The spring amphibian migration is underway, as illustrated by this toad travelling at night. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT GRIERSON

Nature: Eagles lock talons



No travel restraints on spring birds and they are on the move. I’ve had numerous bluebird sightings recently on and off island. A friend also reported seeing two eagles fighting with locked talons and then falling to the ground near them. It looked like a hopeless situation but with some quick thinking and the help of a blanket thrown over themand some luck that the birds managed to separate when they hit the ground, they were able to fly off. When seen so closely these handsome birds are very impressive. Eagles are big birds, and there is no doubt about it. Their wingspread is about six feet. Those of us living on Mount Desert Island are fortunate to see them flying overhead or sitting in their favorite tree. Such a dramatic encounter is not that common. 

A humorous and unusual situation happened a couple of years ago to some friends of mine in Sedgewick. An osprey was flying over their heads late one afternoon and as they watched, the bird took time to switch the flounder around in its talons so the fish would be facing forwards. Ospreys always prefer to do this. Somehow the flounder slipped from the bird’s grasp and it fell down right on the lawn in front of my friends. They grabbed it and yelled a loud “Thanks!” to the bird and had it for supper! The poor osprey had to go catch another one. It was manna from heaven! 

Harbor Porpoises were seen in the waters off Bar Harbor this week. Even though they are often swimming nearby we just do not have the opportunity to see them. Harbor Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, is a little porpoise commonly seen in the Gulf of Maine and off Nova Scotiaand in certain areas in European waters. It’s one of the smallest cetaceans and not always easy to see unless you are in a small boat. Sometimes on a calm day they will bask in the sun near the surface. Here in the Gulf of Maine in the early spring you may see them in small groups; later in the summer they may be in larger groups. When you are on the water in a small boat or walking along the shore or on a rocky cliff above the water you should watch for them 

Their nickname is puffing pig or puffer because of the sound they make when they exhale. On a quiet day you can hear this sound if you’re paying attention to your surroundings. 

If you want to get acquainted and learn more about the creatures living in the Gulf of Maine, I highly recommend the book Field Guide to the Whales, Porpoises and Seals in the Gulf of Maine by Steven Katona, a former President of COA. It is well written and user friendly. 

Wood frogs are singing their spring song these days. I heard them on the weekend as my dog and I went out to enjoy the sunshine in late afternoon. It’s a strange sound, sort of like quacking ducks at a distance. Wood Frogs are pretty little frogs. If you get to see one you’ll notice it has what looks like a black mask over its eyes. It earns the name masked bandit.” The color of the frog may be light tan or creamy chocolate or dark but the mask is always visible and will identify it. Chances of seeing it when you hear it are slim for it stops calling when you get close and they age good at hiding. I sometimes see one crossing the driveway or hopping across the grass. 

Wood frogs, like many other amphibians seek out vernal pools (temporary pool of water) and small ponds in which to lay its eggs on the first warm rainy night in spring. It eats all types of flying and crawling insects and you are apt to see it in woods and fields. In the northern states it is the first frog to leave its place of hibernation in the spring. 

In this time of crisis it made me really wonder about people when an announcer was trying to give lessons on why and how to go outside and what to do ‘out there’. “Listen, look, learn and enjoy” came to my mind and would certainly work for anyone on this island! 

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.
Ruth Grierson

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