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In the Right Place: Bad Hair

This is a swarm of recently-emerged caterpillars that soon will become Milkweed Tiger Moths, also known as Milkweed Tussock Moths. They’re devouring their namesake plant for one of the reasons that Monarch Butterfly caterpillars consume it. The toxicity of milkweed makes both the crawling and flying phases of the insects toxic to predators.

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But the Tiger Moth caterpillars go one step further. Tiger Moth Caterpillars literally have “bad hair” and by that we mean poisonous pompadours. Their hairdo includes “urticating” hairs, named after the Latin word for stinging nettle (“urtica”). Some of these defensive growths are long and flexible and some are stout and bristly.

The former can puncture human skin and break off, causing inflammation in sensitive people. The latter can puncture the skin and inject venom (“envenomating” hairs), which can cause a severe reaction in those people. Look, but don’t touch. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Fishing Time

Here we see this month’s full moon as it rose over Naskeag Harbor on August 15. The August full moon is most commonly called “The Sturgeon Moon,” which was the Algonquin Tribe’s descriptor relating to the time when that fish is most easily caught in what is now the United States' Northeast.

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However, in the Pacific Northwest, the Haida Tribe called this moon “The Salmon Moon.” The Cree Tribe, in what is now the Ontario area, called the August moon “The Flying Up Moon,” perhaps because some birds start to migrate in August. The Ojibwe tribe,in what is now southeast Canada, called it (and sometimes the July moon) “The Blackberry Moon,” in reference to when those berries became ripe. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Lurking

We’ve got our own version of the Loch Ness Monster in Great Cove. The first sign of its presence usually is a school of good-sized fish (Pogies?) jumping out of the water for no obvious reason.

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We’ve come to realize that they jump because they see the monster rising fast toward them from the black depths. The monster attacks with tremendous speed and force, sometimes bursting high out of the Cove to catch its prey as they leap for their life.

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We’ve seen, at a significant distance, the monster’s silhouette and parts of its breaching body and can tell that it’s a large seal of some type. But, we haven’t been able to confidently identify what type of seal it is. We think that it’s probably a Harbor Seal, our most common seal.

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File Photo

Harbor Seals can grow to over six feet long and weigh almost 400 pounds. Usually, Harbor Seals find their prey along the bottom (e.g., lobsters and other crustaceans) or chase fish at mid-sea depths. This Great Cove lurker is different, and we’re glad it prefers fish over arms and legs.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Right Stuff

As you can see, not all fishermen on lobster boats use traps these days, but they all continue to wear “oilskin” bib pants. Today, waterproof oilskins often are made of breathable rubber or flexible PVC-coated synthetic fabric – the right stuff for fishing in foul weather and other wet activities.

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In days of yore, fishermen wore real oilskins, often made of discarded sailcloth coated with linseed oil and wax, which created a waterproof and breathable garment.

The bibbed fisherman shown here in Dear Abbie: is Nolan Candage, the son of the owner of another good-looking local fishing vessel, Judith Ann. (Brooklin, Maine) Click on image to enlarge it.

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In the Right Place: Time

It’s the beginning of the end. Although she won’t admit it, we can see that Summer is thinking about forsaking us, as she always does. She’s letting Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace take over her fading fields; her wild apples are turning red and losing their grips; her light no longer lasts long enough.

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One morning in the coming weeks, we’ll wake up and realize with a pang that she left us without saying goodbye. But now, now is when we try to get closer to her and make believe that the two of us can prolong the best of times. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Refocusing

When walking in the woods or the marshes, it’s virtually certain that we’re being watched by some of our unseen furry or feathery neighbors. Yet, often an inch-by-inch focus on our surroundings reveals no other living creature.

That’s the time to refocus on the big picture. We might realize that there’s something strange about what we thought was a gray rock 200 feet away – when the light changes, it casts a reflection of an upside-down Great Blue Heron that is watching us very closely.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Pirates' Choice

Here we see Actress in Great Cove last week. She’s a 75-foot Brigantine out of Belfast, Maine, that was designed by the legendary Murray Peterson. Originally launched in 1937, Actress apparently is the only Brigantine in the Maine coastal cruiser fleet.

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A Brigantine is a two-masted vessel carrying rectangular sails on the foremast and gaff-rigged, triangulated sails on the second mast. (Actress often travels without raising its rectangular sails.) Brigantines were developed as more maneuverable hybrids of vessels known as Brigs. A Brig also is two-masted, but both of its masts carry rectangular sails.

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In fact, Brigantines were once called “Hermaphrodite Brigs.” Apparently, however, that nickname was discontinued after the definition of a “hermaphrodite” became generally known. The root names of both types of vessels are derived from “Brigand,” because fast Brigs were favored by pirates.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Plantation 5

Here, we see a summer squall forming over brooding Blue Hill Saturday afternoon, August 10. A furious rainstorm of about five minutes ensued, followed by sunshine and relieved smiles.

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The Town of Blue Hill below this 940-foot summit was incorporated and named after the Hill in 1789. It was among the lands granted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to hundreds of British colonists who defeated French colonists and their Native American allies in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  The Blue Hill area became known as Plantation Number 5 when first settled by colonists Captain Joseph Wood and John Roundy in 1762. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: To Fling

A “lobster smack” is not just what your lips do after finishing a delicious lobster roll. It’s also a vessel that takes lobsters from fishing boats to a commercial facility for processing or resale. That’s part of what’s going on here with the operations of Damon Seafood Company in the middle of our Naskeag Harbor. Fishermen can buy lobster bait from that floating hut when going out and sell their catches to a smack when returning.

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Historically, “smacks” were sailboats that specialized in transporting fish and lobsters caught by other boats. Thus, smack crews were called “smackmen,” not “fishermen” or “lobstermen.” Their boats often had holes in the hulls to allow seawater to flow in and out of “wells” below decks where live catches were held.

The word “smack” for a vessel is thought by some to have originated from the old Dutch words “smak” (small sailboat) and/or “smakken” (to fling [e.g., fish]) or to dash [e.g., from boat to boat]). Today, smacks are motorized and have equipment to keep the catches fresh in saltwater containers. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Finger-Crossing Time

Canada Lilies are finally blooming here along the coast. They were very late here this year, as were many perennials.

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These exotic wildflowers are native to much of New England and Canada. Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds love them as do an increasing number of gardeners who now can purchase them from plant nurseries.  And, in days of yore, Native Americans loved to eat them.

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Unfortunately, White-Tailed Deer also love to eat Canada Lilies. More worrisome, however, is the spread of the Scarlet Lily Beetle (Liliocens lilii), another lily leaf muncher. It’s a voracious non-native that was introduced into Canada from Europe or Asia in the 20th Century and is now attacking lilies throughout New England. Keep your fingers crossed. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Sedate

Here’s Atlantide, a historic vessel that was moored in Great Cove earlier this week.

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She’s a 122-foot, steel-hulled motor yacht with two masts on which sails can be hoisted for stability in the open sea.

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She was built in 1930 in Dartmouth, England, and used to evacuate troops during the Dunkirk, France, extraction during World War II.

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Atlantide is now out of nearby East Blue Hill and leads a sedate life. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Cosmetics

Today’s trivial questions are: (1) Why were Painted Lady Butterflies given that awful name? and (2) What’s the best way to distinguish American Painted Ladies from other Painted Ladies around here?

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First, the scientists who name butterflies apparently considered these butterflies to be gaudy –  “painted ladies” has long been a slang reference to prostitutes, many of whom historically wore garish makeup. The name is doubly demeaning for the poor male Painted Ladies.

Second, we not only have Painted Ladies with no given nationality working our neighborhood, we also have Painted Ladies known as Americans. The biggest difference? The eyes of the American Painted Ladies are gaudier. The Americans have two large eyespots on the underside (“ventral” side) of their hind wings, whereas the Ladies without a country have a series of smaller spots. That’s a Painted Lady above, and this is an American Painted Lady:

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The topsides (“dorsal” sides) of both species are a sedate orange-brown with less intricate markings. It’s often hard to distinguish the two species by looking at their topsides. That’s a Painted Lady on the left and an American Painted Lady on the right:

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Giggles

Here’s Spirit, a Cornish Pilot Gig, being rowed on Great Cove Friday morning, August 2, by members of a WoodenBoat School rowing course.

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In days of yore, pilots often competed for the work of guiding incoming vessels into Atlantic Sea harbors in America and Europe; the pilot whose gig crew got him aboard the incoming ship first usually got the work. Those gigs also were among the first vessels used for shore-based lifeboats that rowed out to ships in distress.

As with Spirit, Cornish Pilot Gigs usually were 32 feet long with a beam (widest width) of just under five feet. Their six 14-foot oars were placed alternatively with one oarsman pulling one oar (a characteristic of a “gig”). Today, enthusiasts build these gigs to the old specifications and race them in CPG clubs. Spirit was built at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine, and was visiting at the time this image was taken.

The word “gig” reportedly originated from old English words that were associated with “bouncing” and “spinning” – something that can happen when these vessels heroically broach large waves. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Velvet Poison

Now that the ground is mostly dried out, we’re seeing more mushrooms bullying their way to the surface here. Some have surprising, albeit descriptive, common names. For example, look at this tawny-red mushroom. You can see why it’s called a Red-Mouth Bolete (Boletus subvelutipes).

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Technically, DNA has revealed that this mushroom is one of about a dozen closely-related mushrooms called collectively Red-Mouths. These Boletes are beautiful to see and nice to touch – they feel like velvet. However, we dare not taste them; they’re poisonous.

Mushrooms in the large Bolete family have no gills; they seem to be smooth under their caps, but that’s where they have minute tubes from which their spores drop. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Vintage

Here we see the renowned Spartan yesterday, crossing the very hazy finish line in Great Cove before any other boat in the Annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. (Being first to cross, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll be determined to be First or First in Class for this year, since boats start the 15-mile course at different times and their finishing times may be adjusted based on handicaps.)

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The renovated Spartan sailed in the Regatta’s Vintage Class for good reason. She apparently is the last of the nine “New York 50s” commissioned by the New York Yacht Club and built in the winter of 1912-1913. Spartan was the sixth 50 built and still proudly flies a “NY 6” mainsail. As with her eight sisters, she’s 50 feet long at the water line (72 feet overall) and was designed by the famed naval architect Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, whose company built the boats.

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Here we see some of Spartan’s competitors turning into Great Cove about a quarter of a mile from the finish flag:

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Field of Dreams

We found quintessential August yesterday, and it was only about a mile south of us on Naskeag Road. This fallowed field is full of late summer wildflowers and a few volunteer perennials that are trying to fit in.

We’ll be taking this image out again in January, when we’ve forgotten what short sleeve weather feels like. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Wheezy

We’ve been seeing what we believe is a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk hunting over our fields and resting at their edges. It doesn’t have the rufous-colored tail of an adult yet, but it has the wheezy hunting cry of other Red-Tails that we’ve been privileged to meet.

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Red-Tails apparently are our most common hawks, but their plumage is about as variable as teen tee shirts. This can confuse those of us who have not earned a black belt in birding.

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The adults mate for life and share the egg-incubating and fledgling-feeding chores. It appears that their favorite foods are small mammals, but they’ll take snakes and even insects when times are tough. (Brooklin, Maine) Prior year images used here.

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In the Right Place: Coming to Grips

We awakened early this first day of August and, as usual, looked out to make sure that Great Cove was still in place. It not only was, but two old friends were rising on the incoming tide down there: the dark-hulled, 120-foot J.&E. Riggin and the light-hulled, 125-foot Mary Day.

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Although it’s supposed to be unseasonably hot here today, the schooners’ visit seemed like a good omen to begin the month and try to come to grips with the fact that June and July are already gone. So was Mary at about 8:30 a.m. Here’s a closer look at her as her passengers were waking up:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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July Postcards From Maine

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July Postcards From Maine

Summer is how many people imagine Maine and July is the heart of summer here.. This year’s July was a little too hot, a little too wet , and a little too foggy at times – but we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the month. Among other things, it usually was a fine time to stroll under clouds in open space, travel country roads, or walk beside streams under a forest canopy.

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July is when new-born fawns are strong enough to come out of the deep woods with their mothers.

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This year, because of an unusually wet and cold June, some of our natural cycles were delayed. In July, young Ospreys were still staying close to the nest, although they would take test flights every now and then. Male Song Sparrows, Common Yellow-Throated Warblers, and Bobolinks were still singing their hearts out.

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The Bee Balm plants peaked in July, which meant an invasion of female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. (Most of the males of this species, which are the only ones with ruby throats, mate in May or June and continue migrating north.)

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Hummingbird imitators also are at their peak during July. Here we see Clearwing Hummingbird Moths doing everything that hummingbirds can do to Milkweed.

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Although not as agile as Hummingbird Moths, our butterflies probably do a better job of pollinating the flowers. They have to get down on the flowers and get dusted by pollen. Among our most common butterflies are White Admirals and Tiger Swallowtails.

Of particular interest and concern are our Monarch Butterflies, which have had their ups and downs recently. We saw good numbers of Monarchs this July and plenty of Monarch Caterpillars on the Milkweed leaves — the only leaves that these finicky insects will eat.

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July also is the month to see Dragonflies, Damselflies, and Turtles in and around our freshwater ponds. Below we see a Twelve-Spotted Dragonfly approaching some Cow Vetch and some Painted Turtles unsuccessfully trying to change species and play leapfrog.

We move now from freshwater to the salty sea and bays that surround our peninsular. Naskeag Harbor, below, is a working harbor as well as a recreational one.

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The fishing vessels here usually start setting lobster traps in early June, but this year weather delayed them also. They still were setting traps out in mid-July.

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Our Great Cove is the place to see plenty of coastal cruising schooners in July. Here we see the Stephen Taber coming in and going out of the Cove. She’s a 110-footer that was launched in 1871.

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Another frequent visitor is the Mary Day in which the passengers help raise the sails and the yawl boat before she hoists anchor. Mary was built for the tourist trade in 1962 and is 125 feet long overall.

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The yellow-hulled Heritage is the youngest of the schooners, having been built for the tourist trade in 1983. She’s a 145-footer.

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The American Eagle was launched as a fishing vessel under a different name in 1930. After some hard times, she was renovated on 1986 into this sleek tourist schooner:

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July was a good month for diversity in Great Cove. Among the more interesting vessels were Salty Paws and Tugnacious, a matched pair of Lord Nelson Victory Tugs; Little Bear, a yacht that is a sardine carrier replica, and Norna, a high-sterned wooden cutter built in Denmark.

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Nonetheless, for sheer July fun, nothing seems to beat the WoodenBoat School’s 12-and-1/2-foot sailboats, which dart around like water bugs most of the time.

Of course, boats are built and reconstructed In July at WoodenBoat in fascinating workspaces:

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It may surprise some to hear that Down East Maine also is a gardener’s heaven with famous public gardens. (Brooklin has had a garden club since 1935.) The wet spring seemed to help many garden flowers, including these local Peonies,Poppies, and Roses putting on July faces:

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Where garden flowers prosper, wild ones usually do as well. And, that was the case in July for many wild flowers. Among others, Day Lilies burst open, Wild Irises (Blue Flags and Yellow Flags) were robust in wetlands, and Queen Anne’s Lace appeared. Hawkweed, Crown Vetch, and Butter and Eggs were all over the fields and borders. Water Lilies first appeared in July to grace many ponds

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Two annual July Brooklin events are worth remembering. Our Independence Day parade/concert/picnic is one of the best small town celebrations. The annual Small Reach Regatta is one of the most unusual events: it’s for small sailing vessels of any heritage and they sail in Eggemoggin Reach. This July, the wind was a sometimes-thing, which meant that there was some rowing going on — and it was hot.

Lack of wind on a hot day is not always bad, however.. That usually means the sea is still and the horizon hazy, which can produce visual delights:

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(All images above were taken in Brooklin and neighboring Blue Hill, Maine, during July of 2019.)


























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