Nature: Hummingbirds get chilly, feeders help

Spring is a glorious time of year with so much going on in the out of doors for humans and wildlife.

A summer tanager arrived on a Tremont feeder this past week. Probably most people know the beautiful scarlet tanager with its scarlet red body and black wings. It is often described as a tropical beauty and no one can dispute that.

Cardinals now stay here year-round and we often see them sitting in a snow covered tree making a striking picture. When our family moved here in 1972, cardinals were only summer time birds. Now in 2019, they are year round birds to see on Mount Desert Island. Mockingbirds too were seasonal in former years but are now year-round residents.

The summer tanager is not as flamboyant as the scarlet but still a tropical beauty. The male is uniformly a bright red, and the female is an olive green above and yellowish underneath. The tanagers winter many miles south of us in the Amazon rainforest. When I happened to be in the Amazon rainforest one year in the fall, I witnessed their arrival and it was quite special.

One year a while ago, a Bass Harbor lobsterman had a tired summer tanager hitch a ride one day as he returned from fishing. The bird didn’t get off until he docked in Bernard.

You should have your hummingbird feeders up now so these tiny birds can get an easy meal. Nights and some days can be chilly for these tropical birds and they need lots of food since flowers are not as abundant as they might like them to be. Never use honey! Sugar water is fine and be sure to keep your feeders very clean as the weather gets warmer.

This is a good time to go out in the evening and watch beavers. Some friends enjoyed seeing them at Hamilton Pond the other evening. The Witch Hole Ponds are also excellent viewing places. If you’re reasonably quiet you can watch them going about their daily lives gathering food and swimming about in their ponds. It is fun too, to see and hear them slap their tails if your appearance annoys them. I’ve gotten wet a few times when they were annoyed with our presence.

A number of years ago we lived in Westchester County, N.Y. on a sanctuary we had established there with The Nature Conservancy. We got to know the beavers quite well. If you ever are in Katonah, N.Y. visit the Grierson Nature Preserve on Todd Road. There are nice walking trails to enjoy. The proper title is Mildred E. Grierson Nature Preserve. Our property is now attached to several others in the area to make the preserve over 100 acres It is a special place.

A friend of mine in Tremont reported to me one day this week that she had an otter on her porch! Otters are curious mammals so it didn’t surprise me. Even if you are sitting at the beach or on a rock next to a pond and you suspect a mink, weasel, or otter is nearby just sit quietly and occasionally make a squeaking sound and you will soon have company looking at you. They are very curious and come to check you out. This can be great fun. Just sit quietly and you’ll have a great adventure.

Black-throated green warblers are heard everywhere in the woods in May. Get to know their call so you can recognize it. The call is a dreamy “zee-zee-zoo-zoo-zee” or a close variation. It has a lisping quality as if made through the teeth. A male warbler of this species has two white wing bars and a bright yellow face which is framed by a black throat. Females are similar but more subdued. Both are very beautiful.

These warblers are commonly seen in local woods, appearing first in late April and staying here until mid-October. Although they feed high in the trees, they are not shy. When you see them lower down you can get quite close.

Warblers have been described as the butterflies of the bird world. We enjoy them here in the spring when they arrive from their southern wintering grounds. When they arrive they bring life and color to the Maine woods.

A favorite of mine has always been the black-and-white warbler. As its name implies, this warbler is a striped black and white that sometimes is nicknamed a “jail-bird.” In true warbler fashion it spends much of its time hopping along the trunks and branches of trees, turning its head in all direction as it searches for food with its slender bill.

The black-and-white warbler arrives in the last days of April or early May. No birds may seem to be around as you sit down to rest on a rock but you may soon be joined by this interesting bird as it moves about in the trees for wood boring insects, gypsy moth caterpillars and plant lice. Digestion in most warblers is continuous and they must fill their stomachs many times a day.

Take time out to go out this week and have an adventure with nature.

Send any questions, photos or adventures 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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