Nature: Grosbeaks come in many varieties

Notices of new arrivals have almost come to me daily this month. Now IS a great time to watch the birds for they are in their breeding plumage and easiest to recognize. A handsome Blue Grosbeak visited a feeder of some friends this past week in Tremont. I suspect that the Rose Breasted Grosbeak is more familiar to most people. It is an unforgettable beauty visiting us each spring and then nesting here. The male is unforgettable in his black and white feathers and a showy rosy-red shield on his white breast. You cannot mistake him. He also has a beautiful voice, impeccable manners and knows how to care for his family throughout the whole process. Recently I have had several reports of them in various locations on this island and the nearby outer islands.

Then there is the evening grosbeak we often see in the winter especially if it is a “Grosbeak Winter” when they come in large flocks. Some winters they hardly appear at all and in other winters they are seen all over. Their actions are clown-like and they often intimidate the smaller birds. Evening Grosbeaks are here for awhile and then they move off to some other area. their colors are bold white, yellow and black. The winter of 1949 and 1950 was a REAL Grosbeak time and I clearly remember when these birds arrived in great numbers surprising all the local birds and local bird watchers. The local birds were definitely intimidated and it actually was exciting to watch the action at feeders. When I came home from college that year on winter break “watching these colorful grosbeaks at a feeder” was an exciting event. The birds didn’t stay too long in one place but their large size and beauty were impressive and long remembered.

Pine grosbeaks are wanderers from the northland and they have erratic migrations into our area. Periodic food shortages probably account for their wanderings. These grosbeaks are handsome, rugged, robin sized birds. In color the bird is a masterpiece of black and rosy red and its bill is thick and finch-like. Ash seeds are a favorite food. Deep snow is no handicap for these birds for they prefer seeds. fruits and buds of he trees.

The Blue Grosbeak seen recently is beautiful but not always the same when you see it. The feathers often look different depending on the light at that moment. Sometimes the blue does not appear at all. The blue is most vibrant in the spring but the bird may not attract your attention at all until the light hits it just right and then you see the beautiful blue.

Winter wear and tea on the feather tips is said to reveal the bird’s splendid spring colors. Take a look in your bird book at this bird or go on line to see its plumage. Most of the blue bunting reports that I have received through the ears have been from Tremont. In the National Park bird check list this bunting is listed under cardinals along with the Cardinal, rose Breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Dickcissel.

Hummingbirds have arrived and you should keep your feeders clean and filled with sugar water. On even slightly days and nights they will appreciate extra help with food until more flowers are out. If Baltimore Orioles are in your neighborhood offer them cut up oranges.

Friends of mine off island a few miles sent me excellent photos taken recently in their back yard of 3 young black bears visiting their trees and feeders. That can be exciting! My friends are always sure to make lots of noise as they come and go from their house to car and vice versa!

My favorite warbler is the Black and White warbler. It is ‘dressed’ in black and white stripes which has earned this bird it nickname of ‘Jail bird”. You may be walking in the woods in the early spring, as now and think nothing is around until you rest for a moment on a rock or log and realize this little warbler has joined you nearby for a moment as it checks out nearby branches for wood boring insect, gypsy moth caterpillars and plant lice. Digestion in most warblers is continuous so they fill their stomach many times a day. Their consumption of insects in enormous!

May and June is when the pup-ping season for harbor seals occurs in Maine. Although pups MAY be abandoned for various reasons a pup on the beach is usually only waiting for its mother to return from feeding and she may be gone for as long as 24 hours! If a pup is approached or touched by people during this time it may discourage her from returning. Recent studies show that many pups have been prematurely taken from their mothers , kidnapped in a sense, by well meaning but misinformed rescuers.

When you, planning your gardens this year try to include plants and flowers that will provide food for butterflies. birds, bees and other wildlife Use native flowers and trees and don’t include any invasive species. Do a little research before you plant!

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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