Frogs and salamanders are very active now. Even in mid-afternoon. One day I was able to watch many frogs actively engaged in courtship and mating rituals in a small vernal pool next to the road. The peepers and wood frogs have been singing their love songs and the females have come from far and near to engage in their ancient ritual.
Unfortunately, many are killed by cars on the roads near areas where the frogs and salamanders have to cross from wet woods to the breeding ditches.
Take note of such places and let the highway or conservation organizations know about them; there are ways they can help the frogs cross safely. A pipe put under the road so they can cross and not be massacred on the highway has proven very helpful and prevented many amphibian deaths.
These amphibians are important to a healthy environment for all of us. They eat huge quantities of noxious biting insects.
The eggs they lay now will take a few days or weeks to hatch, depending on the kind of amphibian. The vernal or temporary pools of water in which they prefer to lay their eggs are usually free of predators like fish and turtles.
The pools may dry up later, but by then the eggs have hatched and the young amphibians have moved on with their development. Many start off in the water, and then later move out until it is time to breed again. Fish stay in the water for life but amphibians have their own individual schedules for either being in the water or out.
Their life histories are quite amazing. If you should find a big fat spotted salamander in your cellar, swimming pool or window well someday lift it out with wet hands and put it in the wet woods or a small pond right away. They don’t bite.
Herons are being seen now in island ponds and along the ocean shores. A large all-white heron surprised a friend one day and he wondered if it might be an albino great blue heron. I think what he saw was an American egret. They are big herons, as is the great blue heron and are known to appear at this time of year.
A heron usually is not hopping about and often stands still for long periods of time so you can get a look at its bill. The American egret and the great blue heron have yellow bills. The legs of the American egret are dark. The legs of the great blue heron are yellowish.
From the bird sighting records published about this island it is more likely an American egret that was seen recently. Unless you get a photograph of the bird showing the important distinguishing colors on legs, bill etc. you won’t know for sure.
Of course there are always exceptions to this rule. A distinguished group of expert ornithologists stood on the Ocean Drive one day several years ago and they all saw a swallow-tailed kite (a bird native to Florida) fly out of the foggy sky for a moment and then was gone. It was in hurricane season and the bird was way off course. Because of having been seen by so many experts that record was accepted officially!
Now you need several experts to agree or a nice photograph or video with all the data. Unusual sightings have to be verified. In all the years I have been writing this column, some strange reports have come my way. Birds are not always easy to identify especially if they are immature birds or females.
Ospreys were seen flying over and around the Stonington Bridge this past week. They seemed to be checking nesting sites. Watch for them in our local skies for many months now.
A yellow-rumped (formerly myrtle) warbler visited a feeder this week on Mount Desert Island. It was the first seen there this season. May is definitely the month for warblers to arrive so keep careful watch. At this time of year before the heavier foliage appears you can really get to see them easily. When the leaves fill out they are harder to view even though they are colorful. This is prime time for warbler watching.
You never know what you are going to find as you go outdoors and really examine the vegetation. A friend sent me a photo of an interesting bee he discovered this week on a plant near his home. It was what is commonly called a mining bee or Andrena and a new one for me.
The male has hairs growing on the back and around the neck and gives the illusion of being an old timer. Some observers think it looks like a mustache.
There is a nice video of this bee in which you can see it very well as one digs its nest burrow in a sandy bank. Google “mining bee” on your computer and check out Wikipedia. Each bee lives on its own but several may live nearby.
Andrenas are not colony nesters as some bees are; they are also beneficial pollinators and are not prone to bite or sting. Enjoy looking at them. They stock their burrows with nectar and pollen. Enjoy seeing them and let them be where they are. Explore your yard and see if you can find them. This is a new creature to me and I’ll be out looking!
Send any questions, photos or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742