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In the Right Place: The Miracle Generation

We’re now at a critical time for our Monarch Butterflies: The “miracle generation” of the species is being born. This fourth summer generation here will not only be the only one to live beyond a few weeks, it will migrate south to southern California or Mexico.

Meanwhile, members of the previous Monarch generation are now taking their last sips of nectar, as this one was doing earlier in the week:

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The life cycle of of each generation of Monarch Butterflies consists of four phases. The first is an egg, about the size of a pinhead, that is deposited on the underside of a milkweed leaf by a pregnant female Monarch Butterfly. She lays hundreds of eggs one at a time on this plant, which is poisonous to many predators.

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The eggs quickly develop into the second phase, Monarch caterpillars (larvae). These are brightly colored to warn predators that they are poisonous from eating milkweed, the only food that they eat. The availability of this restricted diet has been a cause of concern over the years.

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After about two weeks of gorging themselves, the caterpillars climb to a nearby high point — which often isn’t a plant — and spin themselves into chrysalises, the third (pupa) phase of the Monarch. In those chrysalises, a caterpillar will metamorphose into a primordial goo that incredibly solidifies into a tightly folded insect.

Usually, within two weeks from the time that the chrysalises were formed, the insects emerge as Monarch Butterflies, the final phase of their lives. Birth from that chrysalis can be a brutal struggle that lasts days, as it did for the female Monarch making her September 14 full emergence shown below. Once out of the chrysalis, this exhausted butterfly fluttered awkwardly to the ground, where she stretched and slowly moved her pristine wings for about 15 minutes.

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Then, she flew erratic short and low trips for about 30 minutes, before soaring away on a breeze.

As mentioned, most Monarch Butterflies die within six weeks of their emergence during the summer. But not this female and other Monarchs born here as the days get colder in September and perhaps early October. They’re different in some unknown way. The future of their species here is their responsibility. Soon, they’ll somehow feel a duty to fly to southern California or Mexico, where they’ll rest in semi-hibernation, mate, and start next year’s migration north.

(Brooklin, Maine)



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In the Right Place: Homeward Bound

Naskeag Point’s picturesque sandspit, which really is a pebblespit, is attractive in several senses. It attracts tourist and local harbor-gazers, sea glass collectors, summer bathers, winter sea ice, dog walkers, shore birds, occasional seals, fishing vessel skiffs, kayaks, careless sailors, trucks with trailers, and lobster trap dumpers.

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When it’s inconvenient to offload storage-bound traps at the Town Dock there, fishing vessel crews sometimes drop the traps into the water over the spit at high tide. At low tide, they back their trailers next to the traps, load them up, and drive them home to clean and store. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Survival

Small numbers of Wood Duck returned to our area’s largest marsh pond last week and have remained there as of yesterday. The males are still in their summer molt (their “eclipse” phase) but can fly a little. In this phase, the males’ brilliant bouffant hairstyles are reduced to drab buzz cuts, although the boys do retain their big Maraschino cherry eyes:

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The females’ eyes remain attractively dark and are highlighted by white eyeliner:

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It’s thought that the severity of the summer molt among male Wood Ducks evolved as a survival technique. When molting, the usually brightly colored ducks are flightless at times; being drab helps to camouflage them when they’re most vulnerable. This can be especially important for Wood Ducks, which (true to their name) perch on branches with their clawed feet and occupy tree trunk cavities. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Winners

The National Garden Bureau, which promotes the gardening industry and annually designates garden flowers of the year, has designated the Dahlia as the bulb flower of 2019. And, it just so happens that now is the best time in 2019 to see Dahlias around here. here are images of two Ball Dahlias that were taken last week.

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The Dahlia was discovered by Europeans in Mexico, where natives grew it for its edible tubers, medicinal benefits, and hollow stems that were used for water pipes. It’s named after Anders Dahl, an 18th Century Swedish botanist who classified it as a vegetable, apparently based on its history.

Few gardeners today would chop their Dahlias into salads. The plants are among the most popular show flowers in the world and are constantly being engineered into new forms and colors. Here are a few from Maine gardens:

Most researchers recognize 42 present-day species of Dahlias and divide them into 14 groups, as of now. It seems that the only color that has not been produced in a Dahlia is blue, and hybrid speciaslists reportedly are working hard on that. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Bait

This is the 46-foot fishing vessel BACC AT IT from Vinalhaven Island. She recently has been in our waters seine-netting schools of menhaden, the small perches usually called pogies here.

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State and regional regulators reopened the pogy quota to avoid a lobster bait shortage. Ironically, that bait shortage concern was caused primarily by a protective reduction earlier this year of the quota for netting herring, the preferred lobster bait fish that has been stressed.

BACC sells some of its pogy catch to the bait and lobster smack operation for local fishermen here in Naskeag Harbor:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Shining

Here we see last night’s rising full moon, the first to rise on Friday the 13th since October of 2000. And, we’ll not see another rise on Friday the 13th until August of 2049. Although last night’s moon rose on the 13th, it didn’t reach full luminosity until 12:35 a.m. today, the 14th.

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Last night’s moon also was this year’s full moon closest to our autumnal equinox, which occurs September 23. Thus, the moon was the Harvest Full Moon or Corn Full Moon, because its rise coincides with the traditional harvesting time for corn and other crops. Often such moons were bright enough to do some of that harvesting at night.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Canvasing the Area

Here we see the coastal schooner Angelique making the southern turn into Great Cove, followed by the Stephen Taber and Lewis R. French.

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These are three of a dozen Maine windjammers that paraded in Great Cove Tuesday, September 10. They came for the 33rd Annual WoodenBoat Sail-In and evening party at the WoodenBoat School campus.

The red- (bark-tan-) sailed Angelique, out of Camden, was launched in 1980 and is 130 feet long overall. The big-flagged Taber, out of Rockland, is 110 feet long, and the gray-hulled French, out of Camden, is 101 feet. Both the Taber and French were launched originally in 1871.

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Erratic winds kept captains on their toes and episodic, hazy sunlight frustrated photographers. Nonetheless, it was spectacular. Three-masted Victory Chimes, the largest of the schooners at 170 feet, required some fancy tacking and jibing when the winds softened and shifted. She’s out of Rockland and was launched in 1900.

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Here we see the yellow-hulled Heritage overtaking Victory Chimes. The Heritage, out of Rockport, was launched in 1983 and is 145 feet long.

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Far out in Eggemoggin Reach, Mary Day overtook the dark Angelique creating an interesting contrast. Mary, out of Camden, is 125 feet long and was launched in 1962.

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Ladona and American Eagle, both out of Rockland, sometimes looked like ghost ships in the hazy light. Ladona originally was launched in 1922 and is 108 feet long. American Eagle was launched in 1930 and is 90 feet long.

The last of the official parade members were wide-beamed Grace Bailey, slim J.&E. Riggin, and small Mistress. Grace, out of Camden, is 118 feet long and was launched in 1882. The Riggin, out of Rockport, is 120 feet long and was launched in 1927. Mistress, out of Camden, is 60 feet long and was launched in 1960.

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After mooring, the schooner passengers greeted each other and prepared for a party on shore, including good food, good music, dancing, and fireworks. Here you see the yellow-hulled Heritage moored next to American Eagle:

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We should note an unofficial parade member that was present in Great Cove as the others began to arrive. It was the brigantine Actress, out of Belfast. She was launched in 1937 and is 56 feet long. Here she is going out to greet the arriving schooners:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Remembrance

Take a hard look at this image:

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Those are maple tree leaves at their peak summer magnificence being ruffled by a slight breeze on a 72-degree (F) day last week.

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It’s hard to tell how many more days like that, if any, we’ll have. Today, aAs we speak, it’s a gray, raw, and rainy day here, with 15-mile-an-hour wind gusts coming of the sea that make the 61-degree temperature feel colder.  Leaves are fading and a few are falling. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Daredevil

This female Belted Kingfisher has been a welcome angler in Great Cove this summer and early fall, even though, as with all her kind, she always has a bad hair day and curses profoundly at any human whom she sees.

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She’s a daredevil fisherman, hovering like a helicopter over a school of small fish and then power diving headfirst into and under the water to catch one of them with her beak. (Ospreys are not so reckless – they go in talons-first and use those weapons to grab their prey.)

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Here’s a male using a gangway to a pier as his perch:

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Since many of Maine’s coves and other semi-protected sea waters have not been freezing fully lately, Kingfishers are staying longer and some reportedly have been over-wintering. The sloped banks of the Cove contain some good nesting areas for Kingfishers, which lodge and give birth in earthen tunnels. By the way, the origin of this bird’s name is unclear, but most researchers think that it stems from “king’s fishers.”

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: It's All Bananas

We’re finally seeing almost the same number of ripe wild blackberries as red ones, which is a state of affairs that lasts approximately 30 seconds when you do the counting by mouth. But, do we know what we were eating when we pop one of these beauties into our mouths? Apparently not.

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The literature reveals that blackberries are a fruit, of course – but, blackberries and raspberries are not berries, technically speaking. This is one of those areas where scientific definitions tend to contradict common assumptions. (One of the more readable articles on this is by Greta Lorge in Stanford Magazine’s July-August 2013 edition.)

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Basically, a fruit is any seed-containing product of a flowering plant. A berry, technically, is a seeded fruit produced by one flower that has one ovary. But, blackberries and raspberries are produced from a flower that has multiple ovaries. Therefore, they’re classified by botanists as “aggregate fruits,” not berries. These definitions produce some surprises, including the fact that tomatoes, avocados, and bananas are “berries,” while blackberries are not, scientifically speaking. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Classic

Here we see the coastal cruiser Heritage raising sails in Great Cove during a windy, drizzly September 4.

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She was scheduled to sail south into a strong southwesterly wind and had to tack and jibe to get out of the Cove and go down Eggemoggin Reach.

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Heritage is a 145-foot schooner out of Rockport, Maine, that was built along classic lines for the tourist trade. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Barometric

It’s raining hard here as we speak, which is why we’ve decided to depict the universe as a Morning Glory. But first, the weather: Dorian is offshore, desperately trying to prolong his short, vicious life.  We’re under a National Weather Service tropical storm warning and high surf advisory, but we have an outgoing tide that doesn’t look very disturbed now. We’re supposed to get some sun tomorrow morning.

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This brings us back to our Morning Glory, which bloomed here Thursday, September 5. Each Morning Glory is a one act play the performance of which is dependent on the weather. The plant is called a Morning Glory because, on a sunny day, its lovely flowers usually open in the early morning, close by the afternoon, and die by the evening.

Morning Glories are sensitive to atmospheric pressure, temperature, and light. Mostly, they’re barometers. They bloom while the atmospheric pressure is increasing in the morning and start to die as it drops in the afternoon. The good news is that the plant produces many beautiful one act plays, (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Winged out

We were lucky to be in Great Cove the gray morning of September 4. The Stephan Taber suddenly appeared out of the mist and took a shortcut through the southern channel of the Cove.

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Initially, she was winged out to catch a following breeze, then she trimmed those sails to catch a stronger wind as she passed Babson Island, which shelters to Cove

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Using that better wind , she raced out of the Cove’s southern channel. It was over in minutes, but it got the adrenaline flowing for the few of us who were there.

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The Taber is a National Historic Landmark out of Rockland, Maine. This 110-foot windjammer was launched in 1871 and still does not have an engine.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: SUPing

One of the best places to practice Stand Up Paddleboard Surfing is in the nearby Blue Hill reversing falls between Blue Hill Bay and Salt Pond.

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That’s where the incoming and outgoing tides provide continual moderate surf going in and going out. In the image above, we see a SUP-surfer trying the incoming tide there yesterday. here are more images:

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Only Maine has this kind of falls in this country, and there are only eight of them in our State, according to geological reports. Such falls occur when bedrock geology forms an inclined channel of an appropriate width and depth between two bodies of water, at least one of which must be strongly tidal, as is the Bay. There also must be the right height difference between the two bodies of water to produce rapid surges in rising and falling tides.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Still Life

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When it comes to still life art, you can’t get any stiller than this Northern Starfish (or Northern Sea Star) posing in the inter-tidal zone of Great Cove on Labor Day. It’s dead, on its back, missing an arm, and not being eaten by our always-hungry and ever-vigilant seagulls and shore crows. Which raises a troubling question: Is the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome back and in Maine?

During the past decade, there have been epidemics of this disease along the east and west coasts of the United States. Warming waters are suspected of encouraging the spread of the flesh-eating disease in which effected starfish develop lesions and simply melt away arm by arm. Although too many starfish can wreak havoc on scallops, mussels, and clams, we apparently don’t know the effect, if any, of too few. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Our Town

This image is titled “Gone” and is one of the images in our show “Beautiful Brooklin: Scenes From a Coastal Town.” For those fortunate enough to reside in or near Brooklin, the show will be on display in the Friend Memorial Library through September 27.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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August Postcards From Maine

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August Postcards From Maine

August was our best summer month this year. Some days were so brilliant that even low tide looked like a production number from an MGM extravaganza:

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Our fields were in prime summer colors at the hot beginning of the month and, as usual, they turned into fall yellows, whites, and browns by the cool end of the month. Our woods were steadfastly wonderful all month.

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Our streams shrunk to trickles during a few dry periods in the month, but several impressive storms brought them back to raging life.

August was one of the best in recent history for attracting and maintaining Monarch Butterflies, which have had difficulties in recent years. Many laid their eggs on milkweed so that their colorful caterpillars would emerge, eat voraciously, and sew themselves up in a chrysalis out of which the next generation of Monarchs would emerge and sip nectar from Echinacea and other flowers

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Among other pollinators that were in abundance this August were Clearwinged Hummingbird Moths, Bumble Bees, and Painted Lady Butterflies.

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Butterflies were not the only August wildlife to be painted. There was a particularly good showing of Painted Turtles in our ponds as well as dragonflies, including 12-Spotted Skimmers and Red Meadowhawks.

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August is fishing season up here, especially for the Great Blue Herons that silently stalk the shallows along our shores:

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Further up those same shores, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers roam the water’s edges and perch on rocks during the month. They’re almost impossible to tell apart in the wild because you usually can’t get close enough to see whether their legs are green (Least) or black (Semipalmated).

Our harbors are extraordinarily busy in August. Naskeag Harbor is where many of our lobster boats moor and sell their catch . It is there that you can see that not all of our fishermen use lobster traps, although they all seem to wear oilskin bib pants.

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Great Cove is where where the large schooners come in to allow their tourist passengers to visit the renowned WoodenBoat School there. Among the windjammers that visited in August were Mary Day, Actress, American Eagle, and the Lewis R. French.

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This August, Great Cove hosted some unusual and historic vessels, including Alera, a famous racing sailboat launched in 1905, and the motor yacht Atlantide, which helped evacuate Dunkirk in World War II.

A variety of small rowboats made colorful appearances in Great Cove during August; they liked to pose when the water was still:

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Nonetheless, August’s combination of warm and cool (sometimes crisp) days did produce some significant fogs. At times, we couldn’t see Mount Cadillac in Acadia National Park across Blue Hill Bay; at other times, we saw only the mountain’s summit. In Great Cove, the boats would appear and disappear in the mull.

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But that moist fog helped to produce a bumper crop of August’s signature flowers: colorful Lilies and white Queen Anne’s Lace:

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August also is when the Beach Rose Hips turn red, Wild Blackberries turn black, Wild Apples turn green and red, and Mountain Ash berries turn orange:.

Speaking of Blackberries, the August full moon was called by some Native American tribes the Blackberry Moon, because that fruit ripens during the month,; it also was known by other tribes as the Sturgeon Moon, because those fish run during the month,

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(All images in this post were taken in Down East Maine during August 2019.)





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In the Right Place: Baffling

We met this shy, six-inch neighbor for about three seconds yesterday morning. You’d think that such a beautiful sandpiper would have been given a charmingly descriptive name. But, of course, noooo.

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The bird namers decided that this dainty creature must be called a Semipalmated Sandpiper. They apparently assumed that we would know that “palmated” means webbed and that we would deduce from the “semi” preposition that this cutie is only partly webbed -- someplace. (A virtually invisible bit of extra skin between her toes helps to prevent her from sinking when feeding on floating seaweed and in mud.)

This Semipalmated neighbor does share one charming nickname with the other two of our tiniest sandpipers, the Least and Western Sandpipers. The three are collectively called “Peeps,” which is what they say a lot.

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That unofficial description helps the many of us who usually find it difficult to differentiate one of these birds from another in the field (and especially in flight), but who do know a tiny thing when they see it and a peep when they hear it. Birding can be baffling to some of us. (Brooklin, Maine) See also the image in the first Comment space.

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