Nature: Keep bears in mind



bear stepped into the spotlight in Bass Harbor this week. As of this writing I do not have any information about it, but the video posted on Facebook from a home owner not far from me showed a big black bear on the lawn on the May 22. I’ll be sure to make lots of noise when I go outside after dark for bears don’t like noise. Banging pans, shouting, etc., usually sends them scurrying off if you go outside after dark. A few years ago, a friend in Northeast Harbor had a bear coming each night to visit his feeders, and one feeder was on his back porch. One night he and his wife were watching it from inside when he decided the bear had been there long enough. The man let out a very loud ‘whoop’ and the bear took off in a great hurry. The man’s wife didn’t know he was going to do that and she almost fainted! 

Last fall when my daughter and I were watching bears in a small-town dump in Labrador, we found them to be constantly alert to any humans about. We spent many hours very quietly watching them search through the trash looking for food. At one point one bear stood up and really looked around; THAT was impressive. 

It may not have been a pretty spot to see bears, but a town dump can be very interesting if bears are in the area. In many islands in the tropics, the best wildlife is seen up close at the town dumps and local septic areas. Such areas almost become the only wild places on the islands. I saw many caimans (fierce reptiles with many sharp teeth) in the filter beds in Trinidad. We could look across the quiet water ‘beds’ and gradually focus on their heads showing above the water level. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to figure out what such a creature is thinking about. 

One of the best birding places on this island is in back of the high school where the filtering pools are. There was great excitement there a few years ago when three or four black-bellied whistling ducks, formerly known as black-bellied whistling tree ducks, from Texas were seen there on a big birding weekend. For those of us who enjoy seeing different birds, it was very exciting. These ducks do not quack like other ducks – they whistle. 

Bats have had a hard time in recent years because of the bad fungus infection that appeared in their roosting places. For those of us here on the island, their numbers have gone down and we have more mosquitoes. Bats eat countless mosquitoes, and wherever they live and hunt we humans are better off. I was happy to hear that a friend of mine saw a healthy little brown Myotis bat (mouse-eared bat) when he was walking on a local trail recently. Putting up bat houses is a very good thing. You can go online and get instructions for doing this. Welcome bats to your neighborhood! 

Daily reports of warblers being seen appear in my email. This is prime time to watch warblers. The list this week included Cape May warblersparula warblerpine warblerrose-breasted grosbeakoriolestowheeovenbirdprothonotary warbleryellow-rumped warblerkestrel and loons. 

Those of you out walking about in woods and fields now will be finding all sort of wildflowers in bloom or coming into bloom, including wild strawberriescinquefoils and Canada mayflowers. It’s prime time for wildflowers in our Maine woods and fields. Even the glowing dandelions please me, for they are beautiful, and you can eat the young leaves. These early-flowering plants help sustain life for returning hummingbirds and for our bees. Don’t put them on the “get rid of’ list! Violets are in bloom and are a beautiful sight to be seen as they bloom in wet fields, along with bluets. Look for lady’s slippers and Canada mayflowers. The leaves come first on the mayflowers, then the delicate white flowers. They are sometimes called ‘wild lily of the valley.’ 

In local ponds, the spring peeper chorus is turning into a symphony in some areas. Any hawk you see in a forest now is probably a sharp-shinned hawkbroad-winged hawk or a goshawk. If ever a hawk is angry at your presence in the woods, heed the warning and leave. You are in their nesting area and they want you to leave.  You can tell when the birds are upset. 

This is a stressful time for humans, but here on this island we can still be outside and enjoy nature unfolding. 

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

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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