A female snapping turtle makes a nest to bury eggs, near a pond in Acadia National Park. DEBBIE KRYSAK PHOTO

Nature: When in balance, it all works fine



Nature happenings this month are many, for it is the time for plants and animals to reproduce in the many different forms nature has given them to do so. Birds are especially vocal now as the males sing their love songs to their lady loves, and frogs and toads trill, croak or do whatever nature has provided them in declaring their love. As a wonderful old children’s song says, “All God’s children got a place in the choir…some sing low and some sing higher…” 

Bird songs are many now and I have a lusty choir of peepers in back of my house. On my afternoon walks to a nearby pond, green frogs are beginning to make their sounds from all corners. Always from some other spot along the shore or shallow water comes an answering ‘plunk’ that to me sounds like the plunking of a banjo. It is a peaceful sound at the end of the day and on into the night. 

Friends out hiking this week in the park came across a mother snapping turtle making her nest at the edge of the path not far from a pond. The large turtle was digging her hole in the soft sand. When everything was right according to her instincts, she would lay maybe 50 eggs that closely resemble ping pong balls into the hole. She then covers the eggs, moistens the nest and leaves. Her motherly duties are over for the eggs hatch when they are ready, and the baby turtles dig out from the nest and are on their own. If all the snapping turtle eggs hatched and survived, that would be a problem, but many other creatures like skunksfoxes and raccoons find the nests and eat lots of the eggs. Too many snapping turtle in a pond would feed on the wildlife in and around the pondSnapping turtles can easily grab ducks from beneath the water and pull them down to be eaten. This is nature’s way of controlling overpopulation. Snapping turtles are kept under control by their enemies. When things are in balance, it all works fine as designed! Skunks eating the turtle’s eggs are number one on the list for controlling the snapping population! 

If you are out and about on our ponds now, you’ll probably catch sight of painted turtles sunning themselves on a log. The minute you get too closethey slip into the water. They also lay their eggs in a nest they make in the soft sand near the edge of a nearby pond. This turtle lives its life in the water except for laying its eggs in a nest. Turtle parents do not care for their young. Painted turtles only lay from three to nine eggs. The eggs hatch in about three months, and the turtles may live 100 years! 

A neighbor of mine posted a young flying squirrel he had photographed and discovered running around in his grassy yard in a woodland setting. He wondered what it was. The young flying squirrel had not mastered the art of gliding from tree to tree and was walking in the grass and woodland terrain looking for food. They are very cute mammals with a flat bushy tail. 

Unlike their name implies, they cannot fly, but they are excellent gliders and their tail helps them do this. When they spread out their front and back legs, there is skin attached to the ‘ankles’ and ‘wrists’ that enables them to glide nicely from a high point to a low point. Their method is to climb as high as they can in one big tree and then glide to the ground at the bottom of the next one. My best sighting of them was one time on the trail from the Jordan Pond House through the woods and back to the Little Long Pond parking area. We were hiking with friends after enjoying popovers and were coming down the side of Little Long Pond where there are many large old trees. The flying squirrels were gliding back and forth across the path from tree to ground and then running up the next tree and repeating the performance as we walked along. That moonlight made it a very special sight indeed! 

I once found a young flying squirrel near the trail along Big Long Pond practicing ‘flying’ in the woods near the trail. The mammal was quite small and would run up other smaller trees about 6 feet and practice its gliding, and then one day I found just the recognizable tail of one of these squirrels on the ground. It made me think of that wonderful classic book by Beatrix Potter called The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Being without its important tail no doubt caused it a lifelong problem. 

Birds are nesting all over MDI and bird songs fill the air. Get out and about even if you have to wear a mask and enjoy the out of doors. 

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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