A white-breasted nuthatch perches on a suet feeder. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Nature: Are feeders for the birds?

Bird feeders provide so much pleasure for so many people all over the world. Feeders are not really as important to the birds as one would think, except in severe weather conditions. But feeders do provide pleasure for the humans watching and they are educational for all ages who might not get out in woods and fields and notice the world around them. 

From a very young age, my mother showed me the joys of watching nature. She always had a feeder outside the kitchen window and we watched the bird visitors while we ate our breakfast. Her binoculars and bird book were always handyThe birds in Connecticut were much the same as in Maine and I remember that the whitebreasted nuthatch and chickadee were my favorites. 

Visits to other areas and seeing a new bird at a feeder were always fascinating in later life. Looking for birds took me many places in the world, and all were great adventures. My first exciting birds were the evening grosbeaks I first saw in Portsmouth, N.H., where my favorite aunt lived. Then, later, when these grosbeaks came south in great numbers to Connecticut and started appearing at feeders everywhere, even the native birds were intimidated by the invaders. The grosbeaks were bold, fierce looking and very aggressive. The bird world was all aflutter. 

The world becomes a smaller place when you travel and you realize how much we are all connected. This year, as I have spent a few weeks in the South to survive the winter, I’ve learned a lot. This week we found a state park nature center bird feederIt was pure delight. We sat on a bench and watched as the birds flew by us and fed on the suetseeds and fruit presented to them. Seeing them all so closely just living their daily lives was great. The birds included house finchesCarolina chickadees, tufted titmouseblue jaysredbellied woodpeckersmourning dovesredwinged blackbirdsmockingbirds and cardinals. All were very close. No binoculars needed! 

Carolina chickadees look very much like our black-capped chickadee. The house finches just sat and continuously ate seeds from a hanging feeder. Chickadees came and went. The tufted titmouse eagerly picked at food. On the trunk of a tree generously spread with peanut butter, the beautiful redbellied woodpeckers feasted. OMount Desert Island, these woodpeckers are quite often seen at island feeders in the winter. Hulls Cove seems to be one of their favorite visiting areas. 

Zephyranthes is a genus of temperate and tropical plants in the Amaryllis family. It is also known as fairy lily, rain flower, zephyr, magic, atamasco or rain lily. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Carolina chickadees were there as well, and I would have a difficult time telling the chickadees apart if I didn’t see them side by side. The Carolina chickadee is slightly smaller than the black-capped chickadee here in Maine. You also must never forget that you don’t have to identify every bird you see to enjoy it! Beautiful white atamasco lilies were in full bloom on the forest floor all around us. That was a new flower for me! 

Here on MDI, we have many opportunities to see birds very closely. Somes Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary is a good place to visit in Somesville, and they have a good naturalist there to help you. Take a look at their website. 

The Indian Point-BlagdePreserve is a good area to explore too. It’s on the west side of the island. Look this one up. Even our local libraries have live web cams to enjoy. 

I’m missing my favorite skunk cabbage flowers. They come up and show that wine redraw meat sheath. The first time you see them in wet, boggy placesyou have no idea they are skunk cabbages. The plant looks like something from another planet. Later, the large green leaves grow tall and you just notice the plant when you step on the leaves and you get a whiff of that skunky odor.  

Refrain now from putting out your feeder for bears are newly awakened from their winter’s sleep and are hungry. It’s easier not to attract them now than to try to discourage them later.  

A friend found a small snapping turtle crossing the lawn recently and a larger one was seen crossing an island road. Bigger birds and numerous mammals might like it for a tasty meal. It will head for the nearest pond and continue to grow. Garter snakes will be seen on sunny days trying to soak up the warmth. Watch for cormorants arriving any day now,’ as a favorite song lyric of mine says. These birds will be nesting on our outer islands. You may even get to see an egret in our local marshes.  

Be always on the lookout for all the wonderful sights and sounds that spring brings to us. This is a time of great anticipation. Let me know what you are seeing or what you are curious about. 


Send any questions or sightings to [email protected]. 


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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