While looking around a nearby beach at low tide for living Northern Moon Snails, I came across a slew of Hermit Crabs re-purposing the shells of the species I was seeking. Instead of growing protective carapaces of their own, these crafty crustaceans prefer the rental model, trading in their mobile homes for a larger version when their personal needs and shell availability coincide.
According to Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman's Field Guide to Nature of New England (2012), there are at least 5 species of Hermit Crabs in our area. The individuals shown here are Long-clawed Hermit Crabs* (Pagurus longicarpus). This species has a roughly cylindrical right claw which is larger and longer than the left.
*Thanks to Aaron Hunt (an editor at the Bug Guide) for confirming my tentative identification.
Red Knots migrate incredible distances. For example, individuals of one subspecies (rufa) are known to travel from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic and back each year, or roughly 9,000 miles annually.
Typically absent from inland locations, Red Knots may occur by the hundreds at select coastal stopover sites, like some beaches on outer Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In contrast, here in southern Maine, the largest flock of Red Knots I've ever seen numbered 40 birds, but most often I see just a few, if I see any at all.
Though it's hard to top the beauty and easy identification of a fully red-chested adult, juvenile Red Knots are striking in their own right. However, to appreciate their white-edged back and wing feathers you'll need a close look. This is one reason birders living near the coast often carry around spotting scopes, so they can see these fine details from a distance, without putting undue pressure on the birds.
To learn more about these compact and powerful peeps, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.
Here are some nature notes from around York County, Maine:
22 Green-winged Teal, 4 American Oystercatchers, 1 American Golden-Plover, 1 Red Knot, 1 Stilt Sandpiper (FOY), 2 Dunlin, and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls at the Basket Island Causeway, Hills Beach, Biddeford
1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron along Sky Harbor Dr., Biddeford
Coastal Jointed Knotweed (Polygonum articulatum), Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris), and New England American-aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
2 Northern Fulmars (Lifer!), 1 Cory's Shearwater, 300+ Great Shearwaters, 2+ Sooty Shearwaters, 80+ Wilson's Storm-Petrels, 80+ Leach's Storm-Petrels (Lifer!), 40+ Red Phalaropes (Lifer!), 7+ Great Skuas (Lifer!), 14 Pomarine Jaegers, and 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (except for a pair of Great Skuas, all of my Life Birds were observed in Canadian waters)
Marine mammals included Fin, Minke, and Humpback Whales (some people observed the blow of a Right Whale), and pods of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins and Harbor Porpoises
To view the following images in full-size, click here.
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There are two species of striped snakes in New England, the Common Garter Snake and the Eastern Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus). One way to tell the two apart is to note the location of the light-colored side stripe. If the stripe occurs on scale rows 2&3 (counting up from the belly), then you've got a Common Garter Snake. If the pale stripe is on scale rows 3&4 (see Quiz #162), then you've got an Eastern Ribbon Snake.
The Eastern Ribbon Snake is slender with a long, thin tail and total length of 1.5-3'. Also, note the narrow yellow mark just in front of each eye. To learn about this species' habits and life history, visit Animal Diversity Web. And, the next time you encounter a snake with whom you're unfamiliar, take some pictures or make a quick sketch, and then consult the simple key on the Snakes of Massachusetts website published by UMass Amherst.