Nature Welcome the hummingbirds

The natural world is so busy at this time of year raising families that there is no end to finding wonderful sights to see.

Many great sights come along when you are not expecting them. You just have to be ready at all times, wherever you are, and savor the moment.

I love watching guillemots in the salt water — often near shore or when you are out in a boat.

Some of my best views of these sea birds are in Bass Harbor when paddling along in a kayak. The birds come quite close and you can see their beautiful crimson feet.

If you are lucky one will yawn and you’ll be surprised to see that its mouth lining is the same bright red as its feet! They dive quickly and then appear again nearby. Fishermen often call them “sea pigeons.” When swimming underwater these birds use their wings more than their feet! They are expert swimmers and fliers.

At this time of year the guillemot is mostly black and has noticeable white wing patches. The rather long, pointed bill is a help in identification. The guillemot is about 12-14 inches long. Its voice is like a shrill whistle.

Guillemots usually fly low over the water. If you are out on the waters around Mount Desert Island or going to the outer islands you will surely see them. They nest on rocky cliffs near the water and they are seen year-round.

Hummingbirds are much in evidence on MDI each nesting period. They make long journeys from the south each year and often arrive on the same day every year.

Hummingbird migration watchers keep close track of their activities and you can keep up with their progress on the computer using bird migration sites. This is quite helpful, for you can have your hummingbird feeders well supplied to help them survive any unfriendly cooler nights after they arrive.

They are tropical birds and need plenty of energy to survive spring nights, especially before all the flowers are blossoming. In July and August their food is abundant as flowers abound all over this island.

A wonderful flower to watch closely now is the evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), for it is a night blooming flower in late July into September and frequently visited by rosy moths.

A friend of mine went out to take some pictures of the flower and the moth one evening last year and was very successful. Both flower and moth are colorful and exciting to see. You may sometimes see the flower in bloom earlier on a foggy, rainy Maine day.

The primrose is a tall plant with hairy leaves. The flower matures as the stem turns from green to a reddish color. In the daytime it has a bit of bedraggled appearance, but when the flower opens late in the day it is quite beautiful.

The rosy moth is a lovely color and looks like an escapee from an “Alice in Wonderland” garden.

It comes at dusk along with honeybees, bumble bees and maybe a hummingbird. When the flower opens it emits a lovely perfume that attracts night flying moths. The sweet nectar is secreted in tubes so deep and slender that only moths with long tongues can drain the last drop of the sweet nectar.

Large moths like the Luna moth may be seen as well on these summer evenings. There is no mistaking them for they are very large green moths that remind one of a ballet dancer en pointe. When the female excretes a special aroma the males from far and near come to her. As flying adults Luna moths only live for a week or two.

Several friends have asked me about the lovely purple vine you can see now in fields and around island yards now. It is the lovely looking bird vetch (Vicia cracci). This is a creeping, vine-like plant you will see along with the colorful hawkweeds, daisies and buttercups.

Like many plants, it was introduced from Europe and is now quite at home here. It adds a nice rich lavender-purple color to fields and roadsides. Both the foliage and seeds are eaten by rodents and birds. Vetches make excellent fodder and cows love the honey flavor of the cow vetch.

Although the parts of the flower do fit closely together, they stretch and open with the energetic bee’s weight and movement as it enters for nectar.

Sometimes an energetic and impatient bee bypasses the whole process and bites a hole at the base of the blossom to gain access to the nectar. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

Enjoy all that nature offers now. This is prime time to see wonderful plants and wildlife.

Send any questions, observations or photos to [email protected] or call 244-37423.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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