Baby seals. Seals are often seen at the Indian Point Blagden Preserve. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Blagden Preserve an island treasure



The tide was high when my friend and I reached the shore on the Indian Point Blagden Preserve. As I anticipated, no seals were lounging about, but it still was a beautiful scene. This special area preserved by the Nature Conservancy is but another of the quiet gems to be found on Mount Desert Island. Although most of the preserve is forested and contains mature woods, there is a small apple orchard not far from the shore where many forms of wildlife live. Shore frontage includes about 1,000 feet with lovely views of the bay and a rocky ledge where seals often congregate.

I often have watched seals from this vantage point, and it is great fun. Seals do look like graceful mermaids relaxing and enjoying the sunshine on the wet rocks. It is the habit of seals to hunt for food when the tide is high and to climb out of the water on exposed rocks at low tide to relax. Even without binoculars, you can see them quite well, but with binoculars, you get great views of their faces and their behavior as they rest. They are quite comical.

For the most part, it will be harbor seals that you see. This mammal is the smaller of the two seals we regularly see from this island. The other seal commonly seen around MDI is the grey seal. If you have no idea of their size, I urge you to go over to the Natural History Museum at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor and look at their excellent exhibits. Grey seals are very large, but until you actually are standing next to the mounted exhibit and looking at them for real, you will not appreciate their size. When you see seals in the water, you mostly just see their heads popping up. The harbor seal has a dog-like face, while the grey seal has more of horse-head look. When seen side by side at the museum, you can really compare them and note the difference in sizes.

Male gray seals are typically larger than females, reaching 7-8 feet and weighing 770 pounds. Harbor seals range from 4-5 feet in length and weigh 220-250 pounds. You’ll know when they are stressed if they are barking, yawning, flipper-waving and moving towards the water. If you see any of these signs, slowly depart from an area.

The woods this month still are beautiful and very interesting, with lush mosses, colorful fungi and late-blooming flowers. The trail to the shore at the sanctuary starts next to the parking lot and heads off into the woods and eventually down to the apple orchard and then along the shore. If you do not think you can walk through the woods and back up the road, you might ask at the headquarters if you can be driven down closer to the shore and then be picked up for the return trip. Leave your dog home for this hike. No dogs are allowed either on or off leash in order to preserve the environment for wildlife. For more information, call the preserve manager at 288-2095. The preserve is located on Indian Point Road.

The Nature Conservancy is an international conservation organization dedicated to preserving plants, animals and natural communities all over the world. If you should be in Westchester County, N.Y., near a town called Katonah, you can visit the Mildred E. Grierson Memorial Sanctuary that our family established on Todd Road. When we moved to Maine, we wanted to make sure our 20 acres of special woodlands and wetlands were preserved. It is now an official Nature Conservancy Sanctuary where visitors can enjoy woods, fields and wetlands in woodlands that otherwise would have been destroyed by development.

Neighbors adjoining us added more acreage in what is now called The Marion Yarrow Preserve. Those acres plus our acreage encompasses well over 100 acres in a lovely wildlife area in the rapidly growing area not far from New York City. More information is on the internet.

In the woods that day, we came across an interesting moss called pin cushion moss, for that is exactly what it reminds you of. It can be quite large, even as large as a cushion. Sitting on it is not advised, for it absorbs water and can be a wet seat. When the plant dries out, it turns from light green to almost white. Watch for this interesting moss as you walk about in the woods.

Bird news from the Cranberry Isles this past week: two titmice, cardinals and two Baltimore orioles (now called Northern orioles) were spotted. The two orioles seen are staying a little longer than usual but should soon be on their way south to warmer weather. They do not survive in a Maine winter. Cardinals are more commonly seen here now in 2016. Such was not the case when our family moved here in 1972. On the birding checklist for Acadia National Park, the titmouse is in a category named “species reported fewer than five times.” I get reports of titmice sightings throughout the year but mostly from the Bar Harbor side of this island. If you see them on the west side of this island, please let me know. Cardinals, of course, are now year-round birds here, and they are seen regularly all over the island. They were only seasonal in 1972.

An email this week requested the identification of a fern encountered on the island. The photo showed me that it was the bracken fern seen in many places. This fern is prolific on MDI and stands tall (1-5 feet) on a bare stem, then branches out in three directions with its fronds. This three part section helps identify it from the other ferns, the stems of which start at ground level. Bracken fern is found most everywhere on MDI and in the world. It has a coarse, thick texture. There are good photos on the internet if you don’t have a fern book handy.

Mammals and plants now are making preparations for the winter to come. Take some nice walks while the weather is good and there are lots of interesting things to see and enjoy outdoors.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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