What are you seeing out there? We'd love to hear from you! Please enjoy our January edition. The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers. All of the contributions below are seen immediately in our Facebook group.

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Staghorn sumac ( Rhus hirta ) is commonly seen all over New England growing in dry rocky/gravely soils often creating a thicket. The name probably comes from the fact that the fuzzy younger branches resemble the velvety antlers of a young male deer. This time of year, the lingering reddish brown fruits are prominent. These tiny hairy fruits, will be eaten by many bird species in late winter/early spring after the more desirable berries and fruits are no longer available, and insects have yet to emerge. When fresh, Staghorn sumac berries make a nice refreshing lemonade-type drink if steeped in water, crushed, and strained. It can be sweetened with maple syrup, sugar, or honey. Years ago I used sumac berries as a natural dye for wool. You can achieve different shades of brown depending on the mordant you use.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, January 29, 2020)
Late January sometimes brings a warm spell to ease the winter blahs. Raccoons, skunks and chipmunks use these breaks to move about in search of a meal. Snapping turtles and frogs continue their rest under pond ice with their metabolisms at low levels absorbing oxygen through their skin. More about wildlife on our website:
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, January 29, 2020)
Signs of critter activity on the snow--Two different scatterings on the snow leave evidence of two different animals foraging for food. The first picture shows wood chips cast off as a pileated woodpecker excavates it’s large rectangular holes in a tree in search of yummy carpenter ants living in a tree’s center heartwood. Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker found in North America with a wingspan of over 2 feet.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, January 22, 2020)
Signs of critter activity on the snow - a squirrel midden—probably a red squirrel. These are piles of what is left after the squirrel strips and eats the inner seeds of a cone and discards the uneaten scales and core. Squirrels often have a favorite dining spot where they bring food to eat. I’m sure you have seen middens here and there on a log or rock, or like this one, at the base of tree.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, January 22, 2020)
With snow cover wild turkeys work harder to find food. They scratch through light snow in hopes of finding leftover seeds and nuts, but in deeper snow they favor spring seeps. When possible they relocate to lower elevations. Meadow voles are active under the snow eating soft bark on young trees and breeding. Voles are a favorite food for fox coyotes and raptors. More about wildlife on our website:
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo by Victor Tyakht, iStock, January 22, 2020)
Mink and river otters are actively hunting fish, crayfish, small mammals and insects, moving in and out of open water they leave tracks and snow slides to mark their passage. Coyotes are pairing up for breeding. Early or late in the day you may hear their wild calls. Read more about wildlife on our website:
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo by Paul Reeves Photography iStock, January 15, 2020)
Late migrants will be visiting your bird feeders especially during cold spells. Competition for food accelerates with raucous blue Jay's driving most birds away with the exception of larger woodpeckers. Smaller birds of prey like the sharp-shinned hawk will be lurking near the feeders hoping to pick off an unwary song bird. Read more about wildlife on our website:
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo from iStock, January 8, 2020)