Prime time for wildlife

“Summertime….and the living is easy…”

The melody of this famous show tune is in my head a lot these lovely days of summer on MDI. All natural life is very busy with finding food and family duties, busy with life activities and plants blooming.

On a friend’s lawn just this week a family of crows in SWH is very busy each morning trying to teach the young to learn about crow life. One especially noisy one seems to be a slow learner. The young birds need to learn survival skills or they will not last long. A family of crows is fun to watch. They are very clever and smart birds. Their problem solving abilities are amazing!

You just never know when some wild creature may surprise you in the most unlikely place. Some friends of mine told me an unusual experience they had recently with a garter snake in their car. In Maine we have no poisonous snakes, but with all the visitors on the island you just never know so they stopped the car and were trying to deal with the problem.

In the process a friend giving help grabbed the snake and got bitten. Garter snakes sometimes are a bit feisty and no snake likes to be grabbed.

No one likes to be bitten, either, so the group decided to go get medical help “just in case.” They wisely got the snake into a cooler and off they went. It was a harmless garter snake and no problem with the bite. The snake was then happily named the “Windshield viper” and released.

The story reminded me of my best adventure here on this island with snakes. No poisonous snakes live here, first of all, and I have always liked snakes and had them has pets.

One night a few years ago I had a call from a man in SWH about a big friendly boa constrictor curled up in his barbecue grill and wanted to know what he should do with it. I really doubted his story and didn’t want to drive over to his house that night alone so suggested he catch it and put it in a pillow case and I would come by in the morning and pick it up. Snakes can still breathe through the case and they are confined safely. The next morning I went to pick it up and it was a huge, fat and very heavy boa that someone must have bought or smuggled here as a pet and it had escaped. It also was an endangered species that only people with special wildlife licenses can have at any time!

Since my daughter has such a license I took it to her zoo and she tried to find the owner — who had to appear with the right legal papers. No one ever confessed, for it was illegal to have such a snake in this country. The snake lived for many years and it was friendly — and very large. It was probably curled up in the barbecue grill where there was some warmth left over from the picnic that day. Life is full of surprises!

If you are out in local ponds and lakes look now for pickerel weed coming into bloom. It has arrow shaped leaves and bright violet-blue spires growing in shallow water. Although each blossom lasts only a single day the great succession of blossoms makes it seem as if the flower is continually in bloom. These productions of seeds ensure its continual existence.

There is no doubting the identity of the large arrow-shaped leaves of this plant. Although pretty to see the plant has an unpleasant odor. Each bloom produces one seed; and the seeds are eaten by black ducks, wood ducks and muskrats.

Bees and flies congregate over the blossoms to feed, and if they get too low over the water they in turn get eaten by fish. Bees are the common pollinators but sometimes a hummingbird comes to pickerel weed. Dragonflies and damsel flies are often seen sitting on the plants. The arrow shaped leaves are eaten by muskrats and white tailed deer.

You can find it many places on this island in island ponds. Hamilton Pond is a good viewing place for this plant.

A friend of mine sent me a great photo of two snapping turtles relaxing on a big rock in one of our local ponds. They were close together and had their heads resting on each other. I guess snapping turtles do have a gentle side with their own kind but most of my encounters with them have only shown their “mad at the world” mood. I did, however, know a third-grade pet snapper, a very small turtle, that loved to be held and fed. The school class loved it and the little turtle was very fat!

An average snapper weighs from 15 to 30 pounds. Maximum weight is 60 pounds! Baby turtles are vulnerable to other predators but once one grows bigger they have few enemies except cars and humans. Always be cautious and don’t get too close to them. Their beak is very sharp. The two snappers seen on a rock taking a nap is special.

Enjoy everything in the natural world. This is prime time to be out and about and watching wildlife.

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

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