Listening for coyote, elk, owl

You never know when something unusual is going to happen to you. I had a “first time ever experience” this past week where I was enjoying watching two Great Pyrenees dogs and a young wolf roommate at the Kisma Preserve. It was interesting being so close to the beautiful young wolf. All of a sudden all the wolves at the preserve started to howl. I was just a few feet away and it was a glorious chorus!

Even the two Pyrenees joined in as best they could. I confess that I joined in the group howl as well. I learned from the curator that what had started them off was an ambulance sounding its siren on Route 3. She said that every time a siren sounds the wolves howl.

For me to be so close to these beautiful mammals howling was very special. All of the guests that day visiting the preserve loved it as well.

There is a big difference between the sounds of howling wolves (not heard here except at the preserve) and the yipping coyotes we frequently can hear on Mount Desert Island.

I really like both sounds. A red setter I had once used to sit in the middle of the living room and he yipped along with the coyotes whenever they were nearby.

Another wild call I shall always remember was that of a bull elk signaling his bevy of beautiful females feeding on a hillside. He bugled from another hill nearby and clearly told them what he wanted and they immediately obeyed.

You don’t always have to see the wildlife you hear. I found it very exciting and special to be out on the seas in Newfoundland in a rubber Zodiac boat listening with the help of a special underwater device, to a sperm whale nearby “talking” as it fed.

If you learn to make the sounds of a great horned owl or barred owl you often can get them to respond. Always be respectful to any wildlife when you do this. If you are upsetting them, stop.

Hummingbirds are still out and about for a friend told me this week of hummingbirds sucking nectar eagerly at her tomato blossoms. Flowers are abundant, so the hummingbirds have lots to eat. Numbers of them head south about mid-September and all should be gone by the end of October.

Back in the springtime we watched eagerly for Canada mayflowers to bloom. Now the flowers are being replaced by red berries. They are not edible for humans but some small wildlife creatures may eat some.

Wood ducks are molting and are in their eclipse plumage. They completely molt body, tail and wing feathers for a short period and cannot fly.

As you would expect, they stay hidden at this time for they are very vulnerable to predators.

Wood ducks are well named for they liked to live in the secluded woodland ponds. Their nests are usually high in a tree or in a nest box on a pole. It makes you wonder how the babies get to the ground!

It was always a mystery to me until our family had wood ducks nesting in a box put up for them high on a telephone pole. One day we got to watch the ducklings line up at the opening and cautiously take their turn in launching themselves into the air and then falling gently to the ground like feathers.

The parents waited near the bottom and made encouraging sounds when needed. When all had landed below in good shape they walked in a wonderful procession to the nearby pond and began their duck lives. A federal game warden friend of ours once told us that when baby ducks have no parents to care for them, they have a 50-50 chance of survival.

The beautiful colors on a wood duck’s feathers are very difficult to describe in words, for the feathers are blues, greens, purples, white, red, chestnut and buff. The body plan looks like an oriental tapestry. In spite of all the bright colors the bird can slip about unseen in the shaded woodland ponds and is often unseen.

Males, of course, as is usual for most birds, are the brightest. The female wood duck is beautiful but more subdued, as are most wildlife females.

These ducks would prefer a hollow tree for their nest but such trees are not often found nowadays. They readily take to nest boxes on poles in or near water. If you examine local ponds and lakes closely you’ll see many such nest boxes and they are readily accepted by the wood ducks. If you are in a canoe or boat don’t get too close to them and disturb the ducks.

Sea lavender is in bloom, Watch for the translucent white and waxy white Indian pipes growing now in the woods. Asters will be plentiful now and in coming weeks. Garter snakes are busy eating slugs.

Enjoy all the wonderful wildlife on this Mount Desert Island!

Send any questions, observations or photos to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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