Greater yellowlegs were seen at the Carrying Place off island, so they are birds to watch for. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Nature: Subtle changes of summer’s end 



September is here once again, but it still feels like summer. There are so many wonderful happenings with wildlife and flowering plants on this island and in the sea around us still to enjoy. 

Shorebird migration is on, and any time you are out and about near the coast you should be watching for the passing birds headed southward. Greater yellowlegs were seen at the Carrying Place off island, so they are birds to watch for. Their name gives you a clue to their identity. This shore bird stands on bright yellow legs and is usually seen wading in the marshes or along the seashore looking for food. It measures about 14 inches. There is also a slightly smaller variety called the lesser yellowlegs. Both birds have long billsabout 2 inches, for the greater yellowlegs. These are slim bills for picking up insects and crustaceans along the seashore or in the mudflats and shallow water. 

Their triple, descending and spiral notes heard coming from the sky often lets you know of their presence. Once you hear ityou’ll not forget it. It’s a cheerful sound floating from the sky. It is loud and insistent and not too hard to imitate so you might get into a conversationThe greater yellowlegs is a striking and beautiful bird to see and this is the time to watch for it. 

These birds nest farther north in Newfoundland and Labrador and in British Columbia. One year our family stayed on Moose Factory Island on the edge of James Bay and we saw them nesting. You definitely know you are in the far north up there and mosquitoes greeted us enthusiastically! There was no road those many years ago, and the only ways to get there were by train or plane. We traveled on the Polar Bear Express train and it WAS an adventure!  

One ‘car’ on the train had an old upright piano in it and people gathered there to dance and sing. When I hear and see yellowlegs now, I think of all those things. Birding is a good hobby for many reasons for all ages. 

black bear was seen in the outskirts of Southwest Harbor this week. It was sorting through a trash bin. Keep your food trash under cover so they will not linger. They usually stay hidden and they run from loud noises. Take any feeders in if you suspect a bear in the neighborhood. 

Some friends of mine had a bat in the house and were concerned about how to get it to leave. The best way I know of is to shut off all the lights in the house, turn the outside lights on and leave the door open. Within a short time, they will fly towards the light and leave your house. My favorite ‘bat inside the house story’ happened to me. I was upstairs in my computer room typing my column – ABOUT BATS THAT WEEK – when something glided around the room, out the door and down a staircaseIt was a little brown bat commonly seen here, but not usually in the house! I left the room and followed it down the stairsshutting the lights off as I went. I put the light on outside on the porch, opened the door and turned off all the inside house lights. In a few minutes, the bat circled around the living room and went flying out the door. They are attracted to the lights for that’s where lots of insects will be at night. I’ve heard of a few bat sightings this summer and that is good news for they are the best mosquito control. So many bats have died because of the fungus disease that got into their colonies that they have been a threatened species. Seeing some now is a good sign. 

I have handled bats and find them fascinating. Their fur is as soft as velvet and their little faces look like a tiny dog’s face. They are expert insect eaters and consume large quantities of mosquitoes especially. If a bat colony lives near your home, you’ll be able to sit outside and not be bothered by insects. Putting up bat houses for them is a good idea for bats and for humans. 

Highlights in the natural world to look for this month include cedar waxwings seen in groups, white-winged scoters back in local waters and guillemots beginning to change to winter plumage. These birds look entirely different in the winter. You may see gannets fishing offshore. This is an exciting sight! Glasswort is a lovely red color at the edge of the tide line. Tamaracks will be losing their needles. Watch for all sorts of subtle changes as summer ends. 

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

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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