For many months residents in Southwest Harbor have enjoyed seeing a lone white goose making its way across the lawn at Western Way, across the busy road and into the harbor.
It found companions in the harbor in the form of ducks and occasional other geese. One Canada goose in particular became its friend for a few weeks until that goose was killed one day by a car. Not long afterwards the lone white goose seemed to disappear. We all suspected the worst and thought the story ended.
Not so! A friend called from Florida to tell me that he wanted me to know that the goose had been living in Lamoine with another group of ducks and geese and was fine.
A few days after the call I saw the goose back in Southwest Harbor near the Manset Corner heading for the harbor once again. I suspect and hope that it will be cared for this winter as before by its human friends.
What happened to the bird in the first place to make it homeless and alone is a mystery we’ll not solve. But it’s a plucky bird and seems to have made the best of its situation with a little help from its human friends.
“Where have all the flowers gone?” goes the familiar words of a folk song sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. This past week my emails and phone calls asked me “Where have all the birds gone that usually come to my feeder?” My answer to that is I believe that there is so much natural food available they have no need for feeder food. Maybe the recent snow and very cold temperatures will change this behavior. Just look at all the fruit on berry bearing shrubs all over the island. Nature is presenting wildlife with a bounty.
Be sure to take time these wintry days to visit our local harbors for wintering ducks and maybe a few gulls there as well as at the local dump. The glaucous gulls and Iceland gulls sometimes come south and are seen locally.
If you see a large gull that seems different, take a photo of it for identification. Note the size of it as compared to our other regular gulls, any unusual markings, head markings and posture. Note the length of the bill and whether it is pointed or not.
Note its behavior with the other gulls, how it feeds and what it eats. All these things help when trying to identify a different bird.
Throughout the winter more northern birds frequently come into this area from the far north and it is fun to see them. Get a photo if you can; even a poor photo can be helpful sometimes.
Small birds like chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, creepers and siskins travel around together in the winter in small feeding flocks. A lot of summer birds leave us for the winter but others come here from the north to visit. Right now there is heavy snow in Newfoundland, where only a few weeks ago I was there enjoying the trails, colorful scenery, wildflowers, ripe cranberries and baked apple fruit. When winter starts in the North Country you know it!
Birds and mammals and insects all have special ways to survive the snow and cold. Insects are snug in their galls, special sacs in leaves or under the ground or leaves. Their life cycles go according to plan for their species.
Small birds about in the winter seek out many of the insects and eat them to live.
Blue jays are out and about in all weather and they too have stored food away under bark and other such places. The jay family is interesting. Some people find them too noisy and brash but I like them. They’re just doing their job in the wildlife scene. They are the watchmen of the woods and sound the alarm when danger threatens.
The Canada jays of farther north are a very pushy and I only had to hold a potato chip out the window as we sat in a pull off in Labrador to get one to come and grab it out of my hand. There was not a bird in sight when we pulled in but I suspect the birds knew humans ate there and were waiting. It was exciting for us!
Occasionally these jays are seen on Mount Desert Island and they are regular birds to see in Baxter State Park, especially at picnics!
This past week an emu strolled across a lawn in Seal Cove and really surprised a homeowner there. This very large, stout bodied bird belongs in Australia and is the second largest bird in the world, standing 5 feet tall. Someone in Tremont must be missing an unusual pet.
Emus are long legged, with three-toed feet and they have a loud booming voice! Don’t get too close to them for they kick with their large feet. They can run at 30 miles per hour. Several years ago I joined three or four others in a meal made with an emu egg! They lay very large eggs.
Send any questions, photos or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.