Mountain laurel has started blooming and will continue to do so through June. It is one of the certainties of nature in mid-May. CHARLES SEABROOK
Photo: Charles Seabrook
Photo: Charles Seabrook

WILD GEORGIA: A world in upheaval, but not in the wild

Charles Seabrook’s “Wild Georgia” column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In our world suddenly made topsy-turvy by COVID-19, we yearn for some degree of certainty. And it’s there, in the realm of nature. Here in mid-May, one of the most beautiful, joyful and busiest times of the year in Georgia’s outdoors, nature is right on track.

Spring songbird migration has peaked, and baby-rearing now is the birds’ topmost pursuit. Most songbirds I see now have something in their beaks — a worm or a bug to feed their babies, or a twig or piece of straw to build their nests.

The nesting birds are vocal now — seemingly singing louder and sweeter than in the past, perhaps because of less noise competition from traffic and other human activities curtailed by the pandemic.

On Georgia’s barrier island beaches, loggerhead sea turtles have begun laying eggs. For the record, this year’s first nest was recorded on April 27 on Cumberland Island.

Northern right whales, some of the world’s most endangered creatures, are swimming back north to summer feeding grounds after spending the winter in their calving waters off Georgia and north Florida. With 10 births and zero deaths, it’s been a significantly better calving season than during the past two years.

Elsewhere on the coast, horseshoe crabs by the tens of thousands are crawling on moonlit nights onto beaches, mudflats and salt marshes to lay their eggs, which become vital food for migrating shorebirds.

Snapping turtles and box turtles are nesting. White-tailed fawns are being born; coyote denning season is at its peak; several bat species are giving birth; young male black bears are roaming about; and it’s peak breeding time for gray squirrels, fox squirrels and bobcats.

The “ephemeral” wildflowers of early spring — trilliums, anenomes, toothworts, and so on — have nearly finished blooming; now, late spring blooms have burst forth, including mountain laurel, flame azalea and butterfly weed.

It’s all life as usual in the natural world, despite the contagion that rages around us.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be new on Friday night. Venus is low in the west just after dark and sets less than an hour later. Mars rises about four hours before sunrise. Jupiter and Saturn rise in the east just before midnight.

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