Nature: Bog cranberry season is here

September woods are not filled with birdsong. Nesting time is pretty much over for most birds, and looking for daily food keeps birds busy and fairly quiet. Families of chickadees seem most noticeable and there is also that raucous call of the bluejay. Bluejays may be loud and noisy but that is one of their good attributes for they warn other birds and mammals of danger. They’re not just being obnoxious!

You may notice cedar waxwings here and there. I watched a waxwing one day come onto my porch and grab a large spider right out of its web. The spider was waiting to grab its lunch and it turned out to be lunch for the waxwing instead. The bird actually caught two spiders that day as I watched. One went down easily but the other one was so big he had to tear it apart. Wild creatures are always looking for something to eat while also trying to avoid being eaten themselves!

Red efts are on the march this month. I encountered a number of them crossing the road one wet evening. A red eft is the land stage of the spotted newt. It’s almost like having two salamanders in one: Part of its life is spent in the water and the rest on land. In the water stage it is a newt. When on land it is called an eft. The breeding adults live in ponds where they lay eggs which hatch into larvae and live in the water. By autumn the larvae have developed and are able to leave the water. It is then they leave the ponds an go live in the woods for a year or longer.

Red efts are bright orange or red and on each side of the back they have a row of crimson spots bordered or partially bordered with black. They are interesting, harmless creatures and spend their lives walking around slowly in moist, shady areas. During the winter they hibernate beneath a rock or old log. When they migrate from the pond to their land stage they often have to cross a road and many of them are run over and killed.

Cranberries are ripe and perfect for picking. Whenever I think about cranberries I remember a day in Northeast Creek a long time ago when some friends and I went picking bog cranberries from a kayak there.

It was a delightful adventure, topped off by the sight of a mother muskrat not liking our intrusion into her territory and swimming past us with her baby carried in her mouth. Mother’s love knows no boundaries!

As you may or may not know we only have five species of snakes living here and only three turtles. The snakes are the redbelly, garter snake, ring-necked snake, milk snake and smooth green snake. None are poisonous. The island turtles are the snapping turtle, stinkpot and painted.

Most people see the painted turtles relaxing on a log or rock and maybe a snapping turtle when it is out laying eggs. The stinkpot is quite inconspicuous. It usually crawls slowly over the bottom of a clear water pond. Painted turtles like to sit in the sun and then slip into the water to cool off. Whenever you run into any of the others in your garden or in the woods and fields just remember that none are harmful and all are very beneficial. Let them live!

The warmth of the September sun is still enjoyed by our local snakes. They are, after all, cold blooded animals. Only the garter snakes can take a bit of cold.

Migrating birds will be passing over Mount Desert Island this month and some will be feeding along the shore as they grab necessary food on their long journeys. Shore birds are interesting but I find them confusing even now.

Watch for the spotted sandpiper as he teeters and bobs along the shore. Semipalmated sandpipers too will be seen feeding close to the waves if you walk the beaches. Sandpipers can be confusing in the fall but enjoy seeing them for they are on a long journey to their wintering grounds and are just stopping to refuel on their southern journey. Some go well into South America.

Check the gulls at the dump these fall days for it is now that you might catch sight of an Iceland gull! Keep your camera handy!

Send any questions, observations or photos to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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