As the earth warms, tiny creatures get in the mood to get their rocks off in aid of nature's grand design. Here are some of the furred and feathered beings in breeding mode around these parts.
You thought the Easter bunny was just a marketing idea? No siree. Sex-crazed cottontails became pre-Christian fertility symbols because of their manically exuberant courting and mating rituals. For the next six months, all over our ravines and parks, pheromone-drenched females and males will play footsie with their front paws and make head-on runs at each other, one flipping in the air, the other passing underneath. The frenzied exercise occurs several times before actual mating, giving rise to the phrase "mad as a March hare." Twenty-four hours after giving birth, mom's mating fever returns.
Toronto is blessed with a multitude of skunks - 13 to 26 per square kilometre, to be exact - so no wonder you find yourself dodging the wary creatures so often after dark on our tree-lined streets. The white-striped wonders emerge randy from their winter slumber in mid-March. Males have multiple partners, so all mamma skunks are sole-support foragers, slinking around by night, often with tiny skunklets trailing single file behind. By the time they're two months old, the babes' musk glands are fully functional - armed and ready to reek.
Keep your eyes skyward: blue jays are making a comeback after their decimation over the last few years by West Nile. These blue-and-white aviators with the black necklaces are the brains of the bird species. Normally, their loud, brash call is heard before they're seen, but at courting time, females in particular turn down the volume and whistle soft sweet nothings to their beloved. By late April or May, the male lowers his profile because he doesn't want to attract attention to the nest, usually in an evergreen. He protects his lifelong mate, feeding her as if she were a nestling so she can produce four to six eggs the size of cherry tomatoes in hues of light green, blue or buff.