Regardless of the weather, life in the natural world moves along towards spring and prepares for warmer days and nights and new families in our woods and fields. Feathered migrants from the south will soon be surprising us in the air and at our feeders.
Even now, it is possible to see a double-crested cormorant once again at the shore. They start to arrive at the end of March. These days are times of anticipation. Not far to the south, I’m sure great blue herons have started to appear. The big arrival more likely will be in May.
Be sure to look for ring-billed gulls in the Ellsworth parking lots. They are easy to see there, and it’s a good place to really get to know what they look like. If you see a red-breasted merganser along the coast, take time to watch them, for they could be doing their courtship routines, which are fun to watch. Their heads and necks become intertwined, and there is a lot of head bobbing. Buffleheads are still in the local harbors, but next month, they will leave for their more northern nesting grounds.
I have not heard of any killdeer being seen yet, but it is possible even now. Their big migration is in April, and you’ll see them in open areas such as the golf courses and around the airport.
Someone sent me a very funny video of a porcupine that tried to climb over a snowbank, fell backwards and landed upside down. The poor mammal was having trouble getting itself turned over, so my friend took a long-handled snowscraper and helped it turn over, but it still couldn’t get up the bank and turned over again. With her tool, she chomped out a little staircase for it, and off the animal went up and back to the woods. Never hesitate to give a wildlife neighbor a helping hand if you see such a need.
I’m keeping close watch on my small woodland pond these days, for it is just what the beautiful wood ducks like when the ice disappears about now. These very attractive ducks prefer small secluded ponds where they feel safe and somewhat hidden. Wood ducks are tree nesters and use a hole often high in a tree. An old birdhouse on a pole often will be used as well. We once were able to watch such a wood duck family that put its nest high in a hole on a telephone pole. I could see this from my kitchen window and watched them choose the spot and settle in, and then I even saw the young ones leave this high nest home site when they were ready. The babies sat in the opening one or two at a time and when one gathered enough courage to launch itself into the air at its parent’s encouraging sounds, down it floated and gently fell to the ground with no ill effects. One by one, they left, and when all had gathered on the ground, the parents led them to the nearby pond. It was a grand procession.
I read recently about sei whale sightings in Maine waters. This whale is huge, measuring from 45 to 66 feet, and it weighs in at 20 tons or more. Normally it is not seen in the Gulf of Maine, but wildlife is full of surprises. I have seen this whale in Newfoundland in recent summers, and it was the highlight of our trip, next to performing on my violin with local musicians.
The sei whale is a baleen whale and is the third largest whale after the blue whale and the finback whale. It usually prefers deep offshore waters. The enormous creature usually is alone or in a small pod of up to six whales. The ones I have seen have been alone and would surface, showing their enormous size, and even when they dove for food, we could hear them on the hydrophone our guide had lowered into the water. We ate our “tea” in the Zodiac listening to a sei whale underwater about a mile away. It was an amazing experience!
Sei whales rarely breach, and they do not dive when submerging. They just sink below the surface and disappear. Their life expectancy is about 65 years. Seeing any whale makes a day special.
Even in the snow that still covers a lot of our ground, you may see some stoneflies moving about. Stoneflies have grayish-brown or green bodies and four clear, veined wings, which they hold behind their backs when at rest. Depending on the kind of stoneflies, their size can vary from one-half to 2-1/2 inches long. Snowflies are small, black stoneflies. They are small bits of wildlife but still interesting. The nymphs change into adults from February through May.