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In the Right Place: Seeing Red

Here we see the Angelique resting in Great Cove earlier this month:

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She soon raised her famous tanbark-colored sails and left the Cove fully loaded:

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Angelique is a 130-foot gaff topsail ketch out of Camden, Maine. She’s one of our more easily identified tourist coasters due to her distinctive overhanging fantail, plumb bow, and, of course, reddish sails that evoke thoughts of historic sail-making. In days of yore, when sails were made of cotton, the sailcloth often was dipped in a vat of tannins extracted from tree bark to protect the sails against rot. The resulting red-brown color was (and is) called tanbark, although “bark-tan” would seem more apt.

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Another distinctive characteristic of Angelique is that her crew encourages their passengers to row the schooner’s longboat ashore and back for land activities.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Delicacy

This little fellow could sit on a nickel and still have room to stretch. He’s an Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) and part of the toad migration now hopping through our woods. A few days ago, the little toads like this were tadpoles; now, they’re looking for homesteads.

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If he grows up, he’ll be somewhere between two and four inches long and capable of eating 1,000 insects daily. To protect against predators, he exudes a mild poison from his cranial crests. That toxin can irritate human eyes and mucous membranes and make dogs sick, but it doesn’t bother the Garter Snakes that think toads are a delicacy. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Late Bloomers

Many of the more exotic Rhododendrons, including Azaleas, were late in blooming on our coast this year, apparently due to our freeze-thaw-freeze winter and wet-cold spring. However, during this week, we’ve finally seen the riotous colors that some of these Rhodies produce.

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Our favorites are the stunning pink-orange Azalea above and red evergreen Rhody below.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Blur

This bird is heard more often than seen. When seen, he’s usually just one of several flying brown blurs that are impossible to focus on without equipment. But, when occasionally seen clearly in the underbrush, he’s surprisingly cute in a brown-feathered way.

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Yes, he’s a Song Sparrow. Here, he’s apparently trying to attract a mate late in the courtship season. As with many other birds, female Song Sparrows are attracted most to the males that add novel improvisations to the specie’s usual calls. This lonely soloist inserted some complicated cadenzas that sounded pretty good to us, but no female Sparrow showed up to applaud. There was no sense in taking a bow.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Cushy

We’re in Great Cove yesterday morning watching the Stephen Taber. There’s virtually no wind, so she’s being turned by a crew member in her powerful yawl boat, Babe, which is lashed to her stern. Once the Taber is pointed toward Eggemoggin Reach and its better winds, the crew member will climb onboard and Babe will become the vessel’s outboard motor.

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This 110-foot windjammer has no engine, which is the way things were in 1871, when she was launched into the rugged 19th Century commercial coasting fleet.

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Now, the Taber is a spiffy National Historic Landmark out of Rockland, Maine; life on her can be pretty cushy.

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She’s now on an advertised five-day “Gourmet Gastropub Cruise” with Chef James Tranchemontagne at the stove and lecturing on cooking. He’s the owner of the Frog & Turtle restaurant in Westbrook, Maine.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that she’s just a lush floating lounge, though. When she’s racing with all her canvas up, passengers better hold on:

Prior Year Image

Prior Year Image

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Dark and Darker

Deciduous tree leaves have filled much of the canopy of our spruce-fir-hardwood forests, making the woods darker in many areas. Two of our more bashful plants that love shadows are emerging there: Star Flowers and Lady’s Slippers.

Multitudes of tiny Star Flowers are sprinkling the dappled and dark mossy areas of our woods and many of them are “Lucky Stars”: plants that have seven leaves and seven-petalled flowers.

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The less common Lady’s Slippers need things darker and danker for their delicate foot-ware. These wild orchids grow only in moist soil that contains the mycorrhizae fungus, which provides the plants necessary energy and nutrients.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Down East Tale

This is the Lewis R. French in Great Cove early yesterday morning, waiting to raise sail.

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She sailed out of the Cove in a light rain that, by afternoon, had worked itself into a psychotic torrent of a storm. The drenched tourists on this schooner will have a good tale to tell when they get home.

The 101-foot French was launched in 1871 out of Christmas Cove, Maine. She was built there by the French brothers and named after their father. In her youth, her life was varied and hard: Among other things, she freighted bricks, granite, fish, lime, firewood, and Christmas trees.

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Now, the French is a classic and almost luxurious coastal cruiser out of Camden, Maine; she takes visitors out for leisurely multi-day sails, roving the islands and coves of Down East Maine and serving exquisite food. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Candelabra Time

Our Horse Chestnut Trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) are sprouting their beautiful candelabra-shaped flower stalks now.

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These unusual trees are native to the Balkans. They were imported into England in 1616, primarily for landscape use, and then exported to the United States for similar purposes – it’s unusual to find one within the woods. It was called a chestnut tree because of similarities to the European Sweet Chestnut Tree (Castanea sativa), but it’s not related to that tree.

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Most botanists say that it was called a “Horse” Chestnut because the Turks fed its seeds to cure coughing horses. Some also say that it got that name because, when the trees’ leaves fall, they leave scars on their twigs that look like horseshoes with nail holes. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: The Chase

These are our Lilac days. The bushes are offering large, fragrant scoops of their delicious-looking dessert. The flowers are edible, but they don’t taste nearly as good as they look and smell.

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Folklore tells us that the purple Lilac is the flower of our first love and the white Lilac is the flower of our once youthful innocence.

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In Greek mythology, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, saw the beautiful nymph Syringa and immediately gave chase for reasons other than conversation. She escaped his clutches by turning herself into a Lilac bush (probably white). That’s why the scientific name for the Lilac genus is Syringa. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Awakening

This is early yesterday morning. The sun has just crested the ridge and is peering into Great Cove; there’s virtually no wind; the tide is rolling slowly out as an undulating mirror. It’s quiet. There are no other people here to see the boats awaken.

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We focus on an odd pair of residents. Martha is a gracefully sturdy 20-foot Salee Rover Sloop owned by neighbor Rich Hilsinger. She squints into the sun, languidly taking in its warmth.

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Geronimo is a strong and fast 18-foot West Pointer skiff designed and originally built by Alton Wallace. She’s fully awake and eager to be let off the leash to start the day’s ferrying, pushing, and pulling for her WoodenBoat School masters. See the image in the first Comment space. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Attached

You’re looking at the subject of an important recent court decision on Maine shore rights. This is Rockweed, which is the common name for several forms of seaweed that attach themselves to rocks. The plants are havens for marine life, but also are harvested commercially for human food and fertilizer uses.

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that Rockweed that is growing in the inter-tidal zone (ITZ) of a private property belongs to the owner of that property and may not be harvested without that owner’s permission. The ITZ is defined as the area between the average high and low tide lines up to a maximum distance of “100 rods” (1,650 feet).

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Everything within the ITZ belongs to the upland property owner, but is subject to public use for “fishing, fowling, and navigation” – ancient words that are broadly interpreted to provide a reasonable balance between modern public and private shore rights. For example, the public has a right to dig (colloquially, to “fish”) for clams and bloodworms in the ITZ. But, the Court ruled, it would be going too far to interpret Rockweed harvesting as fishing, fowling, or navigation. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: All in the Family

Our nectar-starved bees are overjoyed: Azaleas are now appearing in profusion. The cold spring apparently delayed many Azalea blossoms.

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There also is the question of what to call them now. Since the nosy horticultural genealogists reclassified Azaleas into the Rhododendron genus, there has been some confusion among those of us who are not experts.

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 As we understand the situation, all Azaleas are now Rhododendrons, but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas. Most Azaleas are deciduous; most non-Azalea (“true”) Rhodies are evergreen. Azaleas have funnel-shaped flowers; most true Rhody flowers are bell-shaped. Most Azaleas have 5 stamens per lobe; true Rhodies have 10 or more.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Elongated

This is one of our bears that probably won’t destroy any bird feeders. It’s a Banded Woolly Bear, also called a Woolly Worm and Fuzzy Worm. These caterpillars are the just-hatched larva of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharcticia Isabella).

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According to unsubstantiated folklore, Woolies predict the weather (especially winter weather) by the number and size of their reddish-brown segments – more red means milder. By the way, the origin of the word “caterpillar” apparently is the Old French word “chatepelose,” literally “hairy cat.” But, English children thought that the lumbering insects looked more like little elongated bears. (Brooklin, Maine)

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May Postcards From Maine

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May Postcards From Maine

This year we had the most disappointing May that we’ve had here for a long time: mostly cold fog and rain But it did provide some wonderful experiences.

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When the sun did come out, we jumped at the chance to experience the jewel-like Maine spring days. that May is (or was) famous for.

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Nonetheless, our resident Gulls seemed not to mind the drizzly fog and our large migrant fishing birds seem to have wintered well. We have a pair of Ospreys building a love nest in the top of a Balsam Fir on the shore of Brooklin’s Great Cove and colonies of Double-Crested Cormorants seem larger than usual.

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Tree Swallows have been here all month and our spring warblers are still coming in. (Below there are three images of Tree Swallows, then these Warblers: Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-Rumped, Northern Parula, American Redstart, and [singing] Yellow.)

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In terms of our tough resident birds who braved our winter, our male American Goldfinches donned their summer yellow suits and our male Wild Turkeys were still strutting in May.

Our favorite reptiles came out of hibernation in large numbers, We have at least seven Painted Turtles in our pond; they usually bask in threes and fours.

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Moving from pond water to the sea, Great Cove came alive in May. Blue Sky was the first fishing vessel to set and tend lobster traps there, small sailboats and pulling boats were moored there again, and the first Coastal Schooner, Angelique, arrived on May 30 and left the next day.

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Of course, May also is the month for blossoms. Here are just a few (Shadblow, Quince, Forsythia, Plum, and Crabapple. )

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We celebrate Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in May, when neighbor Judith Fuller hangs her famous road banner and flags fly over veterans’ graves. This year, we also had a “Flower Full Moon” that was a New Moon, as well.

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(All above images taken during May of 2019 in Down East, Maine.)










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In the Right Place: She's Back

This is Blue Sky coming into Great Cove yesterday morning.

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She’s one of our fishing vessels that are starting the summer-fall lobster season now, after spending the winter “on the hard.” Here we see owners Sandy and John White hauling up a trap as Blue Sky idles

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The traps need to be emptied and rebaited (preferably with smelly herring) in a bait bag.

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Below we see Sandy putting bait into the orange bait bag and John tossing back lobsters that are not within the legal limit. (You can see a baby lobster in mid-air.) The legal limit now apparently is from 3 1/4 to 5 inches of carapace length. The carapace is the lobster’s armored body part that contains the legs and claws.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Tale of Two Tails

We were lucky to catch this mature male American Redstart at rest for a second before it resumed its flitting patrol among the thick alder branches. Both sexes of these Warblers are vigorous invaders and defenders of territory.

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There was no sign of a mate. Female Redstarts have no red jewelry. They’re white and gray-olive, with yellow patches on their wings and tail. So are first-year male Redstarts, making identifications difficult for amateurs like us.

The mature male’s red-orange tail patches are how the birds got their name, even though that name is descriptive only of older male Redstarts: “start” derives from the Middle English “stert,” meaning tail. (Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Welcome

It’s another foggy-drizzly-chilly day here in the Vacationland State. Old-timers are saying that this has been the most disappointing Spring ever. Nonetheless, many of the purple azaleas are at their peak and deep red tulips are standing tall.

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Thye’re like neon Welcome signs on a dark road.

(Brooklin, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Game of Stones

This is Schoodic Point on Saturday (May 25), where exciting scenes can be enjoyed without staring at a digital screen.

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This peninsular, located in Winter Harbor, is the only part of Acadia National Park that is not on an island.  Its massive granite ledges and volcanic basalt dykes have been fighting a war of attrition against the Atlantic Ocean since time immemorial.

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Danger is in the history here, where sailing ships have foundered and a few careless climbers have had serious falls and even been caught by rogue waves and swept to sea.

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Real thrills mixed with three-dimensional beauty are still possible.

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(Winter Harbor, Maine)

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In the Right Place: Service

Today is the most profound of our three annual military recognition days: it’s Memorial Day, when we honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The other days are May 18, Armed Forces Day, when we honored those on active duty and November 11, Veterans Day, when we’ll honor those who previously served in the military.

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The image above is from the full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery for someone we think of on all three days: Don Green, a good friend, colleague, and former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. More images of his ceremony are below, followed by local images.

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The above military ceremony for our friend was several years ago, but we also visited Brooklin’s Naskeag Cemetery yesterday to honor many local veterans whom we never knew. Most notable, perhaps, was William Reed, a Captain in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army who participated in “The Battle of Naskeag,” a 1778 skirmish with Redcoats not far from the cemetery.

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Veterans from many other eras are buried there, including those under these gravestones:

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At the Naskeag Cemetery yesterday, we were reminded that hope often emerges from sadness — the beautiful crab apple trees there are about to bloom.:

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(Brooklin, Maine).

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In the Right Place: Dabs

For once, the Ornithological High Priests who name birds were able to come up with a name that is simple, true, and memorable: this is a male Yellow Warbler.

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Yellow Warblers have more yellow on their little (about 5-inch) bodies than any other of our warblers. Both sexes resemble dabs of sunshine. The males have rusty breast streaks, as you see above. The females don’t have those streaks or only faintly have:

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The males are very musically talented – they reportedly compose and perform up to 3.240 different happy arias a day to attract females, but they also hiss like snakes when protecting their territory.

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(Brooklin, Maine)

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