Nature: Let the leaves lie

Fall chores are being done this month, but you should seriously consider not raking your leaves or at least leave large areas not raked. There is a benefit to wildlife if you leave them there.

Butterflies and songbirds really benefit and depend on them being left right where they are. Over the winter months, butterflies and moths as pupa or caterpillars are in this leaf litter. When you rake them up, you are removing a whole population of butterflies.

Without all these insects remaining on the leaf litter, the birds are affected as well for they spend a lot of time looking for food to be found in the litter. You may have considered it a chore you must do but in this instance you are helping wildlife by not cleaning up and being too tidy!

Consider the joy of the butterflies and birds that are benefitting. Preserve their habitat.

Habitats, or places where certain animals thrive, have special requirements and it doesn’t take but a few changes in any one to cause havoc with the life there or to make it a haven for the creatures.

Some animals only come out at night for they cannot withstand the sunshine or the heat of the day. Others, like the camel, can go for long periods with little or no water. There is a fox called a fennec that has very large ears to reduce heat gain.

If they’re taken out of their habitat, or if some drastic change is made in a normal habitat, creatures have to move or die. If a pond dries up when a dam breaks, it is a tragedy for any creature or plant that cannot move or thrive for a short time even in adverse conditions.

What you do even on your own lawn, woody location, swamp or pond nearby means life or death to all the creatures in that habitat. Think it through before you act and consider what you doing so you will benefit from a healthier habitat for yourself as well as your wildlife neighbors and plants.

Sometimes it is interesting to take time to just watch even a very familiar bird or mammal going about its daily life or eating its food. How each one feeds is often very different and quite unique.

We once had a phalarope land on our pond in Bass Harbor, which was quite unusual for this bird usually prefers the salt water. It definitely has unique ways of eating. Phalaropes twirl in circles in the water to create a little whirlpool that sucks up items to the surface for them to catch and eat more easily. They also chase and peck from the surface of the mud and water, and they might just stand there in the mud and grab at passing flies.

I watched a large heron stalk and grab a big frog one day. I did feel sorry for the frog but everyone has to eat something! Watching the frog on its final journey down the long neck of the heron was a sight to see!

Phalaropes are small sandpiper-like birds having a slightly longer neck than other sandpipers. Watch for them when you are on or near salt water when they are on migration. The female phalarope is the brightly colored one which is unusual in bird coloration. Usually the male bird wears the bright colors.

Buffleheads are being seen once again and will be here for the winter. Look for them in our local harbors, for they will be a familiar sight throughout the winter. The large beautiful gannets may appear as well, and it is a great sight to see them diving from high in the air into the water and out of sight to spear a fish. These birds nest in Newfoundland in large colonies and I have found it well worth the trip up there to see them by the thousands on the massive cliffs by the sea.

November is a struggling mix of summer and winter moods. Frosty mornings contrast with warm afternoons. The causeway at Seawall provides great entertainment for residents during a storm and more work for the road crews getting the rocks and off the road. If you find yourself there watching the exciting scene of waves crashing, be sure to keep back from the edges of the road. Use your telephoto lenses to get a closer look. It’s a wild scene.

Cormorants are migrating offshore now, heading down the Atlantic coast to spend the winter anywhere from New Jersey to Florida to Louisiana. In spring, summer and autumn you can see long flocks of these dark birds flying along the coast in a single file, close to the water with rapidly flapping wings and necks outstretched. All summer long cormorants were a familiar sight along Mount Desert Island’s coast as they sat on docks, rocks, posts and buoys. They have to spread their wings and themselves off after they fish.

Send any questions, photos or observations 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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