An ovenbird spending time in the garden of a good friend. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTH GRIERSON

Nature: Appreciate the vibrant shades of summer 



The ovenbird is well named, for its nest is built like a tiny oven with the entrance on the side. This is one of the many warblers we see on Mount Desert Island in the summer forest. It is often seen wandering about on the forest floor and it seems to carefully think about where its feet will go before stepping out. A good friend sent me a great photo of this bird in her garden. The bird seems to walk always with a purpose and with great dignity. It also has a habit of raising and lowering its tail when it pauses.  

Its oven-shaped nest on the ground is easily missed unless you happen to see it through a little opening on its side. If you go near the nest accidently and startle the mother bird, she will burst out of the nest to get your attention and lead you away. Be careful where you step then and back away. 

This bird also lifts and raises its tail whenever it stops walking and you may get to see it on an open trail sometime. In the evening, the ovenbird calls a loud ‘teacher, Teacher, TEACHER!’ Look for a brownish bird on the ground, with an orange crown and spotted underside. It’s a great bird to see and hear in local woods. 

Spatterdock, also called yellow cow lily, is in full flower on my small pond. You can find it in shallow ponds, slow streams and bogs of this island. The flowers are bright yellow and globular. Its leaves usually float on the water but at times when water levels drop, the broad, rounded, lobed leaves may stand erect. The large leaves, often a foot wide, are not really strong enough to hold up a frog, in spite of children’s book illustrations to the contrary. In the country of Peru, however, I have seen lily pads strong enough to hold up to 9 pounds! Our local pond lilies are not capable of such a feat.  

 

Yellow water lily spatterdock among green leaves.
GETTY IMAGE PHOTO

The yellow cow lilies can thrive in water that is too stagnant for the glamorous white water lilies. The large leaves of the cow lily rest on the water and keep waves from splashing on the opened blossoms until they have been fertilized by aquatic insectsbees and beetles. Native Americans used lily root stocks as a vegetable after they were boiled and roasted. Moose and bear also enjoyed the root stocks. 

From May to August, those of us who get out and about on local ponds and on the edges of bogs may be fortunate enough to come upon a wild calla lily, which looks like something you would only find in the tropics. Those found in the tropics are MUCH bigger. Wild calla are not common here nowadays, but they do grow on the island. 

Calla leaves are big and heart shaped. The ill-scented flower is later replaced with a cluster of red berries. This plant is not easy to find, but it does grow here. Take a photo to bring home with you and don’t tell anyone where you saw it. Keep that a secret! 

As I walked up my driveway after a rainstorm, I couldn’t help but notice the varying shades of green in all the vegetation. So many people just see green, but the lighting sometimes is so special that the different shades of green are outstanding as you look at the different fernsskunk cabbage leavessweet ferns and various evergreens and leaf-bearing trees. If you are an artist, you know just what I mean! I was fortunate to meet and take art lessons for many years with Marion Chapman, an artist in Salisbury Cove. She opened my eyes to the many shades of green and it’s quite astounding! 

Amanita muscaria var. guessowii, commonly known as the yellow fly agaric is a basidiomycete fungus of the genus Amanita. Poisonous. Near Quoddy Head, ME. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Everywhere I’ve walked this week, I’ve come across amanita mushrooms. They are very colorful, beautiful and poisonous, so don’t touch them! Squirrels can eat them but people CANNOT. Take photos only. Some have red caps, others yellow, and they are spotted. Look them up on your computer.  

One year I was visiting a friend in Sardinia and was able to go along with the people when they went out to collect mushrooms to put away for eating later. The whole process was very competitive. The competition was fierce and there was definite protocol to follow. My daughter and I enjoyed that day and later eating all the great mushroom dishes. Extra mushrooms were freeze dried for winter. Here in Maine, I just enjoy seeing and taking photographs of the wild mushrooms. They are very beautiful. 

 

Let me know what you are seeing and if you have questions about something in our natural world. Send me a note at [email protected] 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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