Author: Sarah Gladu

As the weather and water get colder and many of our citizen science programs come to an end for the season, I start sifting through all the data we’ve collected over the summer months and reflecting on all we accomplished. Every year, I am filled with gratitude for our volunteers who labor in the name of protecting our lands and waters. I think it’s safe to say they do this out of love.

What else would drive these folks to plunge their hands into October-chilled sea water to take nitrogen samples? Or face down the occasional leech to wade – much less swim – in Biscay Pond to search for invasive plants? Or pick their way around patches of poison ivy to document shoreline erosion caused by increasing storm events? Or stare through a microscope for three or four hours at a stretch, as our phytoplankton monitoring volunteers do? (…)

If you are feeling overwhelmed with end-of-season yard-work, I have some good news for you – you will be doing many insects, birds, and other creatures a favor if you leave the leaves, dead plant stalks, and fallen branches where they lie (or stand). Though a few of our insects migrate, the vast majority stay here in Maine throughout the winter, and given the decline in many populations, it is important for them to have places to overwinter safely. (…)

Regular rain in July and August has resulted in a bumper crop of mushrooms this year. One type of mushroom we’re seeing a lot of in the Damariscotta-Pemaquid area is coral mushrooms. The fruiting body of these fungi forms spectacular stalks that are finger-shaped or branched like corals of the sea.

Skunk cabbage is most noticeable in early spring when its tropical-looking leaves expand in stream-beds and ditches throughout the northeast. These water-loving plants will grow in muddy bogs, swamps, wet woodlands and streambeds. They prefer shade and wet soils, though they cannot tolerate having their roots wet for prolonged periods.

How do you tell a fisher from an otter by its footprints? Learn the finer points of tracking Maine wildlife in this online program with naturalist Sarah Gladu.

Sarah shares photos of tracks and signs and discusses the animals who left them, from birds to weasels.

Join Sarah for a walk at Walpole Woods in South Bristol. This upland forest habitat provides wonderful cover and food for all sorts of animals and birds. See tracks left by jumping mice, red and gray squirrel, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse, fox and more. Sarah also points out interesting plants, trees and other features she encounters along the way.

Winterberry shrubs are easy to spot in Maine this time of year, when its red berries are often the only bright color on the landscape. Look for it in roadside ditches, in and around wetlands, and in soggy spots in the woods. From March to October this shrub is cloaked with dark, glossy, oval leaves, but in the winter the red berries stand out and draw us to take a closer look.

I witnessed an amazing sight last night – thirty nighthawks overhead! They were darting and swooping so high there was no hope of me getting a photograph, but their pointed, swept-back wings with a distinguishing white slash well past the “elbow,” as well as the rounded head with an all-but-invisible beak, makes them easy to identify even far overhead. (…)

Hazelnuts, or filberts as they are sometimes known, are common here in Maine. They are an important food source for rodents, deer, and many birds including grouse and turkeys. They are very tasty but smaller than their European counterpart, which is what you would usually find at the grocery store. (…)

Leucanthemum vulgare is so common we tend to pass it by. A native of Asia, it spread across Europe and eventually North America, perhaps brought by early colonists as seed heads in hay. It tolerates a variety of soil types, can withstand heavy livestock hooves, repeated mowing or grazing and is extremely tolerant of drought and frost. A real survivalist. (…)