We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive. ~Aldo Leopold

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. All of the contributions below are seen immediately in our Facebook group.

Click here for more information about Harpswell Nature Watchers.
With lovely weather this week, it's a fine time to grab your binoculars and get outdoors. Early morning hours especially will reveal large numbers of birds calling, nesting, feeding and flying around. It can be hard to keep up with local breeding birds like ruby-throated hummingbirds, tufted titmouse, tree swallows and American robins mixing with migrating birds like blackburnian warblers and indigo buntings. Look for brushy cover, a wetland or apple trees in blossom to improve your chances of spotting your favorite birds.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, May 27, 2020)
Starflower ( Lysimachia borealis ) and Canada mayflower ( Maianthemum canadense ) are flowering now in Harpswell’s woodlands. Starflowers have one or two star-like flowers delicately suspended on thin stems. Flowers often have seven petals, but there can be five to 10. A close look at the Canada mayflower blossoms reveal a pretty unusual, but lovely form. They will produce red berries that are valuable to birds.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 26, 2020)
Enjoying iNaturalist, which told me this is Fringed Polygala or Gaywings. Such a pretty little forest flower, this is a member of the Milkwort Family.
(Submitted by Gina Snyder, May 25, 2020)
If you live in an old house, you probably are acquainted with these three home invaders: long-bodied cellar spiders, western conifer seed bugs, and multicolored Asian lady beetles. Although they're not native to the northeast, they're completely harmless and really quite companionable.
(Submitted by Professor Nat Wheelwright, May 25, 2020)
Broad-winged hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies, large reddish-brown heads and broad white bands on their tails. They are a common seasonal visitor to Maine arriving in April and May and gone by early fall. Nearly 1500 have been seen this year at a hawk watch at Bradbury Mountain in Freeport. They live in forests and hunt small animals from perches below the canopy and may often be seen along power line cuts perched on wires. Their call is a piercing whistle. In migration they soar along coast lines and mountain ridges, often in large flocks or kettles.
(Submitted by John Berry, May 22, 2020)
One of my favorite local residents is the gray catbird, and I am waiting to see or hear my first one this year. Like the tufted titmouse, they are not a flashy bird in bright colors but in their subtle gray feathers they are quite lovely. Their song is complex compared to many other song birds but when they get going, they can fill the air with sound for long periods of time, broadcasting their availability in hopes of attracting a mate. As eggs hatch and insects become available, catbirds will be combing their selected habitats for food to feed hungry hatchlings.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, May 21, 2020).
Field pussytoes ( Antennaria neglecta ) and common strawberry ( Fragaria virginiana ) are both blooming now along the field edges at Curtis Farm. They are particularly visible on the south side of the field (the far side from the perspective of the Route 123 parking area). Both of them are members of unexpected plant families—at least to my mind—field pussytoes being a member of the aster family and the common strawberry a member of the rose family.

If you are a field wildflower enthusiast, I would recommend regular walks around this field throughout the summer. There are lots of interesting native plants to observe. I’ll try to keep you informed. And, the bluets are still blooming at the southwest corner!
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 18, 2020)
Songbirds aren't born with the ability to sing proper songs. Instead, they have to listen to adults in order to learn their songs, and then they need to practice. Adult females can distinguish the perfected songs of experienced males from the "baby babble" of young birds. If you listen carefully, so can you.
CLICK HERE t o w atch a video about how to determine the age of birds by their songs.
(Submitted by Nat Wheelwright, May 16, 2020)
Keep an eye out for a tiny bird flitting around among your early spring flowers. The ruby-throated hummingbirds tend to arrive here in late April or early May looking for a meal of carbohydrate-rich nectar. These little dynamos are fascinating little creatures, the smallest birds in the natural world, but capable of amazing endurance as they complete migration flights across the Caribbean. Help them out by installing a feeder and you will enjoy their hyperactive flights this summer.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo by Carolina Birdman, iStock, May 13, 2020)
Red Trillium —a lso known as wake robin, and stinking Benjamin —i t is an early spring wildflower that is pollinated by scavenging flies attracted by the carrion-scented flowers.
Trillium erectum is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows to about 16 inches in height with a spread of 12 inches. It can tolerate extreme cold in winter, surviving temperatures down to −30 °F.

Like all trilliums, its parts are in groups of three, with a three-petaled flower above a whorl of pointed triple leaves. The petals are usually dark reddish maroon to purplish, fading to purple with age, but petal color is variable with yellow, pale green, pink, or white petals occurring occasionally throughout the range of the species. The ovary is dark purple to maroon regardless of petal color. Eventually the flower petals wither, leaving behind a fruit that ripens to a dark red berry-like capsule, one to one and a half centimeters long.
(Submitted by John Berry, May 13, 2020)
Lots of early Spring woodland flowers are blooming. Walk the trails at Otter Brook preserve for a wonderful sampling. There are trout lilies and trailing arbutus blooming now (see the posts from April 28th and 29th). Also, gold thread ( Coptis trifolia ) and Canada Anemone ( Anemone canadensis ) are flowering. Both of these are in the buttercup family. Gold thread leaves stay green all winter. There is a touch of yellow at the base of the leaf stalks and they have bright yellow thread-like rhizomes, which is probably the source of their common name.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 10, 2020)
Gulls are extraordinarily variable in the way they look. The color of an individual's plumage, legs, and eyes reveals not only what species it is but also its age, condition and social status.
(Submitted by Nat Wheelwright, Photo by Gina Snyder, May 8, 2020)
You can watch birds with people around the world this Saturday (May 9th) and contribute to a global scientific snapshot of spring. You simply note the birds you see in your yard or on your favorite walk. Join the flock doing science on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Global Big Day, by going to eBird, signing up or signing in, and telling the world what birds you see.
For more on Global Big Day, CLICK HERE
(Submitted by Nancy West, May 7, 2020)
There were lots of loons around Harpswell this winter, but with warmer weather most of them have moved on to the lakes and ponds where they will breed and raise their young. We can enjoy another large black and white bird this summer: the osprey. Both species are adept at fishing, although their methods vary considerably since the loon dives from the surface of the water while the osprey dives at great speed from high above the ocean. Listen for the high-pitched calls of ospreys if you happen to get too close to their huge nests in dead snags.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, Photo by Harry Collins, iStock, May 6, 2020)
Because of the relatively mild winter, we will have a substantial deer herd in Harpswell this year, and they will probably produce a bumper crop of fawns. The does are most visible since the bucks tend to remain nocturnal most of the year. With hunting season mostly forgotten, you may have a good chance to see the deer feeding during daylight as they rebuild fat reserves and prepare for motherhood.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, May 4,2020)
The horsetails began emerging near my house about a week ago. If you have these plants in your yard, you may not be a fan. Yes–they do spread and invade nearby areas with abandon. And, yes–they are impossible to weed out of your flower beds. BUT, they are, and have been, a native plant for hundreds of million years! My daughter, who is a paleobotanist, supplied these fun facts:
  • Equisetum is the only genus left in the family Equisetaceae, and has about 30 species. They have been around since the Permian time period (about 300 to 250 million years ago).
  • Some species of modern horsetail can grow up to 10 feet tall, but some extinct species reached heights of 100 feet.
  • Their stems are coated with silicates, making them finely abrasive. (They make a great backcountry dish rag.) Native Americans used them as an abrasive for polishing wood objects.
  • They reproduce by spores (like ferns), and the shoots with a cone-like structure at the top, called a strobilus, are the fertile shoots. The sterile shoots are branched and will become the bushy fronds that we see throughout the summer.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 3, 2020)