The bladderwort and the shrew



Hamilton Pond at the corner of Norway Drive and Rte. 3 is the place to visit this week. There is a spectacular display of a special carnivorous plant in bloom. Purple Bladderwort blossoms are bright pink and I have never seen the pond so beautiful. You can get nice overall views of this blooming right from the road. Here on MDI we have fifteen bladderworts that can be found. I have lived here since 1972 and it’s the first time I’ve seen such a display in Hamilton Pond. It is not a common sight and well worth taking a look.
Like all bladderworts Purple Bladderwort is a carnivorous plant that does indeed eat insects, among other things. It can trap and digest arthropod prey in its specialized bladder trap in the water beneath the blossom. It is especially good at harboring a community of algae, zooplankton and debris in its bladders. Tiny frogs, insects, spiders, and perhaps a tiny fish can be consumed.

The plant is rootless and free floating. The flowers are held above the water and the ‘traps’ are beneath them under the water at the tips of leafy branches If you get close enough to the plant you can lift them up and see all this. I have not picked one of these purple bladderworts plants out of the water since they’ve always been just out of reach but the Yellow Bladderwort growing in Somes Pond was close enough and I could see the bladders on them easily. They were either green and empty or black and ‘full’. Bladderworts are strange plants but well worth a good look. From the road in late morning and afternoon Hamilton Pond is a very special and beautiful sight now. Take your cameras with you! The book, called “Plants of Acadia National Park”, has all the bladderworts pictured.

This has been a good week for interesting wildlife. A good friend and I found a tiny little shrew in my driveway. The body length was about the length of my thumb and it has a tail about the same length. I’m still trying to identify it exactly. I suspect it may be a pygmy shrew. A friend disagrees with me so more research is necessary I froze and saved the ‘body’ just in case! My late husband was a naturalist and that was always the common procedure when finding an unknown specimen.

Whatever it turns out to be, a shrew is an interesting creature. They are as small as or smaller than mice depending on the kind of shrew and yet they catch and eat mice themselves. Shrews have very pointed noses and tiny body parts. They move quite fast, and are hardly ever seen by most people. Sometimes they will come into your house if you have mice inside. As soon as they have caught all the mice, they leave. I welcome their help. They do not come into houses unless there are mice inside. Your house cat is not doing you a favor if it brings home a dead shrew.

Shrews bear a striking resemblance to mice except for the very pointed snout! Shrews live about 2 years in the wild and they prefer plenty of ground cover. They live in tree cavities and abandoned burrows. Some are diurnal, some are nocturnal. Some of their favorite foods are Japanese Beetles, snails, grubs, seedlings, mice, and vegetation. Shrews are the only terrestrial mammals with the ability to echolocate. Unlike bats and some aquatic animals that also use echolocation to locate food, shrews are believed to only use this ability to get a sense of their territory.

Twice in the past week I have had to stop to let a wonderful parade of wild turkeys cross in front of me. One special encounter was with 3 adult females and about 40 little turkeys running across. The male turkey has no part in raising the young birds. Wild turkeys are big birds and seem to prefer walking around the countryside but they can fly if necessary. They sleep in a tree at night. Wild turkeys in 2018 are numerous here on MDI.

When our family moved here in 1972 there were none.

Queen Anne’s lace is in full bloom now and very beautiful everywhere along the roads and in our local fields. Bold and beautiful Bull thistles are just about to show their purple/pink shaving brush blossoms. This is a very large and beautiful plant that is very prickly! Butterflies love these flower heads. Goldenrods are everywhere in bloom and are interesting plants when you learn the different ones here on this island. Seaside Goldenrod blooms one sided. Take a look at this feature when you see goldenrods near or on the beaches. Other goldenrods are quite different.

A friend told me this morning that she has two young peregrine falcons learning about life near her home and they are fascinating to watch and quite noisy. Young birds have a lot of lessons to learn in a comparatively short time. Their lives depend on doing it well.
Send any questions, photos or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.