An osprey holds down a freshly caught fish on top of piling. GETTY IMAGE PHOTO

Nature: It’s fun to watch who comes to feast



Great blue heron.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

I frequently get messages from friends and readers of my column about wildlife sightings.

This week, friends in Tremont told me of an interesting encounter they had with a deer and a great blue heron. The deer was standing in the field not far off when a great blue heron landed right next to them. They could have touched if they had wanted to. It was the first blue heron stopping there this season. The heron proceeded to catch a frog hiding in the grass and they could see it moving down the bird’s long neck. The deer seem interested in the whole process. The bird left and the deer nibbled on some emerging green grass.

I remember watching a heron catching an eel in the Bass Harbor marsh one time when a gull came along and tried to steal it. The eel was big and put up a fight. It was quite a scene. The heron won.

Another column reader watched an osprey and a great horned owl fight over a fish just caught in Somesville. The osprey won that one.

Eagles like to grab whatever the ospreys catch. Ospreys always want to carry their catch facing into the wind and will switch them around as they fly. This provides an opportunity for an alert thief to grab the bounty.

Watching loons at Bernard one day was pretty interesting. They would dive and frequently come up with a sea urchin and proceed to swallow, or try to swallow, this prickly creature. Eiders have the same problem. Eventually the urchin goes down, but it’s not easy

When a dead seal washes up on the beach, it’s interesting to watch who comes to the feast. Roadkill also provide life for other creatures. Nothing is wasted. When one creature dies, it sustains life for another.

If a vulture shows up for a roadkill, you learn why they have a featherless head. Vultures stick their heads right in a carcass and it would be very hard to clean such feathers. A bald head on this bird is easier to keep clean.

I’m so glad this spring to find so many people discovering the beauty of the skunk cabbage flower. The beautiful red-wine blossom is most unusual and very beautiful. It only lasts a few weeks in the spring and then the large, tall, green leaves – quite smelly when crushed – appear for the summer. The flower out now is unique.

Watch now for the lovely sparrow hawks to be returning. This is the smallest relative of the falcon in Acadia National Park. When it arrives, it is a common sight sitting along the roadside in an upright position. It has the distinctive habit of hovering over open country. Not many birds do this. If you catch a glimpse of it flying along, look for its rusty tail.

During the summer months, kestrels or sparrow hawks, as they are often called, hunt in open country for crickets and grasshoppers. As the season advances, they take more mice, and they might even take small birds at a feeder.

From its perch on the top of a telephone pole, a kestrel will intently watch the ground. When some sort of food comes into sight, it will swoop down. Whatever food it has caught is usually taken back to its perch and ripped apart by its sharp beak. Look for them in the park especially and out of the park wherever the road goes along open fields. They are lovely birds to see.

Painted turtles.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Painted turtles emerge now to take advantage of any warm sunshine. I think the painted turtle is probably the turtle most people see and know. It’s in all our island ponds and often seen sunning on floating logs. As you approach, they usually slip into the water and out of sight.

Sometimes snapping turtles are seen crossing the road or a big female may be looking for a place to bury her eggs in soft sand. Always be cautious around snappers – they seem to be cranky a lot and can give a severe bite. Always give a large snapper plenty of room and respect its privacy.

A female comes out of the pond to find a place to lay her eggs. She digs a deep hole, lays her eggs (they look like ping-pong balls), covers them with sand, moistens them and that’s it for motherhood. They hatch when they are ready. The hatchlings dig their way out and head for the nearest water.

A third-grade classroom in which I once taught music years ago had a pet snapper for years, and the children and teacher loved it. It was quite fat and pampered.

Let me know what you are seeing. Enjoy spring to the fullest. It is a lovely time of the year!

Send any questions or sightings to [email protected]

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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