A short–eared owl was seen in Trenton this past week. Our resident owls are great horned owls, saw whet owls and barred owls. A regular visitor in the colder months is the snowy owl. Usually seen, but not nesting, are the short-eared owl, northern hawk owl, northern boreal owl and screech owl. A rare and especially exciting owl to see here is the great gray owl, which is a very large owl. I’ll never forget seeing one sitting on a fence post for an entire day in Bass Harbor. People came from all over to see it and to take photos.
The short–eared owl has a short neck. When seen flying, it reminds you of a big moth’s flight. It is a daytime flier.
I’ve always liked owls and I think my love for them started with Beatrix Potter’s children’s book “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.” Nutkin’s impertinence towards an owl, Old Brown, causes him to lose his tail. I did once find the tail of a flying squirrel on the ground on Beech Mountain and wondered how that squirrel lived its life afterwards! Its tail is very important for gliding.
Flying squirrels, of course, do not really fly. They glide gracefully from tree to tree. My best occasion for watching them do this was on the trail from Jordan Pond House back to Little Long Pond parking in Seal Harbor. Along this trail there are big trees and the squirrels would climb up one side and then glide over to the other in the moonlight. It was a beautiful sight. I’ve also seen them on Beech Mountain. I sometimes have them on my own roof. They have soft fur and big appealing eyes — great fun to see. If they come to your bird feeder at night, they don’t seem to mind if you turn a light on so you can watch them. They love peanut butter.
A friend sent me some photos she took recently of fresh scat in Tremont along the shore. I checked it out with some experts and the consensus was that it could have been from a bear. A young bear might not have eaten enough before hibernating and responded to a warm day, feeling hungry. When it gets colder, it probably will go back to sleep.
Watch now for black ducks in great numbers on the salt water. This is the month when brant arrive and are seen for a few weeks as they head farther north to breed. If you are out on the salt water these days, watch for fulmar. These sea birds are numerous through March.
I personally met my first chimpanzee this week. It had such wonderful eyes and is so like a human. She is 2 years old and very appealing. I also got to meet a baby hyena. I had no idea what it was until the caregiver told me. As a baby, it does not look at all like an adult hyena. Adults are very fierce.
Mockingbirds are nesting in the South as well as cardinals and other birds here in South Carolina where I am at the moment. The peeper chorus is deafening and a joy to hear again. I’ve not seen any snakes yet, but with flooding all along the Inland Waterway canal, they are apt to appear in unusual places. I’d like to see one of the poisonous ones, but not too closely. Floods greatly affect both humans and wildlife. For any land creature, its home gets ruined and it has to move or die. Finding food and a safe place are big problems.
This is the month for big changes in wildlife. Watch for red-tailed hawks soaring over Mount Desert Island and the loons changing their plumage. Mallards are heavily into courtship rituals. Brant will soon be arriving at the Trenton Bridge waters. Red-breasted mergansers will soon be seen stretching their necks and bobbing their heads in courtship. It’s an amusing sight. Listen for juncos and purple finches singing. Be sure to take a look at the ring-billed gulls in the parking lots in Ellsworth. You really get to see them very well there.
It’s a good time now to clean out your birdhouses and get ready for the new nesting season. Don’t miss all the signs of spring.
Send any observations or questions to [email protected].