About 25 species of ducks are present in Southwest Michigan each year during spring and fall migrations and winter. However, during the nesting season only a handful of species stay and raise young. The most abundant local breeding duck is the mallard, followed by the wood duck. Blue-winged teal can be found nesting, but sparingly.
A few migratory ducks can be found on our ponds during the first few weeks of June. One such duck found earlier this month was a ruddy duck, found at the Three Oaks wastewater lagoons on June 12 by several observers. No photo of the recent ruddy duck was obtained, but I have a photo of a male of the species taken in May 2018 at the same location by Brad Anderson.
The duck has a white cheek, rusty colored body and bright blue bill. Female ruddy ducks appear dusky gray with a light gray cheek patch with a dark line through it.
Ruddy ducks overwinter in the southern U.S., Cuba and Mexico. They migrate through Southwest Michigan from March through May. They nest primarily in the western U.S. and Canada, and sporadically in the Great Lakes region.
Mary Connors of Benton Harbor photographed an eastern box turtle on the morning of June 19, found next to her driveway.
Eastern box turtles spend most of their lives on dry land, usually in relatively sandy soils. They eat a variety of foods such as berries, insects, worms and other invertebrates. During my time at Sarett Nature Center, I saw them eat wild strawberries, on the nature center grounds.
Male box turtles are identified by their red eyes, females by brown eyes. Although the eye of the box turtle can be seen in Connors’ photo, not enough light is present for me to determine if it is male or female.
Anette Schrag of St. Joseph found a young fawn white-tailed deer in her yard last week. The fawn, only a few days old, was left alone by its mother so it can remain safe from predators.
Fawns have little scent when they are born and are left alone by their mothers, who visit their young a few times a day so they can feed. Once the fawn has sufficiently fed, the doe departs quickly so that her scent does not reveal the location of the baby.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.