Nature: New England is beautiful in fall

Colors are great this month even though chilly temperatures may greet us more often. The cinnamon ferns along my driveway are so yellow they seem to be electrified. I know some people don’t like fall for it does get cooler and the leaves fall. I don’t think of it as death but as a resting time for plants and putting on warmer clothes in order to rejuvenate and be ready when spring returns for a new growing season. I’ve always lived in New England and welcomed winter. I’ve only spent  one winter in the South  and I enjoyed that a lot, but there is great beauty in the New England states and lots of wildlife to be seen. 

I was visiting with a friend at Seawall this week and there in front of us were two common cormorants drying their wings on the rocks not far away. They have to dry off after getting wet and are easy to recognize as they spread their wings to dry. Many of the cormorants have left this area already. I have seen migrating flocks passing overhead. Their flocks do not usually form a nice V in the sky as the Canada geese do.   

Canada geese are noted for their strength, fidelity, wariness and sagacity — all good things for birds and humans. Any time I hear their honking drifting down from the sky, I rush to see them passing. You might hear their honking calls in the darkness or during the day as they fly by in their V formation. Their leaders change during the long trips. The old ganders know where they are going and guide the way along the safest route. They only stop to rest and feed. 

On land they have leaders and guards to warn of danger. The sound of a paddle in the water where they rest puts them immediately on watch. Don’t ever try to approach a family group. They vigorously defend their young. There is nothing nicer to see than a family of parents and their many young moving sedately along with the father in the lead, then the babies, then the female. It is a delightful sight! There are a lot of geese living on this island. It wasn’t always so, but in recent years we have had resident flocks. They are not welcomed by golf courses because of their droppings. The Canada goose is one of the earliest migrants if it leaves for a warmer winter in the South, although they don’t all leave. 

I have been hearing about numerous bobcat sightings. This is most common big cat you might get sight of on Mount Desert Island. Off island it is another story, but if you see a big cat on MDI, it is most likely the bobcat. I hesitate to say never in talking about wildlife. The animal has an interesting posture for it seems to slightly jacked up in the back end and its back legs are longer than the front. You especially notice this as it walks along. There was an interesting video I saw recently of two bobcats farther north walking down the highway on a road that clearly showed this trait. I saw one sitting on the side of the road just outside of Ellsworth one night as I returned from playing at a contra dance in Stonington and it was very exciting. There was no mistaking it in the headlights 

Bobcats are quick and very strong and that hair on the sides of their face gives them give them a fierce look. They have a bobcat at the Kisma Preserve in Trenton if you want to see one up close. Visits can be arranged—just give a call. They are useful mammals on this island for as most everyone knows we do have an overpopulation of deer and very few big predators living here. Coyotes can eat them, and a bobcat can pull down a weakened deer in the snow. An overpopulation of deer is a serious problem for the deer and the local vegetation. Dying from starvation is worse than being killed by a natural predator. I witnessed starvation in Bear Mountain Park in New York one year and it was a sad sight. 

Mountain ash berries attract cedar waxwings so check any of these trees you know about. Waxwings are beautiful birds and very special to see. Warm days and nights now prompt springtime behavior in many creatures. Many insects are still active. Crab spiders lurk in goldenrod blossoms ready to attack the many insect visitors that come to the flower. Visitors to the goldenrods now include locust borerspaper waspshoneybees, and ambush bugs. Tree hoppers feed on the leaves as do goldenrod beetles as larvae and adults. Ants feed on the excess sap exuded by young tree hoppers. Gall insects lay eggs on the plant and the resulting deformity grown by the plant is the gall in which the insect larvae then live. Dark spots on the leaf surface looking like drops of ink on the leaf are really blister galls made by a tiny species of midge. 

Please send any questions or observations to [email protected] 


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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