatures are still too chilly for spiders to be active most hours of the day.
Mute Swans are counted among the “flexitarians”, who eat primarily aquatic plants plus the occasional tadpole, mollusk or insect. Their characteristic feeding pose may not be their most elegant move, and occasionally they seem to come up empty.
The low-lying woodlands now have some of the lushest vegetation, in the shape of many mosses.
While few creatures eat moss, many birds, including Robins, do gather moss for use in building nests.
The woods are where food is found, for so many species. And for one of our largest local mammals, the woods are food. The Beaver builds its lodges and dams with wood, and also picks the tastiest and most nutritious tree parts for dinner.
But at this time of year, with new tree growth just beginning, a Beaver can spend hours chewing away at fallen trunks from years past.
Photo at top of page – Two Front Teeth (click here for full-screen image)