Black bears do live on Mount Desert Island, and there have been numerous sightings this spring after the bears woke up from their long winter’s nap. One of the favorite places for them to go first looking for food is at bird feeders. If this happens near you, take the feeder down for a while so they will seek easy food elsewhere. Secure your edible trash where they can’t get at it. Don’t encourage them around your house.
Be smart in your behavior if a bear has been seen in your neighborhood. Don’t try to get closer. Making a bit of a noise by clapping your hands or yelling at them will probably send them away. A column reader a couple of years ago in Northeast Harbor had a bear on his back porch one evening, and he and wife watched it from inside the kitchen. Since the bear didn’t seem to show signs of leaving, the man let out a “war whoop,” and the bear took off at high speed and never came back again. Bears like to avoid aggression.
Avoid eye contact with bears and don’t run away. If you have a cooking pot handy, bang on it. Carry a noise maker in your pocket. If you’re camping, secure your food by hanging it up or putting in a locked car. Don’t keep it in your tent. I think I would skip frying bacon for breakfast; the aroma is just too tempting for man and beast.
Barking dogs usually make them stay away, and your presence on a trail will cause them to slip past without you being aware of it. One may have been watching you though you had no idea it was nearby. Even with cubs, black bears may not act aggressively according to the experts, but don’t try to get closer and never try to pet a cub or get the ultimate photo. Retreating is always the best tactic, grizzly bears act a little differently, but none of them live in Maine. Even though there are more bear sightings at the moment, you can walk in our woods without fear, just common sense and respect. Enjoy one if you see one. Don’t panic.
Numerous reports of indigo bunting sightings came to me this week. This bird is so blue it stands out like a tropical flower in bloom. Even though they are a beautiful color, it does not always show the blue when you see the bird sitting on a wire or in a tree. From that vantage point, it just looks dark, but in the right light and position, the color is stunning. It is bright blue all over and a little darker blue on the head. Sitting on a feeder outside your window, it is a gorgeous bird. They are rather stocky looking and short-billed. From May until September, these buntings are with us in small numbers, and some are seen until September and October.
Male indigo buntings like to sing from the treetops. Females are not very colorful and are very secretive. She places her nest in the forked branch of some shrub or a brushy tangle. They find food on the ground in the form of insects, grains, weed seeds and berries. Having a male indigo bunting come to your feeder is a real treat.
It is quite possible now to see a blue grosbeak, a similar kind of a bird, slightly different color of blue, but very beautiful They are not commonly seen, but the male coming around will definitely attract your attention. This grosbeak is a larger and slimmer bird. Look up both of these bluish colored birds in your bird book or on the computer so you’ll know what to look for.
A marsh hawk was seen recently near Oak Hill Road. These graceful hawks are beautiful as they glide low over a field hunting for mice. This bird is best known as the northern harrier, but many have called it a marsh hawk for so long it comes first to the mind. It is known for its long, slender wings and long tail, and right at the base of the tail is a white patch that can clearly be seen as the bird flies over a field hunting for food. Besides mice, they also eat birds, rats, snakes, frogs and other small mammals. If you see one someday, take time to stop and watch it glide and hunt. They often hunt at dusk. On my side of the island in Bass Harbor, I have enjoyed watching them fly over the marshes sometimes until late in the fall. Normally, they winter only to southern New England.
As I came home from playing for a contra dance on the weekend, I caught sight of a fat porcupine crossing the road. Its shape and manner of walking identified him even with just a quick glimpse. They do not fear cars and often are killed accidently. Dogs are notorious for getting quilled when they go over to investigate a porcupine. All the prickly mammal has to do is slash its quilled tail around, and the dog gets a face full of quills. Porcupines cannot throw their quills, but the quills come out very easily on contact with an adversary. I once took wild live creatures around to schools and nursing homes and remember well a day I took a white porcupine named “Charmin” to a local nursing home. The residents were able to touch it and see it up close, which delighted them all. The porcupine had been raised in captivity and was very docile. It liked to be held. The babies are born with soft quills, and they harden a short while later. The female usually has just one young. A porcupine’s only defense is the use of their sharp quills. They are not fighters and can’t move very fast.