What are you seeing out there? We'd love to hear from you! The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.

This edition include May and June. We try to send these updates monthly, so keep an eye out for July's edition at the end of the month. All of the contributions below are seen immediately in our Facebook group. Click here to join.

Click here for more information about Harpswell Nature Watchers.
A common loon has been enjoying our local cove for the last three weeks. Gradually the light gray feathers that make up his winter plumage are falling away and he is looking more like the black and white bird we all know from summer viewings. In the last two weeks great blue herons are back in town, having wintered as far south as Haiti and Costa Rica. They are visiting the mud flats at low tide and local marshes and freshwater ponds in search of food.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, May 9, 2019)
One of the charming little Spring flowers blooming in the moist woods now is Gold Thread ( Coptis trifolia ). The three leaflets are thick, shiny, and remain green year round. The base of the leaf stalks are yellowish and the underground rhizomes are bright yellow and thread-like—thus the name.

Another happy sign of Spring very visible in the woods right now is Canada Mayflower ( Maianthemum canadense ). This plant, also called False Lily-of-the-Valley, forms a lovely ground cover in some areas with its heart-shaped leaves poking out of the ground like little flags. Later in the season they often become hidden—dwarfed by other plants growing around them.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 16, 2019)
On April 16th, one of our fellow Harpswell Nature Watchers posted a picture of a trailing arbutus or mayflower ( Epigaea repens ) as it was just forming buds. Yesterday, I saw a lovely patch flowering along the Devil's Back trail on Orrs Island. It looks like it is nearing the end of its bloom time. Its leaves are evergreen and the flowers are very fragrant. The early bumble bees have been welcoming its presence for a few weeks I'm sure.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 21, 2019)
A common sight in the woods right now are the delicate clumps of starflowers often at the base of trees ( Lysimachia borealis , formerly assigned to the genus Trientalis —for those of you who care about such things). They can have from 4 to 9 white petals that are fused at the base. The flowers are suspended aloft very thin stems like tiny woodland stars. Often there are pairs of flowers on one plant. The flowers will produce a single berry that splits into five parts when it dries. I have never seen a reference to the berries being edible.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, May 29, 2019)
Tree Swallows have returned and are actively building nests in available nesting boxes on preserves and in available tree cavities. They have spent the winter in the most southerly areas of the United States and in Central America. Their acrobatic flights over fields and wetlands to chase flying insects are fun to observe. It is easy to attract Tree Swallows to your yard if you have the open space they need.
(Submitted by John Berry, May 29, 2019)
I woke up early to find an unusual visitor wading in the mud flat at low tide - a large beaver. While these wonderful creatures normally inhabit fresh waters, they are fully capable of finding food along the ocean shore. Without adequate shelter, however, they would be exposed to predators at low tide. A few days ago I spotted a weasel along a stone wall now wearing her brown summer pelt, having shed her lovely white winter coat.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, May 29, 2019)
With beautiful weather this weekend, I enjoyed two visits to beautiful Houghton Graves Preserve on Orr's Island. Birds were in full breeding behavior, with tree swallows building nests in the installed boxes, common eiders swimming with newly hatched chicks, and red-winged blackbirds calling from the cattails. Warblers are visible in many spots now with lovely Blackburnian, blue-winged, Nashville and black & white warblers spotted in recent days.
(Submitted by Ed Robinson, June 5, 2019)
Spring ephemerals still in bloom on Fathers Day weekend: Canada Mayflower at Brunswick Landing.
(Submitted by Mollie Sandock, June 14, 2019)
More late Spring ephemerals: Starflowers still blooming on June 15th, Crystal Spring South.
(Submitted by Mollie Sandock, June 15, 2019)
Lots of things are blooming out there! I’m sure you have noticed the tall, large-leafed plants with wide flat heads of white flowers that look similar to Queen Anne’s lace. Its upper leaves have 3 large maple-like leaflets. It is cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum). This giant grows 3 to 10-feet tall! The young stalks and leaf stems of cow parsnip were gathered and peeled by Native Americans to be eaten raw or boiled. Its relative--giant hogweed--can reach heights of 14 feet, and should be approached with extreme caution. The outer skin contains furanocoumarins that can cause severe skin rashes and blisters when exposed to sunlight. Cow parsnip plants contain some of this chemical as well, but in far less concentrations.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, June 17, 2019)
Bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) – This plant naturally occurs in marine shrublands that are safe from salt spray. Bayberry, roses, and raspberry are its common shrub neighbors. This is a native honeysuckle and can be a nice garden plant because its leaves have lovely red fall color. It will spread, but can be easily contained and act as a full low shrub of any width you allow. It is starting to flower now (about 5 days later than last year) and is very common, especially along woodland edges.
(Submitted by Lynn Knight, June 23, 2019)