GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Nature: Love is in the air



What a magical scene it is to be in a large field in the summer when male lightening bugs are signaling love messages with their blinking lights to the receptive females on the ground to the accompaniment of tree frogs ‘singing’ their love songs. Such was the scene recently in many local fields and wet areas. What is so rare as such a night in June in Maine! I wish I had been there to see and hear it.

Lightening bugs, sometimes called fireflies, over a dark Maine field are a special sight in the summer. I know. For me, it brings back some nice childhood memories!

Each summer, females lay one brood under the soil. These are very small and they hatch in a few weeks. They then live and tunnel in the soil eating slugs, worms and tiny snails. If disturbed, they curl up and play dead. They continue to grow throughout the summer but are too small to be noticed.

In late fall, they prepare to hibernate for the winter. When warm weather returns, they grow to adulthood, mature, grow a harder shell and are able to glow when their shell is hardened.

There are festivals celebrating the lightening bugs in some countries.

New England fields are beautiful when the lightening bugs are out flicking their lights while looking for females. Habitat destruction has ruined many fields for the lightening bugs, and I suspect insecticides put on lawns kill them.

Just coming down my secluded driveway, friends and I heard the lovely song of a hermit thrush. It was almost dark. This bird’s lovely song at twilight is very delicate and special. It’s difficult to put in words. The hermit thrush is usually singing at twilight as birds settle in for the night. It fits this time of day. Listen for them at dusk if you live in the woods.

Thrushes are noted for being good singers. Probably most people know well the song of a robin. It may have been the first bird they could call by name. Lots of children’s literature in America and songs feature the robin and probably bluebirds.

This confused me when as an adult I went to England for the first time and saw an English robin. Their bird is quite different in many ways from the robin we know here in Maine. Birding in another country or area is always an adventure, for the birds living there are fun to discover and identify.

I ALWAYS know when I see some sort of a kingfisher, for they are quite distinct in sizes, shape, ‘hairdo’ and behavior.

Nuthatches, too, have such a distinctive shape and habits that you just know when a bird is some kind of nuthatch.

I’ll never forget my first wild cuckoo I heard in England. My friend there was also a birder and very helpful in setting me straight with identification and quickly identified the bird. We were on one side of a hill. The cuckoo was across the valley and lively calling from a small tree. When I first saw it, I thought it was a hawk but when the bird “across the pond,” as the saying goes, called a very loud ‘cuckoo,’ I knew what it was immediately. I’ll never forget the sound!

If you ask me what the most exciting and memorable birds I’ve ever seen anywhere are, I’d have no hesitation in saying free-flying wild condors in Peru. My daughter-in-law and I were sitting on a rocky cliff looking at the huge valley spread out below us when several condors came by so closely to us that we had the urge to duck. For a minute, we were eye to eye with these huge birds just a few feet away. I’ll never forget looking eye to eye with condors in those mountains. They are VERY large birds!

Gray tree frogs are interesting creatures – and not always gray. They sometimes are green and once in a while they are brownish. They can change color in response to changing temperatures, humidity and light. It wants its color matched to its surroundings.

Grey tree frogs are much bigger than the small peeper. I find the tree frog’s call very melodic. I love hearing them in the spring if I can find one of their favorite breeding areas. The trill is much longer than the peeper’s call.

When I was in South Carolina earlier in the year, we occasionally had small amphibians with legs splayed out on the window glass on rainy nights. They were fun to see.

Take time to enjoy all that nature offers in a Maine summer. Many wild orchids are in bloom right now.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected].

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.