Category Archives: Nature Notes

17.12 | Nature Notes (Mar 18-25)

Photo of Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird (female) | Biddeford, ME | 19 Mar 2017

Highlights of the Week

On Tuesday, several vocal American Crows alerted me to the presence of a Great Horned Owl roosting near the public beach in Biddeford Pool.

On Thursday, an adult male Canvasback was found by another birder on Etherington Pond in Biddeford and subsequently seen by myself and many other people, over the next few days. Canvasbacks are rare migrants in Maine -- it'd been three years since I'd last seen one.

My first of year sightings included 2 Rusty Blackbirds in Cape Elizabeth, an American Kestrel in Kennebunkport, an adult Greater White-fronted Goose in Wells, 4+ Fish Crows in Biddeford, and a Painted Turtle sunning on a log at the edge of a pond in Biddeford.

Wild Edible of the Week

Overnight in a slow cooker, I simmered small pieces of Chaga (from my pantry) in a combination of water and Red Maple sap. The resulting dark brew was enjoyed several times by Jenny and me.

Moon Challenge Report

I concluded my Bird Call Moon by recording 5 more species: American Crow, Northern Cardinal, Rusty Blackbird, and Yellow-rumped Warbler (link to audio); and Fish Crow (link to audio).

Tonight marks the start of my next moon challenge. During my Early Bird Moon, I'll get outside before the sun risesĀ (on a majority of mornings) to take in the sounds of spring, and I'll keep a running list of all the birds, frogs, and mammals who I hear during the challenge.

Jenny will also be starting a moon challenge tonight. During her Sunrise Moon, she'll get outdoors to watch 12+ sunrises (with 4+ at the ocean).

Will you be joining us with a moon challenge of your own?

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Spend 10+ minutes listening near moving water (e.g., ocean, river, stream). Optional: Close your eyes while listening.


 

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17.11 | Nature Notes (Mar 12-18)

Photo of Killdeer
Killdeer | Fortunes Rocks Beach, Biddeford, ME | 17 Mar 2017

Highlights of the Week

This week's widespread refreeze concentrated ducks along open rivers. On a section of the Saco River between Biddeford and Saco, I observed 37 Wood Ducks and ~525 Mallards -- both high counts for me at a single location in Maine.

Though earlier sightings of Killdeer have been in snow-free farm fields, this week the only Killdeer I observed were at the snow-free coastline, on sand and feeding among the wrack at Fortunes Rocks Beach in Biddeford.

FOY bird sightings were limited to an unexpected early Hermit Thrush spotted while driving and a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting near the bird feeders at Emmons Preserve.

Wild Edible of the Week

Utilizing Choke Cherry fruits from my freezer, I enjoyed pink Choke Cherry juice and jello several times this week.

Moon Challenge Report

Despite many windy days, I recorded the calls of 4 more bird species: Cedar Waxwing (link to audio); and European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, and Killdeer (link to audio).

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

On a clear or mostly clear morning, get outside early to witness sunrise.


 

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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!

17.10 | Nature Notes (Mar 5-11)

Photo of Greater Scaup (male)
Greater Scaup (male) | Biddeford, ME | 10 Mar 2017

Highlights of the Week

A group of 4 Snow Geese spent a few days on the golf course in Biddeford Pool. Nearby, I observed about a dozen Canada Geese submerge themselves (albeit briefly) in the newly open water of Etherington Pond. I've seen geese bathe at the surface before, but these birds went completely under!

I observed Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup (FOY) separately and mixed together this week, which afforded me excellent opportunities to study the structural differences between these similar species.

Other sightings of note included 5 Dunlin (FOY) in Biddeford Pool, 2 Northern Shovelers and a Great Blue Heron in Wells, 1 vocal Red-shouldered Hawk (FOY) in Kennebunkport, and several Eastern Chipmunks throughout my travels.

Wild Edible of the Week

This week, I incorporated dehydrated Black Trumpet mushrooms (from a couple of summers ago) into several of my meals.

I was also able to collect more than a half-gallon of Red Maple sap on one warm day (to make up for last week's nearly complete lack of sap). I've been enjoying it raw and using it as a soup base.

Moon Challenge Report

I recorded the calls of 7 more bird species: Brown Creeper, American Goldfinch, and American Tree Sparrow (link to audio); Pileated Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch (link to audio); Blue Jay (link to audio); and American Robin (link to audio).

I'd also like to share with you a new podcast by nature recordist Lang Elliot called The Music of Nature (check out the first installment). The soundscapes he's sharing may be from outside of New England, but they're nonetheless inspiring.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Observe a drumming woodpecker.


 

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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!

17.09 | Nature Notes (Feb 26 – Mar 4)

Photo of Gulls
Gulls | Augusta, ME | 2 Mar 2017

Highlights of the Week

On Church Hill Road in Augusta, a gull-filled field contained 1 immature Glaucous Gull (FOY), 40 Great Black-backed Gulls, and a staggering 1600+ Herring Gulls.

During a midday high tide at the Scarborough Marsh, I observed 1 Snow Goose among hundreds of Canada Geese, 1 Northern Shoveler (FOY), 5+ Gadwall, and 1 Peregrine Falcon.

I observed American Woodcocks (FOY) displaying in both morning and evening twilight. Other FOYs for me included Killdeer, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Turkey Vulture. And, amazingly, near the foundation of a house, Jenny noticed the first tiny flowers of Hairy Bitter-cress.

Wild Edible of the Week

I tapped a Red Maple tree this week, with hopes of gathering and drinking several cups of slightly sweet sap. Unfortunately, most days were simply too cold for sap flow, so I was able to obtain only about a pint of precious liquid. (I hope to obtain more sap in the coming weeks, as conditions allow.)

Moon Challenge Report

My latest challenge, to record the calls of 15 species of birds or amphibians with my new sound recording equipment, is off to a slow start. So far, I've recorded an American Woodcock (link to audio) and a Black-capped Chickadee (link to audio).

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

On a clear night, locate the Big Dipper and the North Star.


 

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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!

17.08 | Nature Notes (Feb 19-25)

Photo of Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting | Hollis, ME | 25 Feb 2017

Highlights of the Week

The first pulse of (mostly male) Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles arrived this week from the south. Other FOYs for me included Brant, Rough-legged Hawk, and Ruffed Grouse.

Near record warmth unlocked local waterways, resulting in an uptick of Ring-necked Ducks, Wood Ducks, and Green-winged Teal, among others.

And, highlights of a birding trip along Route 16 in Oxford County, ME included 7 Gray Jays, 12+ Pine Grosbeaks, and 31 Snow Buntings.

Wild Edible of the Week

I consumed several cups of Yellow Birch twig tea this week. To begin, I visited a forest rich with Yellow Birch and located a couple of trees (with reachable living branches) who could benefit from thinning. I carefully cut a small handful of twigs to bring home, enough for several servings. To prepare the tea, I scraped the bark off of a few twigs and let the scrapings soak in cool or warm water for 1-3 hours.

Moon Challenge Report

I completed my Tree Twig Moon on Saturday. See my moon challenge recap post.

Nature Challenge of the Week (for you, the reader)

Locate and photograph (or sketch or simply observe) at least three types of lichen. Cemetery stones and tree bark are two good places to search for lichen.


 

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My work as a naturalist is supported by readers like you. To pledge a monthly contribution of $1 or more, please visit Patreon. Thank you!