Category: Nature Notes

Follow along on the trail with naturalist Sarah Gladu as she observes the mysteries of nature in the Damariscotta-Pemaquid region.

The American Woodcock is known by many colorful names including timberdoodle, bogsucker, Labrador twister, big-eye, night partridge, and mudsnipe. What could this diminutive bird have done to earn such memorable appellations?

Trace the bracts of a pinecone, the arrangement of seeds in a sunflower, the patterns of galaxies in the sky, the turn of a snail shell, or your inner ear cochlea – and you will find spirals. In fact, once you start becoming aware of spirals in nature, you are likely to see them everywhere.

Is this a pattern? Or just coincidence?

Can these endearing roaming caterpillars predict the weather? Did you happen to observe more than the usual number of woolly bear caterpillars motoring across your lawn this fall? There seemed to be a definite uptick in their populations this past year, and I remember seeing them everywhere! Woolly bears, or Isabella Tiger Moths as they will become, are one of the few caterpillars that overwinter in their larval stage in Maine. Lately my family has found many of them in our woodpile, looking quite dead in their wintertime state of torpor. But in just a matter of months, they will …

Woolly bears leave us wondering Read More »

Have you been missing the warblers? The monarchs and alewives? Here in the Northeast, twice a year, we witness the movement of many animals that survive winter by temporarily relocating to places where food is available throughout the season and it’s not so much work to stay warm. Maine’s tree bats (hoary, silver-haired, and Eastern Red) migrate, as do many shore and songbirds and a number of fish – including American eels, shad, herring and salmon. Even some dragonflies, like the green darner, head for warmer climes. (…)

For me, autumn culminates not with the falling of the leaves, but with shore birds standing on the shore, waiting for the tide to turn and expose the mudflat buffet where they will fuel up for the next leg in their migration. (…)

Watching colorful leaves swirl from the tree tops in a gust of autumn wind is one of the pleasures of being outdoors this time of year.

Like so many things in the natural world, tree behavior in our northern forests takes its cues from the sun. Once deciduous trees detect a reduction in the amount of daylight, they start to reduce the amount of chlorophyll they produce. When chlorophyll production stops, it is broken down and absorbed back into the tree. Until this point, other pigments present in the leaves have not been visible, overshadowed by the green of the chlorophyll. But now, as the chlorophyll disappears, the vibrant reds, yellows, browns and oranges we enjoy at this time of year are revealed. (…)

The final fruits of summer are ripening. It is time to pick apples, find a lingering blackberry, and maybe discover a hazelnut that the birds somehow missed. If you lived here a thousand years ago, you might be drying the fruits you find and putting them in birch bark baskets to protect them from bacteria and insects. (Birchbark contains phytochemical compounds which act synergistically together to achieve antimicrobial and insect-repelling effects.) Wild animals are foraging the newly ripened seeds and final fruits of the summer, too. (…)

Sweet sound of summer on the pond Few sounds convey unadulterated wildness like a loons’ voice, floating over the water. Their trilling calls are a highlight of the summer soundscape on our lakes and ponds. Common loons are spring and summertime residents on these inland freshwater bodies. They spend the winter in coastal areas, and move inland in the spring for the breeding season. Males generally arrive first, to establish their territories, and the females return several weeks later. They construct their nests in the spring, building their nests right at the water’s edge – sometimes even on low mounds …

The call of the loon Read More »

Most often we see them in the distance, lying on the cold, knee-slicing granite with salt water drying on their fur, looking content as can be to bask in the sun. Sometimes their inquisitive faces pop up alongside our boats or even peer at us from afar at the beach. Who amongst us has not said something inviting to a seal in an attempt to communicate with them like we do with our pets? They seem so familiar, with their dog-like faces and inquisitive air. (…)

In nature, timing is everything. If the alewives were to migrate into the lake before the algae begins to reproduce, the fish fry will starve soon after hatching. If the buds burst open only to freeze, the trees will have sunk valuable resources into growth, only to have them damaged before photosynthesis even begins. Phenology is the study of events in nature and how these events are impacted by seasonal changes and variations in climate. (…)