July starts with a bang in more ways than one on the 4th. Be sure to protect your pets from the loud sounds on the 4th and consider the wildlife too if you set off your own fireworks.
Wildlife is busy with nesting activities and rearing young. Friends in Bar Harbor have a significant cherry tree that is bringing much pleasure to some beautiful cedar waxwings. Not only are these birds beautiful in looks, their manners and interaction with each other are perfect in every way.
Theoretically waxwings are migratory but their movements are really more or less random. Often they remain in the northeast even in the winter. In spite of their haphazard wanderings, they sometimes produce three families in a season.
Here on Mount Desert Island they can be seen almost at any time but the best time is from May to September. Cherries are a favorite food for waxwings and they tend to just stuff themselves with the fruit. Sometimes they even get too full to fly. They often eat spoiled fruit and will get so tipsy they can’t fly! I saw robins in this condition one summer just outside the courthouse in Ellsworth where they had eaten spoiled fruit.
Waxwings consume huge quantities of insects such as cankerworms and elm bark beetles. These birds are best described as sleek, crested, brown and gray aristocrats. They definitely win the best dressed award in America. Watch for them now especially in cherry trees.
A friend of mine whose job is on the sea every day told me of great sightings he had recently of thousands of jellyfish. These rather unusual creatures are unpredictable and were only able to be seen for a short hour or so and then disappeared. I’d like to recommend a book I read about the subject not long ago called “Spineless” by Juli Berwald. Growing a backbone is important. Jelly fish have been swimming in our oceans for over half a billion years and we still know so little about them. It is thought that they are very important in the big scheme of life and we need to learn a great deal more.
On your walks along MDI shores you may encounter a few jellyfish in the water or washed up on the beach. It is always best not to touch them. But take lots of photos and look them up later. Jellyfish sightings have increased over the past few summers in the gulf of Maine and you can help in these studies by e-mailing your sightings to [email protected] or post to www.facebook,com/gulfofmaine/hashtag#mainejellies. Be sure to include a photo, time, date and location plus detailed description.
Several reports have come my way about bears being seen locally. Some were a mother and cubs. Black bears don’t like lots of noise so pot banging and dogs barking usually send them on retreat. Always, however, treat a mother bear with cubs with care and caution for a mother bear’s love for her young ones is very strong. She’ll soon leave and take them to safety but give her time and don’t push her. Resist the urge to get a closer photo! And keep your pets, especially dogs, confined while the bear is present.
June bugs are attracted to the lights at night this month. You particularly notice June bugs on a warm night when they fly around an outside light and crash into the windows and doors. They are not graceful fliers. In some cultures they are eaten and enjoyed when fried in oil. I did not find them tasty but other members of my family thought they were delicious. June bugs are reddish brown or black and are especially attracted to lights on a summer night and they are constantly bumping into things. Watch for them on your screened doors these warm nights. They don’t bite and they are interesting.
If you are out and about in the lakes and ponds watch for the interesting pitcher plants now in bloom. The tall, purplish red blossoms stick up high above the sphagnum bogs in marshy places here on MDI. At the base of the plant is a large leaf shaped like a green pitcher. It is reddish green on the outside and pale green streaked with crimson on the inside. These leaves are broadly hooded and they fill with a watery liquid. The raw meat appearance and decaying odor of the plant attracts insects to come and quench their thirst, but once inside the insects find escape difficult if not impossible for the footing is insecure and the bristly hairs on the leaf point downward preventing insects from climbing out. This plant seems to have more need of nitrogen compounds than most flowers and so it gets these compounds from the decaying insect bodies. It is an interesting and very attractive plant.
I will be giving a presentation and having a book signing of my new book “Living on the Edge” on July 12th in the evening at the Bass Harbor Library in Bernard. Consult their site for details.
Send any questions, observations or photos to [email protected] or call 244-3742.