Please enjoy our May edition of Nature Watchers!

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.
A hawk landed in a tree in our yard, and was, silently, followed by a raven landing on a branch above. The two proceeded to ignore each other. When the hawk flew away, the raven took off too, but landed in a tree and didn't follow...

To see a video of the birds interacting, visit our Facebook Group.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 31, 2022)
This time of year, every day I go out for a walk, something else has started blooming! The lady slippers (top left) and wild geraniums (top center) have been out for several days! I saw the sweet, crazy bright pink blossoms of fringed polygala (top right) in the woods and the purplish-blue star-like flowers of blue-eyed grass (left) along the roadside.

Blue-eyed grass is apparently not a grass at all, but the smallest member of the iris family! The flowers last only a single day. Keep your eyes open for clintonia and jack-in-the-pulpit blooming in the next week.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 30, 2022)
A cedar waxwing visited this morning (and then flew off with another)! I've read that they don't migrate but are nomadic.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 28, 2022)

According to the National Audubon Society, they are "nomadic, moving about irregularly; both breeding and wintering areas may change from year to year, depending on food supplies. Some may linger south of breeding range into late spring or early summer." Read more about cedar waxwings here.
Long Reach had some horseshoe crab action just after high tide yesterday.

Plus, and I've seen these in several places this year, a white lady slipper! There's a group of lady slipper plants that were pink last year that are very pale this year. It does, however, look as though a couple of lady slipper plants have been removed, where they were earlier this year are just a couple small holes. And the arum is blooming in the bog. Lovely this time of year!

Please don't dig up lady slippers that you see along trails. They are a perennial that we love to see year after year!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 28, 2022)
Another greater yellowlegs at Potts Harbor. Thanks to Colleen, Gina, and Howard for the ID.

(Submitted by Barry Coflan. May 26, 2022)
As much as I dislike their “deposits” on our lawn, they are welcome in our pond. I think this canada goose family is adorable. They are learning all about hydration in this lesson.

(Submitted by Elizabeth Gundlach. May 26, 2022)
Mallard pair at Potts Harbor.

(Submitted by Barry Coflan. May 26, 2022)
I woke up early this morning and spotted a great blue heron preening on the neighbor's dock. I went out to get some pictures in the excellent lighting.

Then I also saw a raft of common eiders, and this time the guys brought the gals; they were traveling in pairs in the picture, males with black and white heads, females with brown heads. There were at least a dozen of them, and there must have been a large school of fish because it seemed like more than half of the eiders were diving at any given moment.

This is also when I got the shot of the eastern bluebird exiting its house.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 25, 2022)
Orr's Island today.

(Submitted by Reed Stockman. May 23, 2022)
Horseshoe crab, in the tidal marsh near our dock. Or, more likely, at least two horseshoe crabs.

The crab righted itself without real difficulty, in fact that is what that spike/tail is for. I learned a few things when I looked them up: the tail is not a weapon, and it has no venom, it is used to turn itself over when it ends up on its back. And they are not crabs, nor even crustaceans, but "chelicerates, most closely related to arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions". 

For more information about horseshoe crabs, click here.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 23, 2022)
Common eiders are back. It looks like there were five males, though one has gray markings on its head and neck that I can't find in any reference. It may be a juvenile, probably male, or it may just have gotten itself dirty somehow. A little later I saw a single female eider a little way from the others.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 23, 2022)
View from Orr's Island tonight.

(Submitted by Reed Stockman. May 22, 2022)
A female ruby-throated hummingbird in our azalea.

The males have been around for about two weeks, but I only started seeing females yesterday. At the feeders in the mid-afternoon I was seeing at least five of them, three females and two males, but it is quite likely that they were not all the same five birds. There was a lot of territorial posturing going on around the two feeders.

It was getting close to sunset so the light was not great, and I shot these through a window because I knew there was no way I could go outside without scaring her (them?) off. I'm pretty sure there were two of them, but they were zipping around and through the bush so it was hard to keep track. At one point, one of them perched on an outer branch and sat there for a minute or two. And a big bumblebee, too.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 19, 2022)
This female ruby-throated hummingbird was sitting on the wire on the deck, for a surprising while... it was cold and raining out. It flew off as other birds arrived at the seed feeders.

To see a video of the hummingbird, visit our Facebook Group.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 19, 2022)
Tree swallow at Mitchell Field.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 18, 2022)
It isn't very often you get to look down on an osprey, but there was one below the Cliff Trail yesterday.

To see a video, visit our Facebook Group.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 18, 2022)
Saw bobolinks and an eastern kingbird in a bush at Mitchell Field during my afternoon bike ride. At one point, three bobolinks and the eastern kingbird were together, and it almost looks like the kingbird is feeding one of the bobolinks, though I don't really think that is what is going on. The shots of a single bobolink are all the individual in the upper right of the group shots.

I don't think I've ever seen either of these species before. Certainly not a bobolink, I was completely surprised by its markings when I zoomed in on them. The eastern kingbird I thought might be a catbird or a tufted titmouse until I was able to look at these pictures on a computer screen—and then use the "Bird Box" App on my iPhone to identify them.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 18, 2022)
The fringed polygala (above) are blooming at Long Reach and the lady slippers (right) are getting closer to blooming by the day! As the link below says, "This bright little jewel is always a delight to stumble across."

Click here to learn more about fringed polygala.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 18, 2022)
On cue – Shadbush trees (also known as juneberry and serviceberry), are in full bloom right now (above)! Also, bunchberries and starflowers (bottom left) are starting to flower in the sunnier spots. An often overlooked, very common plant, wild sarsaparilla, is flowering right now too (bottom center and right). These plants are everywhere—along road edges, and in the understory of the forest. So common a sight, that most folks really don’t take notice of them. But, right now, if you look under their umbrella-like leaves, you will find lovely spherical blooms. They will produce blue-black berries in mid-summer. The root is spicy and aromatic and has been substituted for sassafras in the making of home brewed root beer. The plant is in the ginseng family.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 17, 2022)
Looking this bird up I thought it might be a sandpiper with the white stripe over the eye rather than white around the eye. Now I know from the comments that it's a greater yellowlegs. Thanks, everyone!

For a video of the yellowlegs, visit our Facebook group. Thanks, Colleen McKenna and Howard Marshall for the ID!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 16, 2022)
A female red-winged blackbird came by today.

(Submitted by Elizabeth Gundlach. May 16, 2022)
(Submitted by Sharon Curran. May 15, 2022)
Okay, warbler lovers! We saw a black-and-white warbler (left) at Long Reach, and I managed to get videos of black-throated green warblers (right) at Devil's Back. They were calling from many trees on both sides of Devil's Back yesterday!

For videos of the black-throated green warbler, visit our Facebook group.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 13, 2022)
So much activity in Long Reach yesterday. For the first time saw a snake there, and it was kind of funny that it went behind some bark at a nearby tree as though it couldn't be seen!

And for only the second time at Long Reach, I saw a green frog, just sitting there near the salamander eggs. I'm worried that it's just waiting for them to hatch out so it can gobble them up!

Thanks Prof. Nat Wheelwright for identifying the snake as a dekay's brownsnake!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 12, 2022)
Coyote in our driveway at 5:12 AM on 5/12.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 12, 2022)
It was 4 years ago that I began keeping my own journal of nature’s seasonal changes and started HHLT’s Harpswell Nature Watchers (HNW). I am thrilled and grateful for the wonderful community of participants sharing observations and AMAZING photos of nature’s seasonal changes out there in Harpswell!! A big THANKS to you all!

For those of you newer to this group, this project was inspired by the book “The Naturalist’s Notebook” by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich, which contains a blank journal formatted for five years of observations, as well as lots of fascinating information and inspiration to guide you in this rewarding endeavor. We are fortunate to have Professor Wheelwright here in Harpswell leading walks for HHLT and answering questions for HNW!

If you are not already keeping a nature journal, I encourage you to consider starting one. It’s fun! Looking at my previous year’s journal entries, I can tell you to be on the lookout for bunchberries, low-bush blueberries, pussytoes and shadbush flowers blooming in the next week.

Thanks again to you all—the HNW community of Harpswell nature lovers!

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 11, 2022)
I recently downloaded Merlin Bird ID to help ID bird songs I hear. It has been identifying a black-throated green warbler in the woods about town, but I managed to get a picture of a yellow-rumped warbler along the Coastal Studies Center trails.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. May 9, 2022)
A punk ruby-throated hummingbird (male). OK, it was just a gust of wind.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 9, 2022)
Late this afternoon I spotted an osprey flying over the cove. I went in the house and got my camera, but I when got back outside I had lost sight of it. Then I saw it emerging from the water with its dinner—a fish that looks almost as big as the one that LeAnne and I shared for dinner last night. I bet this was one fat and happy osprey.

Just after the osprey with its fish dinner in its talons flew off I spotted a greater yellowlegs flying past me. I got a picture of it in flight, then it landed on the edge of the water. A moment later a second one buzzed the first one, looked like it was going to land nearby, but then changed its mind and flew off. I then got a couple more nice pictures of the first one as it wandered through the marsh grass looking for something to eat.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 9, 2022)
Some action shots of an osprey fishing over the cove this morning.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 9, 2022)
On my walk with a friend at Otter Brook yesterday, I saw wild strawberries, gold thread, and wood anemones starting to bloom. The trailing arbutus and trout lilies continue to bloom as well. Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) fruits are tiny, but tasty! Gold thread (Coptis trifolia) and wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) are both 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. Wood anemones are said to be named after the Greek god of the winds—Anemos—thus one of their other common names, windflower.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 8, 2022)
Fiery skies view from Orr's Island.

(Submitted by Reed Stockman. May 6, 2022)
The hummingbirds are back!

The videos are much better than the photo, because the visitor (a male ruby-throated hummingbird) perched in the shade of the feeder when I took that picture. I had positioned the camera to get good light on the ruby throat, but he did not cooperate. In the photo, the light red patch on his throat is actually the sunlight coming through the red glass of the feeder and hitting the off-white part of his throat; you can see a few of the ruby red feathers in the dark patch above that. I was hoping to catch the full sun on the ruby feathers from where I was, and you can see that in the videos.

To see videos, visit our Facebook group.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 6, 2022)
Hummingbirds have arrived in Harpswell.

(Submitted by Lee Mattos Cheever. May 6, 2022)
Saw this snapping turtle crossing Allen Point Road at about noon today. It didn’t look very big, the tail was maybe eight inches long? And, carapace approximately 12 inches long. Width maybe 10 inches. What a treat!

Warning, it was moving at a glacier pace. So, beware. They don’t speed up if you get out of your car, in fact they will turn toward you. They can swing those tails, too. So, best to just let them be.

(Submitted by Donna Johnson. May 6, 2022)
Mooring perch near Orr's Island.

(Submitted by Reed Stockman. May 4, 2022)
Saw my first mourning cloak butterfly basking in the sun on the side of my barn. Besides their lovely coloring, they are somewhat unique because as they are one of a few butterfly species that overwinter here in Maine as adults, they are one of the first to emerge in Spring. They tuck themselves into tree hollows, or cracks between rocks or flaking tree bark to hibernate. Maybe this one emerged from a cozy nook under the shingles of the barn!
I also spotted my first returning cormorant!

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 3, 2022)
Harpswell's newest residents!

(Submitted by Veronica Anne. May 3, 2022)
Snowy egret. I suspect that the red color around the eyes is part of the breeding season markings. I took these pictures earlier this week.

(Submitted by Howard Marshall. May 2, 2022)
Trout lilies, bluets, and violets! 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 to see their nodding yellow flowers. The 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. Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are one of the sweetest early Spring flowers. They are blooming in lawns and grassy fields. You can easily find some in the southwest section of the field at Cutis Farm. Violets are adorning lawns with their purple or white flowers. The flowers make lovely garnishes on salads!

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. May 2, 2022)