Lophodytes cucullatus Hooded mergansersIllustration by David Wagner

It’s About Time – May 2020

May is an energizing month for western Oregon nature lovers: lots of action every day as we ride the “slow train” through Solstice in June. Slow train because long days have settled in. Day length changes little until late August. Action because everything changes fast. Warm days, cold days; rainy days and sunny days; sudden thundershowers follow balmy breezes drifting in from the coast.

More different wildflowers bloom on any day in May than any other month of the year. Wild animals are birthing and teaching their pups and fawns what to eat. Mountain birds have moved upslope. Migratory waterfowl head back north. Resident nesting birds are ensconced in nest boxes, hanging baskets woven from mosses, and rookeries high in riverbank cottonwoods.

The birds we enjoy watching at home feeders have temporarily disappeared. Every pair is building their nest and feeding their young. They won’t come out of watchful privacy until nestlings have fledged. They will return soon. Keep a good stock of bird seed on hand, anticipating when the feeders again will be drained as fast as in winter. Suet cages will get special attention because birds need to fatten up for migration day.

There is no reason to be bored. Take a folding chair, water bottle, sketch book, and binoculars for a rejuvenating sit by the river. Learn the diving ducks from dabbling ducks. One never need feel lonely, knowing peaceful solitude isolates us safely from the worst natural scourge in a century. Nature entertains, comforts and sustains us.

David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for over 40 years. He teaches moss classes, leads nature walks, and publishes the Oregon Nature Calendar. Contact him directly at FernZenMosses@me.com.