LIONS, TIGERS AND bears, I’ve seen ’em all this summer. OK, so I haven’t seen lions or tigers, but I have come across two bears so far and scads of other wildlife characters.

Spring and summer are great times to watch wildlife at its best. The parade of birds and beasts returning to share their lives with those of us who live in or visit north Wisconsin begins with the early arrival of ducks, geese and swans who have spent the long winter in more southerly climes.

My first viewing of ducks and geese each spring is from either the culvert between Plum and West Plum lakes which gains open water earlier than most places or at the outlet to Plum Creek where it begins its 4-mile journey to Big St. Germain Lake.

Hooded mergansers are usually the first to show up, decorating the open water by the culvert with the beautiful black-and-white crests worn by the drakes in their breeding plumage.

After that, the first honkers or Canada geese find the open water by the creek. I had to wade through knee-deep snow in April to reach the spot where I could get a good look at them, but it was worth it to see them swimming in ice-cold water or just resting on the ice shelf.

Mallards — the green heads and chestnut breasts of the drakes glistening in early-spring sunlight — arrived at about the same time, and for several days in a row, I widened and packed my path through the Plum Lake campground to sit on a little patch of dry ground where I could watch them without disturbing them for as long as I wanted.

The parade continued all spring with bears coming out of hibernation to steal sunflower seeds meant for chickadees, deer finally able to meander out to roadsides to taste the first green growth of the season and gobblers strutting while firing up the mating season.

In May, the whitetails started dropping fawns, though it was the first week of June before I finally saw one. There have been many since. Loons have nested and hatched young ones. Some have nested twice when chicks either didn’t hatch or were gobbled up soon after by muskies, snapping turtles or eagles.

I’ve only seen one brood of ruffed grouse youngsters so far and though I seldom hunt them anymore, I still thoroughly like seeing the brown bombers as much as I ever did.

The other day, I enjoyed a novel experience. While negotiating a two-rut goat path to reach a tiny lake that was once filled with quality bass, bluegills and crappies, I had a woodcock hop up in front of me as I rolled along at a heady 4 mph.

I came to believe it was a female leading me away from a brood of her own as she continued to hop up, fly 10 feet or so and then, hop again several times when my front bumper approached her. Finally, about 50 yards past where she first appeared, she flew up and back over the truck to where our tryst had begun.

By the way, so far as I can tell, the tiny lake, since a devastating freeze-out several years ago, remains without a fish to its name. At least, judging by what I caught or even had nibble, it has none.

The other evening, I saw my second bear of the year when a 200-pound bruin sauntered across Highway C just in front of me, close enough and in a slow enough saunter that I had to use my brakes more than I would have liked to. My wife and I had a similar occurrence way back in May as we went for a Sunday afternoon drive past North Muskellunge Lake.

One of our most welcome visitors — one which is probably another generation of the same family that has returned for 40 years, ever since we built our house — is back again this year. I say welcome, although the very vocal male whippoorwill that sings to us virtually every night sometimes wears out his welcome when he sings through an open bedroom window from the driveway maybe 10 feet from the house.

One night, he kept my wife awake long enough for her to count 137 consecutive “whippoorwills” without the guy taking so much as a brief breath. I thought that might be a record, but a few days later, a friend said his whippoorwill buddy had gone more than 300 repetitions without stopping. Don’t know if I believe him or not.

Last but not least, some of my best friends which I began keeping tabs on in early April have assured me there will be many more of them around next April to replace the one I filled my tag with. Turkeys appear to be having a banner year for raising broods.

Within 5 miles of my house I know of at least four hens, each with six or more “younguns,” every day feasting on grasshoppers and other insects on roadside grassy banks. If I were a betting man, I’d bet a bundle there will be more than one gobbler sounding off exactly where one met his fate this April.

As Walter Cronkite would say at the end of each of his nightly newscasts: “And that’s the way it is.”