16.13 | Nature Notes (Apr 27 – May 3)

Photo of American Bittern
American Bittern | Biddeford, ME | 1 May 2016

Here are some nature notes from around southern Maine:

  • flowering Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis), Sugar Maple, Norway Maple, and Sweet-fern
  • 7 Canada Goose goslings (with parents), 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Wilson's Snipe, and 4 singing Louisiana Waterthrush at Sanford Lagoons
  • 2 Willet (FOY) near mouth of Mousam River, Kennebunk
  • 12 Black-bellied Plovers (FOY) on mudflat viewed from Mile Stretch Rd., Biddeford Pool
  • Black-and-white Warbler (FOY) and Black-throated Green Warbler (FOY) and Ovenbird (FOY) on Guinea Rd., Kennebunkport
  • Great Horned Owl (calling), 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (FOY), and Gray Catbird (FOS) at Emmons Preserve, K'port
  • American Bittern (FOY) on West St., Biddeford [thanks to Kevin for spotting this bird]
  • Eastern Phoebe nest with 2 eggs at York County Community College, Wells
  • a continuing rare White-eyed Vireo (FOY) at Timber Point Trail, Biddeford and continuing very rare Little Egret (FOY) at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Falmouth
  • dead Minke Whale in Horseshoe Cove, along Granite Point Rd., Biddeford [photo on Flickr]

And, on a trip to Massachusetts, I saw two FOY's: a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in South Grafton, MA and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in South Hampton, NH.

To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Shorebirds: Greater Yellowlegs

Photo of Greater Yellowlegs

Aptly named, Greater Yellowlegs are larger than Lesser Yellowlegs and have long, yellow legs. This species is migratory with the first birds typically arriving in Maine in the month of April, earlier than most other shorebird species. Though they breed in marshes to our north, individuals can be found in proper habitat in New England through the month of November.

Photo of Lesser (left) and Greater Yellowlegs

When they occur alongside Lesser Yellowlegs, their differing size makes them easy to sort out. When observing a lone bird, try to assess the relative length of the bill. Is it 1.5 times longer than the head (as in Greater), or about the same length as the head (as in Lesser)? And whereas a Lesser's bill is straight, the bill of a Greater is usually slightly upturned.

Photo of Greater Yellowlegs

Another useful way to sort them out is to listen for their calls. Greater Yellowlegs have big voices and often give 3-5 notes (dew dew dew) in quick succession. Here's a sample:

Compare their loud calls with the less emphatic, usually paired or single notes of the Lesser Yellowlegs.

To learn more about these long-legged shorebirds, visit All About Birds.

Tiny Flowers: Blue Forget-me-not

Photo of Hillside of tiny flowers

I pass this roadside embankment several times a week, and from a distance it looks pretty bare. But a close inspection reveals several kinds of tiny flowering plants hiding in plain view, one of which goes by the name Blue Forget-me-not (Myosotis stricta).

Photo of Blue Forget-me-not

Native to Eurasia, this diminutive plant (2-8" tall with flowers slightly larger than 1/16" wide) can be found along roadsides and other areas with disturbed soil in every New England state besides Rhode Island.

Photo of Blue Forget-me-not flowers

16.12 | Nature Notes (Apr 20-26)

Photo of Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow | Sanford, ME | 22 Apr 2016

Here are some nature notes from around York County, Maine:

Highlights from travels elsewhere in Maine included:

  • continuing Western Grebe (Life Bird #310) from Simpson's Point Landing, Brunswick
  • Sandhill Crane (FOY) bugling at Messalonskee Lake marsh, Belgrade
  • 7+ Purple Martins (FOY) on Depot Rd., Belgrade
  • Ruffed Grouse, Blue-headed Vireo (FOY), and hundreds of emerging Trillium plants (Trillium sp.) along Rt. 113 in Batchelder’s Grant Township
  • 2 Sandhill Cranes in plowed field along Old River Rd., Fryeburg

To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Snowy Owl Update: It turns out the Sanford Lagoons owl was Casco. From Sanford, she flew on to Canada. I wish her a successful summer up north.

What natural happenings have you noticed in the last week?

Low Tide Life: Atlantic Dogwinkle

Photo of Atlantic Dogwinkles

In addition to Common Periwinkles, I've eaten another local saltwater snail this year, the Atlantic Dogwinkle (Nucella lapillus). Also known as Dogwhelks, these native, pointy-shelled mollusks live in rocky, intertidal zones, alongside the non-native and often more numerous Common Periwinkles. Atlantic Dogwinkles come in a variety of colors (often white), have pointed spires (unlike the blunt spires of Common Periwinkles), and have a groove at the base of the shell opening.

Photo of Common Periwinkle vs. Atlantic Dogwinkle

Scouting out a low-tide Biddeford location, I was able to find areas with more Dogwinkles than Periwinkles, enough for me to feel comfortable harvesting a dozen to eat. After boiling them for a minute or two in saltwater, extracting them with a pin, and removing each operculum (the thin cover on their shell-opening), I enjoyed them as an oceany appetizer.

The top photo shows both snails -- Atlantic Dogwinkles (with white, pink, yellow and black shells) and Common Periwinkles (a light-tan one on left and a smaller, darker one on right). To view the following images in full-size, click here.