As you know, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust has launched a community nature journaling initiative. Click here for more information about the initiative.

Guidance and inspiration for nature watchers is shared through this email list and our Facebook group: Harpswell Nature Watchers.

What are you seeing out there in Harpswell? We'd love to hear from you!

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The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.
Moon snail shells are beautiful! However, these lovely shells hide a voracious and effective predator. The Northern Moon Snail, Euspira heros , plows through the sand on a huge foot looking for prey. When it finds a clam, for example, its foot envelopes the clam and then a mouth-part called a “radula” drills a perfectly round hole through the clam’s shell, giving the moon snail access to the flesh beneath. The radula is like a tongue with teeth, or, to quote from a 2010 nature blogger, “like lunar drilling devices from a sci-fi movie.” While drilling, a chemical secretion softens the shell of the prey to make access easier. These predatory mollusks can and have devastated clam flats in the state. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer)
Pearly everlasting ( Anaphalis margaritacea ) has been blooming. This tall, interesting perennial is found in fields, woodland openings, or roadsides. The flower heads are made up of densely arranged pearly white dry bracts surrounding a yellow or brown disk of tiny flowers. Native Americans used the plant to soften hands or make a poultice by mixing it with yellow-cedar pitch. The flowers can remain lovely and intact until the first snows of winter. (Contributed by Lynn Knight)
In animals, stripes serve to provide camouflage or warn predators. At the scale of landscapes, stripes reveal differences among plants in animals in their ability to deal with difficult environments, predation, or competition for space, as marine biologist Amy Johnson explains. Look for stripes the next time you climb a mountain or visit the beach. Click here to check out the Nature Moments video on this topic.
We’re all familiar with the wonderful sight of osprey soaring in the Maine skies. But did you know that when osprey catch a fish they always turn it head forward so it’s more aerodynamic while the osprey is in flight? These hawks also have a reversible outer toe, which allows them to grasp fish with two toes forward, two toes backwards. Additionally, they have barbed pads on their talons for an even better grip. A great bird resource is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( ), which reports that several studies found “…ospreys caught fish on at least one in every four dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes.” (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer)
Shoreline plants have to be salt tolerant and pretty hardy to stand up to the battering of the waves at higher tides. Right now, seaside goldenrod ( Solidago sempervirens ) and sea rocket ( Cakile edentula ) are blooming. The latter is an annual with a long taproot and is a member of the mustard family. I also saw a strange-looking plant with a thorny fruit aptly called thorn apple ( Datura stramonium ). It is an annual poisonous plant native to Mexico but is seen in beach fronts and dry fields throughout New England. (Contributed by Lynn Knight)
Barred owls are often heard in Harpswell. Their call has been described as “who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all.” Owls may chatter back and forth with a variety of hoots and squawks. Like all owls, they fly silently. According to Audubon this is because “comb-like serrations on the leading edge of wing feathers break up the turbulent air that typically creates a swooshing sound…streams of air are further dampened by a velvety texture unique to owl feathers and by a soft fringe on a wing's trailing edge.” Barred owls have spread across the country, becoming a problem in the Pacific northwest where they hunt and out compete some native owls. Listen for their hoots at night, and if you’re lucky, you may even see one perched in a tree during the day. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer)
Two Viburnums – Highbush Cranberry ( Viburnum trilobum ) and Arrowwood ( Viburnum dentatum ) both are tall shrubs that bear lovely clusters of white flowers in the spring. Highbush Cranberry (not related to cranberries) produces edible, but tart berries rich in vitamin C that ripen in September-October and remain all winter—important for birds. The berries of Arrowwood, on the other hand, are not edible. According to the description on New England Wild Flower Society’s Go Botany web-based plant identification description, Native Americans used the straight stems of arrowwood for arrow shafts, which probably led to the naming of this shrub. (Contributed by Lynn Knight)
Jewelweed ( Impatiens capensis ) is blooming in swamps, lake shores, ditches or other areas with moist soils. This plant is also called touch-me-not because when the long slender seedpods are ripe, a simple touch will cause them to suddenly spring open, explosively propelling the seeds into the air, after which the pieces of the remaining pods tightly curl. This spectacle provided hours of amusement for my kids when they were young. The stems are succulent and watery. The juice from the stems and leaves are very effective at soothing and healing rashes from poison ivy and stinging nettles. I’ve tried it and it works like a charm! (Contributed by Lynn Knight)