Summer is doing is best to make this island beautiful and very interesting. I had a message from a column reader telling me she had seen 17 egrets together at the Tarn. That must have been a special sight in Maine. You expect large numbers of them in the south but not usually here in such great numbers. I had two in the trees in Bass Harbor one evening and the Bass Harbor Marsh usually has some of these southern birds every year along with the commonly seen great blue herons. The egrets are just visiting, the great blue herons, of course, do nest locally and then head south when it gets cold later on.
Going whale watching is always an adventure whether you’re in a smaller zodiac or on a large whale watching trip. According to the photos I was sent this week on a trip out from Bar Harbor a few days ago it was a real adventure for all when humpbacks came nicely into view. They are such fun to watch as they move about on the surface, dive, and breach. When they dive, the last thing you see is that enormous tail ‘fanning’ out of the water. Orcas came around a boat I was on last summer and they are very fast and exciting. It’s often difficult to see them with your binoculars as they move by so quickly. The Gulf of Maine is an exceptional place to look for whales. The area referred to as the Gulf of Maine is between the north shore of Cape Cod, Cape Sable, Nova Scotia and the shallow fishing banks which run between them. Take a day off, go on a whale watch and have an adventure!
A photo of a beautiful black butterfly with a broad white stripe and smaller blue designs at the edges of the wings appeared in my e-mail letters this week. It was a lovely photo of a White Admiral butterfly. Its color scheme is supposed to make it less recognizable to predators.
Most admirals have broad white stripes across the forewings and the hind wings. Although the butterfly over all is black it is called a white admiral. Red-spotted purple butterflies and white admiral butterflies interbreed so identification can be confusing sometimes. It seems that white admirals occur more normally in the northern part of Maine and the red spotted purple in the south. Both are quite beautiful. There is a nice display of butterflies now at the Southwest Harbor Public Library. If you are interested in butterflies I would suggest getting a paperback edition of The Butterfly Book by Donald and Lillian Stokes/Ernest Williams. The pictures are excellent and the information very helpful in identifying whatever you are seeing.
Clintonia, also known as Clinton’s Lily, now has beautiful dark blue berries on its single flower stalk and gives it the reason it is often called the Blue Bead lily. The berries are as attractive as the yellow flowers that bloom earlier in the season. Watch for it now as you walk in the woods.
The leaves of Clintonia are almost more conspicuous than the yellow lily –like flowers or blue ‘beads’ rising above them. The blue color on this plant is very special. The name Clintonia comes from the famous botanist and statesman, DeWitt Clinton, former governor of New York. He studied plants and flowers as avidly as present day politicians seem to play golf!
If you are a good observer of the out-of-doors you have probably noticed large heart shaped leaves in many places on the rich ground of open clearings and in the woods. Look at it again now for on this plant are the flowers of this heart leafed aster. The flowers are blue-violet or bluish-white. Asters are in the composite family and can be recognized by their daisy like flowers with yellow centers. They add beauty to the late summer flowers found on this island.
This island has many boggy areas and generally bogs are inaccessible to most humans. Bogs are special places and are rich in plant life. Since Bogs are fragile environments it’s best not to walk on them as your feet can cause lots of damage. Also, the footing is not solid and bog explorers have been known to suddenly find themselves waist deep in mud and water. Never explore on your own.
These bogs are pockets filled with leftovers from the glaciers melting some 10,000-12,000 years ago. The cold water, varying in thickness beneath the vegetation, sits unstirred and is covered with a layer of plants. Around the edges of these mats grow spruce and tamarack trees. Left long enough and undisturbed a bog forest may slowly change into a cedar forest.
The sphagnum moss in a bog is really quite interesting. If you squeeze some, emptying the air cells, and then put the clump back in the water you can watch the cells fill up again with water. This is how the moss becomes a living mat supporting other plants and providing a place for creatures to move about in the bog. American Indians found a practical use for this water-holding moss and used it for diapers!!
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