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In the Right Place: Globalization

Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata) stood up to the bullying of our Winter, perhaps because they’re originally from high elevations in Japan. They’re deciduous with graceful undulating flowers, such as this one, that burst upon the early Spring scene before their leaves appear.

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As their leaves start appearing – now – the rays of the stars drop to the ground and create a little shag carpet under the plant. The native American Magnolias are either deciduous (e.g., Big Leaf Magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla) or evergreen (e.g., Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora).

To complete the international story, the genus Magnolia, which contains hundreds of species, was named after the 17th Century French Botanist Pierre Magnol, who was one of the pioneers of plant classification. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Spinking and Spanking

The Bobolinks are back, thank goodness; it’s always a relief to see them again. Their species has been decreasing drastically, apparently due in significant part to the disappearance of suitable spring fields for nest-building. Here, we see the male with his bleached hairdo:

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The sparrow-like female is not at all conspicuous -- which is what you'f expect of evolution for a ground-nesting bird. Here she is:

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The species received its name from the sound of its bubbling song. In 1855, William Cullen Bryant wrote a popular children’s poem that formalized the bird’s name to help youngsters remember its song: “Robert of Lincoln, is telling his name/Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link/Spink, spank, spink….” (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Cove Developments

The first vessel to return to moor in Great Cove for the summer did so earlier this week. As usual, it was Lucille, shown below. She’s a small fishing vessel used for environmental monitoring and research by the Shaw Institute. (Susan Shaw, the Institute’s founder, is a neighbor on the Cove; the Institute formerly was named the Marine and Environmental Research Institute.)

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A few days after Lucille moored, WoodenBoat School’s Babson II was tied to a working mooring to assist with getting the other WBS boats and gear into the Cove. She’s an outboard skiff workhorse used for many purposes, including ferrying students to WBS sailboats for classes.  Here's Babson II:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Thriller

You won’t see this bird on your feeder; in fact, you probably won’t see much of it in the woods, where it lives.

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This is the aptly-named Hermit Thrush, a plain-looking bird that would prefer to be heard rather than seen. And, now is the time to hear it. These birds, male and female, are singing to each other as the woods leaf-out and breeding season approaches.

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Hearing the Hermit Thrush’s song while walking through deep woods is among the best of the delicate thrills that musically-sensitive humans can experience. It’s like hearing a flute glissando imitating a gurgling brook, with watery harmonics that echo – but better. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Behind the Scenes

There’s a lot of hard Spring work that goes into the Summer recreational glories and commercial fishing successes of Maine’s coastal waters. Early yesterday, as we see here, the moorings for WoodenBoat School’s and visiting boats were being launched into Great Cove.

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The floating white Mooring Buoy and its gear were dropped seconds before the above image was taken; that buoy is attached by chain below to a very heavy Mushroom Anchor gripping the Cove’s floor.

Below, one of the launching crew is tossing out the Pennant line and its smaller orange Pickup Buoy; this line is attached to the top of the Mooring Buoy. As a boat comes by, an occupant can grab the Pickup Buoy by hand or hook and tie the boat up to the Pennant.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Yesterday's Lesson

If you’re watching Alewives swim upstream and you get a feeling that you, yourself, are being watched, don’t look around first; look up. There may be a rowdy-looking poacher without a fishing license hidden in the trees.

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This young adult Bald Eagle, quickly glimpsed yesterday, is still growing into his white hood and dark body.

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(Penobscot, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Clean Sweep

Maine’s beautiful rock-bound shores and pocket beaches are most evident at low tide on islands, such as nearby Deer Isle here.

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In this image, we see a good amount of granite ledge bedrock that has been swept clean over the years by the winds, surf, and constant tidal action. The 10- to 12-foot high tides cover the dark rockweed and algae about every six hours. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Puzzler

We simply don’t understand why some visitors keep saying that Brooklin makes them feel as if they’ve entered a time warp.

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Everything significant around here seems to us to be up-to-date – for example, take a look here at the price of gas at the General Store a couple of days ago! That price is about as up-to-date as you can get. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Luck

We got lucky and, for a few seconds, had a clear view of this Northern Parula Warbler. She was migrating and feeding in lower branches that had not leafed-out.

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Soon, she and her kind will reside at the top of the tree canopy. And, that’s when they become indistinguishable from dappling sunlight and effectively disappear. They’re only an inch longer than a credit card with a mostly blue-gray and white body that is camouflaged with a yellow daub on the breast and yellow-green daub on the back.

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James Audubon named them Blue Yellow-Backed Warblers, but later name-givers thought they looked like titmice (genus Parus) and named them Parulas (“little titmice”). The Northern species lives mostly in the United States and the yellower Tropical Parulas live mostly in Central and South America. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Fit for a King

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Yesterday's Spring Concert of the Bagaduce Chorale was an afternoon of extraordinarily beautiful and complex music performed extraordinarily well. Under the baton of energetic Chorale Music Director Bronwyn Kortge, the singers, Piano Accompanist Christina Spurling, and the GEM Orchestra filled Blue Hill's First Congregational Church with music "Fit for a King" -- the concert's theme.

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The concert opened with Johann Michael Haydn's Te Deum in C, an ancient hymn with complex harmonies. The remainder of the first half was a rousing performance of Beethoven's Fantasia in C Minor (Choral Fantasy) by Ms. Spurling accompanied by the Chorale and Orchestra. Here we see Ms. Spurling's reaction to a standing ovation:

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The second half was taken up with intricate English Coronation anthems by George Frederic Handle and ended, as usual, with Peter Lutkin's Benediction. As the concert came to a close, as if on cue,  the honeyed afternoon light made a stained glass spring bouquet glow.

Here we see the beginning of a standing ovation for Ms. Kortge and all performers:

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(Blue Hill, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Sowing the Wind

Early Friday afternoon, the steady wind speed was 14 miles per hour with gusts of up to 24. That's when John McMillan of Blue Hill arrived here at one of his favorite spots. He asked that the exact location not be identified because what he was about to do was dangerous and it gets increasingly dangerous as more people (especially novices) do it in the same area. John is an expert Kiteboarder.

After pumping up the frames of his huge kite and harnessing himself to its long lines, John takes off, ripping through the water on his short board.

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Much of his maneuvering is on the edge of his board:

But, every now and then, John gets the urge to fly:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Natural Light

This is yesterday’s sun setting behind the Pumpkin Island Lighthouse. (Thanks for the idea go to Werner Gansz, a fine photographer.)

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Here's a daylight image of the three-acre island, taken last year:

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The lighthouse became operational in 1854, signaling the rocky entrance to Eggemoggin Reach, northwest of Little Deer Isle. The island-studded Reach, known as one of the world’s best sailing channels, runs between Penobscot Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with Blue Hill Bay in between. The Lighthouse was discontinued as such in 1933 and Pumpkin Island is now privately owned. (Little Deer Isle, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Tough Luck

What we have here may remind some of Jackson Pollock’s ground-breaking images that (sometimes) were beautiful forms without inside or outside lines or positive and negative space. Well, this is ground-breaking, but literally so – it’s heather that survived an extended burial in snow here.

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This tough beauty has for years been the symbol for independence and good fortune and sprigs of its flowers often were royal good luck charms bestowed by Queen Victoria on her favorite subjects. Its name apparently originated from the Scottish word haeddre, a descriptor of the wild, windy heathland where heather defies the elements with colorful cheer. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Fabulous Feet

A pair of Ospreys has nested nearby among the high spruce surrounding Great Cove. Their piercing calls to each other as they soar on the hunt often echo over the water and nearby fields.

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These wild-eyed “fish hawks” dive at up to 50 miles per hour, splash into (and disappear under) water, and emerge with a squirming fish. This is where it gets unique:

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Ospreys have a reversible outer talon that can be swiveled into a flying fish trap – two talons in front and two in back; they also have soles padded with a Velcro®-like surface to help keep the slimy prey in place; and, as they fly off to the nest or perch, they manipulate the fish so that its head is facing forward, making it more aerodynamic.

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(Brooklin, Maine

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In the Right Place: Creatures of Spring, Continued

One of the surest signs of Spring here is the reappearance of the elusive Spotted Mooring Amphibians, a cold-blooded species common on the coast.

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They lie dormant in snow during the winter, emerge sinuously coiled in May, and then mostly disappear into the deep water – except for their colorful tail tips, which are designed to attract and grab other water denizens. The SMAs in this image were discovered basking at the WoodenBoat School near Great Cove a few days ago. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: A Gentle Life

Here we see the first Painted Turtle to resurrect itself from the muddy tombs at the bottom of our pond. He appeared yesterday. If history is prologue, he’ll soon be joined by three or four male and female summer painters to form a “bale” of basking turtles.

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They’re gentle and discrete creatures: the male asks the important question by stroking the female’s face with his front claw; if she agrees, they’ll disappear into the depths of the pond and mate.

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Soon thereafter, she’ll climb up into our North Field, make her nest, lay her eggs, and return to the pond while they incubate. If the raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and crows don’t find the eggs, some of the hatchlings may come back to our pond; others will look elsewhere for a summer place with a water view. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Naughty and Nice

This female Northern Flicker is waiting coyly.

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Male Flickers are now challenging each other to duels: they sit within feet of each other, growl, and swish their beaks up, down, and around like fencers warming up; but, they don’t strike. They also will show their rivals (and, later, potential mates) a naughty flash of their brightly-colored feather shafts – but just a “flicker.” (Guess how they got their name.)

Male Flickers have black mustaches; females are clean shaven.  Both sexes spend as much time pecking dirt as pecking wood, since their favorite food is ants. Here's a male:

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There are two major subspecies of Norther Flicker: the yellow-shafted (East) and red-shafted (West), with interbreeding by less fashionable Flickers in between. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: State of the Bog

Our bog is a small world unto itself, and we’re happy to report that, as we speak, it’s doing very well. It’s full of primal still lifes, including vibrant cabbage leaves emerging from the colorful Skunk Cabbage Spathes:

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Fern Fiddlehead mummies are popping up all over the place:

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Salamander eggs are throbbing in the vernal pools:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Eat Your Heart Out, Claude

It’s sunny, as we speak, and we have a bright view of the many local islands, above which gleams the crown of Isle au Haut, about 14 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. Yesterday morning, we often could not see beyond Barbara’s garden. Ever-changing fog rolled in from the sea in waves, descended from the sky in curtains, and wafted islands with gossamer veils.

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Claude Monet would have gone berserk trying to capture the shifting light patterns and perspectives. (His London trip to capture fog resulted in about 100 partial canvasses and 37 finished masterpieces.) We suspect that Claude would have loved watching yesterday’s fog swarm Naskeag Harbor Island, shown above and below.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Screamers

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds are arriving, first as broad-winged, high-flying silhouettes scouting for summer territory and then as epaulette-flaring, screaming sentries, once they have laid claim to a territory. 

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The smaller, sparrow-like brown females will arrive once the homestead wars are more settled.  Here are a couple of last summer's females and a male in flight:

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Then, the Red Wings will settle into one of the more polygamous bird life styles – a single male may keep up to 15 females in 15 different nests in his territory, each of which he fiercely defends as his own.  (Brooklin, Maine)

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