The Naturalist’s Blog

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.

July 22, 2014  Sunset Puffin Cruise

On the evening of July 12, we held our first Sunset Puffin Cruise of the year and it was amazing!

We gathered in New Harbor to take the Hardy Boat out to Eastern Egg Rock. In the harbor we enjoyed some common waterfowl dabbling around the shore, recently fledged Barn Swallows making for a fun identification with their short tails, and an ever-so charismatic Osprey flew by looking for fish to catch.

En route to the island, Captain Al gave us a history lesson of the area and the work Project Puffin has done to restore Atlantic Puffins on the coast of Maine. As we neared the island we saw an abundance of Common Terns and Laughing Gulls and a Common Loon in breeding plumage.

We quickly spotted large rafts of puffins as we approached Eastern Egg Rock. These football-sized clown-faced alcids will often congregate in groups near the shore before they return to their burrows for the evening. We often see more puffins during our evening trips than day-time trips, when the birds may be out away from the island foraging.

Our other major target for this trip were Roseate Terns. This endangered species does occur in many places around the world but in very small numbers at all of those sites so it very special to have them nesting on a few our Maine’s coastal islands. And they showed off nicely! Within minutes of arriving a pair of birds made frequent passes along the side of the boat, chasing each other around and giving us great views of their frosty backs and long tails.

The icing on the cake came as we motored over to Franklin Island National Wildlife Refuge where Harbor Seals were hauling out on a nearby ledge. The Franklin Island Lighthouse was built in 1806, making it the third oldest lighthouse in Maine and our charter is the only trip Hardy Boat will make to go see it. While watching the seals near the lighthouse we were treated to an amazing moon-rise as ‘Super Moon 2014’ peaked over Allen Island.  



Oxeye DaisyJuly 12, 2014 Wildflower Walk at Gilsland Farm

We held our first wildflower walk of 2014 last week and had a blast walking around our orchard, through the woods, and into the West Meadow learning how to identify wildflowers, shrubs, and vines along the way. You can come and see these bursts of color at our sanctuaries any time. After a quick walk through the North Meadow at Gilsland Farm, here are a few of the common wildflowers I encountered:

A very common flower you can find throughout the summer is the Oxeye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), a long-stalked member of the composite family with white flower heads 1-2” wide and 15-30 slender rays. Native to Europe, it was introduced in North American where is has become a noxious weed. It is very difficult to eradicate because of an ability to regenerate from small rhizome fragments.

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) has recently gone into bloom all along the edges of our meadows. This is a non-native shrub that was introduced in 1886 and now is often used for erosion control, as “living-fences” for coraling livestock, and as a crash barrier along highway medians.

Another very common (and unfortunately invasive) wildflower that you can find around our meadows in late June is Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca). Also known as Tufted Vetch, these violet-blue clusters grow as vines and are common in most fields and along roadsides. They are actually legumes, as apparent by their small pea-like seeds.

Many more wildflowers are ready to bloom! This Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), a lovely native wildflower now covering our meadows will be showing its small, pink, bell-shaped flowers any day now. Come on down to Gilsland Farm and see if you can find this and other wildflowers in our meadows!