“Nature Notes” will be a near-weekly blog post to keep you updated on some things going on with Maine’s wildlife. This will include incidental observations (many of which are shared on our Instagram page), recent unusual bird sightings, and notes on our bird walks or other field trips.
In case you missed it, last week’s Nature Notes can be found here: Nature Notes 2017: 01
The deer population at Gilsland Farm has slowly recovered after their apparent extirpation following the deep snow two winters ago. An (apparent) family has been making daily visits to our orchard and uncovering long-since-fallen apples under the snow. For information on how Maine’s deer are able to survive during harsh winters, Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a put together a great handout here: Living on the Edge: How Deer Survive Winter
Following up on the Barred Owls mentioned in our last Nature Notes, as I was photographing the vole in its talons, a large number of lice started emerging from the bird’s feathers. Identifying louse seems to be more challenging than Empids so I’ll leave these unnamed but there are some entertaining louse facts out there: Did you know there is a species of chewing louse that is only found on owls, named Strigiphilus garylarsoni. The genus Strigiphilus makes sense: strig or strix, meaning ‘owl’ and -philus or ‘loving’, but what about garylarsoni?! Apparently Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side comic, has made a few “significant” contributions to science and has had a couple insects named after him. Where would we be without Larson dubbing the thagomizer?
Recent birds sightings:
We stopped producing the weekly “RBA” last year because of the more useful and automatically produced Rare Bird Alert from eBird.org. eBird’s RBA is updated as soon as reports are submitted, includes media (photo/video/audio), and links directly to Google Maps for directions. Maine’s eBird RBA can be accessed here: ebird.org/ebird/alert/summary?sid=SN35688 Here are a few recent highlights:
One bird of interest that isn’t appearing on the [above] RBA, which people may be interested in, is a King Eider in Portland Harbor. There have actually been two, an immature male (found on 4 Dec 2016) and a female (found on 6 Dec 2016) that have been regularly seen in the harbor, most easily from the Portland Fish Pier (map here).
Seawatch at Portland Head Light
Many thanks to everyone who joined us on Wednesday for the seawatching event at Portland Head Light that we collaborated on with the Fort Williams Park Foundation. The strong wind and rain overnight cleared just in time and brought unseasonably warm weather making for a very pleasant viewing opportunity. We were able to tally 25 different species during our watch, highlighted by Northern Gannets, Great Cormorants, Razorbills, and two Iceland Gulls. A complete list from this event can be seen here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33599311
What a change this week’s nearly 50º bird walk was from last week’s gusty chill! Trails at Gisland Farm, in Falmouth, remain a bit icy but much of the snow has melted and there was little-to-no ice left on the river. High tide helped bump up waterfowl numbers. Here are a few highlights:
Waterfowl (yes, mostly Mallard and Canada Geese) numbers were high thanks to the flood tide. Wild Turkeys, which are typically rare at Gilsland Farm in the winter, have been frequenting a neighbor’s yard off the North Meadow. Two Cooper’s Hawks have been stalking the feeders lately, hopefully reducing the House Sparrow population while providing our group with satisfying views. An adult Iceland Gull was bathing in the river; only my third time seeing this species at Gilsland and my first adult. A lingering Northern Flicker was in the treetops of the North Meadow with our ever-present Eastern Bluebirds.
A complete list form the walk is available at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33617201
I’m off to Arizona! The next Nature Notes will be out in two weeks and might be supplemented with some Sonoran wildlife. Naturalist questions can be directed to our wonderful volunteers at [email protected].