Spring is a wonderful time of year for nature writers; there is so much going on in the natural world. Brant geese recently have been seen at the Trenton Bridge. They appear there each year in March and April, and some linger into May. They are smaller geese than the Canadian geese we see here year-round. Brant are smaller black-necked geese seen along the coast. They bunch together erratically and do not fly in the V-shape formation that Canada geese prefer. The bird does resemble a Canada goose, but the brant is much smaller. Especially look for the small, white patch on the neck of the brant rather than a large, white patch found on the neck of the Canada goose. The area at Trenton Bridge seems to be a favorite stopping place for brant in the spring. These birds breed in the Arctic.
We are once again in May, when each day you can expect new wildlife happenings as spring progresses. Ferns are unfolding, and spring flowers can be seen budding and blooming as the days move along. Canada mayflower soon will carpet the woodlands. And you can watch now for the lovely aromatic trailing arbutus, sometimes locally called “mayflower,” in bloom. In order to enjoy the fragrance, you need to get down on your hands and knees, for it is low to the ground. Don’t be tempted to bring some home with you. Enjoy it where it grows. Take home a photo. Do try to take a sniff of the flowers, though. It’s worth the trouble.
A friend of mine on Islesford excitedly called this week to tell me she had a rose-breasted grosbeak on her feeder. It was a little earlier than last year but feasting on the seeds and suet she had put out. The rose-breasted grosbeak is a gorgeous bird, and it is not only beautiful to see, but it also has a pleasant nature. The male assumes his full part of family duties, being a devoted parent and caring for the young. He even sings to his mate as she sits on the eggs, brings her food and takes his turn at incubating as well. The male seems to be in high spirits and sings to himself as well as his mate. Males usually arrive first, and fierce competition begins when the females appear. When the female has been won, the pair goes off together and become a close family unit.
Soon to come will be tanagers and orioles. Keep watch on the cherry tree at the Asticou Gardens, for when the hummingbirds first arrive, that is a favorite spot to watch them. There is a large, flowering cherry tree that attracts a great number of these tiny birds. Many hummingbirds will be in sight at one time feeding and fighting among themselves for the best blossoms. They are very feisty birds and don’t hesitate to stab one another with their long bills. You can even hear their grunting reactions when they get poked in the stomach. Make yourself comfortable on a bench in the garden and watch the show.
A female turkey wandered into view of my house this week, and I was delighted to see it, for I was “grounded” a few days after an accident. These birds are quite noble and beautiful as they walk around and definitely fun to watch. They take beauty to a new level.
A big, fat toad was hopping across the road one rainy night, and my son took time to take a photo and put it safely in the pond. Many amphibians are killed in the spring by passing automobiles. Be aware of this and try to avoid killing them, especially on warm, rainy nights.
Days of foggy, misty weather do not do much for the human spirit, but they are precisely what lichens need to become full and beautiful. Now is a perfect time to look at them on this island. These plants are not always easy to identify, for you need to pay close attention to details and often have a powerful hand lens in order to examine them. It is, of course, not necessary to know the name of something in order to enjoy its beauty and shape. If you are really interested in knowing what you are seeing, there is an excellent book called “The Macrolichens of New England” by James and Patricia Hinds that will be of interest. The internet also can be helpful with many pictures. Local libraries can get a copy of the book for you.