A ring-necked duck PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Wildlife encounter a pleasant surprise



You never know when you’ll have an adventure with wildlife. A friend of mine this week was walking on a carriage road in the park when he saw a deer on the path not far ahead. My friend continued to walk slowly and quietly along, and the buck just stood there not looking. It never moved off in a hurry even when it became aware of a human nearby. My friend said he had never been quite so close to such a handsome deer before. It was a memorable moment for the human. I think I might have made my presence known at some point in a subtle way, but it all worked out this time.

Wildlife encounters are always exciting whether it is a small mammal, bird, beautiful butterfly inches away or a whale next to the boat. I think one of my most memorable moments was coming fairly close on horseback to a herd of elk in Wyoming and then seeing and hearing the bugling of the bull elk on a slightly higher location as it called to its harem and gave them orders to move to safety. Whatever he said made the ladies and young ones move. I’ll never forget the bugling sound! Looking eye to eye with a humpback whale one day on a private boat out near The Rock was another treasured moment. The whale had come right next to the boat, and I actually did see its eye looking back at me a few feet away. I can still close my eyes now and recall the scene.

Visiting exotic places in the world or exploring your own yard or this island are ways to have big adventures. Keep your eyes alert and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you least expect it.

A nice flock of about 26 or so ring-necked ducks was seen at Seal Cove Pond one morning this week. “Ring-billed duck” would be a better name for this duck, for the ring on its neck is hard to see unless you are very close to it. The ring on the bill is noticeable. The ring-necked duck’s black head and neck are glossed with purple iridescence, the back blackish, the belly white. Check out this bird in your bird book or go online to see what it looks like. Ring-necked ducks are diving ducks and right at home, especially in fresh water. A lot of their diet is vegetable matter. They sometimes dive to 40 feet to secure their food, which will include, among other plants, lilies, sedges, grasses, duck potato, burr reeds and insects.

At the end of November, the last flocks have crossed over the Canadian border and headed south. Although the winter range extends as far south as northern South America, many of the ring-necked ducks winter in the southern states and along the southern Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Many times in the last few weeks I have been asked “Where are the birds that usually come to my feeder? I was glad this week to receive confirmation with the answer I have given different people. Some of you may be familiar with the little publication called “The Guillemot” put out by Bill Townsend, resident excellent birder and general naturalist living for many years on this island. He confirmed what I have been saying about the lack of birds at the end of the summer and into the fall. It was a good year for fruits and berries, so there was no need for birds to seek feeder food. The weather in October and in November has been mild and no real need for extra energy for migrants. To the north of us, there is abundant food, so birds up there do not feel the need to search elsewhere for food. The time the birds are absent from your feeders is a good time to clean them and the surrounding area of any old or rotten seeds and prepare for the colder days and months ahead. If you are interested in “The Guillemot” publication, contact the Sorrento Scientific Society, 12 Spring St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the wildlife and the out-of-doors in this area.

November and December are good months to keep watch on the mallards living in local harbors. These common ducks with beautiful iridescent green heads have a fascinating courtship display that is fun to watch. The female is often the aggressor, swimming after the male of her choice and repeatedly nodding her head back over her shoulder. The male’s routine includes a good bit of head shaking and jerking of the head and sometimes a grunting whistle and scrunching down of the head and neck. Some displays are done separately; others are done together. The displays are best done on a still day after the ducks have fed well.

Watch for purple sandpipers along the shore now. These plump, portly birds move in small groups among the rocks as they feed right at the edge of the sea.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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