What are you seeing out there? We'd love to hear from you! The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.

Usually we send these updates monthly. Sorry for the delay on this edition. All of the contributions below are seen immediately in our Facebook group. Click here to join.

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If you come across a lot of feathers scattered on the ground in one place, you have likely found the remains of a predator’s meal. A common avian predator in our area is the Cooper’s hawk. Around 16 inches in length, the pattern of the Cooper’s hawk is very similar to the smaller Sharp-shinned hawk, also present in our area. They can be easily confused, as relative size is very difficult to determine. The hawk in this picture just took a mourning dove. As those doves are about 12 inches in length and the hawk is clearly much larger, best bet is the Cooper’s hawk. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer, March 5, 2019)
Porcupines are active all winter long, often stripping small trees and branches completely of bark. A few weeks ago one slept in the sun for several hours in a tree near my house. One of the best ways to find a porcupine this time of year is to notice when there is an odd shape up in a tree. If you pay attention, and look up now and again, you may be rewarded by the site of a large roundish shape. It just might be a sleeping porcupine. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer, March 12, 2019)
This is a very exciting time of year to watch and listen for seasonal changes. We are beginning to hear more songs from those birds who have been here all winter, as well as those beginning to return from their wintering grounds. I’m hearing the spring call of the chickadees now: “fee bee.” According to bird experts, this call is usually sung by males announcing their territories and trying to attract a mate. The more common “chick-a-dee dee dee” call can be heard all year long.

Cornell’s All About Birds Web site reports: “Chickadee calls are complex and language-like, communicating information on identity and recognition of other flocks as well as predator alarms and contact calls. The more dee notes in a chickadee-dee-dee call, the higher the threat level.” Click here to hear the calls. I encourage you to go for a walk outside and listen to the lively "spring is coming" bird chatter! (Submitted by Lynn Knight, March 17, 2019)
This time of year, when so much of our area is either covered in white or shaded in the browns and grays of winter, some of our smallest plants coat parts of the forest in vibrant green. On a cold January day this year walking through Long Reach Preserve enjoying the green patches of moss, I noticed some frozen droplets covering the capsules on the end of the moss seta (the stalk that supports the capsule), creating a lovely miniature scene on the forest floor. Taking time to appreciate both large and small members of our ecological community is time very well spent. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer, March 19, 2019)
Blue jays have been with us all winter, blustering their way into feeding stations with their aggressive calls. They are beginning to build nests five to 20 feet off the ground under cover in the notch of two branches, using live twigs for the outer nest for strength. Warm days will see the emergence of hibernating creatures like woodchucks, soaking up the sun and hoping to find green grass to stimulate their digestive systems after a long time without eating. Read more on our website: (Contributed by Ed Robinson, photo by David H. Chipman, March 20, 2019)
Be on the lookout! One of the earliest wildflowers to bloom, skunk cabbage ( Symplocarpus foetidus ) will typically show itself in early April. It only grows in floodplains of rivers and streams, and the edges of forested freshwater wetlands. It’s emerging spadix (calla lily-type flower) produces chemicals that can melt the snow around it to allow sprouting to occur. The flowers give off the smell of rotting meat that attracts flies, one of the few pollinators around this early in the season. Native Americans used the leaves of the skunk cabbage as a sort-of wax paper to line berry baskets, drying racks or steaming pits. They also used skunk cabbage as an early spring famine food after steaming or roasting it. (Contributed by Lynn Knight, March 25, 2019)
It has been about a year since I started keeping a nature journal to record the seasonal changes I see around my home and elsewhere in Harpswell. In the past week and a half, signs of spring have been quickly appearing. Blue herons, gold finches, phoebes, red-winged blackbirds and egrets are among the birds that I have seen return from their winter habitats. Checking my journal entries from last year, I see that it was about the same time last year that I observed they returned. I saw my first turtles basking in the sun two days ago and yesterday, April 14th, I heard wood frogs and peepers singing for the first time. Last year, I heard peepers two weeks earlier on March 30th. Also last year, I observed colts foot flowering on April 5th. This year, colts foot hasn’t flowered yet and it's April 15th. (It is not a native plant, but is one of the first plants to flower this time of year.) So, while the birds seem to be on the same schedule, some other things are delayed, probably because of cooler April temperatures so far this year. Nature journaling has allowed me to make these comparisons. I’ve been using The Naturalists’s Notebook as my journal. It's fun! (Submitted by Lynn Knight, April 15, 2019)
Friday I heard the familiar whistling call of an osprey, signaling their return from their winter home. This pair has been nesting in a tidal island near my house for as long as I have been here—about 8 years. They moved their nest once during that time to a higher spot with, in my opinion, a better view of Middle Bay.

Cornell’s “All About Birds” Web site states: "Osprey nests are built of sticks and lined with bark, sod, grasses, vines, algae, or flotsam and jetsam. The male usually fetches most of the nesting material—sometimes breaking dead sticks off nearby trees as he flies past—and the female arranges it. Nests on artificial platforms, especially in a pair’s first season, are relatively small—less than 2.5 feet in diameter and 3–6 inches deep. After generations of adding to the nest year after year, Ospreys can end up with nests 10–13 feet deep and 3–6 feet in diameter—easily big enough for a human to sit in."

Also on Friday, I saw colts foot blooming, a full two weeks later than it bloomed last year.(Contributed by Lynn Knight, Photo by Laura Zamfirescu, April 21, 2019)
Trout lilies ( Erythronium americanum ) are starting to bloom right now. You won’t see them unless you look closely on the forest floor in moist sunny areas. Their spotted, mottled leaves are distinct, but the plants grow low to the ground and blend in with a lot of other low greenery just emerging at this time. Their spectacular flowers are also easily missed since they hide themselves by hanging upside down like lovely yellow bells. These little gems do their thing early in the season before other plants get going. They will be done flowering and producing seed by the time everything else around them grows up and banishes them to the underbrush for the rest of the summer. The leaves and the bulbs are edible if boiled thoroughly, but from what I’ve read, they can be emetic (cause vomiting), so…… maybe not a great choice for dinner. (Contributed by Lynn Knight, May 4, 2019)