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In the Right Place: Summer Construction

This presumably female Broad-Winged Hawk has gotten our hopes up. We’ve seen her several times this week near a historic raptors’ nest.

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In June of 2017, a pair of BWHs successfully raised four of the cutest raptors you’ll ever see in that secluded nest.

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Female BWHs are the primary movers in selecting and building sturdy nests, although males have been known to help in the summer construction.

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They usually nest in dense woods, where they can better protect their eggs and fledglings from raccoons, porcupines, owls, other hawks, and crows. Initially, they’ll hunt with their offspring in those woods and around field and pond edges for frogs, toads, snakes, small rodents, and large insects.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Land of Plenty

When it’s clear, we can see two island mountains that remind us of the area’s French history. Below this paragraph, we view the top of Champlain Mountain rising above and well behind the islands in Eggemoggin Reach.  (May 8 image) Mount Champlain is about 11 miles to the south-south-west of us on Isle au Haut (“High Mountain Island”), which was named in 1604 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

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Below this second paragraph, we view Cadillac Mountain across Blue Hill Bay. (Last Year’s image) That mountain is about 18 miles to the east-north-east of us on another French-named island, Mount Desert (“Barren Mountain”) Island (MDI). It’s in the original part of Acadia National Park and was named in honor of French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Sieur de Cadillac who, in 1688, was given ownership of MDI, among other lands around here.

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During the 17th Century, much of North America’s northeast, including what is now the Canadian Maritime Provinces and Maine, was the French Colony of L’Acadie (“Acadia,” a transliteration of a Native American word for “Land of Plenty”). (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Blurs

Here’s a newly-arrived member of royalty that nobody bows to. She’s a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet – little king – but she’ll never wear a crown. Only the males of her species have crowns, and they only show their red daubs when they’re excited.

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Otherwise, male and female RCKs wear identical commoners’ wardrobes on their four-inch bodies. Thus, they’re all but invisible to casual observers. But, these flying blurs do lead extraordinary lives. For one thing, this female likely will lay up to 12 eggs this month, each of which could weigh as much as she does. While she’s incubating her dozen future royals, her mate will be working his crown off to feed her. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Awakenings

Bears are not the only things that emerge from hibernation in the spring. Many boats are emerging from their winter sleep now. Here’s Free Spirit, a beautiful 1948 Concordia sloop, coming out of its cave at the WoodenBoat School last week to get ready for the sailing season.

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Also at WoodenBoat, smaller boats are being hauled out of storage and being prepared to reenter the water:

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On the commercial side of things, the aptly-colored Sun’s Up returned to Connery Cove a few days ago; she’ll soon be lobstering again:

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Come June, there’ll be many more boats in our waters than bears in our woods. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Splendor

This Japanese Flowering Crabapple (Malus floribunda) is one of our very old neighbors. It’s not native, but it’s a welcome sight at any time of the year. Here, we see it on Wednesday (May 8), as it’s spring leaves are beginning to form a green crown.

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Soon, that crown will become a profusion of pink and red buds that, by early summer, will have evolved into a shimmering white mass of flowers. In the fall and early winter, the tree’s yellow and red fruit will appear and drop, much to the satisfaction of our deer and other wildlife. In the winter snow, its arthritic architecture will be dramatically silhouetted, reminding us that there can be splendor in resilient old age. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Tasty

We have a very busy Muskrat in a nearby marsh pond. It appears to be digging several burrows with underwater entrances.

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Muskrats are powerful swimmers with webbed hind feet and side-swishing tails; they can swim backwards and hold their breath up to 20 minutes. These rodents get their name from the strong scent that they use to mark their territory.

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They once were hunted widely for their soft fur and purported rabbit-like taste – “sauté until golden,” according to one recipe. (Brooklin, Maine; prior year images)

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In the Right Place: Quietude

This was a moment from yesterday: an uncertain sun; a slight chill; greening grass; budding branches; a float ready to return to Great Cove; a canoe waiting to be painted; quietude, except for the singing robin.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: On the Fly

Some Tree Swallows are building their nests here now. The females usually contribute the twigs; the males usually finish up with a feather lining. They’ll be incubating eggs within about two weeks, if weather conditions allow. Males share the feeding chores and sometimes help with incubating.

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While some Tree Swallows are building their nests, others are hanging out, watching WoodenBoat School summer staff prepare the campus for this year’s programs.  Nest building usually precedes boatbuilding at WBS.

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A pair of these fast-flying acrobats needs a daily diet of about 6,000 small insects – all caught in the air – to feed themselves and their four to seven fledglings. Extended periods of spring cold and rain (when small insects don’t fly) can have a devastating effect on the birds. Tree Swallows not only eat on the fly, they drink and bathe while skimming over still water.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Gentleness

Here we see the first Painted Turtle to resurrect itself from the muddy tombs at the bottom of our pond. She appeared yesterday. If history is prologue, she’ll soon be joined by three or four male and female summer painters to form a “bale” of basking turtles.

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She’ll eventually accept a male’s gentle suggestion, dive with him into the pond depths, mate, and return to the surface to wait for a sensation. When she gets that sensation, she’ll climb up into our North Field, make her nest, lay her eggs, and return to the pond while they incubate.

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 If the raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and crows don’t find the eggs, some of the hatchlings may come back to our pond; others will look elsewhere for a summer place with a water view. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Legends

Yesterday’s early-morning fog and rain bent this Daffodil, but also bejeweled her. The sun soon smiled on her and she perked up nicely.

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Surprisingly, Daffodils were named after the ancient Asphodel plant, which Greek legend associated with death, graves, and the underworld. We prefer to associate Daffodils with renewal of life, especially after a Spring rain. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Rumps

It’s bad enough to be named a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. But, when you’re called a “Myrtle Form Yellow-Rumped Warbler,” it’s time to go hide in the Cat Tails, as this little fellow was doing Wednesday (May 1).

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In 1973, the American Ornithologist’s Union dictated that four American warblers should all be called forms of the Yellow-Rumped Warbler. These forms were the eastern Myrtle, western Audubon’s, Mexican Black-Fronted, and Guatemalan Goldman’s Warblers. There is now a proposal to reverse that decision and go back to considering each of these birds a separate species of warbler.

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By the way, Mrytles were not named after someone’s great aunt. They got that name because they’re the only warblers that eat and can digest wax-myrtle berries, which are among the fruits and seeds in their diets when insects are not available. That broader diet helps them to be among the first and last migrating warblers that we see; in fact, some Mrytles reportedly are now staying north through the winter. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Finally!

This wild Red Maple (Acer rubrum) was in flower yesterday, as are many other trees in the woods. Red Maples can produce both male and female flowers or just flowers of one sex, all of which look like little sea creatures. The ones shown here appear to be males because they have pollen-tipped stamens. (Female flowers have stigmas that extend far out, ready to catch the pollen.)

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The “fruit” of the pollinated female Red Maple is in the form of red winged seeds (“double samaras”) that spiral (helicopter) down to the ground before the leaves are fully out. Sugar Maples, on the other hand, have green winged seeds that stay on those trees until late summer or fall. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Air-Blown

Double-Crested Cormorants come back to the Ellsworth Marina moorings well before the boats do. These birds are perhaps our most skilled fishing birds.

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They dive deeply and stay under dark water for long periods, peering with specialized blue eyes for fish and eels. Their muscular legs pump their two big webbed feet simultaneously and their short wings are used as submarine rudders.

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Those short wings may be good for flying under water, but Cormorants need a long runway to take off into the air above water. They frequently just stand around with wings spread. They’re not praying.

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Their outer feathers are adapted to absorb water and repel air bubbles, which reduces buoyancy and creates speed underwater. However, Cormorant feathers get wetter than those of other water birds and need to be warmed and air-blown dry. See also the image in first Comment space. (Ellsworth, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Comings and Goings

Temperamental April left yesterday, giving us a weak smile that was enough to brighten the woods that she left damp.

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Hopeful May arrived this morning and cheerily got right to work at greening the trees and fields.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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April Postcards From Maine

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April Postcards From Maine

Sure, April showers bring May flowers, but this year’s April seemed a bit too exuberant in the precipitation department. She merrily throttled us with too much fog, snow, and rain – sometimes all in one day – not to mention nights of high winds and residues of treacherous ice. That said, however, we have to admit that she did give us some good moments.

April’s fog could be a gentle veil, slowly changing our familiar surroundings into a mystical kingdom.

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Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. April delivered so much snow that we began to hate the stuff. But, of course, the snow often was breath-taking on the way down and for a few hours thereafter.

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In the end, it was the rising temperatures and — mostly — the rain that did in the snow. We had torrential rains and had them often. Small, mossy-banked streams in the dark woods became hilarious with their new power; large streams emptied into bays in a jailbreak of whitewater; wooded lowlands became swamps, and Red Squirrels hunkered down in the pouring rain and prayed for sunshine.

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Our coves and harbors were additional targets of April’s moods. Sometimes, she serenely allowed those waters to remain calm and reflective; at other times, she unleashed her wind furies.

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Of course, there’s more to April than her dramatic weather. The month is when we say goodbye to the Common eiders that winter in our bays and coves. It’s also usually the first month that we see Ospreys reopening their high summer condos and Canada Geese looking for their own warm weather real estate.

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As far as our resident feathered neighbors, April is when our Wild Turkeys fall in love in their peculiar way: the Toms strut and the Hens judge them severely. The Hens are in control; they eagerly say yes to some self-inflated males and reject others with an “Are-You-Kidding-Me? look.

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It was late in April that we got a quick glimpse of our first snake of the year, a Common Garter Snake on the move. By then, most of the White-Tailed Deer had turned in their heavy gray winter uniforms and were sporting the thinner red-brown summer garb.

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Finally, April is the month of renewal. For some, it’s represented by the high holy day of Easter. For everyone, it can be a time to ponder and experience the joy of new life. Easter Eggs, the symbol of such new life, can bring joy even on a rainy day, as neighbor Judith Fuller’s wet road banner shows.

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(All images above taken in Down East, Maine, in April of 2019)

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In the Right Place: Strapping

Yesterday, we got our first glimpse of a snake this year; it was this Common Garter Snake, the most abundant snake species in Maine.

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Our State 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.Adult Garter Snakes here usually range in size from 18 to 26 inches, but one was recorded at almost 44 inches.

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These snakes prefer earthworms, but will eat just about any living thing that they can get their mouths around. They, in turn, are a favorite snack for many larger predators. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Elephantine

This appears to be the flower cluster for some variety of Elephant Ear Plant (Colocasia). We say “appears” because it’s one of several such clusters growing where elephant-eared leaves were seen last summer.

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This is what that spot looked like last simmer:

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The flower cluster is about four inches tall; the summer leaves were about two feet broad. Perhaps some of you gardeners and/or botanists can identify this interesting plant for us. Thanks to photographer Werner Gansz for the tip. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Redcoats Are Coming

White-Tailed Deer are changing their wardrobes. Their thick, gray winter overcoats were warm and good camouflage among the gray trees, shrubs, and fields. But, they’re no longer in fashion. Now is the time to get ahead of the season and sport red-brown grazing clothes.

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These are made of thin and wiry hair, which is cooler and harder to notice in and around the edges of fields. Some deer already are promenading in well-tailored summer suits, as you saw above and here:

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Others are showing molting patches as they grow out of their winter garb:

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In August and September, winter overcoats will come into fashion again. (Brooklin, Maine)

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