Yellowheaded blackbird PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTH GRIERSON

Nature: Unusual bird spotted on the island 



‘Summertime, and the living is easy…’ so goes a favorite song of mine, and so it should be, although this year ‘of the virus’ may be an exception. Wildlife is busy, however, and flowers bloom right on schedule, adding beauty everywhere. Although orchids do not come to mind when you first think of Maine, we have several that are natural and abundant on this island and in Maine. Friends hiking this past week sent me some great photos of the rose pagonia or snake-mouth orchid. This one is very beautiful and you’ll mostly find it in wet meadows and sphagnum bogs. Look this one up on our computer or in your flower book! 

Whenever I go out on a small pond, I always prefer to follow along the shoreline so I can see the plants in such a watery environment. Our native orchids are very special but they do not flaunt their beauty like the lupines and rosa rugosas. 

Rosa rugosa is beautiful along the shore points and grows all over the island. It is not a native, but it seems so. The big colorful blooms are lovely and later the fruit is delicious for humans and wildlife. The rosehips are full of vitamin C. My mother used to make a delicious conserve with the ground-up raw fruit and orange peel with a bit of sugar or honey mixed in and kept it in the freezer for special meals. 

Bears have caused a bit of excitement here and off island this past week. Because of their size, people are often afraid of them for no reason. You need to know how to coexist with them. I have friends in Trenton who have bears living near them and often coming near to their house. They have adapted to having these large mammals nearby and frequently appearing as the mammals look for food. Another friend in Lamoine has some outstanding photographs of the bears near his home as they move about and sometimes even peer in his dining room window.   

Black bears only live in North America. They have a very good sense of smell; they are quite curious and intelligent. Their preferred home is the forest. They almost always move away from humans; they like to avoid people. They are more afraid of you than you of them. The grizzly bears in the West are another story! They are truly wild mammas.  

Black bears eat grasses, dandelions and blueberries but they will also eat animal meat in the form of small insects, ants and yellow jackets. In the fall, they feast on nuts and acorns. Bears frequent open dumps wherever they are and seem delighted when they find cheese and a pie. Last summer when my daughter and I were in Labrador, we spent many hours sitting in the small town’s dump watching three bears feast every night. They especially loved the leftovers from a bakery in the village. 

A fat bear is a healthy bear for it needs the nourishment for its long winter nap and females for giving birth during that time. A black bear’s belly is pretty empty in the winter, but the bear lives off its fat and it doesn’t have to eat or produce waste. The females even give birth while they are asleep! Don’t panic if a bear is living near you in the woods. Learn to coexist peacefully as we all should with our neighbors. 

I often receive interesting emails about wildlife and this week was no exception. A column reader sent me a photograph of an unusual bird in her yard for me to identify. It turned out to be a yellow-headed blackbird, an unusual bird to see here. It’s on the rare bird list for this island. 

You would normally expect to see this blackbird with yellow heads in Wyoming. The adult male is very handsome with a golden-yellow head on a dark body. In size, they are a little bigger and more robust than the red-winged blackbird we all know. The bird seen here this past week was an immature male so it only had some yellow showing on the head, but there was enough to let the observer know it was something different. You just never know what will appear! I have not heard this bird make a sound but it has been described as sounding like someone in great agony! Keep your ears tuned! 

Send any questions or observations to me at [email protected]. 

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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