Nature: Forget the honey! Flies can be caught in a warm window  



Homeowners this month may sometimes find sunny windows in their house covered with flies. It’s not a particularly pretty sight, but it can’t help but be interesting. If you look closely, you probably will see flies that are nothing but skeletons! This is because the flies have been attacked by a fungus. There will be a small amount of white powdery substance under the fly to show the fungus is at work. 

Hundreds of cluster flies may appear in your windows now. They are large and sluggish, but they are not houseflies. Some people call them “attic flies.” They are not breeding in your home but just using it as a warm place in the winter. They may be annoying, but they do not cause any damage or transmit diseases. They move outdoors again in the spring. They are only active in the daylight hours and they don’t bite. 

Cluster flies are similar to houseflies but their wingtips overlap. They are quite torpid except when they are warm in a sunny window. Look for yellowish hairs on the thorax and light bands in a checkered pattern on the abdomen. At rest, both wings overlap across the abdomen. If there were no houses or other buildings, cluster flies would be in a hollow tree or cave. 

A friend living on Somes Sound for the winter enjoyed one of the recent pleasant fall days watching harbor porpoises swimming by. This sent me to an old friend ‘s book for more information. There is an excellent book called “Field Guide to Whales, Porpoises, and Seals in the Gulf of Maine and Eastern Canada” by Steven Katonah, Valerie Rough and David T. Richardson.  It’s a treasure trove of information. 

The harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is a nice mammal to see in our local salt water and they are abundant in the Gulf of Maine. They have a triangular dorsal fin. This small cetacean only reaches 5 feet and weighs about 140 pounds. They are easiest to see on a calm day when you are out on the Maine ocean, or in Somes Sound.  

Always be ready for something of an adventure when you are out on Maine waters. These mammals tend to avoid a moving boat but may be interested in a stopped boat, so always be alert. Now is the time to look for them for they leave this area in the winter. Always carry good binoculars with you. 

Now is also the time to be looking for purple sandpipers along the coast. My favorite place to see them is at Seawall when they stand on the big rocks at the edge of the sea. When the water washes over the rocks, they just fly up, circle around and then land in the same place again. They are rather plump and dark purple. I like to call them “plump and portly” sandpipers. Now, and on through the winter months, is a good time to see them. 

Redpolls may surprise you at your feeder some November day. Birds nesting in the northern wilderness areas often don’t fear people at first for they have been so isolated. Redpolls do not seem to fear civilization and often let you get close to them. 

The little redpoll flocks with perhaps 40 or 50 of its kind and moves around in the winter. They are often seen feeding in fields of snow like the goldfinches do. They are pretty birds, with their red forehead cap plainly showing. They like to feed on birches and alders. Any day now you may get a visit from them or see them on your walks through fields and at the edges of the woods. 

 

Send me news of what you are seeing and write to me if you have any questions at [email protected]. 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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