Despite snow, spring pushes on

The latest snowstorm with high winds and wet heavy snow gave our island a bit of excitement recently. In spite of it all, spring pushes on, and our wildlife moves ahead on schedule. We have turned the clocks ahead and will have more daylight hours, and I, for one, am glad about that. Flocks of geese have been seen here and there. Since Canada geese nest here now, I don’t know whether these geese have come early or never left in the fall. In recent years, more and more nests have been successful, especially around Somesville. The National Park Bird List indicates that these geese are to be expected in considerable numbers the end of this March and into April; however, some individuals may never have left the area at all.

An interesting goose called “the brant” is one to look for both in this month and into April. Brants are small, black-neck geese. They are hardly larger than a mallard duck so can’t be confused with the much larger Canada goose. You often will see them in large, irregular flocks, unlike the Canada geese with their near V formation. The Trenton Bridge area is a good place to watch for them. Look on the brant’s neck for a small, white patch. Generally look for a small dark-appearing goose with a short, black neck and whitish sides. This bird is a true sea goose rarely encountered away from saltwater. Their breeding grounds are in the far north.

It is in February that those brants that have spent the winter farther south begin to move north. Their main flight is in March and April. Since winter comes early in the north, these birds need to start nesting as early as feasible. Enjoy seeing them while they are passing by.

Until the end of this month, it is possible to see one or two pintails in with our regularly seen puddle ducks. The little pond next to the road at Seawall is a place where they often are seen each year. The pintail is a beautiful bird, with its long, pointed tail. They seem to know they are special to look at, for they sit erect, elegantly showing off their slim, long necks and very long tails pointing slightly upward.

This handsome duck has the widest breeding range of all the ducks. They are fast, graceful fliers. Pintails have a wide breeding range and also are found in Northern Europe and Asia. We only see them here as they pass by on their way north or south. Some breed in Alaska and winter in the Hawaiian Islands.

Pintails are surface feeders, and it is fun to watch them feed, for they put their heads down into the water and stick their tails and bottoms high in the air. Their longer necks help them to reach far down into the water to get tasty food. Their diet is nine-tenths vegetable. On the water, they are graceful, agile birds and very able to spring vertically from the water into the air.

A flock of robins on the lawn in Trenton is a nice sight to see. Although it is quite possible to see robins year-round locally, some birds are those from Canada that have come here on migration, and others might be individuals that just never migrated from here. Those seen now could be returning birds or those that will later travel back to Canada. That there is a flock of robins seen, whichever they are, makes it feel as if warm spring days are ahead for us.

Hairy woodpeckers are practicing their love songs, challenges and calls for a mate all included in their drum roll tapping on any hard surface that suits them. Great horned owls are hooting their love songs. The love songs of the mourning dove and nuthatch can be heard as well for those who listen when outdoors. Black-backed gulls are setting up territories on the outer islands. Fox sparrows are good birds to look for as they scratch in the dead leaves and snow searching for food. They are large, handsome sparrows and only seen here right now at the end of March and beginning of April and then again for a short time in late October. Those berry-bearing trees near the hospital in Bar Harbor are good places now to see waxwings, starlings, grosbeaks and robins. If we have warm days this week, watch for mourning cloak butterflies out and about.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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