With each spring day, the snow is melting, and it is a delight to see bare ground and open areas again. Woodcocks are sky dancing all over the island. If you haven’t watched their performances, this is prime time to do so. A great blue heron was seen the end of this past week. Peregrine falcons are being seen in Acadia National Park, and more robins are appearing.
We’ve actually had a few robins in the area all winter, but their numbers increase as spring advances. Not all of “our” local robins leave for the south in the winter. A few robins that have nested in Canada do come here, so it is quite possible to see a robin in any month. Now, of course, those robins which have wintered in Florida and the more southerly states will migrate into our area. Most everyone recognizes a robin when it is seen, and they are beautiful birds with nice personalities.
Robins coexist very well with humans but not with their free-roaming pet cats. If you care about bird life, do your best to keep your cat’s activities under control. At the very least, keep them in at night; at best, keep them confined inside or give them a confined outdoor area where they can enjoy the outside but not be a threat to wildlife of any kind.
Southerners have enjoyed large flocks of robins all winter, and these birds now gradually will move north to nest in many of our eastern states and on into Canada. Robins are at home in rural as well as in urban and suburban areas. They thrive in such places, for they eat a variety of food depending on the season. Earthworms are high on their list of foods, and who hasn’t seen a robin tugging with a worm on a lawn? Sometimes the worm wins, and at other times, the robin ends up toppled over when the worm suddenly becomes extracted from the ground. It’s a funny sight to see when this happens but probably embarrassing for the bird. In the fall and winter, robins like to eat berries and other fruit.
Great blue herons are a favorite bird for most everyone, for they are very tall, statuesque and interesting to watch as they fish along the shore or near our island’s lakes and ponds. It’s always interesting to me to find that when the herons are seen in Florida, they are so tame and accepting of human activities, but when they come to Maine, they are very skittish and quickly more away from humans. Anyone who has fished in Florida or other southern localities knows well that sometimes you have to chase herons away from your bait bucket and your catch, for they come right close to you. I’ve experienced, while sitting quietly on the beach, having these large herons walk by me only a few feet away. They are not at all afraid of humans. Small shorebirds sometimes run right over your feet if you are sitting very quietly. The same birds here in the north will not let you get close to them.
One of my favorite places for watching birds is Radio Beach in Manset. There is a small area to the right where fresh water runs under the beach and surfaces at the tide line. This area is so good for watching ducks, gulls and shorebirds as they look for food, drink fresh water and bathe. If you sit quietly not too far off, you’ll be able to see and enjoy the birds as the tide goes out. If all the birds suddenly fly up into the air from the beach and/or water, look up, for there is probably an eagle circling overhead. The smaller birds feel safer when they, too, are in the air.
I’ve heard of several reports of peregrine falcons being seen on MDI recently. They always make the news and are exciting birds to see. Peregrines are so alert and sure of themselves; they have excellent self images and there’s no doubt about it! Since they are falcons, they are very swift fliers. Individuals have been clocked at over 100 mph as the bird plunged downward through the air. In regular flight, peregrines fly at 60 mph.
Peregrine falcons are about the size of crows and are best recognized as falcons from their long, pointed wings and long, narrow tails. They are seen all over this island, not just near their well known nesting sites. Numerous reports come my way of peregrines being seen near a local area where a bakery is located. Pieces of bread and rolls which have been thrown out attract the pigeons, and the plump pigeons attract the falcons. It’s quite a sight to watch the drama take place. The fat doves eat and then rest on the ground or docks. A peregrine watches from the top of a nearby utility pole, and when the time is right, it dives at high speed and grabs a plump bird. At this point, the falcon often goes to the top of the same pole or another with its catch and enjoys its meal in true falcon fashion. Falcons vigorously tear their prey apart.
From March until mid-April, it is possible to see the courtship activity of these special birds. Adult falcons fly close to each other near their nesting cliffs, performing in-flight acrobatics and even feeding each other. They are very vocal at this time. From mid-April through May while the birds are nesting, you may get a chance to see the adult birds exchange food in mid-air. The best place to look is the vicinity of the Precipice on the Park Loop Road. During the nesting season, a park volunteer is usually on duty at the Precipice parking lot to answer questions about the falcons. They also give visitors an opportunity to see them at and around the aerie through a spotting scope. Look for peregrines also as you are able to once again hike any of our mountains.
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.