Category: Nature Notes

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

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 …

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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. (…)

Those sweet harbingers of spring Sometimes, when I am walking in the woods on a late-February day, I find areas in the snow beneath a maple tree that are slushy with dripping tree sap. Squirrels and other animals know that if they break the twigs on a warm day, the sap will drip and they can lap it up and enjoy the sweet sugars. Humans no doubt learned by observing this behavior, and have enjoyed sap and its by-products, syrup and sugar, for thousands of years. An indigenous friend once shared this Passamaquoddy story with me, which I love and …

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Saving the world, one dam at a time Sweet creature of the peeper-filled pond, or road-wreckers? Everyone seems to have an opinion about beavers. Beavers are incredible – and bizarre – rodents with an impressive set of skills and some very specialized features. They can take down huge trees with their enamel-covered incisors in a matter of a few nights, and harvest the branches for winter food or building their dams and lodges. They have a double set of lips, one pair in front of their teeth and one behind, that allows them to navigate sticks through the water without …

Beavers Read More »

Those of you living on or near a lake shore may have observed that lakes are freezing later in the season and thawing earlier than they did in the past. These changes in ice cover can impact the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of lakes and ponds.

The timing of ice cover on lakes in the winter, and its disappearance in the spring, are important indicators of climate change and have implications for summer water conditions (…)

The good, the bad, and the ugly Cyanobacteria have been getting a lot of press recently, reflecting concern about the risk of exposure to these potentially dangerous bacteria. Fortunately, to date, we have not detected any cyanobacteria in Pemaquid, Bristol Mills or Biscay ponds, where we initiated monitoring this summer. Cyanobacteria are so named for their striking color, which also led to their common (though misleading) name, blue-green algae. Though they are microscopic and typically unicellular, they can sometimes grow into large colonies and form thick mats that are visible to the naked eye. They are also the oldest known …

What’s the scoop on cyanobacteria? Read More »