Hummingbird sphinx moth. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Nature: Sighting possible, but not likely 



The everchanging landscape with flowers and trees is now quite magical! A few short weeks ago, a favorite walk of mine took me by white violetssundew and wild strawberriesThey gradually faded away and now cotton grassgoldenrodspickerelweed and steeplebush dominate the scene. Asters will soon add their beauty to the mix and the many goldenrods will take us into fall. Yellow tansy and white Queen Anne’s Lace flower along many roadsides.  Local ponds are beautiful with water lilies and I’m sure I could find some of the bladderworts in bloom if I could be out in my kayak. Bees and butterflies seek out any flowering plants. Planting for these creatures provides hours of entertainment as well as help for all of them. A friend showed me a photograph on her phone of something she had never seen before. It was a wonderful sphinx moth feeding at her garden flowers. This phase of the moth’s life makes it look like a tiny hummingbird as it hovers and probes into whatever flower it has found.  

Speaking of hummingbirds, another friend called me about a possible strangelooking hummingbird that he thought might be a rare bird at his feeder here on the island. In this area, the only hummingbird you can expect to see is the ruby-throated hummingbird. In spite of its name, the colorful ruby throat is not always visible on the male. The female doesn’t have that color. All hummingbirds, to me, look like flying jewels. He thought it might be a blackchinned hummingbird usually found in the Southwest of our country. The answer I gave to him was that it could be possible, but highly unlikely. Unless he had a photograph of it, no one would believe him. Years ago, my mother, who was an expert birder, reported seeing black-necked stilts on a Connecticut beach. No one in the local birding community believed her until Alan Cruickshank, an expert in the birding world in the 1950s, then reported seeing the birds on the beach where my mother had seen them. THEN she was believed. Nowadays you must take a photo to prove your point. Even a bad photograph will help. 

I watched with interest this week as a mother turkey and her brood strolled along my lawn. It was fun to watch the older females and the smaller ones moving along, pecking for any food hidden in the grass. The word ‘sauntering’ fit their movements. I think that’s an oldfashioned word not used much now, but it fits. Wild turkey mothers take good care of their young for a long time. They might not always look as if they know what they are doing, but they are smart birds. 

Friends reported seeing an American egret at the head of the island recently. These large wading birds that visit the island in the summer are definitely impressive to see. The American egret (casmerodius albus) is a very large heron, all white except for its black legs and feet, and yellow bill. If you winter in Florida, they are a familiar sight but always impressive. Here on MDI, they are just visiting in the summer.                                    

Friends having a picnic lunch at Seawall one day recently had a real treat when several gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) were in the water nearby. This seal is the larger seal seen in our local waters. It is often referred to as the horsehead seal. If you’ve never seen one, I urge you to stop by the Natural History Museum at the College of the Atlantic and see their lifesized exhibit of them. These are large seals! As they swim by just offshore, you can easily see why they are nicknamed horse-head seal. They have a large head unlike the familiar harbor seal. I have experienced them watching me on the shore as I watched them. Gray seals are found on both sides of the North Atlantic. Males weigh in at about 800 pounds and females at 400 pounds. They are large mammals and live probably 40 or 50 years. They are fun to see locally.  

Enjoy the out-of-doors these days. This island is a special place to be in the summer and the wildlife is abundant. Keep your eyes open! 

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

 

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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