Nature; Let a dragonfly land on your arm



Butterflies and moths stole the limelight this week for me.

As my friend and I played music at the Common Good on Thursday morning we noticed a bit of commotion near the building. It turned out to be beautiful Luna moth sitting on the pavement and it was definitely in danger of being stepped on.

I went to investigate and we found it had gotten stuck on a bit of jelly left on a tiny jelly lid. With a bit of help we freed the moth and after a few practice flights it finally took off and up and away it went.

These moths are very impressive as adults but they only stay that way for a short time in their complicated lives.

Luna moths as adults are as beautiful as any butterfly you can find in the world. In this flying adult form they only last about two weeks. Adult moths do not eat, and some may not have had food since their caterpillar stage last summer.

The Luna moth we rescued from its sticky situation had to get on with its life cycle and it was interesting to be part of it.

A neighbor of mine has many evening primrose plants growing near her and consequently she has been seeing many rosy moths coming to feed at dusk. This wildflower has yellow blossoms and they open at night.

If you have them growing near you it is well worth the time to go out late in the day and see the beautiful rosy moths coming to feed. The flower closes up in the morning; if the moths don’t leave in time, they are caught inside.

This has been a moth week for another friend showed me photos of a moth she had encountered in a garden she was helping to weed.

This time she saw a hummingbird sphinx moth. The moth does resemble a tiny hummingbird as it goes from flower to flower. It is easy to see how it got its name.

Hummingbird moths can be seen from Florida to Maine and even Alaska! They feed through a proboscis which resembles a straw-like tube curled under the head when not in use. These moths are very helpful in the pollination of many plants.

In the caterpillar stage they are called hornworms but they cause little injury, if any, to garden plants. I love watching them feed and they certainly do resemble tiny hummingbirds. Watch for them in your flowers this week!

The sound of a whip-poor-will is not heard much these days on our island. When we first moved here in 1972 we would hear them calling in our woods in Bass Harbor but now in 2019 their call is a rare sound.

These birds often are on the ground and very vulnerable to house cats roaming around at night. They also announce their presence in a loud, clear voice. I haven’t heard one on this island in many years. A friend of mine did, however, did get to see one sleeping in an old barn.

The whip-poor-will is a master at camouflage for their mottled brown and black coloring blends right in with the vegetation on the ground. It has an enormous mouth and flies around at high speed with its mouth open wide catching flying insects.

Their skills at doing this are superb! To see them flying in the moonlight is a very special treat. Whip-poor-wills, like grouse and some other birds, enjoy a good dust bath. They do this to reduce excess oil and moisture in its feathers.

This is good time to be out on our local ponds and lakes in kayak or canoe. Whenever you do this, please “mind you wildlife manners” and do not get too close to wildlife, however tempting it might be.

Your presence is always a threat to parents with young, for young birds are so vulnerable to attack from eagles and other predators. Use your telefoto lenses to get a good photo and keep a good distance from any wildlife, especially those with young. Don’t try to see how close you can get!

I have a number of friends who are gardeners and they frequently send me photos of butterflies they are seeing on the flowers. Butterflies are abundant now and Maine has many that appear here.

Take photos of any you see and then go online to the many wonderful photographs you can find there to figure out what you did see.

Dragonflies, too, are fun to see and identify. Some of these have two wings, others look like biplanes. Colors are varied and brilliant. Let them sit on you, if they happen to do so — they do not bite. I have even seen the big green ones cruising along at the beach over the water and rocks.

August is the month when the berries are ripe and flowers are abundant in fields and along the shore. Roadside are lined with the tall garden heliotropes with their white pungent blossoms, clovers in yellow and white and various kinds of goldenrods are beautiful this month.

Nature is still providing us with lots to see in the natural world. Get out and enjoy it!

Send any questions, photos 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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