Greetings!

"When purple finches sing and soar . . .
With vernal gladness running o'er—
When joys like these salute the sense . . .
Then waiting long hath recompense,
And all the world is glad with May."
―John Burroughs

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 to join.

Click here for more information about Harpswell Nature Watchers.
This sequence took place over a span of 10 seconds, earlier this afternoon. This was the third Osprey I saw catch one of these fish this afternoon. I had seen the fish jumping earlier, presumably having followed a school of smaller fish into the cove, and I was wondering if any of the local Ospreys would notice.

(Submitted by Howard Z Marshall and LeAnne Grillo. May 27, 2021)
A truly amazing day for bird sightings from our own yard. Osprey, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler, Crow with a clam in its beak, Osprey with sushi takeout, Broad-winged Hawk, Turkey Vulture, and a Cowbird egg that LeAnne Grillo found in the garden (apparently the owner of the nest where it was laid was not fooled).

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 26, 2021)
Warmer weather allows cold blooded creatures to become more active and to get serious about feeding and breeding after the long stretch of winter months. Garter snakes enjoy sunny spots like stone walls or open patches in the woods. They look for insects or small mammals like mice for a meal. Snapping turtles are on the move in ponds and marshes. Striking from under the water they will pull down a frog, toad or duckling for dinner. Crawling onto the shore, they will find a sandy spot nearby to dig a nest and lay 20 or more eggs before covering things up in hopes that a raccoon or skunk will not find the nest.

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Garter snake photo from iStock. Snapping turtle photo by Craig Snapp. May 26, 2021)
Young Eagle right there on a dead tree at Devil's back! I was looking at the trunk and thinking there was something odd about it, took a step forward on the trail, turned and looked back and the eagle's head appeared on the other side of the trunk! Of course it took off the minute it realized I was looking at it! But that beak, wow!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 26, 2021)
More signs of spring - Terns and Eiders with chicks yesterday on Harpswell Sound. I just love watching them fish, so acrobatic, hard to follow with a camera!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 25, 2021)
A common plant, but I'd love for someone to identify it for me. The flowers look like explosions of white fireworks. The plant grows about a foot high, with flat layers of leaves. Flowers are in the upper left.

It's Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)! Alan Seamans, Mollie Sandock, and Shani Lynne quickly identified this wildflower. CLICK HERE to learn more about Sarsaparilla.

(Submitted by Flossie MacPup. May 24, 2021)
Last week I captured an incredible video of Moon Jellies (Aurelia aurita) floating in Quahog Bay. CLICK HERE to see the amazing images.

To read more about jellyfish in Maine, you can CLICK HERE and read Ed Robinson's article.

(Submitted by Kathy Miller. May 24, 2021)
Mink at low tide. Quahog Bay.

(Submitted by Kathy Miller. May 22, 2021)
In the gorgeous weather this morning I witnessed a petite wildlife drama. A pair of black-capped chickadees were investigating a small dead snag as if they would consider it as a nest site. One of the birds attempted to enter a little opening and then tried chipping away some wood as if to enlarge the opening. Suddenly an even smaller bird erupted from the snag and attacked the chickadees as if fighting for her life. They streaked back and forth in the grass and nearby shrubs for a couple minutes, pecking, kicking and flapping their wings in a real donnybrook. When things finally calmed down, the chickadees clearly decided the snag was not worth the fight with the determined little bird. The winner, a tiny house wren, flitted around the site for a couple minutes to make sure the intruders were gone, and then returned to her nest site. It's hard work setting up housekeeping and raising a family in a tight housing market!

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. May 19, 2021)
Three Spring faves of mine that are very common in Harpswell’s woods are blooming now – Bunchberry, starflower, and Canada Mayflower. Bunchberries (Chamaepericlymenum canadense) are a member of the dogwood family—the resemblance in leaf and flower shape to the dogwood tree many of us are familiar with is easy to see. What looks like four white petals of the flower are not petals at all, but bracts, which are modified leaves. The actual flowers are tiny and clustered in the center. View them with a hand lens or flip your binoculars up-side-down to get a close look at them.

Starflower (Lysimachia borealis) have one or two star-like flowers delicately suspended on thin stems. Flowers often have seven petals, but there can be five to 10.

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) blossoms reveal a pretty unusual, but lovely form. They will produce red berries that are valuable to birds.

Susan Hayward added that something to observe with the Maianthemum is how much it carpets the forest floor. It is a colonial plant and connected underground! There are single leafed individuals and double leafed individuals within the clone population. The flowering only occurs in the double leaf forms. The single leaf individuals are just capturing the sunlight to make food for the reproductive energy required by the double leaf individuals. Cooperation at its finest!
I would encourage folks to cover yourself well against ticks and then revel in the joy of lying down in a patch of blooming Maianthemum and let the fragrance of forest lilies wash over you on a sunny day.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 18, 2021)
There were two places in the upland stream at the Cliff Walk (yellow trail) with egg masses - fascinating to see them there 'waiting'. Maybe someone knows what they might be? The greener ones (with round shapes inside) were upstream of the ones that were more grayish (with more elongate shapes within). I think the water level is getting a bit low for this time of year.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 15, 2021) 
Bullying at school is a topic in the media these days, and it has long been an issue in the bird kingdom. During a stay at my cabin, over a few days I went from seeing two to four to eight to sixteen blue jays at a time. These large birds are lovely to look at but they are generally aggressive to all the other birds trying to grab seeds or suet. It's almost like the jays skipped kindergarten where we learn to get along with each other!

One morning I had a thrill when a stunning male Baltimore oriole showed up at the suet feeder. These birds are just glorious to see, bringing a smile to any day. It wasn't long before three blue jays showed up and tried to push the smaller oriole away from his breakfast. To my surprise the oriole stood his ground, flashing his wings at the jays and emitting loud calls that clearly indicated he would not give ground without a fight. This went on for about five minutes with the jays taking turns to rush in on the oriole but he refused to yield. The growing frustration among the jays was laughable! Finally the jays mounted a three-pronged attack, physically striking the oriole and pushing him away from the suet. The oriole made a graceful retreat, having shown his mettle and earning a medal for his bravery!   

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Photos from iStock. May 12, 2021)
We encountered this critter along the Coastal Studies Center trails - I can't believe how dexterous these squirrels are.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 9, 2021)
Small pussytoes (Antennaria howellii) and bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are blooming now. Bluets are one of the sweetest early spring flowers and are worth a close look to appreciate their subtle white, blue, yellow coloring. The southwest section of the field at Cutis Farm usually has lots of them on the grassy field edges. Small pussytoes look like a petite version of pearly everlasting, which will bloom in late summer. The taller cousin is eight to 36 inches tall as opposed to the two to 12 inches of the pussytoes. Both are in the aster family. It is not hard to understand where this plant got its common name when you touch the fuzzy little flower heads. These cuties are most often found growing in clumps because they put out chemicals that inhibit other plants from growing around them. This action is called allelopathy. Several plant species, lupines and walnut trees for example, use this strategy to eliminate competition. Germination inhibiting chemicals wash out from the leaves and stems that fall to the ground; or for some plants, the roots excrete these substances.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 5, 2021)
A female Red Winged Blackbird - so different from the males! - and then a White-Throated Sparrow on the ground. They seem so hungry this spring!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 3, 2021)
I think these are pixie cup lichens and I think I saw somewhere they called them lipstick lichen - kind of a cute, old-fashioned name. Also a couple trout lilies about to bloom at Otter Brook Preserve.

Betsy Bennett and Stacey Shani Lynne know them as British Solider Lichen.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 1, 2021)
Watch for Mourning Cloak butterfly in woods and on paths. They hibernate all winter and are first to flit about feasting on skunk cabbage if they can find it.
Hard to photograph. My photo here is not from Mitchell Field, but I saw several there on rare warm days during the past two weeks.

(Submitted by Stephanie Gaston Holman. May 1, 2021)
I took this picture of a Great Blue Heron flying across Ash Cove, and a picture of another Great Blue Heron that caught and ate a small snake.

(Submitted by Howard Z Marshall. May 1, 2021)
What an absolute treat! I saw this Yellow-rumped "butter butt" Warbler on my deck, earlier it was contesting the suet with the woodpeckers - moving around so fast that I couldn't be sure. Finally it came back and paused when my camera was nearby! I saw one of these along the lower trails along the stream on the Cliff Walk trail last spring, but didn't get this clear of a look.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 30, 2021)