Nature: Beautiful bluebirds



Bluebirds were seen this week in a blueberry field on the island. It is encouraging to have had more reports of these lovely birds in recent years for they were seriously in decline a few years ago when English sparrows took over their nesting sites and even killed bluebirds sitting on eggs in their nests. A strong campaign by wildlife enthusiasts reversed the trend in intervening years and they have made a comeback. Most of the reports I receive about bluebirds are in Tremont, where there are nice fields. It helps these birds when you put up proper housing for them. Directions for doing this can be found where bluebird houses are sold and online. Now is a good time to put them up. 

It is the eastern bluebird we see here in Maine. Bluebirds are cousins of the thrushes. They are sky blue above and white and chestnut below. They raise their families in open country. They formerly were only found in open country, but they now accept living near people. Their preferred nesting spot is a hole in a tree, but since these are not easily found these days, they readily accept bluebird houses. 

The females do most of the work in building the nest, but once the brood hatches the male helps as well. They both vigorously protect their families. Be on the watch for these lovely birds now. 

Barred owls are sitting on their eggs right now. They are seen quite often here on Mount Desert Island. Hikers often come upon them resting in a tree during the day and their hooting is heard regularly in our island woods. It sounds as if someone is hooting “Who cooks for you all?” If you learn how to imitate it, you can get into a conversation! 

This owl lives largely on small mammals and it hunts at night. When flying it is as silent as a moth. Its flight is beautiful to see. In size it is about from your wrist to your elbow. When the young are first out of the nest, they spend time on the ground. I met one in the woods at Ship Harbor once and it was making a strange swooshing sound to attract its parent’s attention for food. It was a memorable experienceAs the weather gets warmer and daylight longer take yourself out when you can for it’s a lovely time of year. 

A friend of mine in Bar Harbor is always out and about and he saw several American goldeneye ducks in the harbor. If you’re out for a walk along the harbor see if you can spot them. The American goldeneye duck is a white looking duck with a black head and a puffy, green glossed head that actually looks black at a distance. A round white dot or spot is noticeable between the eye and the bill. It is a handsome duck! It appears to have a short neck as it sits on the water. Look also for the large white patches on the wings. 

To hunters, this duck is often referred to the “whistler” since the wings make that kind of a sound in flight. It is a nice sound to hearAs spring approaches this duck is apt to be quite vocal and seems quite playful in the water. There is a lot of what appears like foolishness as spring comes and courtship begins. This duck is a tree nester and considered a summer resident here. 

Keep watch now for any brant (small geese) at the Trenton Bridge. This is the time to expect them. the American brant is a sea goose and is small compared to a Canadian goose that most everyone knows well. On the water, the American brant looks dark, and they sit lightly and close together on the water. They have short black neck, whitish sides and they are not too much bigger than a mallard. It’s a very graceful bird. When they are at the bridge you can see them quite well. They are a true goose and they breed in the far north. This is the time to look for them. 

Redbreasted mergansers are into their courtship and you may get to see them doing their courtship routines such as stretching their necks and bobbing. It’s comical to see. In all creatures, courtship can be comical sometimes. 

Nuthatches are singing their spring song. Woodpeckers tap out their love songs on any noisy surface that pleases them. Their drum rolls are love songs. Pussy willows may be in bloom. Be patient with those early dandelion blossoms for they provide food for bees and other wildlife early in the season. Mourning doves are enthusiastically singing their wistful sounding love songs. Listen to all the sounds of spring as the season moves along. 

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

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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