Bright colors in the snow definitely attract our attention these days. A column reader found a beautiful ruby-crowned kinglet on the snow after it had collided with a window. This doesn’t always mean instant death for the tiny creatures, but it can. Sometimes the bird ends up with a severe “headache” and/or concussion. It’s never a nice experience for the bird, but feeders often are placed where the birds can see a reflection and fly right into the window. After you’ve placed a feeder out for the birds, check it from all angles to be sure you have not created a hazard for them. Think of the view they see as they fly in to the feeder, sit there and then fly away. Make sure the window doesn’t deceive them into thinking they can fly that direction and be safe. If you have a number of collisions at your windows, figure out what needs to change. Destroy any reflection they might see or move the feeder.
Two kinglets live on this island year-round, and they are both tiny birds and quite pretty. As their names imply, one has a golden crown, and the other has a ruby crown. They are quite tiny but full of spirit no matter what the winter weather is.
A friend told me of a wonderful sighting he has been enjoying recently. He lives not far off this island and one day recently found a newly dead deer in one of his fields. The authorities said to let the wild creatures have it. Since my friend was curious about what would come to feed, he set up a remote camera at the site in the field a good distance from his home. He and his wife were astounded to find themselves watching a mother bobcat and three young coming to enjoy the feast. The young were dainty eaters licking the meat and bones, chewing on the tender bites and then sometimes falling asleep with full stomachs right at the spot. The mother energetically took her chunks of food, and nothing was wasted.
Bobcats are sturdy hunters and can easily pull a deer down. This is important in areas such as Mount Desert Island, where we have too many deer. An overpopulation of deer in an area is not good for man, other deer, other browsers, local vegetation and wild plants. Natural predators have to regularly cull the weakest of the herd for the mammals to be healthy. It’s a real and special problem here on our island. Welcome any big predators that wander through our island or that live here. A friend in Ellsworth had one coming regularly to his feeder last winter. He got many excellent photos of this large member of the cat family.
Crows, ravens and eagles also came to the deer carcass, not all at the same time, of course. My friend also said a golden eagle joined the group one day. This particular eagle is not commonly seen here but definitely is a visitor to be looked for in October and November. They can be confusing and difficult to recognize when seen all by themselves.
Golden eagles are a few inches larger than the regularly seen bald eagles in this area. Golden eagles can measure 40 inches in length, whereas bald eagles are generally only up to 37 inches. When you see them together, it is easy to tell one from the other, but in the air, it might be confusing since immature bald eagles do not have a white head and tail, and they look brownish all over. The legs on a golden eagle are feathered to the toes. Bald eagles are not feathered to the toes. The best views I’ve ever had of them have been in the western states. The powerful bill of an eagle is nearly as long as the head. Whichever eagle you see flying overhead, it is always a special moment. We are fortunate here on MDI to be able to see eagles frequently. This is not so in many, many places.
If you roam open spaces such as a beach, field, ball field or the like these days, watch for horned larks. These visitors from the north walk about instead of hopping. These larks are brown ground birds and appear to be a little larger than a common sparrow. They look as if they are wearing black whiskers. Although the “horns” are not always visible, they do have two small black “horns” on the top of the head. These birds only visit us in the winter, for they regularly breed in the Arctic and a few other places in North Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and some spots along the coast of Texas. The horned lark is our counterpart of Europe‘s skylark.
You may see mourning doves bathing in the chilly melting water at the edge of the road. They drink and bathe in these chilly puddles. A walk around Jordan Pond now will reward you with sights of wonderful, gorgeous ice sculptures, a result of the action of temperatures, wind, water, weeds and rocks.
This was a very good year for apples, so you are apt to see mockingbirds feasting on the frozen fruit. Starlings also enjoy eating them.