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Now, with more biomass (living weight) in the fields, forests, flowages, and lakes, populations begin competing with one another.

The simple scenario might be: trees produce leaves; caterpillars eat leaves; birds eat caterpillars; hawks, coyotes, and snakes eat birds.

Some of these populations can’t carry their own weight. The dead are left to the vultures, fungi and bacteria to recycle the remains.

Food (energy) chains are interesting and informative to follow. Some populations are successful; others collapse because one link got out of hand. In most, everyone give and takes a little.

The three-county deer predator study in southwest Wisconsin is partly about populations of coyotes and bobcats taking white-tailed deer. Of course other factors take a piece of the pie, too. Hunters, vehicles, wolves, bears, accidents, starvation and diseases take a major portion of the deer population each year, too, or at least that is what most suspect, but science will eventually place estimates on each consumer when the study concludes about 2021.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers and ruby-throated hummingbirds recently provided an interesting food and predator study, too. Sapsuckers consume tree sap from more than 200 plant species, including paper birch. Numerous thieves —flies, moths, small mammals and hummingbirds — take from the sapwells sapsuckers “drill” into trees.

Hummingbirds follow sapsuckers into southern Wisconsin “anticipating” tree sap will be flowing before red flowers bloom and insect populations explode.

Were it not for the sapsuckers arriving first and setting the dessert table for hummers, many may return, but perish.

There is an interesting war that goes on with the larger sapsucker guarding its energy table. The thieves wait for the woodpecker to leave to feed its young, while flies and moths are content to feed simultaneously with the hummingbirds who sneak in the moment the woodpecker flies.

The birch trees are usually not seriously harmed. Those that die have been weakened by other factors before the sapsuckers found their sap content conducive to provide sugar and a few insects caught in the sticky exudate. Both hummingbirds and sapsuckers eat insects, too.

Deer populations are undergoing constant transformations. Fawns are running, following and starting to feed. Bucks’ antlers are forking. Some family groups are getting back together. Bucks accept the company of other males.

Crops, including corn and soybeans, are candy to deer of all ages. Potatoes are flowering, looking a lot like their cousin the tomato. The fruit that follow are even more similar.

Turkey poults are beginning to show, while bird dogs and their keepers are wondering what ruffed grouse counts will reveal. Studies are about to try answering that question.

Bluebirds have started their second nesting. Pull the old nest from the box. There is something about rebuilding a nest the starts the process over and may be necessary to the male and female.

Black raspberries (blackcaps) will be prime for picking well before flags are omnipresent.

Patriotic roadsides of red, white and blue blooms are ahead, too. Wild roses, blue spiderworts and various white daisies showed true through the raindrops weeks early.

Prairie pale blue coneflowers are opening and compass plants are close behind. Deeper in the woods, wild ginseng and vine poison ivy, sport tiny blooms. The WDNR is planning a biological study of ginseng plants, from emergence to dieback.

Young rabbits, squirrels and skunks are hopping, climbing and roaming. But don’t count on all animals’ scent being latent.

Oak, hickory and hazelnut fruit crops can begin to be assessed.

June is filled with an abundance of blooming birthdays; births and deaths; and maturations. A sign of an early autumn or a long, difficult winter?

But first summer comes up to bat next week.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at sivadjam@mhtc.net or 608.924.1112

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