Nature: Sometimes it’s wise to choose a different path 



A red-Bellied woodpecker clings to a snowy suet feeder.
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Pileated woodpeckers attract attention throughout the year here on Mount Desert Island. Their large size and beauty, plus their energetic hammering, attract our attention right away. It would be difficult to ignore them. 

Redbellied woodpeckers add color and personality now at some feeders. This attractive bird has a confident air and great beauty with its zebrastriped back and red cap covering its head and back of the neck. These woodpeckers come readily to a feeder and eat amicably with the other birds. It fits right in. It does not have a “look at me” attitude like the piliated woodpecker has, and it deserves a closer look. 

Red-bellied woodpeckers are considered raron MDI, meaning there are no records in some years. But there is a general pattern of their appearanceI have lived on this island since 1972 and they are being seen quite regularly every year now through the winter and springIts normal range is more in the Southern states, though. 

Nature is full of surprises. Just recently, a common murre (duck-like sea bird) was seen offshore. These interesting birds nest in huge colonies off Newfoundland and I was fortunate to have seen them nesting on the eastern cliffs there. They are uncommon birds to see in Maine. They are about the size of a small duck and have a slender pointed bill. Look for them on the sea. 

These murres nest on high cliffs in colonies shared by puffins and auks. Severe storms send them farther south into our local waters. Storms and the search for fish send them out of their normal range. 

Coastal nesting colonies are great fun to see. They are noisy and there is much chattering all around you and birds flying all about, babies calling for food and parents calling for babies. The noise is deafening. but very exciting! 

Northern gannets on Bonaventure Island, off the coast at Perce, Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada.
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The first such colony I ever saw was northern gannet colony on Bonaventure Island on the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada. We walked across this island to get to the colony where it could be observed nicely from a little wooden lookout made for this purposeWe were quite fortunate the first time we went there for there was a fish warden on duty who was checking the birds to see what they were catching for food. He let us go with him right into the colony. Ordinarily, visitors cannot do that. It was smelly, messy scene but quite fascinating. We always had to be careful not to get jabbed by the large gannet’s long bill. Being so close to these handsome birds was an experience I’ve never forgotten.  

When we are allowed to cross the border again, you should consider a trip to go see them. I would suggest you first stop at the visitor center in Pierce. It will make your visit to the island even more special.  

Tufted titmice have been reported at feeders this winter on MDI. This bird is not a common one to see here, but a few are seen each year. The titmouse is a small grayish bird with a tufted crest. They feed with the chickadees and readily come to feeders.  

For a few weeksI have traded the snow and ice of winter on MDI for a more temperate location in South Carolina. Although it has rained a good deal and is cooler than one would like, birds are singing and frogs are calling. I was walking in a natural area in the woods this week looking at plants and anything that caught my attention when I spotted an odd shape at the edge of a small pond. I raised my binoculars for a better look and the shape turned out to be a 5foot alligator resting thereI decided to take another path.  

In the Maine woods, one is quite safe for we do not have poisonous snakes or large attack animals. I think moose are the largest animal and as long as you do not get too close or aggravate themespecially a mother with youngyou should be fine.  I know an alligator can run very fast if it wants to, and I can’t, so I went the other way! 

 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.

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