PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Know your tick neighbors



“Rain drops keep falling on my head,” so goes a popular tune that certainly is true, even though raindrops have been sparse this summer. I heard a comment the other day about ticks falling or jumping from trees and landing on passersby. That is not the case. Ticks do not go in the trees, and all the tick experts say that ticks cannot jump and they do not live in trees. These pesky little creatures do live in vegetation and tall grass, for ticks need humidity to survive. Because of this, they do not live in home lawns either. Keeping grass and other vegetation mowed is a good option to control them where you live. You also should tuck your pant legs into your socks and spray some repellent on the pants and socks to repel ticks as they get on you and start to crawl upwards. That is why you often find them feeding in the hair and ears. They also like warm bodily crevices. If you think you have been exposed to ticks, check everywhere on your body.

If you find one attached to your skin, take your tweezers and grab it as close as you can to your body and carefully try to pull it out. Do not use matches, lighter fluids, petroleum jelly or any other method in hopes of making it let go. Any of these methods may make it regurgitate into you, and that is not to a good thing to happen. Diseases are transferred that way. Save the tick you remove in a small vial containing alcohol and have it identified or identify it yourself with the help of excellent photos available on the internet.

Go online and check out www.mainelyticks.com or call 1-877-332-3842 for help and information. Ticks are definitely abundant on this island. Not all, however, transmit Lyme disease. If you find an engorged tick on yourself, have it checked out professionally so you won’t worry.

As much as it may be a nuisance if you are out and about the woods and fields, you should do a check for ticks on your body every day. Another useful site on the internet to visit is www.mainepublichealth.gov. They have a handy tick guide to carry with you for removal of ticks and their identification. It’s important to get to know your tick neighbors! Be watchful in tall grass, vegetation, woodlands and at the edges of forests.

The big news on the weekend was the full moon when the moon was closest to the earth, the biggest of the year, and was totally eclipsed. More about that next week after I’ve experienced the event.

Every time I step outside in the evening now, it sounds like fall. Crickets and katydids keep reminding us with their chirping that we’re changing seasons and heading into winter once again. A few fall webworms are on my apple trees but not enough to be of much concern, and apples are abundant. This native caterpillar causes no real harm to our plants. Hungry birds, like the cuckoos that visit our island, find the caterpillar nests a delicious treat. They feast on these caterpillars.

Cuckoos are not commonly seen here, but a few can be found here and there. I really like cuckoos. We can find both the yellow-billed and the blackbilled cuckoos here, although you are more likely to see the yellow-billed cuckoo. Neither bird is common. Both birds have down-curved bills. They are 12 inches long, making them about the size of a blue jay. The wings of the yellow-billed cuckoo are reddish brown, and the bird has a long tail. The best places to look for them now are around fall webworm nests. Because they are rather secretive and shy, you are more apt to hear than see them. Check out their call on the internet so you’ll recognize them. The European cuckoo is a much larger bird and really does say “cuckoo” in a very loud voice. I’ll never forget hearing one in England in the Yorkshire Dales. Its voice carried across the valley where we were hiking and was unmistakable.

Since the cuckoos eat very fuzzy caterpillars, their stomach gets a hairy lining. This is no problem for this interesting bird, for cuckoos can regurgitate the entire stomach lining and grow a new one.

A friend of mine reported seeing a sperm whale this past week when out on a local whale watch. I identified with her excitement about the event, for last year, I saw one on a whale watch in the Sea of Whales in Newfoundland. The sperm whale is huge! Big males are about 60 feet long. Since these large whales are likely to be found in very deep water, they are most often found off the continental shelf. To see one about 45 miles off the coast and be able to watch it swim, surface and spout made the day one to remember. I wish I had been with my friend. You just never know when you go out on the sea what wonderful adventure might be about to happen.

Keep watching for hawks that are passing now on migration and different sorts of shorebirds headed south. Cormorants will be leaving soon, flickers are getting ready to leave, and hummingbirds will exit soon. Many birds are on the move to warmer climes. Watch for migrants of all sorts as they pass through over this island, and you may get glimpses of many as they stop to feed along the way.

Send any questions or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.

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