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In the Right Place: It's Time

This is Brooklin’s Judith Ann powering into Naskeag Harbor yesterday with a full load of her recently-hoisted lobster traps. She’s the latest of many local fishing boats that will end their lobster season in November.

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But, not all fishermen will be leaving the water this winter. Some will continue lobstering. Some will turn to dredging scallops soon. Others will don SCUBA equipment and dive in the cold waters to hand-harvest the choice diver scallops, which we and other neighbors will buy by the gallon. They’re beyond delicious! (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: On the Trail

The trunks of tall trees dominate the early winter woods: gray pillars of spruce, fir, and pine.

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The understory shrubs and ferns no longer obscure sight; we can walk among the pillars with a vivid sense of three dimensionality.

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Also gone are the high maple and birch leaves, their loss leaving jagged holes in the canopy. Sunlight sneaks through the new openings in splashes and slices. It’s silent; the air is pure, and it's the right kind of cold. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Faithful

Consistent with the times, we’ve got a lot of swell-headed males around here. Fortunately, ours are Bufflehead Ducks that are arriving from Canada for their winter vacations. Their name is shorthand for “buffalo-headed,” a reference to what many call the American Bison.

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The darker females also have disproportionately large heads, but their heads are not as disproportionate as those of the males and are all black except for a white cheek spot.

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These tiny (14-inch) birds are unique among sea ducks: they not only nest in tree holes created by large woodpeckers (Northern Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers), they’re monogamous for years at a time. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Dancing

We’re watching yesterday morning’s nor’wester sweeping down Eggemoggin Reach and charging into Great Cove.

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 Its winds are gusting up to 30 miles per hour, which is not a worrisome event, unless you’re an inexperienced sailor in a small boat without a life jacket. Such winds make our usually lazy waters get up and line dance.

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In nearby Naskeag Harbor, fishing boats bucked and pulled at their moorings while sea gulls hunkered down and faced into the wind.

In natural coves and man-made harbors, the entering trains of ocean waves are forced by the land’s shape and shallower water to bend (“refract’) and fan out toward the shore in fascinating whitecap (“spilling wave”) patterns.

There are extraordinarily complex phenomena going on here. For those interested in finding out what they are, we recommend How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley (The Experiment, LLC, 2016). (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Preciousness

Some artists – Monet, Turner, and Church come easily to mind – have gotten close to communicating the preciousness of ever-changing evening light on familiar waters. But no one really can capture such a moment and give it to another.

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This image of Great Cove Monday evening is trifling compared to being there and seeing the sea turn psychedelic lavender before going dark.  (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Tenacity

We continue to be amazed at the tenacity of some of the wild apple trees (green- and red-fruited) and crabapple trees (red-fruited) around here.

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The above Jackson-Pollock-like image was taken yesterday of fruit-bearing but leafless crabapple branches hanging over the edge of Great Cove’s shore line. A nearby green apple tree was equally tenacious:

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That is, there is nothing between these red and green apples and the prevailing, often powerful sea winds. More significantly, there was nothing between them and the superstorm at the end of October in which gusts coming off the ocean there exceeded 70 miles per hour and torrents of driving rain pounded the coast.

These tough trees could teach NFL running backs some lessons about holding on. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Shamelessness

Meet Bianca, our hairy, all-white, fat, blue-eyed, six-year-old, constantly surprising, mostly Maine Coon, indoor cat.

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Before we met her, she was a barn cat, a profession at which she did not succeed. We met her at the Hancock County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, when she was named Sissy. She was alone in a cage there because she had a “trait”: she hated cats. We had to promise not to get a cat when we got Sissy.

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Soon after we changed her name to Bianca (Italian for white), we learned that she had another trait: she thought that she was a dog. She follows us from room to room, keeps putting her head in our hand to be rubbed, and excitedly greets visitors at the door. She also often sleeps or rests on her back shamelessly (but trustfully) splayed with all four legs up. She frequently does this in her spot on the bed, forcing us to pick her purring heftiness up to make the bed.

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When not splayed, Bianca can be stunning.

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Fortunately, she’s not aware of that. Yet. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Change

There are signs that our faux winter is over and the real thing has started creeping up on us. The first harbingers are the marsh ponds that freeze.

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These are the ultimate reminders for procrastinating Wood Ducks and other migrating waterfowl to get their act together and fly south.

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Most of our Loons and other over-wintering waterfowl seem to have completed the shift of their operations from ponds and lakes to the ocean. At the edges of the ocean, sea ice is starting to appear in the pockets that receive the least sun.

It’s time for wildlife (and us) to begin adjusting for the most pervasive seasonal change of the year. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Delights and Warnings

This is the sky over Great Cove and our dark North Field last night, as the sun sets in the west and the temperatures fall.

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This is of the same area this morning, as the sun rises in the east to meet the frosted field and islands.

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Once again, the mariner’s mnemonic was right:

          Red sky at night, sailors’ delight,

          Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

This couplet usually proves true for the middle latitudes, meteorologists say. Red sky in the evening often means that the reflected sunlight is coming unobstructed from the west, where the prevailing winds bring weather.

On the other hand, if morning skies are reddish, it’s likely that moisture-laden clouds are reflecting light from the sunrise in the east. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Full Service

It’s time to consider the year-long beauty of a native tree  and the reasons that it has two strange names: the Shadblow Tree (or Bush), also frequently called the Serviceberry Tree (or Bush).

In spring, the tree’s branches are covered with bright white flowers.

In summer, its red, pink, and purple berries add drama (and, are delicious fresh or baked in a pie).

In fall and early winter – now – the tops of its leaves turn red with yellowish ribs and veins, while their undersides reverse the striking color combination.

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In winter, the tree’s sinewy multi-trunked form is an architectonic delight, especially when casting shadows on snow.

It was named a Shadblow Tree because it flowers when the shad run in the northeast. It was named a Serviceberry Tree because it flowers when the northeastern ground thawed enough to bury dead colonists in a service that included the tree’s blossoms.

By the way, the Journals of Lewis and Clark report that Serviceberries saved their lives when other food was not available. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Season

It’s now deer hunting season, but this White-Tailed doe and her fawn still use a trail that they’ve been using since spring. (I was crouched downwind and they didn’t sense me until the camera clicked and they turned toward me for this second click. They immediately disappeared, flashing their white tails.)

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These and other “Anterless Deer” may not be hunted in Maine without a special permit. Other deer may be hunted here with bows and arrows, crossbows, modern firearms, or antique muzzleloaders. But the hunting restrictions vary by district and year.

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Hunting is prohibited under any circumstance on posted private land. Deer hunting is prohibited in some large communities, such as on nearby Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is located. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Secrets

In the summer, when gazing at the distant woods, it’s hard to tell the thin and wiry Tamarack Trees from their sturdier neighbors, the Spruces and Balsam Firs. All are a mass of green-needled branches. But at this time of year, the Tamaracks confess their secret: their needled branches flare into yellow incandescence and then the needles let go and drop like sprinkles of gold.

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These trees are different; they’re not really evergreen, they’re “deciduous” To be sure, they produce and drop cones, as do Spruce and Fir, (they’re “coniferous”), but each Tamarack produces both male and female cones (they’re also “monoecious”).

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“Tamarack,” seemingly the most-used common name for the tree, is the Algonquin Tribe’s name for “snowshoe wood.” Nonetheless, the tree also is called a Larch or Hackmatack by many. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Deep Breath Time

It took a while, but we think that November finally arrived here with this sunset last night. The air was clear and sharp; the sky rolled away on waves of blue, burnt orange, and lemon; Great Cove and Eggemoggin Reach turned metallic, while the light on the island and shore trees slowly dimmed into rich blackness.

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And, we slept under two blankets. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Smiling

We have this feisty little rose bush that insists on creating beauty for us as long as it can and against all odds. It’s giving us summer blooms for November days. Climate Change contains a few smiles.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Last Dance

As the color of the leaves fades, Lucille is now alone in Great Cove. She’s the last of our nautical line dancers that pointed, bobbed, and swung in unison. And, Lucille, herself, will be gone soon.

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Looking in the other direction in the cove, we can see that the WoodenBoat School's float has been taken up from their pier for the winter and all of the School's fleet is gone.

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After Lucille leaves, there will be no man-made resident in the Cove’s island- sheltered water. Winter’s residents will arrive in increasing numbers: sea ducks, loons, and other ocean birds; bald eagles that prey on them and on the fish; and, perhaps, more seals.

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Lucille, by the way, is one of the vessels used by the Marine & Environmental Research Institute. Among other activities, MERI monitors the health of the local waters and wildlife. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Misers

Despite hurricane-force winds that toppled 100-foot spruces, despite driving sheets of rain that flooded roads, and despite Isaac Newton’s fruit-inspired laws of gravity, some of our gnarly old apple trees refuse to let go of their apples.

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These beaten trees are keeping as tight a grip on many of their treasures as misers in a robbery.

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It reminds us that the dropping of an apple is not a simple matter. It first happens in the summer when the tree sheds (“abcises”) some immature apples to help the rest mature. As the days get cooler, the tree abscises its mature fruit.

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The process involves, among other things, the apple stem cells secreting enzymes that eat away at the pectin layer that holds the stem’s cellular walls together; this weakens the stem’s grip and, eventually, the fruit falls on a physicist. The warmer-than-usual temperatures here may have slowed things up. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Sky Light

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Last night’s “Beaver Moon” arose from behind the wooded darkness of Acadia National Park, set fire to some of the lowest layers of cloud, and sent a glowing beacon to us across the ripples of Blue Hill Bay.

The moon was so bright in its early stages that it looked like a hole seared into our galaxy, a tunnel to eternity.

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When it escaped the lower clouds, it became a moon in a caldron.

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Although the moon was huge last night, it was not at its closest point to the earth in November (i.e., at perigee); that came Friday, when clouds obscured its rising and it wasn’t quite full. Had it been both closest and fullest, the Beaver Moon also would have been a “Super Moon.”

It also was huge and virtually full Thursday night, when the sky was clear and cloudless as the silver moon sailed above leafless branches, completing the winterscape shown here.

In case you're wondering, the November full moon is called a Beaver Moon because it comes at the time when Native Americans and early colonists in the north set their beaver traps before the marshes froze. It’s also known as the Hunter’s Moon and Frost Moon.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Etiquette

Common Eiders are flying in from the sea daily for their annual reunion at the Blue Hill Reversing Falls. If the past is prologue, there soon will be about 500 of them wintering in this usually ice-free part of the Bay.

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Common Eiders are our largest native ducks, growing up to 28 inches in body length. The can fly up to 70 miles per hour, but we see them mostly floating offshore in large white-and-black (male) and brown (female) “paddlings.” When the tide is changing, these ducks will stream into the Falls’ fast water and dive for their meals there.

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These big ducks completely disregard Emily Post’s rules of etiquette when gorging on crustaceans and mollusks. They eat Blue Mussels and clams whole, then let their gizzards crush the shells. They get fastidious with large crabs, though: they remove the claws and legs before swallowing the live body whole. They aren’t good dinner guests. (Blue Hill, Maine)

Answering Pete: The Eider holds the crab by a claw or other leg and beats the crab’s body against the water surface until the body breaks off; it then quickly grabs the floating crab and repeats the process with the other appendages. They eat small crabs whole.

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In the Right Place: Intentions

Recently, this Red Squirrel has been taking its meals very near one or another of our sliding glass doors. There is mounting evidence that the Squirrel’s intent is to drive our house-bound cat insane.

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To some, Red Squirrels are furry-tailed rats and a nuisance that should be exterminated. Others love them, think they’re cute, and allow them to invade the bird feeder. Red Squirrels also experience a different kind of love – by owls and hawks; coyotes, dogs, and martins; bobcats and feral cats, as well as the occasional large snake.

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Only about 22 percent of these small Squirrels survive their first year, during which they must establish and defend a territory and build an underground food storage midden before winter sets in. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: "BEAUTIFUL BROOKLIN" Exhibit

This is Winter Snow Storm,” Brooklin Cemetery; it and the image below it are part of my show at the Friend Memorial Library, which will be up through November 30.

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The twisting Camperdown Elm Tree in the cemetery is a rarity. It's a cultivar that can be traced back to a unique tree created about 1837 in Dundee, Scotland. David Taylor, the Earl of Camperdown’s head forester, then found a young, contorted Elm-like tree and grafted a cutting of it to a Wych Elm; he planted that cultivar in the Earl’s garden, where it remains today. All remaining Camperdowns are the result of subsequent graftings of the species.

There also are summer and spring images in the exhibit, including the following Summer Dusk, Naskeag Point:

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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