A dragonfly

Fall migrations a sight to behold

Manmade roads have been busy and crowded this summer as visitors from near and far came to see Acadia National Park and celebrate its age and beauty. Sometimes for those of us who live here year-round, the sharing is hard, but I do understand. Our family was once in the “just visiting” category about 40 years ago. Since that time, I have observed and written about nature here and have hiked and explored most of the trails and all the carriage roads.

One reason this island is so special is that it offers the sea, and the edges of the sea and its special wildlife, mountains, small and large ponds, streams, fields and the various forms of wildlife calling these places “home.” The plants and wildlife of Mount Desert Island are special, fascinating and abundant. We are also on a major migration route for birds and a large variety of sea life. About the only habitat we do not have is a desert.

September is here, and it is migration time for many birds. Some species, like most of the warblers, the tropical songbirds, Arctic nesting shorebirds, kingfishers, ospreys, vultures, herons and others leave or pass by as fall approaches and head for their wintering grounds far to the South. Many happy hawk watchers head up Cadillac or Beech Mountain to enjoy a few hours of hawk watching. Besides enjoying the climb and experience of being outdoors in a beautiful place, you often get excellent views of the passing birds.

All along the east coast, there are certain very good locations to watch the yearly hawk migration. My first experiences were at Hawk Mountain, Pa. Our family would go there for several days in the fall. We camped at the base of the mountain and joined others from far-away places as we climbed the mountain trail each day and sat on the rocky mountaintop watching thousands of birds passing by. Some were very close, and it was always very exciting. In the evening, we gathered about the campfire and discussed the day’s adventures. Maurice Broun was the “expert” and a delightful and expert hawk observer to have known. If you are interested in learning more about Hawk Mountain and its history, I urge you to check online or go to one of our great libraries on MDI for more information. Mount Desert Island is also known as a special place to watch hawks passing by. ANP often has ranger naturalists on Cadillac Mountain to help with identification. Call the park for information.

As my dog companion and I took our walk one nice day, I was sorry to see that a little red-bellied snake had been run over. This snake is small, only a few inches long and not easily seen by a driver. This small snake has a red belly as the name implies. The back can be black or grey, but the red belly identifies it best. You can easily and safely pick it up and handle it, for it is a gentle creature. Gardeners should welcome these small snakes, for they eat mostly slugs.

Another day, my daughter-in-law spotted a ring-necked snake disappearing into the stones near my steps. This also is a small, harmless snake. As this snake’s name implies, this snake has a yellow collar around its neck. They may be about 12 inches long or a little more and quite elusive and easily missed. Their diet includes worms, insects, small snakes and frogs. It’s a pretty little snake and gentle. Five species of snakes live on MDI. All are harmless. Welcome them wherever you find them.

Dragonflies are still flying about, and I find them interesting ancient creatures to watch. Experts say they are about 30 million years old. They fly perfectly with a purpose. It is always fun to sit on a boulder along the shore and watch them patrolling their territories. They snag a mosquito from the air with a well-calculated aerial ambush. When hunting, they have a 95 percent success rate!

Dragonflies catch their prey with their feet, tear off the wings with their sharp jaws and then swallow the rest without needing to land. They do not bite humans. There is no need to avoid them. If one lands on you, just enjoy the close encounter and look at its beauty. They have excellent vision, can fly upside-down and backward with their excellent flying abilities and are fun to watch. Dragonflies are quite exceptional. Take time to look at them.

White, blue, lavender and purple asters can be seen now in profusion. You also may have noticed the attractive blossoms of meadowsweet, a small shrub that is in bloom now. I have found it on Katahdin, Cadillac, the White Mountains, along my driveway and island roads, as well as in Newfoundland last month. If you keep watch as you drive around this island or walk in fields and along roadsides, you’ll see it. The flowers can be white or pale pink and longer than wide. It reminds me a bit of steeplebush that bloomed recently and does have a steeple look. Look up spirea.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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