17.31 | Nature Notes (Jul 30 – Aug 5)

Photo of Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull | Biddeford, ME | 4 Aug 2017

Highlights of the Week

The fruits of Velvet-leaved Blueberry and Black Huckleberry are ripe.

During a deep sea fishing trip out of Kennebunk to Jeffreys Ledge, I caught Cod, Cusk, and Pollock. Additionally, I observed 2 Ocean Sunfish, several Sharks (not sure which kinds), ~1000 Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and several other pelagic bird species including my FOY Great Shearwater, Leach's Storm-Petrel*, and Pomarine Jaeger.

Other FOY birds included Hudsonian Godwit*, Cory's Shearwater, and a rare Black-necked Stilt* (Lifer!).

*first located by another birder and subsequently seen by me

Wild Edible of the Week

I ate some of the Pollock (so good!) from my fishing trip (see above) and put several pounds in my freezer.

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

Locate and identify 3 types of ferns using a field guide or an online tool like Go Botany's fern key.


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Shorebirds: American Oystercatcher

Photo of American Oystercatcher

A bright, red-orange bill and bubblegum colored legs make American Oystercatchers one of the easiest New England shorebirds to identify. Being easy to identify, however, doesn't mean they're easy to find. American Oystercatchers are listed as a species of special concern in Maine, which is the northern edge of their Atlantic coast range, with only 4 to 8 nesting pairs in the entire state.* If you live in coastal New England, or plan to visit this summer, and want a chance at finding an American Oystercatcher, help narrow your search by checking out recent sightings on eBird. Governed by rising and falling tides, American Oystercatchers forage at lower tides on mudflats, beaches, and shellfish beds. During high tide, they roost on islands or in coastal dunes.

To learn more about these large, bivalve-eating, pink-legged shorebirds, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

*Maine 2015 Wildlife Action Plan Revision

17.30 | Nature Notes (Jul 23-29)

Photo of Little Egret (left) and Snowy Egrets
Little Egret (left) and Snowy Egrets | Falmouth, ME | 25 Jul 2017

Highlights of the Week

After a few failed attempts to find the rare Little Egret (who has been sighted off-and-on in the Portland area since 11 July), I finally locked eyes on the bird roosting with 9 Snowy Egrets off the north meadow at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth.

I saw and heard juvenile Common and Roseate Terns begging their parents for fish and saw a migrant Caspian Tern, at Hills Beach in Biddeford.

I observed many boreal forest birds, including White-winged and Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, and Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatcher during a 2-day, 1-night trip to Piscataquis County.

Wild Edible of the Week

I snacked on various wild Blueberries in both southern and central Maine.

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

Locate 2 damselfly species at a freshwater wetland.


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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!

Wetland Plants: Pickerelweed

Photo of Pickerelweed

One morning earlier this month, I spent a few hours kayaking in a shallow pond that was home to a vast colony of blooming Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata). I've known, or at least recognized, Pickerelweed, for over a decade now as a common aquatic plant with arrow-shaped leaves and a blue-purple flower spike, but I'd never looked at the plant's flowers up close -- they are so hairy.

According to John Eastman (The Book of Swamp and Bog, 1994, p. 143), dragonfly and damselfly nymphs commonly climb up Pickerelweed plants when they're ready to transform into winged adults and leave their empty exoskeletons behind as evidence.

Eastman also notes that various dabbling ducks, such as American Black Duck, Mallard, and Northern Pintail, eat the seeds of Pickerelweed, which ripen in late summer. Though I've not yet tried them, humans can also eat the seeds raw, roasted, or boiled. For more details on human uses, see Ancestral Plants (Vol. 1, 2010, p. 166) by Arthur Haines.

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