Baltimore oriole at an Isleford feeder. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOY SPRAGUE

Nature: Peepers play their evening symphony

Rose-breasted grosbeak.

Early arrivals on Little Cranberry Island this past week were a handsome male Baltimore (or northern) oriole and a male rose-breasted grosbeak. This was a little earlier than most other years. A good friend on the island always keeps me informed. The males usually come first. These males are particularly beautiful. Both birds will nest here when the females arrive.

Their winter homes are in the tropics. I happened to be in the tropics one year when they arrived there from the north. There was much excitement in the bird world when they appeared at the feeders after their long journey. In May, the excitement is here in Maine for a new nesting season. Put lots of fruit out for them and count yourself fortunate to be seeing them.

Black-bellied plovers are in breeding plumage and may appear at such places as Wonderland these days. These birds are very handsome. I’m always happy to see them. These plovers are the largest and truly can be called the most magnificent of the plovers. The bird is usually the first to explore the water’s edge as the tide recedes and leaves many edibles for the bird to find.

This plover is a bird of the tides and one to look for in this area in May and June as it heads northward to its faraway northern breeding grounds. Keep watch for it in this area as you walk along the beaches of this island and make sure to look it up in your bird book.

The nighttime spring peeper chorus has turned into a symphony.

Some violets are in full bloom and more will be coming into bloom in the coming months.

The sweetest fruit of all found on this island is the wild strawberry now in island fields and along the roadsides. At first you find the lovely white blossom with their yellow centers showing above the three-parted leaves. Later the sweet fruit forms. The sweetness depends on how much rain we have each year.

I knew a lovely lady on Gott’s Island who always made a strawberry pie using exactly 200 strawberries per pie. A hiking club that used to meet at the Southwest Harbor library was treated to a taste of the pie one year on one of our field trips. That lovely lady is no longer with us, but at the ripe old age of 94, I still remember the taste of that pie.

The strawberry leaves are rich in vitamin C and can make a nice tea. Wild strawberries grow from sea level to over 5,000 feet. Isaak Walton, the famous English author known for his classic on fishing, “The Complete Angler,” was also known as a food connoisseur. He said about the strawberry, “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” I agree with that.

Olive-sided flycatcher. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Watch now for a bird that looks like a large phoebe sitting on a wire. You may be seeing the olive-sided flycatcher for they can resemble oversized phoebes. The olive-sided flycatcher likes to perch at the top of a dead tree. Its call sounds as if the bird is saying “Hic, three beers.” Or oft repeated alarm notes, “pit-pit-pit,” let you know it is around. This is a bird of clearings surrounded by tall spruce growth. It would be a rare one. I believe its status now is “uncommon” here on the island and only “widespread” in a very restricted area. A nice booklet for such information is Ralph Long’s 1987 “Native Birds of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.” I find it very valuable in comparing what birds are not here now as opposed to then.

Cardinals are regularly seen here year-round now but this was not so in 1987. Cardinals were strictly summer birds then. Now, their red coloring really is striking on a snowy day.

Red maple buds brighten my view from my kitchen window. No matter what the temperature, those buds remind us that it is spring on Mount Desert Island.

During May and June, the pupping season for harbor seals occurs here in Maine. Although pups may be abandoned for various reasons, generally a pup alone on the beach is only waiting for its mom to return from feeding. She may be gone as long as 24 hours. Recent studies show that many pups have been prematurely taken by humans, well-meaning but misinformed. If you think a baby seal is in trouble, call Allied Whale at the College of the Atlantic at (207) 288-5644.

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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