Nature; Tiny jeweled helicopters arrive



“Summertime and the living is easy … fish are jumpin’ … ”

So goes the wonderful song by Gershwin. I love playing it on my violin.

Summer is a busy time for all wildlife. Migration for some birds, courting for all, nest building, egg laying and brooding; then family cares as long as necessary.

Some tasks are done by one or the other adult, some with both taking part. How it works out is fascinating to watch and know about. The colorful tropical birds such as scarlet tanagers, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks and many warblers, plus our resident beauties, make watching birds a great activity.

My e-mails and phone calls inform me daily with great enthusiasm of what is being seen on this island and the other nearby islands. Enthusiasm is high!

Wild and cultivated irises vie for high honors this month in beauty. Both have exquisite blossoms. The wild form is called blue flag, and we have three varieties growing in New England. There is the slender blue flag, beach blue flag and blue flag. All are purple or pale blue-violet. You might even come across a yellow iris which grows in the wild but is a European escapee. About 1,000 species of this family grow all over the world except in the polar regions.

Finding orchids in Maine may seem strange; we commonly think of these exotic plants as tropical flowers. But Maine does have several native orchids in woods, bogs and fields.

Probably the pink lady slipper is the most familiar. Its beautiful blossom, pink or sometimes white, is large and shaped like a pouch. It is found in May and June in island woods and fields. Once when I was hiking with a friend near the Hadlock Ponds, we discovered an area with hundreds of these flowers in bloom. It was a spectacular sight!

When out kayaking you should keep watch for the orchids growing where it is wet. Rose pogonia and the calopogon are beautiful and they attract many insects eager to get at their pollen. Bees are greatly attracted to the sweet odor and beauty. Their search for pollen transfers pollen grains from flower to flower.

Never pick orchids; just take photographs or your own sketches home with you.

A good place to look at birds is the area around the ponds in back of the high school. Go to the back of the school and park in the spaces there. As you face the track and sports fields, walk to your left and down towards the filtering pools. I was amazed at what a good place this is for seeing birds.

Several years ago this spot became quite famous and a high point at the birding festival that year as a participant was discovering fulvous tree ducks resting there for a few days. I think every person at the festival got to see these rare birds.

Some bird watchers keep a list of all the birds they see and where. Some also travel many miles to see a rare bird when one is sighted. I’ve never done that, but I do vividly remember where I’ve seen special birds and remember the scene well.

I think a most memorable sight for me was of a Andean condor gliding by a few feet away from where my daughter-in-law and I sat on a cliff. The bird was huge and looked right at us! Eye to eye with a huge condor was a memorable moment! Condors are huge birds.

Hummingbirds here on the island now are being enjoyed by many residents and visitors. They arrive with a flourish on the day expected and get right to work picking out their territories.

Cooler nights are not to their liking and they must eat a lot to keep up their stamina. Your hummingbird feeders no doubt help many to survive since when they first arrive there are not so many flowers blooming.

I have seen their nests but I myself have never discovered one. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only one coming to this area regularly. Once in a great while another type is seen but it is very rare. In the western and southern parts of our country there are numerous types of hummingbirds regularly seen.

Once when I was visiting a Wyoming dude ranch we got to see broad-tailed hummingbirds regularly. These hummers are very feisty and will eagerly fight with a larger bird be it crow, raven or large hawk. If a tiny hummingbird feels that its nest or territory are threatened it will put hawks, eagles and crows to flight with its fast attacks spearheaded by that needle sharp bill.

Hummingbirds can poise in mid air like tiny jeweled helicopters. As they hover in front of a flower they thrust their needlelike bills into the blossoms for the nectar.

Get outside to see what’s going on now in the wildlife communities near you and on this island. It is a lovely time of year! Enjoy it all.

Send any questions or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 24-3742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to teahousetrio@wildblue.net or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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