Moose and flying squirrels thrill



The snow gets deeper as we move into February, and both humans and wildlife have to cope with the elements of this year’s Maine winter. Deer certainly are having more difficulties getting around with such deep snow. Moose also have more trouble, but a friend had a marvelous sight of one this past week when she was out for her morning walk. I would like to have been there to see this large member of the deer family in our snowy island’s woods.

Flying squirrels appeared at an island feeder one evening and provided some nice entertainment for the residents. These appealing mammals are seldom seen even though they are found quite commonly on MDI. They are nocturnal creatures and only occasionally appear in the daytime. One of my daytime sightings was in the woods next to Big Long Pond one day. A young flying squirrel was practicing his ‘flying’ from tree to tree. Actually, they move like furry gliders using the gliding membrane that extends from the outside of the wrist on the front leg to the ankle on the hind leg. They also uses their broad, flat tails in gliding from a high place to a lower place.

Flying squirrels prefer seeds, but they also eat bark, leaves, tree buds, lichen, bird’s eggs and maybe some fledglings. Flying squirrels in turn are eaten by owls, foxes, weasels, goshawks and domestic cats.

The time to see get a view of flying squirrels is on a moonlit night such as we have been having recently. It’s great fun to see this animal’s silhouette as it glides from tree to tree. These interesting mammals readily come to a feeder at night, and they are not bothered if a light shines on them. Investigate any ‘thump’ sounding on your feeder in the evening, and you may get to see one.

A barred owl arrived at another feeding area this week and sat for awhile a few feet away on a branch just watching the smaller chickadees, redpolls and siskins feeding unconcernedly. Food is harder to find for some creatures when the snow is deep, so feeding areas often appear to them as a ready-made feast to enjoy.

What happened next at that particular place is not known, for my friend had to leave for work. I suspect at least one song bird was missing later that day-maybe more. Feeders make an easy meal for larger birds out looking for food. It’s just part of the winter wildlife scene.

Dark-eyed juncos are regularly seen at feeders and around houses these days. The rich seeds they glean sustain them through the winter. A reader in Trenton had an interesting experience one day right after a recent storm. She wanted to have the experience of a bird feeding from her hand. She actually had chickadees and siskins land on her hand, sometimes more than one bird at a time, and it was very exciting. She stayed there as long as she could and her hand could take the cold temperatures. On another day, she tried again, but not one bird came. I had a chickadee feed from my hand once many years ago, and it certainly was a memorable experience. The chickadee’s foot was so tiny that I could hardly feel it, but being so close to a tiny wildlife creature was very special. I would not try it again, for trying to tame wildlife in any way is never a good plan. They learn to trust humans, and this can be very dangerous for wildlife, for all humans are not the same. Wildlife need to be cautious when dealing with humans in order to survive. Always give them their space and enjoy all forms of wildlife from a distance. Cameras these days have excellent telephotos so you can still get a close picture, and a good pair of binoculars is essential.

Cardinals are colorful birds in a snowy scene. When we first moved to Maine, they were not seen here in the winter at all. Since 1972, these red birds have extended their range, and they now live on the island year round. Cardinals like to build their nests near people, and they are regularly seen in yards and at feeders. They are friendly birds, and the males are model husbands. Consider yourself fortunate to have them living near you. Although the females are not a brilliant red as are the males, they still are very beautiful and have a touch of rosy elegance and noticeable crests.

Both cedar and Bohemian waxwings have been reported being seen on MDI in recent days. Bohemian waxwings are the larger of the two by half an inch. Cedar waxwings have a crest, lovely, warm brown, beautiful feathers and a bright yellow band at the edge of the tail feathers. On its face, waxwings wear a black mask, and the end of the wing tips look as if they have been dipped in red wax.

Bohemian waxwings are really birds of the northern forest of Canada, but they wander about in large flocks and into this area at times. They show a black chin and a small black mask over the eyes, and the general color is a gray brown. Very often when they are seen on this island, they are eating berries still on some shrubs. Check out both of these waxwings in your bird book or on the internet; they are especially beautiful.

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

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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