Tag Archives: bird populations

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine Nature Log Otter Creek

Nesting, Nesting 1-2-3-4

Snowshoeing several weeks ago I startled a downy woodpecker. She flew from a perfect round hole in the decapitated, shoulder height trunk of a white birch I was passing. She flew into my arm, and then, all a fluster, (we both were) landed on the branch of a tree ahead of me. She was building a nest.

Several years ago a woodpecker nested very close to that white birch, near the top of a dead tree in our yard. While I do not love trees dying, if they do, I am not inclined to grab the chain saw and turn them into firewood. Deadwood provides food for birds, home for insects, and composts on the ground. If I had removed them, I would have missed the nesting, hatching, and fledging of a family of baby woodpeckers.

After watching the parents take turns sitting on the eggs, both they and I were delighted when a small brood of babies was hatched. These babies buzzed. I would drive into the yard after work, and roll down the window and listen. The soft droning noise was unmistakable, even though almost 200 feet away. The parents were very attentive, flying in and out, presumably with food. I could not see the newly hatched birds, although I could hear them. A neighbor’s cat also heard them. I came home one evening, smiling in anticipation of my private bird vespers. Arlo, a muscular cat with dense black fur, was three-quarters of the way up the tree. I leapt out and raced up, sending him home. This was not a cat who took no for an answer, and I was not happy he had discovered the nest.
We battled the next few days. I made chicken wire cages, and hung sharp objects around the base of the tree. Arlo persisted, he was a very persistent beast. Between tossing him back home, barricades and sharp obstacles, he was finally confined to mewling at the base of the tree, unable to get up the trunk to the nest.

The vibrant baby pecker noise increased in volume, and listening became an evening ritual. Watching morning and night, I still almost missed it. The first flights of those downy babies, fuzzy little intrepid balls of feathers, demanded a cheering squad. I rah-rahhed as each tumbled out, righted itself, and shot straight for the nearest branch. Acrobatics could wait for later.

That was a few years ago, and I am excited by the possibility of once again watching Downie’s feed and raise their young. Winter has given way. It let go reluctantly, and we shift from ice fishing to archery in the backyard in short sleeves. And nesting. Yep, the birds are at it. I watch crows out the window as I sit at my desk. They are dismantling an old squirrel nest, efficiently recycling. They fly off with twigs in their mouths to some unseen home. Ravens may have nested by now, but are still singing their courting song and doing belly flips as they fly, soaring. Almost touching, maybe they do touch, but their flight is seamless. An eagle has been flying nearby by with nesting material, and my husband, curious, snow shoed when there was still snow. He made note of the towering white pine, and we now watch the nest from a distance with binoculars.

Birds are in the mood. Every evening I hear a woodcock in the back yard, a male, making his beep-beep noise, then flying up and spiraling down, the air a rhythmic sigh in his feathers.

Biking Acadia National Park’s loop road, we pause near the Otter Cove causeway. Three immaculate white male mergansers swim and show off to three drab females. The water is so clear we can see a nearby eider as he flaps his wings and swims to the bottom of the cove for a mussel snack.

Winter was stubborn this year, but is has finally happened, the shift from frozen beauty to procreation. One moment I rhapsodize about the sun on ice, and before I can lament its loss, I am reveling in nest building and airborne mating dances.

Happy spring. At last.


Single Digits

A favorite place for morning yoga

A favorite place for morning yoga

We rarely have days when the temperature drops into the single digits until January or February. We live in Maine, so this is Fahrenheit and single digits are well below the freezing temperature of water. When this cold air arrives, we are ready. We have had at least a month of pre-winter, that nippy, sometimes snowy season that gets us prepared for real cold. This unofficial season is a training period, because every summer long days and a hot sun blur our memory of winter, and we have to learn how to deal with it all over again.

In November, we shiver at twenty-eight degrees, but we are wearing a lightweight jacket and no hat. By January we are tough. We are perhaps even a bit smug. “Look at us,” we say, our bodies sheathed in silk with layers of wool and a windblock topping. “We know how to deal with Old Man Winter.”

Each year when we unearth our winter paraphernalia we need to reacquaint ourselves with all the bits and pieces. There are balaclavas and goggles, glove liners and mittens, ice creepers, snow suits and warm furry hats. There is the world’s best foot cozy, neoprene Stormsocks that will keep the most wimpy feet in snug, dry warmth. We swagger, decked out in our winter wear, and we go out to play. Snowshoeing, skiing, standing on the ice fishing for hours, having an evening cocktail at twelve degrees by the bonfire, following animal tracks, how wonderful winter is we exclaim.

Winter is when we prefer to go to the family camp. We stand on the ice watching eagles and pulling up the occasional fish. If we get enough they will be dinner, but we always have a back up steak. Today we watched an eagle feed on a grey squirrel, saw a herd of seven deer chased onto the pond, and found that the beaver lodge that was active last year has been abandoned. We caught some fish, did yoga on a frozen cove, cooked eggs and toast on the woodstove.

Deer running on ice. Photo by Joyce Carey

Deer running on ice. Photo by Joyce Carey

The day has been long, most of it spent on the ice. It was nine degrees when we went out before breakfast, and was less when we headed in after sunset and a taste of peppermint liqueur. This last was supplied by a neighbor who came by on his treaded four-wheeler. He gallantly plucked etched shot glasses from his pocket as he shared his bottle with the few of us on the ice. We watched the golden orange clouds as the sunset, listened to the eagles chirping, and nodded appreciatively to each other. “Not many people have the chance to enjoy this,” we concurred.

Back in camp the snow that has come in during the day still sits in clumps on the kitchen floor. We have kept the woodstove going, the corner of the camp near it is warm, and soon the steaks are sizzling. Single digits a worry? We are in an uninsulated cabin, spent most of the day outside, and the colder the better. We heat water for washing and think with sympathy of those who live in a part of the world that has no word for ice.

Juvenile eagle at Toddy Pond

Juvenile eagle at Toddy Pond

We will go back to our other life tomorrow, but tonight we will peek at the moon on the pond through windows coated with frost, and recall our favorite cold night here.

There were no year round neighbors on the pond then, and no house lights could be seen when we looked out the window.

We came to camp with two of my husband’s grandchildren. The fishing was tough. We leaned into the wind to get on the ice, and made a wall of shingles to keep the freezing sleet from filling in the holes. It was the kind of cold that reminded you the elements are king, not us. Any mistake on our part could be fatal. This sounds melodramatic, but people die every year from forgetting winter is different. Each fish caught means peeling off gloves to pull it in, and all our hands were red and numb by the time we headed back in to camp for dinner and charades. The thermometer read -12, wind chill was well below that.

The kids tucked into sleeping bags were a few feet from the wood stove. The youngest said he would keep the stove going and he did. The brutal wind and openings in the walls sucked the heat out and he had to stuff more sticks in the stove about every half hour. Camp is at the bottom of a steep, and in winter, icy road. If we needed help it would not have an easy time arriving. By eleven the valiant grandchild was sleeping with deep sweet breaths, and it was our turn to man the fire. We sleep in a curtained alcove, and not much warmth reaches there. Ice on the inside does not melt. Under piles of down we are warm and content, but leaving that steamy cocoon to cross a cold floor to the wood box and back to the stove is not a pleasant task.

I said our turn, but it was not I slipping out from hot coziness every half hour. I did not even awake for many of the stove ministerings but when I did I offered drowsy encouragement, “Hurry up, you’ll freeze!” I called, tucking the blankets about my chin.

Long before light D. again put a few logs in the stove. I heard the stove door close, but he did not return to bed. Eventually, perplexed, I wrapped a blanket around myself and crept out into the frigid air. He was by the kitchen door, which still had snow mounded on the floor, and was pulling on his snowsuit. Shocked, I asked what he was doing. “I need to go out,” he said. This was the darkest hour before dawn. Probably wind chill of minus 30.

“No, no,” I said, “Use the chamber pot.” He looked at me blankly and repeated, “I have to go out.” He does sometimes talk and walk in his sleep. We have some very odd conversations; we call it talking on Channel One, as the first time this happened he said he was going to be interviewed by Channel One.

I tugged on his arm, soothingly, and started to lead him back to bed.

He pulled away and reached for the door. I shook him, “You are sleeping” I said, “Come back to bed.” I tried to pull his mittens off. He pushed me away. “It is minus 20” I said a bit loudly, and then, more loudly, “You cannot go out!”

He looked at me and said, “I started the car this afternoon, just to be sure to warm it up. I forgot to turn it off.”

I opened the door for him.

The Witch's House, an abandoned camp near ours

The Witch's House, an abandoned camp near ours.

More about camp: Why does my hair smell like bacon?

Why does my hair smell like bacon?

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine destinations Otter Creek

Mussels-by-the Sea

It was 50°, sunny and calm, and the tide was right. Implacable Man, Kym and I went to the shore to pick mussels. They are large, tender, pearl-free mussels. So good I can never order mussels out at a restaurant, they just can’t compare.

On the way back to the house there was an eagle on the Tarn. We pulled over to see why he was just standing on a puddle of water, when he began to gyrate and hop and splash. He was taking a bird bath! We watched for ten minutes, until he flew away.

At home, I made a goat cheese, bacon, and spinach salad and warmed some bread on the wood stove. A perfect Maine dinner, and day.

Otter Creek

Watersheds and MDI Birds

The Lyceum Lecture series, this year consisting of one lecture, was this evening. Lemonade, rosemary butter cookies, and a good general presentation of how dams have changed our watersheds and impacted fish and so bird populations. Michael Good was the presenter, and he is a gregarious speaker. He confessed he was really not all that prepared for the lecture, but winged it (oh so sorry) endearingly. The next ten years will see 1,000 miles of the Penobscot River waterway reopened through the removal of dams. Anadramous fish populations can increase, and they are bird food. That makes birds happy. The lecture series is one of several fund raising events we hold, hoping to keep the building (The Otter Creek Hall, formerly the church) maintained. And to make it available for people to rent, and to present things the community, both immediate and beyond, will benefit from. And perhaps someday have a small repository of historical artifacts to preserve Otter Creek history. Otter Creek Hall website coming soon, complete with donate on-line function.

Nature Log Dashed out of work to bike the Regular, 28.75 minutes, dead milk adder in the road.