A grey jay, also called a Canada Jay.

Black bear surprises residents

“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the popular song by the recently named Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, came to mind this week. Several bear visitations have been reported. The most recent one was in Northeast Harbor. A couple of residents heard sounds on their back porch and went to investigate. The woman of the house turned the porch light on and found a black bear trying to get food from the bird feeder. She and her husband watched the animal for quite awhile, for a bear on the porch is not a common event on this island. Her husband told me that, after he thought it had been long enough, he suddenly let out a very loud whooping sound, and the startled bear took off at high speed and ran back in the woods. The feeder had numerous tooth marks on it.

My advice was to take all their feeders in until it really gets cold and the bears are asleep. This bear was very fast as it prepared for its long winter nap. The man thought the bear was a yearling, and he said in all his many, many years in Northeast Harbor, he had never seen a bear there before.

A nice Canada jay appeared on a feeder in Hull’s Cove. Any campers in the big woods of Maine should be familiar with this bird, for it very often will come to your picnic and boldly hop on the picnic table and join your picnic. My first encounter with them was in Baxter State Park where we used to camp frequently. We gladly shared our food to see them. Also called grey jays, these are year-round birds in Maine, but they are not as numerous here on Mount Desert Island as in other parts of the state.

The habits of the gray jay are similar to those of the familiar blue jay, but its coloring is quite different. To many birders, this jay resembles an overgrown chickadee in its coloring. White and gray dominate its coloring, and it sports a black cap. Look this one up in your bird book. Immature grey jays are sooty gray all over. The grey jay is much larger than a chickadee. Look for the white on the forehead, face and throat. It is often quite fearless when around humans.

This jay is found only in North America and mainly in the northern forests. In my many trips to Newfoundland, we frequently see them. Grey jays breed earlier in the year than many other birds. It often feels and looks like winter when they breed. Grey jays are smaller than blue jays and have a longer tail and a smaller bill. Keep watching for them, you may see one this winter.

One especially interesting habit of this jay is its ability to use a special mucus-secreting gland in its bill to form berries into balls and then store these away by sticking them on tree branches and lichens for later eating.

Snow buntings are back again on MDI. This is another northern bird that comes to us in the winter. I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch them many times in Newfoundland, where they breed. A group will suddenly appear, swirl around like snowflakes and then land right in front of you on the bare ground near the shore and just disappear. Their coloring blends in very well with the vegetation. They very well look like feathered snowflakes. Watch for them now as you visit any of our shore areas or encounter bare ground near the shore. When snow covers the ground, you may see them in ploughed driveways and parking areas. They feed and sleep on the ground. Rarely will you see them on a rooftop, even briefly. They spend their time seeking seeds and in the seaweeds then looking for tiny crustaceans.

The month of November on this island brings with it a struggling mixture of summer and winter. We may have frosty mornings contrasted with afternoons so warm you want to sit out in the sun. Buffleheads should be back, though I have not seen them yet. Some of these small northern nesters start arriving in late October and will spend the winter months with us.

Most of our warblers have gone, but you may encounter yellow-rumped warblers eating bayberries along the shore trails. Warblers usually feed on insects, but the yellow-rumped can subsist on berries and seeds. If bayberries run out, they will eat the berries of the red cedar, Virginia creeper, viburnums and honeysuckles.

Cormorants are migrating offshore now, heading down the Atlantic coast to spend the winter anywhere from New Jersey to Florida and Louisiana. Look for their long lines in the sky.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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