Nature: Give swans, geese room to maneuver



Feeders are very colorful this month with scarlet tanagers in red and black, orioles orange and black, indigo buntings in dark blue, bluebirds with their wonderful soft blue and a rosy chest and warblers sporting all sorts of designs and colors. It is a feast for the eyes.

The sounds of spring are also very special — I enjoy the peepers in my wetlands and a hermit thrush sings in my woods before dark. Its voice is very ethereal and special! As one grows older the higher sounds in nature are lost but thanks to hearing aids available now, some of those sounds can still be heard. Life is good.

My special sighting this week was a brief one of a mink crossing the road and disappearing into the vegetation one night as I was driving. I got a short glimpse of it but cold see the size well and the long bushy tail on this short legged mammal.

Mink are nearly as large as house cats but they tend to be slimmer and their legs are short and stout. Here on Mount Desert Island they live along streams, lakes and wet forested areas.

An encounter with one that I’ll never forget was on the rocky beach one day. I had taken a little nap in the sun and when I opened my eyes there was a mink peering at me over a nearby rock. The moment it realized I was awake it disappeared, but a few moments later it sneaked a peak at me again in curiosity. It is a beautiful mammal up close and full of curiosity.

Mink hunt from dusk until dawn but also are seen out at other times as was my encounter. My recent sighting was at night and the furry mammal was traveling on its nightly journey and I was just lucky to have come along as it crossed the road.

They eat a variety of food, including fish, frogs, crayfish, muskrats, birds, mice and rats. Fishermen out early in the morning sometimes see them hunting along the edge of a local pond or lake.

A fisherman told me of seeing a swan this week out over the water quite a distance from shore. He wondered which swan it could have been, for it held its neck straight out.

The swan we are most apt to see occasionally is the mute swan. This bird is most often seen in a park pond, or on a private pond of an elegant estate. It was first introduced into this country in the mid 1800s.

I remember my first contact with a swan was learning the well known song “The Swan” by Saint-Saens on the violin. I was very impressed when I saw the real bird in a city park.

Later in life when I was visiting a friend in England we had to pass a swan’s nest on the path we were following and I was hesitant to get too close for these large birds are very protective of their family, be it in egg form or live young. We got by safely, but we hustled!

That particular swan couple had gotten used to foot traffic. Ordinarily you should stay away from nests of swans or geese. Their wings are very powerful and can easily break the arm or leg of the intruder. Heed the bird’s warning and leave it in peace.

To see a mute swan is not particularly unusual but to see a tundra swan would be a rare sighting. This bird is white, very elegant looking and holds its neck straight up. The mute swan holds its neck in a curve. The tundra swan has been seen in this area, but it is considered a rare bird here. The tundra swan is noted for singing a very beautiful song as it takes off into the air and also as it is dying.

These birds are birds of the tundra but they do sometimes appear on both coasts of our country. The tundra swan is white with a black bill and black legs and feet. It looks as if it is wearing black boots!

Shadbush is in its prime now and its lovely blossoms are seen all over this island. This is a favorite of Mount Desert Islanders, for it grows along the roads and blooms in early spring. After a long winter it is very much appreciated!

The trees burst into bloom in mid to late May and the drooping clusters of narrow white flowers petals are an event not to be missed. As the petals fall in the wind it almost looks as if it were snowing again.

In early summer the flowers are replaced by round, reddish to dark purplish fruit dangling briefly on long stemmed clusters. These berries are an important wildlife food source. The miniature fruit is sought after by songbirds, chipmunks, squirrels and even bears. A jam can be made from the fruit even though it is a bit seedy for human consumption.

Shadbush is primarily a North American tree and shrub and grows in a variety of habitats. You will find this shrub called by many names including serviceberry, juneberry, sugarplum and shadblow. There are many related species in New England.

Walk in the woods and fields now to see all the spring flowers coming into bloom. Send me a photo of anything you don’t recognize and I’ll identify it for you.

Send any questions, observations or photos to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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Send any questions or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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