“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 our last post I shared some photos from a few owl pellets we dissected, one of which held bones of a Southern Flying Squirrel. This was pretty exciting because we see so few flying squirrels, despite the fact that they are fairly abundant. Most Mainers (unfortunately) only get to encounter flying squirrels when they hear them scratching on their walls or ceilings in the middle of the winter, or (fortunately) visiting your ‘bird’ feeders in the evening.
My only encounter with flying squirrels at Gilsland Farm, prior to measuring one’s mandible last week, was hearing one in the fall a few years ago (5 Nov 2014). That individual was calling one evening from the edge of our parking lot, giving a high pitched, down slurred screech. You can hear what this sounds like here: ML 105139: Southern Flying Squirrel
Hearing a flying squirrel and pulling a flying squirrel jaw from an owl pellet is fun and all, but I was more than ready to actually see one. Most of our Thursday bird walk participants have seen me tap on dead trees, hoping to get a flying squirrel to emerge from a cavity, with no success. Well, my three-year flying squirrel dry spell finally ended on our bird walk this week! The story can go back to last year when we got to watch a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers excavate and nest in a cavity (see photo below). That particular cavity has been vacant all winter but over the last week or so I’ve noticed the cavity entrance getting larger. So on Thursday we investigated. A soft tap on the trunk and two big eyes were staring down at us! See the video below for a glimpse at this elusive flying squirrel.
Mamota monax Madness has a winner!
Despite all these warm days we’ve had, the first Groundhog of the year was seen on 6 March, following an extremely cold weekend. Many thanks to everyone that participated in our inaugural “Marmota monax Madness“! We’ll be in touch with the winners shortly. If you find yourself in our Nature Store at Gilsland Farm, you can congratulate Carroll as our in-house winner.
Recent birds sightings:
“Got married in March because March is the worst month for birding. So it was the least likely month in which I would have to postpone the wedding because I was needing to rush off for a bird.”
- Brett Richards, from BBC’s Twitchers: A Very British Obsession
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 in real time, 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
Lets Go Birding Field Trip:
11 Mar 2017: I think this was officially the coldest field trip I have ever led. Wind chill values were reportedly -10ºF but I suspect our extremely windy vantage points around the Scarborough Marsh would have returned lower values could we get accurate measures. We spent more time in the van than I’d like but managed an impressive list of species, including a few spring arrivals. A lone Killdeer at Dunstan Landing looked out of place in the icy marsh while a Carolina Wren sang from a near-by yard — I would classify these as the “most optimistic” birds we saw. Waterfowl diversity was high, though we couldn’t find the Snow Goose that had been reported around the marsh the previous week. Our highlight was a Barred Owl roosting at the end of a road on the eastern side of the marsh (photo below).
Past Nature Notes:
Nature Notes 2017: 01 - Barred Owls struggling this winter
Nature Notes 2017: 02 - Deer, Owl lice, and the Fort Williams Seawatch
Nature Notes 2017: 03 - Doug’s Arizona vacation
Nature Notes 2017: 04 - Louse Fly and Cutworm in February
Nature Notes 2017: 05 – Owl Pellets and Signs of Spring