College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins captured this shot of sea foam at Thunder Hole in December of 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF DARRON COLLINS

Nature: Water is exciting to watch in its fury



The bad weather all up and down the East Coast has been in the news. Many residents make their way to this area to watch the water crashing on the beach and road. One friend of mine living along the shore even invited friends over to watch the waves from a second-floor bedroom window – a storm party! It is an exciting sight even as it creates havoc on land. Other friends near Schoodic always make their way to that special spot to see what’s happening as well. Don’t ever underestimate Mother Nature’s strength. Always be cautious!

You can always find something of interest as you walk the shore, especially after a storm. Many wildlife creatures at the edge of the sea get killed, but other creatures along the edge of the sea find more food. There are great photos and information in my most recent book to help key something down for identification. The book is available in Mount Desert Island libraries.

East Coast wildlife has suffered this winter in all the storms. I, however, was fortunate to be able to see something special on the coast of South Carolina one day. The sun was out, and I was a bit chilly, but as another tourist and I were watching the water birds, we realized we were looking down at a roseate spoonbill wading slowly along looking for food. Its strange bill was amazing. The bill looks like a large, flat, pink spatula! The week before, I saw the bird crouched down in the marsh grass with its bill tucked out of sight. The coloring on the bird is a very beautiful soft pink. The elegant bird sedately made its way through the shallow water.

A swan was pruning its white feathers nearby and was not bothered by us at all. No matter what a swan does, it looks very elegant. American egrets and snowy egrets were also nearby and a glossy Ibis was in view too. Out on the water, a flock of smaller birds circled around and landed on the water. To my surprise, these birds were buffleheads, the same birds we have in our Maine waters every winter. I had no idea they wintered this far south. It was like seeing old friends in a different setting.

At the far end of this wet area, I could see fairly large birds diving from a good height. With the help of my binoculars, I saw that they were white pelicans! They are fascinating to watch as they dive. Pelicans are not shy and they dive in a grand, showy manner.

A kingfisher hovered over the water not far off and I enjoyed watching it dive for fish as well, even though I have watched them many times over my own pond in Maine. They often fly to a perch after catching a fish and loudly let you know they’ve caught something! Their rattling call is a favorite one of mine.

Alligators ordinarily would have been out had it been a warm day, and you always have to be cautious where they live. I saw a photo in a local newspaper here of one that had become frozen in the ice recently.

I read on the informative sign near the alligator habitat that these alligators basking at the top of the food chain are rightly dangerous. They also are a keystone specimen, meaning their presence is crucial to their entire ecosystem. Not only do alligator appetites control prey population, but they also change the landscape in healthy ways. The holes they make are crucial to wetland biodiversity during droughts, for these holes provide enough water to sustain life for insects, snakes, tadpoles and even fish.

Although it seems risky, herons, egrets and wood storks prefer nesting near alligators because they act as a security system since they eat potential predators.

Black-capped chickadee.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Here on MDI, we can see the black-capped chickadee and on rare occasions a brown-capped chickadee. Anyone with a feeder gets to know the black-capped chickadee very well. It is probably the first bird to visit your feeder.

While spending some weeks in South Carolina last year, I got to know the Carolina chickadee. This bird is a little smaller than the chickadee we see in Maine. Chickadees are known for their friendliness.

Last year when I returned to Maine and was out walking with my dog along the driveway, a chickadee hopped up on a branch close by and loudly and lustily sang a greeting to me. I just had to reply immediately, “It’s good to see you, too!”

 

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.
Ruth Grierson

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