Red buds on the maple trees outside my kitchen window reassure me these days that spring is here even if the temperatures make me feel otherwise. Buds are appearing on many trees and shrubs right on schedule. A good friend on Islesford called to tell me that “her” oriole was back the same day as last year. If such a tropical beauty arrives at your feeder, cut an orange in half and give it a strengthening feast. Suet always is good to offer as well for any tropical bird experiencing cold weather upon its arrival in the north. Make sure your hummingbird feeders are out and ready now for returning birds. Migrants have traveled far and need sustenance.
A cerulean warbler was reported in Somesville. This is a rare bird to see here, but the description fit the bird. I did not see it myself. Although only five have been reported here fewer than five times in recorded history, it is a remote possibility. Last week, there was a confirmed sighting of the yellow–throated warbler, and it was similarly listed on the Acadia National Park bird list.
The cerulean warbler is a beautiful little bird. The male cerulean is mainly blue above and white below, and there is a narrow black ring crossing its white breast. It is a bird you would expect in the high treetops in central New York, Ontario, Southern Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska. It is not a bird you’d expect to see in Maine. It winters in South America. Storms often send birds off course, of course, and there are other reasons known only to the birds.
When noting the characteristics of an unusual bird in hopes of having it identified by an expert, it is always important for you to note the size as compared to a very familiar bird, such as a robin, chickadee or goldfinch. Then note the kind of bill it has. Is the bill thick, thin, pointed or blunt? What was it doing? What was it eating? Whose company did it keep? What time of day did you see it? Also, note where you saw it: by the water, in a pond, on the beach, on a feeder, on the ground or in the trees. These clues help a lot. Someone once called about a big bird with a very long bill and long legs at her feeder. It turned out to have been a starling! I’m afraid that unless a number of bird experts see this cerulean warbler, it will not make the Mount Desert Island bird list. Nowadays, with everyone carrying a phone with picture-taking capabilities, the best thing is to snap photos of it. Whether they are good or bad, the chances of identifying the bird are much better with photos. You also could make a quick sketch and note all the points suggested.
Here’s something that might be interesting to you. I have not tried this, but a naturalist friend said you can dig up dandelion roots now. Boil them up or roast them like new potatoes.
Any hummingbirds that return now find the northern honeysuckle blooms welcome food. It’s an important early nectar source for hummingbirds. These tiny birds have traveled a long way to reach Maine, and welcome native food available is available. Also, you should keep your hummingbird feeders full now.
There is also a long-tongued bumblebee that finds the northern honeysuckle good food. I’ve never really thought much about the subject, but for bees and flowers, the tongue size of a bumblebee is important. The tongue of a bee is in proportion to its size. A bee collects pollen on its body while it laps up sugar-rich nectar from the flower petals and carries it away to fertilize the next flower. When the bee flies away, it carries its tongue in a sheath which is folded under its body. A flower such as columbine or honeysuckle is too long for a short-tongued bee. Nature is just full of amazing lifestyles going on all around us every day that we know very little about unless it is pointed out to us. Since the tongue length of a bee varies and is important, and various types of flowers are regularly visited by bees, any change in the environment that takes place that alters the norm has a serious effect on many forms of wildlife. The great chains of life in the natural world are interesting and complex and easily weakened by how we live in so many ways.
Bird calls can be confusing and, for some, hard to hear. I can still hear the beautiful song of the wood thrush, which makes me happy. Many of the warblers are out of my range. Listen now for the “squeaky bicycle sound” made by the black-and-white warblers. These small birds spend a lot of their time upside down on the side of a tree trunk looking for something to eat under the bark. If you check out the sound of a parula warbler on the internet, you will find it an easy one to recognize once you have heard its call. You may not get to see it, but the call is a nice one to know. The black-throated green warbler nests in the small trees on the sides of my driveway, and I have learned to recognize its “zoo zoo zee, zoo zoo zee” call. Listen for this one. This warbler is usually quite friendly, and when it has young to whom it needs to attend, it seems oblivious to anyone nearby. They are quite beautiful to see.
Enjoy each day as spring unfolds once again. It is a good time of year here on MDI.
Send questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.