In the Right Place: Merry Mimics

As with other feathered winter residents, Blue Jays are beginning to flock here for protection (more eyes and ears) against predatory raptors that can see their prey better in a leafless landscape.

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But Blue Jays also use winter fears to their advantage, especially near bird feeders. When they can’t scare off their competition with Blue Jay curses – Northern Cardinals usually won’t budge – the Blue Jays give a perfect imitation of a Broad-Wing Hawk scream; this usually clears the feeder quickly, even though the Broad-Wings have moved south.

Some people think that the origin of the Blue Jay’s name is another of its calls: a slurred “Jay.” But more think that the name is a carryover from “Jai,” the Old French name for “gay” or “merry” given to some birds that the English later called “Jays.” See also the image in the first Comment space.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Sleety Look-Around

That ill-tempered little Nor’Easter that’s been creeping up the coast reached here late last night and dropped on us the first appreciable snow of the winter. This storm is laboring hard to continue as we speak. But, it did have its moments earlier today when we took a sleety look-around between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m.

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This storm is no Fluffy Winter Wonderland that makes you want to lie back and make snow angels. It’s mostly a mix of rain, sleet, and snow that’s more annoying than awesome; in fact, the early sleet stung enough to make you wince. The main roads were well-plowed, as usual, but the Lanes to driveways and had nor been plowed (or melted) as of early morning.

The Town Offices, Library, General Store, and Cemetery seemed to take the weather in stride.

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At Naskeag Point, the wind and rain limited snow accumulations. Nearby, recently brought-in lobster traps stood out in the gloom.

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Back at 5 Back Road, every now and then Babson Island appeared in the distance as the storm ebbed and flowed.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Novembah Weathah

Tuesday’s rain storms turned into Wednesday’s (yesterday’s) bright sun, near-gale winds (gusts up to 33 miles per hour), and freezing temperatures (low 20s F). Great Cove, which usually is calm, threw a low-tide fit, as you can see here. But, she’s pretty when she’s angry.

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She’s also devoid of boats, except for the occasional fishing vessel. Floats on piers are up and ducks and gulls have taken full occupancy.

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At seven this morning, it was sunny, 15 degrees, and there was virtually no wind. Late tonight and tomorrow are supposed to be snowy, sleety and windy, followed by a half-decent weekend. It’s already hard to remember summer’s easy-going sensations. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Where's Noah When You Need Him?

Unlike in Spain, the rain in Maine falls mainly down the chain – if you have a rain chain instead of a drain pipe and a deluge such as yesterday’s storm here.

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That rain also fell on the garden while high winds frenzied the grasses there:

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Inside, the constant rain on the windows created an abstraction of the garden:

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Fortunately, rainy days are not without their beautiful moments, if you don’t mind getting wet to see them. Raindrops on Chokecherries and Asiatic Bittersweet berries come to mind:

One of the artistic effects of rain comes when a storm is just beginning over a pond and the rain drops create water wheels within wheels:

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(Brooklin, Maine) [The last three images were not taken yesterday.]



In the Right Place: Blurs

Sparrows are more noticeable now that the leaves are mostly gone and the small birds are gathering in flocks. Basically, there are two types of sparrows out there now: brown blurs and white-streaked gray blurs. As to the grays, we seem to be getting more than our usual share. They’re Dark-Eyed Juncos and many are year-round residents here.

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But this year, apparently, more of their Canadian relatives have decided to visit and join the family feeding flocks here. Winter flocking is thought to be a defensive maneuver: the more eyes and ears they have, the easier it is for sparrows (and Crows) to detect hawks and owls that can see them better in leafless vegetation and on bare or snow-covered ground.

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No one seems to know why these birds are called Juncos, however, that name is derived from the Spanish word for the rush plant. Similarly, some people call them “Snow Birds,” derived from inaccurate yarns about the bird’s appearance predicting snow.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: In Memoriam

The top leaves on one of our Red Maple Trees did not go gently into the November nights. They flew for weeks like battle flags during attacks by driving rains and whipping winds that decimated others in their ranks. But, yesterday morning, these defiant few were gone, all of them.


It wasn’t just the wind and rain; they died mostly from “abscission,” the arboreal aging process whereby hormones and enzymes gradually dry the leaves and weaken their desperate holds until there is a tear, and then separation, and then the fatal fall, and then earthly reincarnation. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Good Enough

Here we have the beginning and end of last night’s sunset:


It wasn’t the most beautiful sunset that we’ve seen (and will see), but it was good enough to make at least one crazy old photographer leave the boring Alabama game and dash out into the cold and misty dusk to shoot it – without a jacket. Don’t tell his wife. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Classic

Lobster Boats, like good Labrador Retrievers, have a jaunty beauty that transcends their working characters.


But, there’s much more to these specialized fishing vessels than meets the uneducated eye. Here’s part of the Power&MoterYacht definition with our bracketed explanations: “The classic Maine…lobster boat is a semi-displacement vessel [part of its hull remains above (displaces less) water] notable for a springy sheerline [top hull line from bow to stern] that sweeps aft from a high, flared bow to topsides with low freeboard [distance between waterline and deck] aft and often considerable tumblehome [hull-narrowing] at the stern. *** A real lobster boat has a pronounced keel that protects the propeller and the hull is round-bottomed without hard chines [bottom angles]. The forefoot [underwater hull at bow] is usually deep, to handle head seas and to help hold the bow from falling away from the wind as the traps are hoisted aboard.”


(Brooklin, Maine)


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In the Right Place: Heritage

This canoe was the only man-made thing in Herrick Bay on Monday, November 5, when the vessel took on the aura of a scarred monument to good design.


The canoe is one of the oldest vessel designs in the world, dating at least from 7,600 BC. The vessel played an important part in North America’s history, first as one of the most sophisticated Native American possessions and then as a vehicle for early European traders and explorers. Somewhat later, Lewis and Clark relied heavily on canoes for their success.

At first, canoes were constructed by digging out tree trunks or wrapping bark on a wooden frame. Now, many are aluminum, plastic, or fiberglass. The name “canoe” is based on the Carib “kenu,” meaning dugout. Click on image to enlarge it. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Seeping

This is a symbol of November: one of our small, but rampant, woods streams during a light rain earlier in the week. November is the rainiest month in this part of Maine, according to the historical data. It’s when the wells get needed refills, the lakes and ponds get brimming full, brooks roil through the woods, and rivers flood.

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November rains’ benefit to wells is no small thing. Drilled wells are the most common source of drinking water in Maine, especially wells drilled into the bedrock to catch the sweet water that seeps through the cracks. The more rain, the more seeping. We’ve been having a lot of seeping lately. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Trapped

Many fishermen are calling it a season and bringing in their traps now for winter storage. Here we have “Blue Sky” waiting to off-load her traps at the Town Dock yesterday.

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Long Set’s traps are being unloaded there.

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The traps will be stored “on the hard” until next summer, often on the fishermen’s properties.


On the other hand, some fishermen will continue to trap lobsters, dredge for scallops, or dive for scallops during the winter.

(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Normality

When this image of last night’s sunset was taken here, it was cool, but not cold; there was a wind, but it was little more than a breeze – and our generator had been chugging since Saturday afternoon.


On that Saturday, there was no sun to set; a rain and windstorm with gusts of up to 60 miles an hour swept across Maine, and the electric power of more than 67,000 customers was snuffed out, according to the Portland Press Herald. Less than an hour after this image was taken yesterday, our line power was restored and, a little later, we watched the New England Patriots win in Foxborough.  Normality is good. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Embers

This morning dawned an unsaved hour earlier and it is SUNNY! As we speak, our generator is still running the house after yesterday’s high-winded rainstorm did something to the powerlines. November historically is Maine’s wettest month, and it’s been living up to its reputation during its first week here.


Nonetheless, the wet and gray gloom has been brightened by the glow of fall colors that seem to be lasting longer this year. Especially outstanding are the Redvein leaves that, as shown here, become smoldering embers in the rain. This plant (Enkianthus campanulatus) holds back until late fall and early winter, and then erupts in breathtaking hues of yellow, orange, and red. It’s even more spectacular in an early snowfall, which can be another of November’s weather whims. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Form and Function

Here, in the middle of Naskeag Harbor, is an example of Maine functional architecture. It’s a type of structure that you’ll see in many forms in many harbors during the primary lobster season. Its lines are not graceful, and its various names are not poetic. Most often, it’s called something like a Bait Float, Bait Barge, Bait Shed, or Bait Hut.

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It’s usually a place where lobster fishermen can buy bait and/or sell their lobsters quickly on operational days. Fishermen who aren’t ready to go through the procedure for off-loading at a larger shore facility can find a mid-harbor transaction advantageous. For example, if a fisherman is having a good day, he or she can efficiently sell a catch at the Barge and then go out again. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Being Different

These Tamarack Trees seem to glow in yesterday’s light rain and, while doing so, they are revealing their summer secret.


At a distance in the summer, it’s hard to tell the Tamaracks from their neighbors, the Balsam Firs, Pines, and Spruces. All are a mass of green-needled branches. But, in fall and early winter, the Tamaracks flare into incandescence before they drop their needles and sprinkle gold around their trunks. These trees are different from most: they’re “deciduous” (not evergreen), but “coniferous” (cone-bearing), and “monoecious” (they produce male and female cones).

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“Tamarack” reportedly is the Algonquin Tribe’s name for “snowshoe wood.” Nonetheless, some Mainers call the tree a “Hackmatack” (the Abanaki Tribe’s name) or a “Larch” (from Latin and German names for European pine-like trees). (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Gizzards

Common Eiders again are arriving at the Blue Hill Reversing Falls for their annual winter convocation, which always is a welcome winter sight. In prior years, upwards of 500 of these birds (our largest native ducks) spent most of the winter there diving for crustaceans and mollusks.

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There seems to have been fewer in the past two years. Perhaps the decreasing number of wild blue mussels near the Falls has made it less popular with the newer generations. However, they do their share of depleting mussels and clams -- they swallow them whole and leave the shelling to their gizzards.

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(Blue Hill, Maine)


October Postcards From Maine

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October Postcards From Maine

October is the most colorful month. Magnificent Maples provide their last shade with glorious hues; Blueberry fields bleed purple; Enkianthus flames red, and field ponds capture and subdue the colors.

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As the leaves fall, new light brightens the dark woods. Some leaves find soft resting places; others race in the rain-swollen wooded brooks.

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There were many spectacular October days when the wind whipped the sea and the clouds sailed fast.

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Late in the month, some lobster boats begin to bring in their traps and call it a season. October also is when the WoodenBoat School finishes taking its fleet and pier float out of the water, completes storage of mooring gear, and closes its doors for the winter.

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Hunting season begins in late October and the migrating birds that have not left yet get edgy. Among the extensive wildlife that we saw this month are White-Tailed Deer, Spotted Sandpipers, Great Blue Herons, and Wood Ducks.

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Around the houses and barns, the last Rose bloomed, Hydrangea Tree blossoms turned dusky pink, and stove wood was cut, split, and stored.

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Of course, October is when the World Series is played, and this year New England’s favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, won the Series convincingly. Judith Fuller’s Red Sox banner flew alongside Naskeag Road during the Series. Tonight also is Halloween and even some of our local birds put Jack O’ Lanterns outside their houses.

Finally, October brings the first of the multi-colored winter sunsets, which will get better and better as the sunlight lowers and the days grow colder.

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(All images here were taken in Down East Maine during October 2018.)

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In the Right Place: Bittersweet Update

The beautiful scaffolding climbing many trees here is changing from cautionary yellow to dangerous red. The golden husks on the Asian Bittersweet vines (Celastrus orbiculatus) are opening, exposing the hidden glossy-red berries that the birds eat. It’s a tragic collaboration.


The birds spread this tree-assassin’s seeds so profusely that all known countermeasures to completely eradicate or even to get ahead of the invader’s propagation have been failures. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Congratulations, Sox!

The fabulous new World Series Champs may be called the Boston Red Sox, but they’re New England’s team to most baseball fans up here and apparently in the other New England states.


We hope that, if the Sox eventually must move out of their quirky/tiny (but wonderful/historic) Fenway Park, they’ll follow the New England Patriots example. The Pats were the Boston Patriots until 1971, when they moved out to Foxborough, Massachusetts, and become the only National Football League team with a multi-state moniker.

We see here neighbor Judith Fuller’s banner, which has been flying on Naskeag Road for about 10 days. (Brooklin, Maine)