A neighbor called to tell me of an interesting bird he watched feeding on his lawn. It was an ovenbird, that bird whose call sounds as if it is saying “teacher, Teacher TEACHER!” Each time, the word is pronounced louder. There is no doubt about recognizing this birds’ call. Ovenbirds belong to the warbler group of birds and are migrants, only coming here to nest. By mid-November, they should be southward bound.
The ovenbird is a delicate-looking warbler poking around in the leaves for some spiders, insects and worms. They are far more often heard than seen. If you do get to see it, look for the narrow orange crown bordered with black on its head. The bird has heavy, dark stripes on its white breast and flanks. This bird walks about in the leaves, sometimes teetering a bit as it searches for food.
Ovenbirds make a nest that does resemble a little Dutch oven. It is a wonderful little structure right on the ground. Ovenbirds are birds of the forest.
What an exciting way to start a day! A friend on this island looked out the kitchen window as she was preparing breakfast and saw a beautiful bobcat crossing the lawn. It is a big cat! Normally they hunt at night, but this one was just ambling through the field near the house. They are solitary mammals and quite elusive, so this was an excellent and exciting sight to see. These large cats have a fairly good sense of smell and rely on their senses of hearing and smell to find their prey and to detect enemies.
When stalking their prey, they creep along through the brush and try to remain unseen. The bobcat just seen just walked along and definitely was not hunting. Man and dogs are their chief predators. A young one may fall prey to a great-horned owl, but the adult is too big.
Although some of the cat family are good runners, the bobcat is not. It prefers to walk or trot and to rely on its stealth for hunting. If they have to, they will take to water and are good swimmers. Local bobcats feed mostly on deer and snowshoe hares, skunks, muskrats, snakes, fish, insects and some plant matter and a few other things. To see a bobcat is very special. I wish I had been there to see it.
Many of our migrants have left or will be leaving very soon. Some will wait a little while longer and may regret it in December if a winter storm surprises them. I’ll always remember the sight of a wet, cold, bedraggled great blue heron last winter standing in the marsh on a snowy, icy day. It stayed a little too long and was not very happy.
Of course, when winter comes, many northern ducks come here to spend the winter in our harbors and along the coast. Our winters are less severe than in Canada and the Arctic. Birding in the winter is very good along the new England coast, and seeing these northern ducks is always a pleasure. Some even perform their courtship antics while here in part of our spring. Get yourself an Acadia National Park checklist for birds so you know what’s happening and what birds to look for and expect through the months.
Night herons are not commonly seen here, but it’s a possibility at this time. I remember seeing one in Bernard one time as it stood fishing in the marsh there near Back Beach. It stood a little hunched over, patiently waiting to catch something. The black-crowned night heron is my favorite, for it has elegant feathers. The bird is stocky and wears black and white feathers and sports a black cap. Its body is supported by stocky yellow legs. They have a habit of feeding mostly at dusk or at night. They eat fish, amphibians, insects and small mammals. They often nest in colonies. They are comical when they greet each other, for it involves bowing, the stretching of the neck, the touching of bills and a special showing off of their handsome plumes. During the day, they may rest in trees.
Red squirrels are feasting on all the mushrooms to be found in the woods and fields. They can eat many that would be poisonous to humans. They also like to store mushrooms here and there and often pick a shelf in an old shed or outhouse for their collections.
Flickers are still feasting on the ant colonies along our roads. You often see them fly up from the ground, showing that white patch at the base of the tail. Soon, all these flickers will be heading south.