What are you seeing out there in Harpswell? We'd love to hear from you! The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.

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Few mosses in this country have common names, although there are a handful (and some books do apply common names, but it is not the botanical norm). Luckily, one of those is the apple moss, Bartramia pomiformis . Even better, the name helps identify it this time of year. The structures that contain the spores look like little round apples. No other moss sporophytes have these round structures. Look for this moss on rocky ledges in our area. (Contributed by Priscilla Seimer, October 18, 2018)
I see a Belted Kingfisher near my house every September/October. I asked bird expert John Berry about it. This is what he told me: "The Belted Kingfisher breeds throughout the state of Maine near shorelines of lakes and rivers or streams by building nests in earthen banks where it can excavate a nesting burrow. The male has a single blue-gray stripe on the breast and a white collar and the female adds a lower rufous band and sides. The Kingfisher needs open water in the winter and is a partial migrant in that they leave interior lakes and streams and move to open salt water along calmer estuaries and coves in September and October. Most of these birds will move to more southern parts of the US or even Central America, returning to Maine in early April. Kingfishers feed by diving from a perch or hovering to grab small fish, crayfish or insects from shallow water and then returning to the perch to swallow the meal. The birds are highly territorial and defend their territory with loud rattle calls and chases. One or two Belted Kingfishers are normally found in Harpswell during the annual Christmas bird count." (Submitted by John Berry via Lynn Knight, October 20, 2018)
There is a gray fox family that has been foraging under our bird feeder for the past few weeks. I don't know enough about foxes except to say it is a parent and two kits that visit several times throughout the day to eat seeds that have been tossed or shaken to the ground by the birds. It has been fun to watch the kits play-fight with each other; although the parent doesn't seem to have much patience for their antics. I wondered how long fox families typically stay together, so I searched the Internet for some clues. I read that gray foxes breed in January/February and give birth 53 days later. So if we pick the beginning of February, the kits would be born at some point mid- to late- March. The kits stay with the family until they are sexually mature at around 10 months, which would be around January. And so, the cycle repeats. This is totally an amateur analysis, so if you know more about this, I welcome your input! (Submitted by Lynn Knight, October 30, 2018)
Last week for a couple of days in a row, there was a large flock of Grackles on my front and back lawns. They were flipping the fallen leaves up off the ground searching for insects underneath. They also were picking up whatever bird seed had fallen under the feeders. I had never had grackles visit here before, so I asked bird expert John Berry about it. This is what he said: "Grackles are now migrating southward, which they do in flocks and thus may show up anywhere. Some will stay in Maine all winter, but most will head south to at least Massachusetts. For the past couple of months since breeding season, they are often found in trees near agricultural fields, but once they start to move they will look for food wherever they end their flight and stay until they get the urge to move on. They can be a nuisance and eat a lot from feeders, but generally don’t stay long." (Submitted by Lynn Knight, November 13, 2018)
We had our first snowfall Friday, but today, Sunday, it was above freezing and sunny. A glorious morning for a walk. The early morning was clear enough to offer a fairly good glimpse of snow-capped Mt. Washington from Basin Point Road. I also heard a loon calling for quite a while during my walk. Although loons spend their summer breeding season on freshwater lakes, Maine loons spend their winters along the Maine coast. Those too young to breed (under 6 years of age) or unmated birds spend all year on the coast. Their call is so amazing. Check it out on All About Birds: (Submitted by Lynn Knight, November 18, 2018)
I saw these tracks in an area where I have seen both porcupine damage on trees as well as the offending party him- or herself on sunny days in the winter. Maine Master Naturalist Priscilla Seimer, on a quick inspection of my photo, thought the tracks could belong to a fisher. (Notice the print of the tail dragging on the snow). So, Mr. Porcupine, start looking over your shoulder on your daily jaunts. Porcupine is the preferred food of fishers (one of the very few animals that will go after these prickly critters). Throughout last winter, porcupines methodically stripped the bark off the trunk and branches of several young spruces in this area. Only the bottom branches where the bark was untouched remain alive. (Submitted by Lynn Knight, November 20, 2018)