It makes my heart sing to bear witness to these shiny-new lives, to watch them being cared for by a doting parent, to see them test their wings (or legs) and discover the world. Over the years, our farm has served as the maternity ward/nursery for fuzzy ducklings, bouncing lambs, spindly-legged fawns, mischievous baby raccoons, and more.
This year the song sparrows were first: in late April they showed up at my tree-stump feeding station, with noisy fledglings in tow, to feast on dried mealworms. Next, on a sunny May day, came violet-green swallows swooping across the forget-me-not sky. As usual, a pair built their nest and laid eggs in our pump house swallow box, then tirelessly tended their twittering nestlings until they were ready to take to the air, too. May continued to be a busy baby month for the birds: I saw drab, newly-fledged towhees trailing after their parents and heard baby crows calling in high, trembling voices. One of our own domestic Muscovy ducks hatched out fourteen ducklings, and another female–apparently anxious to get in on the baby action, too–promptly stole seven of them.
In June, I found two little garter snakelings living in the rocks around my greenhouse. While taking a tea break on our front porch, I noticed a dark-eyed junco in a nearby azalea, its beak crammed full of green caterpillars. Rather than fly off into our woodlot, though, it fluttered up–to the tune of strident baby bird calls–into the flower basket hanging outside our garage (the same basket I’d been regularly watering and had bumped into on at least two occasions). After the parent bird left, I grabbed a ladder and took a quick peek. Sure enough, a round grass nest hid among the yellow blooms; within it snuggled four nestlings blinking back at me!
Our newest baby–and an exciting first for our farm–is an elk calf. Newborn elk evade predators by keeping quiet, still, and hidden. To avoid drawing attention to her calf, the cow elk pretty much stays away unless she’s feeding him, or needs to come to his defense. This little guy–old enough to have nearly lost his spots–still hides for most of the day, but come evening he paces the far pasture fence line and frantically calls for his mother. He sounds like a squeaky dog toy, only much, much louder–a sound that tugs at my own maternal heart strings. The cow always shows up to feed him, eventually, leaping the fence with ease. My husband and I have debated whether we should cut a temporary hole in the fence to let him find his way through, but we don’t want to make it easy for dogs and coyotes to get on the property. We figure, too, that the calf is probably safer here on our farm until he’s big enough to leap over the fence–which shouldn’t be too long given the rate at which he’s growing.
Not so safe, however, are the three little apple trees that mama elk discovered–and munched on–yesterday!
What babies have arrived on your farm this spring?
Thanks for reading!