In the Right Place: Two Mornings

We saw much of yesterday through a veil of fog and intermittent rain, which softened the glow from the fields that are thick with late summer wild flowers. The flowering yellow-golds are mostly Tansy in full bloom amid fading Black-Eyed Susans and emerging Golden Rod. The whites are mostly Queen Anne’s Lace in its prime.


This morning added sunbeams to the mix, luring the deer into the fields early to enjoy the rain-fed succulence. 

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Straps

It may be our imagination, but it seems that we’ve been seeing fewer snakes this summer, including Common Garter Snakes such as the one shown here. That snake is the most widespread and abundant reptile in Maine. (Turtles and Snakes are the only reptiles that we have.)

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Maine is home to nine species of snakes and – to the tourists’ delight – none of these is venomous. (In days of yore, we had Timber Rattlesnakes.) Garter Snakes were named after “garter straps,” elastic devices once used to hold up socks and stockings. 

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Adult Garter Snakes usually range in size here from 18 to 26 inches, but one Maine specimen was officially recorded at almost 44 inches. Garter Snakes prefer earthworms but will eat just about any living thing that they can get their small mouths around. The compliment is reciprocated by a myriad of larger predators that like to snack on this snake.(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Pink Passion Plant

The flowers and buds of Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula rubra) are peaking into their cotton candy phase (inflorescence). This plant, also called Prairie Dropwort, was used by Native Americans as an aphrodisiac.


It’s native to the United States, but not New England, where it was introduced probably in the 19th Century. Some of it grows wild in our fields, but more forms of it are seen in gardens. The Queens soon will fade, so, we took this image to put in our stack of summer color memories that we’ll conjure back during our next gray February. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: More Fractured Thinking

How would Natty Bumppo travel the woods and waters of today’s Maine? As you may remember, he also was called Hawk-Eye in James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans. It’s fun to imagine Hawk-Eye today paddling a plastic kayak rather than a bark canoe and wearing a floppy hat rather than a skin cap.

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It’s more fun to imagine Magua, Uncas, and Chingachgook in spiffy L.L. Bean outfits and florescent kayaks coming to Hawk-Eye’s rescue.

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There is a connection to Maine. Many memories of how Hawk-Eye looked in his wooded milieu are based on N.C. Wyeth’s fabulous illustrations in the deluxe edition of that book. N.C., the father of Andrew, worked here in the summer; Maine scenery seems to have crept into many of his woodland and river illustrations. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Inside Story

The Wild Blackberries here are starting to turn dark and ripen. The black one shown here is now extinct, but it was delicious. It looks like this year will be a good one for the berries and those willing to brave their thorny thickets to get them.

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Wild Blackberries are difficult to differentiate from Wild Black Raspberries when the berries are still on the vine. However, once plucked, you easily can see if the berry’s center is hollow like a thimble (Raspberry) or “corked” like a jug (Blackberry). The Blackberry stem/cork is edible, of course.

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The plump Red Raspberries in stores are not wild and propagated by birds and other animals; they’re specially bred and cultivated by fruit farmers. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Demented

It’s foggy now, as it was a few days ago when the images below were taken. Those with good eyes might see, in this image, two men in a boat:

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Those from around here might even recognize Scott Keenan steering a crew member into Naskeag Harbor by instinct, after somehow mooring Scott’s Fishing Vessel Dear Abbie:. Scott beached the outboard just to the north of the Town Pier, which looked like this up close that day:

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Fog, as we all know, is merely a demented air spirit that has decided to form into a cloud to make seafaring fun. A wee more technical explanation is that fog and other clouds are formed when the air is cooled enough to become saturated with water vapor, usually when the difference between the air temperature and its dew point (water-making point) is less than 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Whispers of the Very Bored


As this visiting sailboat left Great Cove recently, three nearby locals – a pair of 12.5-footers and a Dory – were overheard by someone who speaks Boat. They whispered this:

1st 12.5: The one from Rhode Island’s leaving.

2nd 12.5: It’s a fair wind; wouldn’t mind going out myself.

1st 12.5: But she’s got a GREEN sail up – LOOK!.

2nd 12.5: Don’t stare.

1st 12.5: I’m talkin’ REALLY GREEN-Green; St. PATRICKS’ Green; flying LIME ……

Dory: SHUSH; she’ll hear you.

2nd 12.5 (ignoring Dory, as usual): Just peeked; she handles her color well. Remember, she’s more than TWICE our size.

1st 12.5: Now that you mention THAT, did you see how she swung and bobbed that stout stern all night?

Dory (to herself): I GOTTA get away from here!

(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Code Orange

The mid-August report on the Monarch Butterfly’s comeback here is good. They’re regularly landing and taking off in the gardens and occasionally putting on mock dogfight exhibitions over the flowers.

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Multitudes of their caterpillars (larvae) are grazing without caution on milkweed, perhaps sensing that their bright striping is blinking warnings to would-be predators: TOXIC>YUCK>DON’T DARE! Toxic Milkweed is the only food that the caterpillars can eat, which is one of the reasons why they are threatened.

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Below, two male Monarchs work the purple Echinacea in peace. We know their sex because only the males have a dark, lozenge-shaped spot on the first vein of each rear wing.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Interlude

It’s Thursday evening (August 9) during the gossamer interlude between sundown and darkness. We’re rounding Mark Island Light in East Penobscot Bay, weaving through small spirals of light rain while dazzling Venus arises over our shoulder.

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Distracting details are being smoothed away; the island is transforming into an oil painting hung just for us between sky and sea. The lighthouse, built in 1857, also is known as the Deer Isle Thorofare Light because it marks the entrance to the hidden passage through many islands into Stonington Harbor.

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The Island is now owned and preserved by the Island Heritage Trust. It’s no longer occupied, but the automated lamp and fog horn still provide familiar comfort. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: High-Riding

Winslow here is a 14-foot “skiff,” a word that apparently originated as a variant of small “ship.” American skiffs usually are light, open boats designed for the use of one person or very few people; they typically are rowing vessels. (Some Mainers, therefore, call them “pulling boats.”)


Many skiffs have flat bottoms, but not Winslow; she has an elegant hull that makes her very high-riding. There is no hard-and-fast definition of a skiff. You may remember that Santiago’s 16-foot “skiff” in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea had, in addition to oars, a small sail on a removable mast that the fisherman took home at night. Winslow is part of the WoodenBoat School’s fleet, but we’ve never seen a sail on her. (Brooklin, Maine)


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In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch X

The Victory Chimes sailed into Great Cove sunny Tuesday.

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But, she had to be pushed out of the Cove by her yawl boat in yesterday morning’s haze and fog.

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The 170-foot, motorless Chimes is the largest Maine coastal cruiser in the fleet and the only three-masted one. She’s now out of Rockland, Maine, but was launched in 1900 in Delaware.

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She plied the Chesapeake Bay area as the Edwin & Maude until 1954, when she came to Maine and was renamed the Victory Chimes in honor of a Canadian schooner of that name that had been launched on Armistice Day in 1918. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Swarmed

There are about 5,500 species of Dragonflies and Damselflies. We’ll never be able to identify even a fraction of them and we wonder why such a large number has survived evolution.

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Nonetheless, we try to learn as we see and we’ve been seeing Common Green Darner Dragonflies (Anax junius), such as the one above. It’s about three inches long and gets its name from its resemblance to a darning needle.

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We're also seeing Calico Pennant Dragonflies (Celithemis elisa), such as the male above that is about an inch long. He gets his first name from his brown, black, and light wing pattern (picture a Calico Cat) and its second name because it’s one of several types of “Pennant” Dragonflies – those that perch on top of vegetation where they wave like colorful pennants.

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For some reason that is not apparent, many of the smaller water-skimming cousins of the Pennants are called “Dragonlet” Dragonflies. These include the Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berrnice) shown above. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Rattled

Deadly Destroying Angel mushrooms (Amanita virosa), such as this one seen yesterday, seem to be more numerous here this August. Perhaps it’s the unusual high humidity that we’ve been having.

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In any case, this little fungus and its cousin, the Death Cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides), are the most dangerous things that mushroom-eating collectors can find in the Maine woods since poisonous snakes were extirpated from the State. Another view of the Angel:

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Unless you really know your wild mushrooms, do with any white-gilled mushroom what you’d do with a rattlesnake – leave it alone. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Sweet

Much to the delight of nectar sippers, and much to the discomfort of careless walkers, the paradoxical Bull Thistles are maturing.

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On the one hand, this non-native weed produces far more nectar for pollinators than most flowers; on the other hand, it’s an invasive species that you better not try to pull out of the ground bare-handed. Below, we see what appears to be an American Painted Lady butterfly satisfying her sweet tooth on a Bull Thistle:

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It’s also known as the Spear Thistle for obvious reasons and the Common Thistle, which is a literal translation of its scientific name, Cirsium vulgare. Here we have a Hummingbird Moth taking some sips:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: The Morning After

This is dawn today in Great Cove.

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At the WoodenBoat School pier in the Cove. we can see some of the boats that raced in yesterday’s annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta:

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The sailors celebrated the famous Regatta’s finish at a party last night under tents on WBS’s waterfront field. It looks like most of them are sleeping-in this morning:

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The 15-mile race for wooden sailboats, first run in 1985, ends here in the Cove, just to the left of Babson Island in the image above. There were well over 100 boats in this year’s Regatta, a good number of which hailed from distant ports in the U.S. and beyond. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Puffery

We usually have problems identifying Sandpipers, especially when they’re flying. Our best guess as to the ones in the images here – based on size, plumage, and their being in our field pond – is that they’re Pectoral Sandpipers.

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But these images were taken in August, when Pectorals (if that's what these are) are supposed to have already migrated to Canada, Alaska, and the Arctic.

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Anyway, we have an excuse to point out that Pectoral Sandpipers get their name from the males’ puffing out their chests (pectoral muscles) to impress the females.

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It just occurs to us that we have fewer problems identifying Pectoral Humans than we do Sandpipers. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Rubs

Being a Master Harbor Cat can be grueling. Take Jethro here, for example; he’s the MHC for Great Cove Harbor. We interviewed him on August 1, a cat holiday celebrated as the beginning of Intense Summer.

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He says that he’s proud of his record for keeping the WoodenBoat School’s Boat House and Pier secure from terrorist rodents. He also shrugs off the fact that he’s sacrificed his body to countless male and female sailors who needed a rub for luck and safety.

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“It’s a tough life,” he says, “but some feline’s got to do it."

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch IX

It’s yesterday morning; we’re watching the schooner Mary Day departing Great Cove and entering a fog bank in Eggemoggin Reach. Her sails pick up some of the sun that’s attacking the fog, but she soon disappears in the mull.

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Mary is a 125-foot schooner with classic mercantile coastal cruiser lines, but she was built in 1962 just for vacation cruises. (She has heat in every cabin!) She’s a frequent visitor to the Cove and always a welcome sight. Here's another image from our extensive file on her:


(Brooklin, Maine)


July Postcards From Maine

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July Postcards From Maine

July was the beneficiary of good June weather. The woods and streams were lush most of the month, but we did get more fog than we'd like. Nonetheless,  the fog turns our lanes and gardens into a dream-like fantasy. Toward the end of the month when the fog and overcast let up, we finally could see the spectacular (almost full) moon rise.

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July is when summer wildflowers reestablish residence here. They're ruled from the fields by Queen Anne's Lace. The Royalty is tended by commoners, including pink Crown and purple Cow Vetch. The wild Day Lilies come early in the month and the Golden Rod reveals itself toward the  month's end. Meanwhile, the native Fragrant Water Lily flowers and pads are at their prime in the marsh ponds.

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July also is when the domestic flowers in the many gardens here begin to peak. Of course there are pink Roses. But there also are blue-purple Liatris, yellow ornamental Sunflowers, red Cosmos, blue and white Lacecap Hydrangeas, multi-colored Honeysuckle hybrids, and many more garden delights.

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Our visiting and resident animals seem to know that they can relax here in our part of "Vacationland." Great Blue Herons with six-foot wingspans are overhead and in the marshes; Red Squirrels and Porcupines seem to do a little less damage as they enjoy some time off; Broad-Winged hawks hunt from treetops; Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds hunt among the Bee Balm; male Red-Winged Blackbirds stand guard as the much smaller females take baths on lily pads, and Painted Turtles build apartment complexes for themselves.

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The return of the Monarch Butterflies has been high on our July checklist since these insects started to be threatened by, among other things, lack of milkweed (the only thing their caterpillars eat). But, return they did this year. They laid eggs on the milkweed and their striking yellow, black, and white caterpillars were soon munching the plant leaves. Also returning were the dazzling 12-Spotted Skimmer Dragonflies.

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As with the Monarchs, keeping tabs on the coastal schooners and fishing vessels is part of our July checklist.  The schooners visit our Great Cove where their passengers can visit the famous WoodenBoat School campus. Below, we see the Brigantine Actress reflecting herself and the schooners Stephen Taber (under sail) and Tree of Life (anchored) in the Cove. Below them, the fog is lifting in our Naskeag Harbor to reveal the fishing vessel Colby & Bryce.

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Of course, there are many smaller, recreational boats that ply our waters or just pose in them, including this assortment:

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Finally, July contains Independence Day and Brooklin is famous for its July 4th parade, band music, and food and games at the Town Commons, which we reported on in a separate post. But here, as a reminder, is Old Glory leading the parade marching up Naskeag Road:

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(Brooklin, Maine; all images taken in July 2018)


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In the Right Place: Bobbing

Greater Yellowlegs Sandpipers such as this one are regular visitors to Great Cove in the summer. They’re shy and, as they fly away, they curse in the foulest of bird language, judging from the raucousness of their expletives.

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They do sometimes perform comedic routines, however:  They’ll wade slowly up to their boney knees in the Cove; then, they’ll run erratically here and there after zipping fish; then, they’ll stop in consternation and bob their little heads repeatedly like a pump handle.

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Can you guess which is larger, the Greater Yellowlegs or Lesser Yellowlegs Sandpiper?  Okay, that was too easy. But, can you imagine the plain Yellowlegs Sandpiper that is greater than the Lesser and lesser than the Greater? Well, there are no plain Yellowlegs in this bird family – you’re born into it either Greater or Lesser. (Brooklin, Maine)