Category: Nature Notes

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

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 …

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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 …

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Everywhere we walk, especially in the dew-laden morning grasses, amber snails creep. Sometimes they creep into my garden, and I remove them.

Amber snails feed on plants, bacteria, fungi, algae and diatoms that live in wet or damp environments. Like other snails, they do not have jaws or teeth. Instead, snails feed with their radula – an elongated sac lined with thousands of tiny tooth-like projections. They use this (…

Watching bumble bees gently connect with flower petals in the early spring is one of the finest pleasures nature has to offer. While they might be called “bumble” bees, and they look rather rotund, they partake in one of the most delicate, not to mention important, operations – moving pollen from one plant to another in a quest for nectar.

There are a number of early flowers people look for in spring, like pussy willows and skunk cabbage. But somehow to me, when the coltsfoot blooms, this signals true spring warmth.

Coltsfoot gets its name from the shape of its leaves, which resembles a horses’ hoof with broad teeth (…)

A familiar sight to many New Englanders, the urn-and-willow gravestone motif on early American gravestones was popular as a symbol for immortality as well as for the sense of mournfulness it evoked.

Not unique to the US, however, the use and symbolism of willows is common in many traditions. (…)

With creative adaptations to survive the cold Winter may seem like an odd time to think about moths. Most adult moths die in the fall, leaving the next generation to overwinter as either eggs or pupae in a state known as diapause. However, there are actually a few specially adapted species of moth that remain active during the winter months and can be seen flying around on winter nights. In a 1987 Scientific American article, noted naturalist Bernd Heinrich described how certain species of owlet moth remain active even when winter temperatures are near freezing. When the moths are at …

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