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ELLSWORTH AMERICAN

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September 13, 2018

IN THE RIGHT PLACE: SHADOWS AND GHOSTS

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The fog is thick. There’s about 15 feet of visibility as we begin to pick our way along Great Cove’s rocky shore. Above the sound of the lapping tide we hear “Whump- Whump- Whump” – silence – “Whump- Whump- Whump.” We think we know what it is: big wings pushing and pulling heavy air, then gliding. Very near. We wait.

It emerges as a silent shadow almost directly over us: its legs and toes are perfectly aligned and its huge wings are extended straight out, a gliding swan dive that defies gravity; its war bonnet plumes are streaming from its prehistoric head; its long beak is a spearhead piercing the fog. Then, its wings move in large, rolling undulations -- “Whump- Whump- Whump.” It disappears in the mull. We’ve glimpsed a Great Blue Heron or the ghost of one.

Great Blues are the largest Herons in the United States and are common summer visitors in Maine. They breed and nest in dense colonies here, usually along the coast. However, there has been a noticeable decline in their nests and the State has listed the Great Blue as a “Species of Special Concern.”

In 2009, Maine wildlife officials initiated a continuing study to help find the causes of the Great Blue’s decline. There apparently have been no definitive results yet, but we have learned from the study that some of our Great Blues take their winter vacations in Florida, Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas.

-- Richard Leighton

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August 9, 2018

In the Right Place: Meet the neighbor

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Summer is when we often meet new seasonal neighbors, which usually is fun. However, the first meeting with this summer’s most intriguing new neighbor did not go well – he was in the process of destroying our birdfeeder. He’s the biggest Black Bear that we’ve ever had visit us; we guess that he runs well over 400 pounds. Watching a creature that big trying to munch tiny seeds would have been laughable were it not for the fact that he and we were eyeing each other at 40 feet and he had put our birdfeeder seriously out of torque.

But, he was true to his Black Bear Code. We yelled at him as if we were in charge and he loped away unapologetically. We eventually came to a neighborly understanding with him: we wouldn’t replace the birdfeeder and he wouldn’t come close to the house. He saunters by in our field at dusk every now and then, we wave to him and he seems to nod a “How’s-it-goin’?”

Maine contains more Black Bears than any of the lower 48 states. Black Bears virtually never attack out of aggression or even for protection of cubs, according to State Wildlife officials, Apparently, the few reported dangerous confrontations in the State virtually always relate to very hungry bears, available food, and panic by the bear and/or human.

-- Richard Leighton

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July 12, 2018

In the Right Place: Thwack

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The Bald Eagle was chosen in 1782 as the emblem of the United States because of the animal’s majestic appearance, strength, and long life. However, this bird always has had its critics. Even Benjamin Franklin famously complained that it was ”a rank coward” of “bad moral character.”

Nonetheless, we suspect that most of the Bald Eagle’s critics have never carefully watched one soaring on its seven-foot wingspan high above a river, then banking severely, spiraling down fast in smaller and smaller circles, pulling up to skim the water, thrusting its talons straight out at the last moment, and plucking its prey with a splashy “thwack.”

-- Richard Leighton

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