“Spring is busting out all over” is a sentiment that seems to fit these beautiful days we are experiencing this year. When one is driving on any of the island roads, the shad trees are especially beautiful to see. For those of us who came here from Connecticut, it remind us of the bountiful displays put on by the many dogwoods along all the highways down there. Dogwood blossoms are a bit larger and more formal, but the shad blossoms have the Maine casual spirit and great beauty. Shad trees or serviceberry is sometimes called “juneberry” or “shadbush.” Each year in early or mid-May, island roadsides and fields burst into bloom with the drooping clusters of shadbush’s narrow-petaled white flowers. As the petals fade, they are blown on the wind and fall across the road and woodland trails as if a wedding has just occurred. Sometimes it is like a mini-snowstorm of petals. It is not to be missed.
In early summer, the flowers are replaced by round, reddish to dark purplish fruit dangling briefly on long stemmed clusters. These berries are an important wildlife food. The local fruit, looking like miniature apples, is much sought after by thrushes, songbirds, squirrels, chipmunks and even bears. A delicious jam can be made from the fruit, but it’s a bit seedy for human consumption. These trees bloom when the shad is running, hence the nickname “shadbush.” Enjoy the beautiful blooms right now.
As I traveled down a Mount Desert Island back road this past week, I saw a wonderful display of marsh marigold growing in a very wet roadside ditch. This plant likes its feet “wet” and will be found in muddy water, swamps, marshes, wet meadows and even in fast moving streams. The blooms are bright, shiny, deep yellow and like oversized buttercups coming up from the water. The waxy looking flowers are fully an inch across, and the waxy leaves are heart shaped and shiny. It’s definitely worth looking at and taking the time to find it. An easy place to see is in the Wildflower Gardens of Acadia near Sieur de Monts Spring in the park. These gardens are like a living wildflower guide book for this area. They are well worth a visit.
From March until June, you may notice a smaller bright yellow flower growing in roadside ditches on this island, and that is coltsfoot. I think most people pass it by and think it’s just another dandelion. It thrives in roadside ditches and waste places.
The flower head is paler yellow than a dandelion and is placed at the end of a rather stiff, erect, white and hairy stalk, and the rayed flowers look fringed. The flowers appear before the green leaves. Look for them early in the day, for they close up by noon. It was first noticed here in 1894 and has become well established since then. The plant is tough, long lived and well able to survive in the worst of soils. I think it is very handsome.
Orioles are delighting feeder owners. These tropical arrivals really appreciate an orange cut up for them or one cut in half and put in your feeder or hanging in a bush. We have both the northern oriole and the orchard oriole here at this time. The northern oriole formerly was called a “Baltimore oriole,” so if you have an older guide book, that is how it is listed. These birds winter in the tropics and come here in the spring to raise their families.
It’s always exciting when one arrives after the winter and lands on someone’s feeder. It’s so nice to see color after a long winter. I receive many phone calls and emails about the returning tropical birds. It is a happy event and one to be shared. My thanks go to all who call or email me with news and/or questions about wildlife.
This week has brought me many excellent photos of bears visiting feeding areas. If one shows up at your house, take your feeders down for a few weeks. Don’t encourage them by putting food out. If any of you are Winnie the Pooh fans, you’ll remember a line from that wonderful story when Rabbit says “Don’t feed the bear!” His reason for saying it was different, but the advice works on this island right now in 2017.
Summer tanagers now may appear here and there. I received a nice photo of one to identify at a local feeder. Females and first-year birds can often be confusing. The adult male is no problem to recognize, for he wears orange-red plumage all over his head and body. The wings and tail are a darker red. The female, however, is yellowish below and slightly darker above. The bird has a pointed, rather thick bill, but it is not as thick as a cardinal‘s bill. Immature males look like a patchwork feathered quilt of red and yellow. They are quite stunning to see and will surprise you. Summer tanagers are a bird to watch for now.
This is an especially good time to watch the birds and other wildlife. As a good friend of mine said the other day, “take time to enjoy the sounds, sights and peaceful feelings of spring. Listen to the birds, babbling brooks and frogs and enjoy it all when you’re outdoors. Make special times to do just that.