Rare yellow-throated warbler spied in Southwest Harbor

A rare bird for this area, in the form of a yellow-throated warbler, stopped in for food at a Southwest Harbor feeder last week. Its normal range is east of the Mississippi and as far north as Illinois and Virginia. To see it at a feeder on Mount Desert Island was a surprise to friends of mine. The warbler was struggling with survival in the cold temperatures we’ve been having and was stuffing itself with suet. My friends were very well acquainted with local birds and knew right away they had something different and special. The yellow-throated warbler is very colorful with his bright yellow throat contrasted with a white belly. On its face are black sideburns, and it has streaked flanks. Look it up on the computer or in your bird book. The bill on this warbler is long. On the Acadia National Park list of birds, it is considered rare since it has been seen and recorded officially only about five times.

Normally, these attractive warblers are found high in the trees and nowhere this far north. After the word got out in the birding community that a rare bird had been seen, it had many human visitors coming to town to get a rare bird on their checklist. Some enthusiasts drive hundreds of miles when they hear of a rare bird being seen somewhere. In England, I’ve heard them referred to as “twitchers.”

If you visit Florida and watch birds, you can expect to see them there. They are fond of wet forests and cypress trees or live oaks. To see one here on this island the end of April, though, is quite unusual, and the chilly weather does not make it welcome.

Many years ago, my late husband took an adult class he was teaching about wildlife on a field trip. Our quest was to see fairy shrimp. I had never even heard of them at that time. These tiny creatures live in vernal pools and often are seen one year in such a pool and not to be found the next year. They are elusive creatures. Their eggs are about the size of a poppy seed and blow about in the wind after the pool in which they have been laid dries up. In the water, when many are swimming about, it resembles a water ballet performed by very ethereal beings. There is a fascinating video accessible on the internet that shows them swimming. Check out fairy shrimp footage.framepool.com. Vernal Pond Association also is a good resource.

These fairy shrimp are ancient creatures dating 500 million years old, yet they are very fragile. Females carry their eggs in a pouch behind their legs. They are crustaceans, as are lobsters. Check out any vernal pools you find and see if fairy shrimp are there.

Many aerial dramas have been observed this past week according to reports I have gotten. Eagles, ospreys, gulls, crows and ravens often are in these scenes. One friend watched a real battle royal going on with two eagles and an osprey with a fish. One eagle was after the fish, of course, and the osprey was trying to avoid losing its fish. The two birds had quite a combat in the air, with the final result of the osprey dropping the fish right on the head of the other eagle sitting on the ground. That eagle kept the fish. The osprey gave up, but as it left this bird, the osprey “stooped” in a peregrine-like dive down at the eagle, just missing it, and then headed back to its nest. Crows and ravens then took up the battle with the eagles. There was lots of drama in the sky. Lots of action overhead these days. Keep your eyes looking upward when eagles and osprey are around.

On a little walk with my dog at Seawall on the weekend, I noticed that dandelions are out in full force. A week or so ago, yellow coltsfoot was in bloom. People often confuse this plant with dandelions, but they are not the same. Coltsfoot flowers are gone now, and the leaves are forming. Dandelion flowers and leaves appear at much the same time and will be visible from now on for many weeks. I find their golden yellow blossoms very beautiful.

Bluets, too, were growing along the trails in grassy places. These little plants, also called Quaker ladies, are among the first wild flowers to bloom. Their tiny blossoms form mats of white blossoms on lawns and golf courses making it look as if snow has fallen once again. Bluets belong to the madder family, and you will see them in fields, open woods, grassy meadows and along our roads. Local golf courses are especially beautiful when bluets are in bloom. Basal leaves form a rosette beneath the blossoms, and the blossoms are set on top of the stem, where they nod in bud and are erect in bloom. The flowers are extremely sensitive to atmospheric conditions; at night and in rainy weather, the blossoms bend down. When the sun comes out again, they become erect.

Many insects visit bluets, but they are mostly pollinated by flies, bees and smaller butterflies such as clouded sulphur, the meadow fritillary and the painted lady.

Even though robins are probably the bird most everyone recognizes, they are abundant and well worth watching and looking at more closely. Watching one of these plump birds working on getting a worm out of the ground can be fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s a real tugging contest. I watched one on my lawn one day tugging away with all its strength when the worm broke and the robin ended upside down on its back! A bit embarrassing, I assume, even for a robin.

May is here with bountiful wild flowers appearing everywhere most every day. Enjoy the season. Take yourself for lots of walks!

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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