Snowy egrets visit Mount Desert Island each year. Two were seen last week on Thompson Island. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Nature: Don’t squeeze the Charmin! 



Two snowy egrets were seen at Thompson Island this past week. These lovely egrets come to visit MDI every year and are a nice sight to behold. They are regularly seen in Florida and other southern states, but here in Maine, they are special visitors. They are the white heron with golden slippers – bright yellow feet on their black legs. All egrets have suffered because of their beauty for they have been hunted for their gorgeous plumes. The plume hunters were finally stopped just in time by groups such as the Audubon Society as the snowy egret was on the verge of extinctionNow we get an opportunity each summer to even see them here in the north as they wander up the coast. 

This heron is much smaller than the commonly seen great blue heron that even nests here in Maine. Egrets are colony nesting birds and they get together in what is called a rookery to build their nests for four or five young. Rookeries are noisy, busy places with sometimes hundreds of nests of these beautiful birds. Whether flying, standing or fishing, snowy egrets are very beautiful birds and a day is special when you see one. Keep watch now as summer comes to an end. 

Some of you may have read about the famous osprey nest in Trenton that caught fire this past week and was destroyed by a short circuit. This has been a favorite nesting post for years and has provided great views of these large hawksAnyone living in the area or passing the nest enjoyed the scene and watched it each year as the ospreys nested in full view on Mud Creek Road. I’m delighted to say the power company is going to put up a new nesting pole for them! Fortunately, this year’s young had already fledged and left. 

Several mother turkeys and their young walked by my house this week as they searched for food in the grass and woods. They seem so intent and busy at whatever they are doing, even on the road when there is a large group of them trying to decide where they are going, it always make me smileMy best views of them in Maine was one day just off island when a group of about 35 mothers and young came across the road headed for a farmer’s yard, where I am sure there was food put out for them. They were on a mission! Traffic had to stop.
Wild turkeys are smart birds in spite of their comical appearance. Male turkeys put on quite a display when they are courting, and the females gather to be impressed. The male is a sight to behold when he fans his tail and struts about showing his beauty and willingness to mate. The females walk around busily pecking at the ground trying to look uninterested. I’ve seen two or three males with about 35 hens doing this and it’s quite a performance. 

After mating occurs, the hens quietly slip off to their hidden nests, for they alone raise the young. She lays about 20 eggs, one a day for 8 to even 20 days. While the males are showing off, she will return to them during this time and then go off to raise the young by herself. She keeps the nest secret from the male. The whole ritual is fascinating to see. The young are cared for entirely by the hen and they will stay with her for the first winter before going off on their own. Enjoy them! 

Porcupines in Town Hill have been an item of interest even though they have chewed on a favorite tree. Porcupines seem to live life in slow motion. I guess they think their quills will get them through anything. Cars have proved them wrong in that situation.  They are very near sighted and this may give them the reputation of being stupid. They rely on hearing and smell to get around. Even though they do not like water, they can swim, and they are expert climbersAlthough mostly solitary, they will den in the winter. You may sometimes find them because of the droppings on the ground. Bark of favorite trees is a favorite food. They eat a variety of foods including grasses, sedges, leaves, pond lilies, apples, sweet corn and the bark of hemlock, white cedar, larch, balsam, white pine and elm trees, plus several others. 

I have personally known several porcupines, and even used to take one around to schools and nursing homes for visits. If you know how to hold them, there is no problem with the quills. One white porcupine, named Charmin, was a favorite of mine. Residents of the nursing homes liked holding a porcupine on their laps. The mammal isn’t easily cuddly, but the porcupine liked the attention. When a female gives birth, the baby has no quills. Mother Nature thinks of everything. 

Nighthawks are passing through now. Watch for them late in the day as they feed in the air. They are easily recognizable by what looks like a ‘little window’ in their long slim wings. They hunt for insects late in the day. Their voice is a nasal one, and when we lived in New York state it was known as the ‘Bronx cheer! They have a nervous jerky flight as they try to catch insects. 

I do appreciate all your emails and phone calls about wildlife. I don’t know all the answers, but I’ll try to find them for you. 

Send any questions 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.
Ruth Grierson

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