News & Notes


Browsing posts tagged with: naturalist

Wildlife Up Close: Dissecting Owl Pellets

Monday, November 16th, 2015
Posted on:

Who would have thought that a wad of regurgitated indigestible hair and bones could be so fascinating? This may conjure flashbacks of a middle school science class, but if missed the opportunity, consider watching this video for a two minute lesson on owl pellets. 

- Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Citizen Scientist of the Month: Batman Logan Parker

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
Posted on:

Meet Logan Parker of Belgrade Lakes. Logan is the Engagement Coordinator for Maine Lakes Resource Center and has spent innumerable hours helping bats and studying White Nose Syndrome. Read on for Logan’s profile.

- Doug

The following article appears in the fall issue of Habitat, Maine Audubon’s member newsletter. Interested in receiving Habitat in the mail? Join us today!

Logan Parker

Logan Parker

For the past few years, I have been studying and teaching about our state’s bats and the threat posed by White Nose Syndrome. The drastic decline of our bat population motivated me to advocate for our native bats as much as I could. I built and installed bat houses around the community and delivered lectures to community groups and local elementary schools.

I have also participated in various citizen science projects – most recently I have been working on the BatME project. For my first outing, I surveyed the seven acre woodlot behind my childhood home in Augusta and was awestruck by the species diversity in such a small area.

Bats are subject to a number of misconceptions – contrary to popular belief, bats are neither blind nor “mice with wings.” The biggest myth about bats, however, is that they are common carriers of rabies. This misinformation has unfortunately led many homeowners to get rid of bats that become trapped inside their home. While bats can be carriers of the disease, instances are quite rare – in fact, bats help prevent diseases. By consuming 600-800 mosquitoes an hour, bats can help prevent diseases such as malaria and eastern equine encephalitis.

The best thing people can do to help bats is to take the time to learn about them and to advocate for their protection. If we can clear up the misconceptions and highlight the beneficial services these animals provide, we can elevate bats in the eyes of the public. Fostering an appreciation for bats, rather than fear, will do wonders to help make their conservation and protection a priority.

Learn more about Maine Audubon’s work with bats.

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Under Attack! Are Woodpeckers Bothering Your House?

Monday, October 19th, 2015
Posted on:

Every spring and fall I can count on daily phone calls from people who are under attack. The damage being done to their houses can cost them hundreds, even thousands of dollars. The noise, that constant tapping…all with no end in sight!

Of course you know I’m talking about woodpeckers, right?

There are a few reasons woodpeckers will bore into the sides of houses:

1) Finding food

2) Making a nesting cavity

3) Proclaiming territory

If they are finding food in your walls, you’ve got bigger problems than I can solve, but here are a couple of my recommended solutions to keep woodpeckers away from your home

A hairy woodpecker where he belongs!

A hairy woodpecker where he belongs!

Solutions:

You main goal is to put something between the bird and the area of the house it is trying to get to. If the bird is coming to a specific area (only one hole) then you can try hanging something that will deter the bird from that spot: punch a hole on the rim of a tin plate and string it up so that it dangles in front of the problem spot. This will blow in the wind, reflect the sun and make some noise that will hopefully deter the woodpecker from coming back to that spot.

However, if the bird is covering an area larger than that, try tinfoil. Take as long a sheet of tinfoil as you need and cover the area the bird is visiting. It is easy to put up with pins or tacks. Both of these methods should only take a week or two to convince the woodpecker to move to a new area to feed/nest/drum.

The other, slightly more passive approach, is to find out what the bird needs. If it is looking for food (which means you probably have insects in your walls) you could put out suet feeders. If it is attempting to nest, then you should leave old and dying trees up in your yard. Give the birds what they need so they don’t have to turn to your house for those resources.

No matter how frustrating it may get, just remember your solution will probably be easier than when Israelis had to deal with Syrian Woodpeckers destroying their irrigation pipes.

- Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Maine’s Struggling Bats – Part Three

Thursday, October 15th, 2015
Posted on:

With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, October is a great time to talk about bats. Our furry, flying friends are in trouble. Following is the third and final part of a series on bats we are featuring this month. Please read and share – fostering an appreciation for bats will do wonders to help make their conservation and protection a priority.

- Doug

The following article appears in the fall issue of Habitat, Maine Audubon’s member newsletter. Interested in receiving Habitat in the mail? Join us today!

Tracking Bats

One of the barriers to helping bats in Maine is that we don’t know much about where they are or what they do. Two new state initiatives will help shed light on this mystery. The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) is a national monitoring project that uses acoustic recorders in established areas (both stationary and on driving routes) to record bat activity over several days. Maine Audubon citizen science volunteers recently helped MDIFW with two of these locations in southern Maine.

A scientist assesses the condition of northern long-eared bat

A scientist assesses the condition of northern long-eared bat

The other exciting initiative has trained 16 citizen scientists in southern Maine to use a small acoustic device attached to an iPad to record bat calls in real time. The device shows the bat calls on the screen and translates them to a frequency we can hear. Though only a pilot project this year, project director Eric Blomberg from the University of Maine is hoping to expand the project next year to more volunteers across a greater geographic reach of the state. Maine Audubon citizen scientists have been crucial to the testing of the device this summer, with over 2,000 bat calls recorded in just two weeks of testing! Volunteers will take the devices out until mid-fall with the hope that we will learn more about the location of bats and what kinds of habitat they are using.

In addition to the work of citizen scientists on the ground, a group of biologists, wildlife rehabilitators and citizens have formed the Maine Bat Working group (Maine Audubon is a member) with the goal of coordinating bat work in Maine and enhancing partnerships. With this coordinated effort, the group hopes to see a dramatic increase in the knowledge of bats, their location and responses to White Nose Syndrome over the next few years. Working together, we can all help create a brighter future for Maine’s bats.

How Can I Help?
  • Keep sturdy snags (standing dead tress) in your yard
  • Install a bat box on a south facing wall of your house
  • Allow bats to use barns and outbuildings on your property (even attics, if safe)
  • Avoid tree or insulation work during the breeding season (mid-June to the end of July) to avoid disturbing breeding bats and their young
  • Most importantly, tell your family and friends how amazing and important bats are–education can go a long way to help bats

Did You Know?

Despite popular belief, bats are friendly, useful creatures that protect humans from disease.
  • Bats can eat up to 800 mosquitoes in one hour
  • Maine’s bats are small and most weigh less than half an ounce
  • Bats are the only mammal that can fly
  • Hanging upside down allows bats to conserve energy
  • Mother bats live in maternal colonies, where they leave their young pups together while foraging for food at night
  • Mother bats find their own pup in the dark by smell and sound
  • Maine’s cave bats breed in the fall before hibernation, but don’t actually get pregnant until the spring (they store the sperm all winter!)

Miss one? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on bats

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Bats at Gilsland Farm

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
Posted on:

Hey everyone,A LITTLE BROWN BAT STORY_COVER

Part three of the blog post series on bats is coming soon, but in the meantime, swing by Gilsland Farm Audubon Center to visit our Nature Store—this month it’s the only place you can pick up a copy of our new collaboration with Islandport Press, “A Little Brown Bat Story.” It’s great for Halloween, and while you are here, take a stroll on the brand new story walk—a gorgeous trail for kids and adults that features the story of our little brown bat friends.

 

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Maine’s Struggling Bats – Part Two

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
Posted on:

With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, October is a great time to talk about bats. Our furry, flying friends are in trouble. Following is part two of a series on bats we are featuring this month. Please read and share – fostering an appreciation for bats will do wonders to help make their conservation and protection a priority.

- Doug

The following article appears in the fall issue of Habitat, Maine Audubon’s member newsletter. Interested in receiving Habitat in the mail? Join us today!

Bats That Live in Maine

Cave Bats

Maine’s five species of cave bats include two that you might see in your attic, garage or barn. Big brown and little brown bats typically gather in colonies in late spring through summer where the females raise their single pups. You are unlikely to encounter the other three species (Eastern small-footed, Northern long-eared and tri-colored bat) as they spend their summers alone or in small groups in the nooks and crannies of trees during the day and forage for insects at night. But, if conditions are right, especially on an older house with loose shingles or siding, these bats will roost in human structures.

northern long-eared bat

A scientist shows off a Northern long eared bat. This cave bat (one of five species found in Maine) was added to the federally threatened species list in 2015. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

All these bats, however, spend their winters together, typically hibernating in large groups in caves. Although we know that some overwinter in human structures, we don’t know the size or extent of those wintering populations. All five species of cave bats have been affected by White Nose Syndrome.

The deadly, cold-loving fungus (Pseduogymnoascus destructans) that causes White Nose Syndrome arrived in Maine in 2011 and has since killed 90% or more of the bats hibernating in Maine’s three known hibernacula (caves).

However, there is good news on the horizon for this group of bats. Researchers from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the University of Georgia and Bat Conservation International recently tested a common North American bacterium that inhibits fungal growth on a group of 75 little brown bats in Missouri that were exposed to White Nose Syndrome. These bats were found to be free of the fungus and were released back into the wild this past spring. While there are no guarantees these bats will not contract the disease again (and killing the fungus left on cave walls also remains an issue), the fact that there is a potential treatment offers a glimmer of hope.

In addition, wintering cave bat mortality rates in Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont appear to be dropping off, with residual populations of hibernating cave bats now small, but holding steady. This may indicate either resistance to the disease or an ability to live with it without severe impact. Researchers in New York and Vermont put radio transmitters on 450 little brown bats last year to track their movement (and survival rate) and there are bats that were banded in Vermont in 2006 (pre-White Nose Syndrome) that are still alive. With further research, the glimmer of hope for our cave bats may just start to grow.

Tree Bats

Maine has three species of tree bats– hoary, red and silver-haired. These bats roost and have their pups individually or in small groups under the bark or in the cracks, crevices and cavities of trees, and occasionally within human structures like houses and barns. These bats leave Maine each fall to spend the winter in the southern United Sates, and return each spring. New wind developments can pose a threat to these bats, but Maine has developed strong guidelines that significantly reduce bat mortality by stopping the blades from spinning at low wind speeds, the time when bats are inexplicably attracted and most often killed at turbines.

Studies have shown reductions of up to 40-80% of bat mortality when “curtailment” is in place and MDIFW’s strong curtailment guidelines have been a condition of wind permitting over the last several years in Maine. Maine Audubon has supported the curtailment guidelines, which are stronger than those in most of our neighboring states. We believe actions like curtailment allow wind development to proceed while minimizing potential risk to bats.

What are we doing to track bats in Maine? Find out in Part 3! 

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug:

 

Recently at Gilsland Farm: Nesting Hairy Woodpecker

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
Posted on:

One day in late April while taking a walk to the west meadow I was at the end of the parking area at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center when a flash flew by that could only be a woodpecker. It didn’t take long to find the bird – who it turned out had important nearby duties to attend to – and sure enough it was a female hairy woodpecker. An insistent and crowded peeping sound emanating from the woods signaled this woodpecker’s true mission – raising chicks!

I tracked and then lost the adult bird but the peeping of the chicks drew me to inspect a poplar tree where I discovered the nesting cavity entrance! An exquisitely placed entrance hole that had a natural roof was situated where a human (me) could stay for good looks and still not disturb the nesters from their duties.

So I setup a tripod and waited, and returned several days across the month. The results are below.

– Robert Denton
Communications, Maine Audubon

_MG_0715

This family was found on April 22. I learned a lot about the hairy woodpecker’s breeding and nesting habits in The Birders Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds [available in our store] by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryle Wheye. A hairy woodpecker pair will bond in the winter and the female often may tap at a potential nest site and perform flight antics to attract a male. The excavation of the nesting cavity takes 1-3 1/2 weeks. The male usually selects the site and the nesting cavity is typically lined with wood chips.

_MG_0678

The pair will have 3-6 eggs with an average of 4 which hatch within 15 days. The chicks typically fledge within 28-30 days but I last saw them in the nest on June 3 so that puts these chicks over the cited fledge range.

This was a wonderful thing to watch from the first days when the parents were going into the cavity to feed at regular intervals 15-18 minutes apart, until the day the first chick was caught peeking outside at the big world from the only home it knew. The pictures confirm a male and female chick and beyond looking into the nest or seeing them all fledge only the parents know how many young were set off into the world. The chicks apparently fledged sometime in the first week of June.

_MG_1504
May 30 – the first day I saw the chicks.

_MG_1781
June 3 – The male chick peeks out above, and the female chick below._MG_1655

 

Report: Thursday Bird Walk at Gilsland Farm

Sunday, May 5th, 2013
Posted on:

This past Thursday a large and enthusiastic group joined staff naturalist Mike Windsor for a walk around our Falmouth based sanctuary. Going on a bird walk with knowledgable birders and experts like Mike opens your eyes and ears to all that is around us. As we await full on warbler wildness there are many species to keep us occupied.

Note: The next two weeks for the greater Portland area (May 6-17) Mike will lead free Warbler Walks M-Th at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, and Capisic Pond Fridays. And if you are in the greater Bangor area the Neighborhood Bird Walks begin on May 8.

Whether you are an avid birder or just wondering what’s out there beyond the everyday join us for a walk during bird migration!

 

Report: Wildflower Walk (May)

Sunday, May 5th, 2013
Posted on:

Spring ephemeral wildflowers are wonderful, often smaller than a pencil eraser and exquisite. Staff Naturalist Mike Windsor led a group through the use of Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (available in our Nature Store) as we walked the Gilsland Farm sanctuary trails in search of any signs of spring. Mike only suggests Newcomb’s guides as a good starting place. There are other different types of guides but this guide teaches you to really see the plant as you identify the flower type, plant type, and leaf type all before looking at the color of the flower.

Mike will be leading a wildflower walk each month at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center as the season unfolds. Join us for one »

 

Maine Master Naturalists Program Accepting Applications

Saturday, March 9th, 2013
Posted on:

MMNP-Fred-teachThe Maine Master Naturalist Program will be leading courses designed to get you on track for certification as a master naturalist at both our Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth and Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden. They are accepting applications for these Falmouth and Holden courses for 2013-14 and the first application deadline is March 20.

The organizations’s goal is to develop a statewide network of volunteers to teach natural history at parks, conservation organizations, land trusts and schools throughout Maine. Upon enrollment, participants agree to volunteer 40 hours in the year following certification and must continue to volunteer to remain active Maine Master Naturalists. Each course provides more than 66 hours of classroom and field experience focusing on ecological principles; wetland and upland ecology; identification of Maine’s flora and fauna; other aspects of Maine’s natural history; and teaching skills.

Schedules, application, and more information:
www.mainemasternaturalist.org

The Holden course, to be held at Fields Pond Audubon Center, will run from June 1 2013 through June 4 2014, with 10 evening and seven Saturday classes; applications must be received by March 20.
Fields Pond Audubon Center Course Schedule June 1, 2013 – June 4, 2014

The Falmouth course, at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, will run from June 8, 2013 through May 21, 2014, with 10 evening and six Saturday classes; applications must be received by March 29.
Gilsland Farm Audubon Center Course Schedule June 8, 2013 – May 21 2014