This is our third email to the Harpswell Nature Watchers!

As you know, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust has launched a community nature journaling initiative. Click here for more information about the initiative.

Guidance and inspiration for nature watchers is shared through this email list and our Facebook group: Harpswell Nature Watchers.

What are you seeing out there in Harpswell? We'd love to hear from you!

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The following posts are from some of our local Harpswell Nature Watchers.
The male Common Eider, the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere, in breeding plumage is a striking black and white bird with a lime green tinge on the back of the head. While the female is incubating eggs, usually in June, the males leave and move offshore where they molt into a dark brown to blackish appearance which they keep until fall when they molt again into breeding plumage. The females nest primarily on offshore islands for safety from predators. Eiders tend to nest in large colonies and maintain colony behavior in all seasons, so flocks of males will group together offshore in the summer. (Contributed by John Berry)
If you are looking for a wonderful place to see birds of all kinds, get to Curtis Farm Preserve early one morning. I have seen reports of birders identifying up to 75 birds in one morning during spring migration and breeding season, including the gorgeous indigo bunting. While walking in Brunswick yesterday I came across raccoon tracks near a vernal pool. It won't be long before the females will be showing their kits how to find tasty crustaceans and amphibians in these small wetlands. (Text contributed by Ed Robinson)
Wild Sarsaparilla ( Aralia nudicaulis)

These plants are everywhere—on the road edges, in the understory of the forest—a very common site. So much so, that you really don’t take notice of them. But, right now, if you see them, take a look under their umbrella-like leaves. They have an interesting flower. Wild sarsaparilla are one to two feet tall and have tiny white-green flowers arranged in a sphere. They will produce blue-black berries in mid-summer. The root is spicy and aromatic and has been substituted for sassafras in the making of home-brewed root beer. The plant is in the ginseng family. (Contributed by Lynn Knight)
Northern Blue Flag Wild Irises ( Iris versicolor )

I always anxiously wait for these to bloom. These lovely plants typically grow in marshes and wet meadows. I found a large population deep in the woods near my house where water pools up after the rain, probably because it is a low, poorly drained area of ledge. Like all irises, their rootstocks are poisonous.
(Contributed by Lynn Knight)
Highbush Cranberry ( Viburnum trilobum )

Highbush cranberry is blooming now. It has a cluster of white flowers that resemble some types of hydrangeas. They have maple-shaped leaves. In the fall they will produce red or orange edible berries that are too tart to eat raw. After the first frost, the berries become less tart. Although not related to cranberries, the fruit can be used to make jellies or added to regular cranberries for cranberry sauce. The berries are also an important source of food for birds during the winter.
(Contributed by Lynn Knight)
June first, right on schedule, the first “June bug” started banging against my screen door just after dark. This happens every year, and I’ve learned to make sure there are no openings for the insect to get through because if there is, they will.

June bugs are actually beetles, and according to  can be challenging to ID to species. Bugguide is a wonderful resource when you are trying to ID an insect. It helps to have a general idea of what kind of insect you want to find, but with persistence and a little luck, even if you don’t have a clue this website can be helpful.

Insects can be fascinating. Their variety and coloration, adaptations and strategies, make them well worth learning about. This spring, try to look past the blackflies, mosquitoes and browntail moth caterpillars, to at least one other insect that shares space with you, outdoors or indoors. Spend a little time learning about it. You may be surprised at what you find out!

Insects populations world-wide are declining at an alarming rate. Google “world wide insect decline” and you can find good articles addressing this critically important issue. (Text contributed by Priscilla Seimer. Photo from Donna Burnet, Missouri Dept. of Conservation)
Beach peas ( Lathyrus maritimus ) are blooming

For about a week now, the beach peas on the shoreline near my house have been blooming. They are growing in what seems like no soil at all in a rock crack at the high-tide line. They are a member of the pea family and have tendrils that allow them to climb on or over nearby plants. They also produce pea pods. Native Americans ate the peas raw or boiled. (Contributed by Lynn Knight)
Hawkweed ( Hieracium aurantiacum ) is everywhere this year--both the yellow and the orange plants. These plants, which are a member of the Asteraceae family, are native to Europe and are mostly seen along roadsides, in fields, and disturbed, open sites. The orange version is also called devil’s paintbrush. It just seems that they are especially prevalent this year. Do you agree? (Contributed by Lynn Knight)