Nature: Whale seen from in town Bar Harbor

Bright yellow tansy blossoms dominate the scene right now. The plant thrives on this island and demands your attention. I suspect that to many people it’s just “some kind of goldenrod,” but it is really a very interesting wild plant and has been one for many years in many parts of the world.

This plant is very beautiful and stands several feet tall. It is a part of the Aster family and an introduced species to this country. The leaves have a fern-like appearance. Not everyone loves it for it can ‘take over’ an area.

Tansy’s Latin name is Tanacetum vulgare. Besides its beauty, the tansy plant is a very good insect repellant. In days gone by it was often used to make closet smell nice and be moth-free.

The scent of tansy is similar to camphor with a hint of rosemary. The leaves and flowers should not be eaten for they are toxic. Some gardeners plant tansy next to their potato plants to repel the Colorado potato beetles.

I’ve known of it being put on window sills to repel flies and even in houses to repel ants. Tansy is more than a pretty flowering plant. In other cultures tansy has been used in various ways. Artists may know it for making a beautiful dye.

There is lots of loon activity at Jordon Pond right now and I believe there are naturalists there to explain how to behave properly around such a nest. Over-zealous observers can often severely disturb wildlife. Always respect wildlife and their young and keep back a proper distance. Use your telephoto lens on whatever camera you have to get a closer photo.

Never get too close to wildlife, for all the creatures consider you a large threat and may even abandon a nest, and the young consequently get injured. Respect the space between you and wildlife.

A young friend of mine has a job this summer walking dogs for a family in Bar Harbor. The home is along the ocean and one morning recently he heard a whooshing sound and looked out on the water in time to see a whale and its young one not far away.

These unexpected wildlife adventures are special and they occur when you least expect them. I was on a friend’s boat a few years ago looking for whales and we did find several not too far away. About seven people were on board and all of us were trying to get a good view and looking off at a distance.

I looked down for a moment and there right next to the boat was a humpback whale’s eye looking at me! The mammal was bigger than the boat. Definitely a memorable moment I can still see in my “mind’s eye.”

Officially we are still in summer. As you walk in the woods now be sure and listen for the song sparrows, red-eyed vireos and wood pewees still singing.

Of all sparrows the song is quite easy to recognize, for it is bigger than most of the others. They often are friendlier than other sparrows. The male often seems to more cheerful and persistent in its singing. Sometimes you may even hear him in the middle of the night and in late winter.

The song sparrow has a great love for taking a bath and sometimes gets so wet it has to dry in the sun afterwards. This little bird breeds throughout North America. Some migrate but others do not move much or at all. The most distinguishing mark on this bird is the dark stick pin in the middle of the striped breast. The crown of the head is dark and the tail quite long.

A red-eyed vireos is a little more difficult to recognize for it is a woodland bird, delicate-looking in olive green feathers above and no wing bars. It has a grey crown, bordered with black stripes, white eye brows and red eyes. Its under parts are whitish.

Binoculars are a help in identifying these birds. They are great singers! I recommend going to a bird sight and listening to a recording of this one singing. This will be a big help when you think you hear one in the woods.

August is often hot and sultry. Hardly a leaf moves and we all find our special ways of trying to keep cool. Mammals feeling the heat are less active and only move about long enough to find something to eat. Turtles enjoy sitting in the sun but can easily retreat into the water to cool off. Salamander and red efts remain hidden in the moist humus in the woods or go under logs and stones. Domestic chickens often stretch out on their sides and enjoy the heat!

As summer winds down watch for the white and translucent pipes of Indian pipes in local woods. They look like slim white waxy pipes coming out of the ground upside down.

Canada mayflower red berries are forming now. Damsel and dragonflies are abundant and very interesting to watch. The large beautiful luna moth hatches in August. Watch for sea lavender blossoms in the water and along the shore. Resist the urge to pick any! Enjoy all of nature’s wonders in late August.

Send any questions, photos or observations to [email protected] or call 244-03742.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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