Bobcats are the topic of the last couple of weeks. I’ve received many photos and stories about sightings here in Maine, and a few here on MDI. In an excellent little publication written in 1972 by Dale Rex Coman, a well-known and respected naturalist at the time, it said “the status of this animal is of some doubt.” Now in 2020, the situation could be described a little differently. They are being seen more regularly.
The bobcat photograph featured with this week’s column was taken at a friend’s home near Bangor, and it’s a prize! I wish I had been there to see it.
Left alone, the bobcat poses no threat to humans. Their diet consists of small mammals and deer. Deer are beautiful to see, but when there are too many of them, they devastate the natural trees and plants living in our woods and fields. Considering the large deer herd on MDI, bobcats and coyotes are helpful natural predators, and are very welcome.
Bobcats are strong, but do not attack people. Hikers getting too close to their pups might be encouraged to move away. Retreat is always in order if a wild animal is upset.
Even some birds will show displeasure if you are too close to their nest or babies. Some members of my family got too close to a goshawk’s nest territory here on MDI and had to run out of range and change their direction on the trail that was going too close to the bird’s nesting tree. Birds and mammals let you know if they’re upset – you should pay attention.
A number of Canada geese live here near Somesville. This past week, a friend posted an interesting picture on Facebook showing one snow goose (25-31 inches) swimming proudly along with the larger Canada geese (22-48 inches) in the waters there. I suspect the snow goose likes the company. Snow geese breed in the Arctic and only pass through this area on migration. They fly very high but not in the V-formation used by the Canada geese. As you drive through Somesville, you may get to see the lone snow goose.
A friend told me this week about seeing a saw-whet owl resting in the shrubbery. This small appealing owl often sits all day in a bush, limb of a tree or on a fence post just resting. Don’t be tempted to see how close you can get. Take pictures, but don’t touch the bird, for they can move fast and have sharp talons.
The saw-whet owl is one of the four owls commonly seen here. You can sometimes see it resting during the day. Many times, you can hear it make its repetitive call that sounds like a big truck when it backs up. I often catch a glimpse of this owl when it flies across the road in front of my car at night in pursuit of something it has seen in the headlights.
One of the best ways to get to know this island is to drive around with visitors and have them ask questions about everything. I try to have a shrub identification book handy. Black alder, also called winter berry holly, is a member of the holly family. This month, it has bright red berries growing right on the twigs! The fruit is edible and very sour, but ruffed grouse, as well as many songbirds and mammals, like them.
Bunchberry plants have beauty for many months. Way back in the spring, we saw the beautiful white dogwood-type blossoms on the floor of the woods, giving it special beauty. Now those white blossoms have changed into bright red clusters of berries. The berries are not tasty to humans. The leaves have also changed from green to purple.
In spite of chilly temperatures and a bit of frost here and there, many insects are still active. Crab spiders lurk in goldenrod blossoms, ready to attack any insect visitors that come to the flower. Such visitors include locust borers, paper wasps, honeybees and ambush bugs. Tree hoppers feed on leaves, as do golden rod beetles in both larvae and adult stage. Ants feed on the excess sap exuded by young tree hoppers. Gall insects lay eggs on the plant and the resulting deformity grown by the plant is the gall in which the insect larvae then live. Dark spots on the leaf’s surface that look like drops of ink are really blister galls made by a species of midge. What marvelous things are going on around us that we don’t even see or think about. Keep your eyes open and your mind alert so you don’t miss anything, large or small!
Send any questions or observations to me at [email protected] or call 244-3742.