17.38 | Nature Notes (Sep 17-23)

Photo of American Dagger Moth caterpillar
American Dagger Moth caterpillar | Biddeford, ME | 22 Sep 2017

Highlights of the Week

I saw my first ever pod of Pilot Whales during Maine Audubon's Bar Harbor Pelagic trip. Spotting pelagic birds (the focus of the trip) was a real challenge given the dense fog, but we were treated to good looks at a Northern Fulmar and many Red Phalaropes and Leach's Storm-Petrels in Canadian waters south of Grand Manan Island.

Jenny and I each witnessed an American Dagger Moth (Acronicta americana) caterpillar at about the same time on Friday morning though we were a few miles apart. (Note: Their hairs can be irritating, so if you find one, it's best to look but not touch.)

And, thanks to the spotting of another birder, I was able to see a Lark Sparrow (the first I've seen since January 3rd) near Hills Beach in Biddeford.

Wild Edible of the Week

I enjoyed a fresh fillet of Haddock from a fish I caught on my last deep sea fishing trip. Technically, I ate the fillet last Saturday, but I'm calling that close enough.

Moon Challenge Report

On the New Moon (Wednesday), I began a Meditation and Gratitude Moon Challenge. I'm starting each day with 10+ minutes of sitting meditation and ending each day by writing a gratitude journal entry.

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

With the help of Newcomb's Wildflower Guide or another trusted resource, identify 3 types of goldenrod (or aster or any wildflowers) currently flowering near you.


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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!

Foraging Wild Fruit: Withe-rod

Photo of Withe-rod fruit

Withe-rod (Viburnum nudum), also known as Wild Raisin, is similar in many respects to Nannyberry (V. lentago), with oppositely arranged leaves and clusters of edible, dark blue/purple fruits which ripen in September. But whereas Nannyberry's leaves are edged with sharp teeth, the leaves of Withe-rod have blunt or wavy teeth, and the flower (and later fruit) clusters of Withe-rod have distinct stalks, which Nannyberry's clusters lack. (This latter feature is useful for telling the two apart during the white season.) And while Withe-rod has smaller fruits, the single seed within each one is soft and chewable, unlike the tougher seed of Nannyberry, which I prefer to spit out.

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

17.37 | Nature Notes (Sep 10-16)

Highlights of the Week

Blood Milkwort (Polygala sanguinea), Narrow-leaved Gentian (Gentiana linearis), White Goldenrod (Solidago bicolor), Flax-leaved Stiff-aster, and Tall White-aster (Doellingeria umbellatus) flowering.

I spent a day out at sea on a fishing boat. Thick fog made spotting birds nearly impossible (I was able to identify just a handful of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, a few Northern Gannets, and small numbers of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls), so I turned my efforts to catching fish for my freezer. I took home over ten pounds of Pollock fillets.

I saw a very rare and extremely long-tailed Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Lifer!) discovered by another birder at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth.

Wild Edible of the Week

I gathered fruits of Black Elderberry, some of which Jenny processed into a nutritious wild fruit jello.

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

Sit under an Oak (Quercus sp.) tree (with a hat on) and observe for 20+ minutes.


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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!

Shorebirds: Stilt Sandpiper

Photo of Stilt Sandpiper (Sept)

Stilt Sandpipers are uncommon, mid-sized shorebirds who nest in the tundra of northern Canada and Alaska. In New England, they're most often observed in July, August, and September, as they stop over to forage in shallow, standing water at both coastal and inland sites.

Stilt Sandpipers often feed by probing their bills into mud in sewing-machine-like fashion, much like dowitchers, or picking food off the surface like Lesser Yellowlegs. But whereas dowitchers have long, straight bills, and Lesser Yellowlegs have short, straight bills, Stilt Sandpipers have medium-length bills with an obvious droop, much like Dunlin.

To learn more about these waders with yellow-green legs, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.