Snowshoe hares at a feeder. PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTH GRIERSON

Heavy seas create ‘wild scene’



The shores around Mount Desert Island are in great disarray after the recent storm. Rocks of all sizes are everywhere on the road and shores at Seawall. The causeway area has been closed awhile for cleanup and major road repair.

It was a wild scene at Thunder Hole and other areas such as Schoodic where waves were huge and breaking with great force on the rocks and shore areas. A few humans seemed to be vying for Darwin Awards, as they got closer to the waves and stood on rocks at the water’s edge.

I thought there would be many interesting sea creatures tossed up on the beaches as the storm sent rocks and seaweed in and out with each crashing of the waves, but it didn’t seem so where I looked. Quite often after a storm and the vigorous wave action, I find sand dollars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, shells, starfish and other interesting bits of wildlife. Sometimes seabirds get off course or out of their environment and need to be helped. Birds like loons and dovekies cannot take off from land and need to be picked up and put back in the water.

A very dark raccoon was seen in Town Hill, and I was asked if they are ever black. According to research, they can be very dark and pretty much black. Usually raccoons are medium-sized mammals we regularly are able to see here on this island. They tend to be grayish or brown, with that distinctive black mask making them appear to be bandits. If you go online and look up raccoon pictures, you will see many very dark or black raccoons. Color variations are common.

Originally, raccoons were tropical mammals, but they adapt very quickly to changes in climate and now are found in various habitats. Here on MDI, they are quite common. They do sleep a lot in the winter, but they do not hibernate.

The English word “raccoon” is an adaptation of a native Powhatan word meaning “animal that scratches with its hands.” Their front paws are like small hands with five fingers, and raccoons have a heightened sense of touch with these fingers. They are especially sensitive underwater, which helps them find food. Barring an accident, raccoons live from 2-3 years. It is always best not to feed them, for they tend to be a bit pushy and greedy, and they bring their friends to your feast.

A friend of mine didn’t realize this when she put out food for them each night. After a while, she found them climbing up on her porch roof and tapping at the bedroom window if she forgot to put the food out. She often saw several of these young “masked bandits” peering in at her hoping for food. Word gets out that food is readily available, and many raccoons will come to feed. It’s best not to encourage them. It you raise chickens or ducks, and raccoons are in the neighborhood, you must have strong, well-made cages to protect them from raccoons.

A pileated woodpecker is working some trees in the woods near my house. Even with its large size and flaming red crest, the bird can work away close by and not be noticed. Often, you can hear them chipping away, and of course, after they have flown off, you’ll find the chips scattered about. These large crow-sized woodpeckers do not do exploratory surgery on a tree. They know when they start chipping the bark off that there is an insect infestation of some sort, and they intend to clean it out. If the tree is basically healthy, it will recover from the holes they make. These woodpeckers do the tree a good service.

I have snowshoe hares in my woods, and they are white now to match a snowy scene. A friend sent me a photo of two hares she had near her feeder this winter on a snowy day. I thought you might enjoy it.

Highlights to look for in March include loons changing their plumage, brant geese arriving at the Trenton Bridge, mourning cloak butterflies appearing on warmer days, woodcocks sky dancing already and wood ducks appearing on our small island ponds as the ice melts. The love song of the mourning dove can be heard. Listen for great horned owls hooting in courtship. There are many signs or a new beginning for us and wildlife as the season moves along.

Enjoy the changes.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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