Please enjoy our February Edition!

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. 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.
The icy crust on top of the snow in Harpswell makes life hard for those species that forage on the ground. White-tailed deer and wild turkeys are used to digging through snow to find left-over acorns and other mast from the autumn crop. Turkeys will find spring seeps where the snow has melted to pluck grass and anything else that is edible, while deer will concentrate on tree buds. Yesterday I heard a male northern cardinal singing from the top of a tall spruce, a bit early in the season but maybe he wanted to establish his breeding territory before the other guys!  

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Deer photo by Xalanx, iStock. Cardinal photo by Bill Snellings. February 24, 2021)
Just after our last snowfall, I saw a wing print in the snow very similar to what Gina posted several days ago. I sent the pictures to Professor Nat Wheelwright to see if he might be able to tell what type of bird was responsible for the print. I observed 3 sets of prints spaced a few feet from each other as well as prints of the unlucky critter that was trying to evade its attacker running in between each wing print. Based on the length of the wingspan, which I guessed was around 28 inches, and the shape of the tail and wingtip feathers, Nat thought it might be a barred owl. The prints of the hunted one appeared to have been from a bird that had just landed and then was walking around. Nat guessed it could have been a mourning dove since they walk rather than hop.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, February 23, 2021)
Feeding Frenzy!!! It's the time of year when large flocks of birds mob any food source they can find, from wild berries to bird feeders. On this glorious morning after the ice storm I watched 15 blue jays screaming and squabbling over ice-covered crabapples. Underneath them a number of dark-eyed juncos and black-capped chickadees snatched up seeds that had fallen onto the snow. Last week we had nearly 20 European starlings and 9 American robins gorging on our winterberries and suet. Calories are critical in this cold weather!  

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Photos by Sue Feldberg, iStock. February 17, 2021)
Some Redbreasted Mergansers were spotted at the cove this morning!

According to an article on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's website, mergansers and other "diving ducks" begin pairing in late winter, and a large percentage of them return to the same breeding areas each year. Click here to read the entire article.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder and updated by Colleen McKenna, February 15, 2021)
I was walking along the trail in the woods at Mitchell Field and found what looks like a bird feather print, along with a tiny mole. I wonder why the prey was left behind and the story behind the print. In the second photo I brushed away the snow to see what had been left - I was very surprised to see a completely intact mole!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, February 10, 2021)
Springtails (aka snow fleas) were 'peppering' the snow along the trail in several places on the Cliff Walk yesterday. They seem to collect more in depressions, in this case a footprint, but they were quite widespread on the snow as well! It seems a little early to see them, but I guess conditions dictate when they show up!

For more information about Springtails, click here!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, February 5, 2021)
Researchers at Cornell University just published a new study regarding ozone levels and the impact of federal regulations. It seems that reducing human exposure to ozone has the benefit of reducing ozone's impact on birds (and likely other wildlife). Over a 15 year period, data from ozone monitoring and citizen science bird reports showed that US counties with higher ambient ozone levels had less abundant bird populations. Study author Ivan Rudik said that is probably because ozone causes respiratory problems in birds, and also damages the plants that birds rely upon for shelter and insect populations. Counties along the east coast that are working to reduce levels of the ozone precursor nitrous oxide have more robust populations of small land-based birds like the northern cardinal. Nice to see a good news story on wildlife!   

(Submitted by Ed Robinson, February 4, 2021)
I now realize that the American Black Ducks must have been hanging around with the Mallards fairly frequently and I never realized it! Although, I don't see Mallards that much at the shores... Here they are again at Mitchell Field, Middle Bay.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder, February 3, 2021)