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

Please enjoy our April edition. 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.
My bird feeders are becoming more active as the weather warms up and early migrating birds stop for a bite to eat. After a quiet winter it is great to see the tufted titmouse, chipping sparrow, and black-capped chickadee chowing down on food. While driving back to Maine from NH, I spotted a beaver in a small pond along the road and stopped to watch. No doubt she was happy to say goodbye to the ice that had her cooped up with her husband all winter!

(Text by Ed Robinson. Tufted titmouse photo by Maria Corcacas. Beaver photo by Anna39, iStock. April 28, 2021)
It’s starting! I saw my first fiddleheads popping up a couple of days ago. This is a signal to be on the lookout for the short-lived Spring ephemerals that will quietly start blooming in the woods. Spring ephemerals are herbaceous plants that emerge, flower, and develop seeds early in the season before the trees leaf out and they become enveloped in shade. It is a short time period that they are active before they become dormant during the summer months and their foliage either yellows or dies back completely to the ground. Based on the nature journal I have been keeping for the last 3 years, the ephemerals to look out for in the next week or so are trout lilies, gold thread, and anemones—all of which you can find along the trails at Otter Brook.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. April 24, 2021)
This juvenile Eagle (I think) was silently checking out Long Reach above the Cliff Walk the other day. With a color pattern more reminiscent of an Osprey, I had to download my photo for a good look at the whole bird. Another sign of spring!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 22, 2021)
Teaberry, or Wintergreen, was the first edible native I can remember being able to ID as a child.

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) grows in a vast swath of North America and is very common in the woods of Harpswell. It is the Maine state herb. This semi-woody, evergreen ground-cover has fragrant white blooms (July), and bright red fruit hiding under a crown of aromatic often-shiny green leaves. The fruit can further be identified by their star-shape underside. I always think of holiday decorations when the berries are plump and plentiful, punctuating a carpet of green leaves. Several spring walks have corroborated that it is a bumpah crop this year, ayuh.

When planted in your yard, teaberry makes an excellent native ground-cover. It is a refreshing snack for you or other woodland creatures when the fruit is ripe. Fruit can be picked over several months in a good year. Its leaves can be steeped for tea, or crushed for use to soothe ailments. I'm known to still pick a berry or two myself, or more likely, eat one that has been picked and offered up by a small hand along with me on a walk in the woods. It's good to know the next generation is learning to ID their plants, too.

Click here to learn more about Wintergreen from and Click here to access an article from the Both have good resources about our state herb if you're interested in learning more.

(Submitted by Heather Merriman. April 22, 2021)
The first blossoms of spring will find honey bees making their initial forays in search of pollen. Bee keepers will spend time making sure their hives made it through the winter in good shape, hoping the bears didn't tear them apart looking for a tasty snack!

As the weather warms, the ticks become more active, climbing vegetation so they can hang out in hopes that a warm body will brush upon the plant so the tick can hitch a ride hoping for a blood meal. Be sure to treat your clothing in advance with permethrin and take other precautions.

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Bee hive photo by Bart Rybaczewski. Tick photo by Steven Elingson, iStock. April 21, 2021)
A male Brown-headed Cowbird assessing the situation here today.... maybe I'll try to keep an eye on the robin nest under construction nearby to see if it puts an egg or two in there...

According to The Cornell Lab's All About Birds, the Brown-headed Cowbird is North America’s most common “brood parasite.” A female cowbird makes no nest of her own, but instead lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. To learn more about cowbirds click here.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 17, 2021)
The loons have donned their summer plumage; I suppose that means they will be departing for inland ponds soon!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 15, 2021)
Rose moss (Rhodobryum ontariense). If you look closely at the floral arrangement of the leaves at the tip of each green stem in the picture, you will understand how this species got its name. This picture depicts a demonstration that Priscilla Seimer, HHLT’s Stewardship Coordinator, constructed for us. When water is scarce, many mosses, including this one, will fold, twist or otherwise distort their leaves to hold on to and conserve as much water as they can. Some species of moss can survive very long periods of drought. We haven’t had rain for quite a while now, and so as you can see in the lower part of the photo, the moss is brown and shriveled. Seconds after Priscilla sprayed water on some lucky stems above, the leaves plumped up and showed their brilliant green rosettes. It was a dramatic transformation and a powerful illustration of the clever adaptations of this and other mosses. They not only have a strategy to survive dry conditions, but they also can spring into action to take advantage of the water when it becomes available.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, Photo by Priscilla Seimer. April 14, 2021)
Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is flowering now. You can find it along many of Harpswell’s trails, including Otter Brook, Long Reach and Devil’s Back. It is one of the first native wildflowers to bloom in this area. I encourage you to take a walk, find a patch and get on your hands and knees to experience the spicy sweet fragrance. Its perfume and beauty have caused it to be on the rare and protected species lists in many states because long ago it was collected for bouquets. Thankfully, it is not on the rare plant list for Maine.

Like most wildflowers, trailing arbutus is very sensitive to disturbance and is slow to propagate—their seeds being dispersed solely by ants who bring the seeds in the soft dried fruits back to their nests. So, trampling, collecting, and/or loss of natural habitat sadly generally means permanent disaster for these and other wildflowers. The flowers in this photo are white, but they can also be varying shades of pink.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight, Photo by Priscilla Seimer. April 14, 2021)
The herons are here! Gina Snyder and Nancy Hurst both observed them around Harpswell.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 9, 2021) 
Another sign of spring well disguised - can you spot the snake? If they didn't move I think we'd never see them!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 8, 2021)
Warmer weather and spring rains trigger annual migrations of amphibians and reptiles for mating purposes. As part of their movement from winter habitat to traditional breeding grounds, many of these creatures will cross highways, putting them at risk from vehicles. Please drive with caution near wetland areas to avoid collisions with these fragile creatures. The red-winged blackbirds are winging their way into town, allowing us to enjoy the frequent calling by males from the breeding territories they staked out and will now try to protect.  

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Snapping turtle photo by Craig Snapp. Red-winged blackbird photo by Muhammed Arif. April 8 2021)
I saw a few female long tail ducks hanging around with a female scoter...when the male flew in making quite a 'quacket'.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 7, 2021)
More signs of spring - the surf scoters are back, sharing habitat with the mergansers, and the eider males have molted to their breeding white and black!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 6, 2021)
Walking in Mitchell Field can be a joy in any season. The bobolinks will be coming in for nesting soon - all the way from South America!

(Submitted by Lee Mattos Cheever. April 6, 2021)
Crocuses have been blooming—our first bits of happy color outside. Have you noticed that they close up if it is cloudy or as the sun goes down in the evening? Crocuses are among the many plants that respond to temperature changes.

Thermonasty is the ability of certain plants to grow on one side of a leaf surface or stem to change its form based on surrounding temperatures. You have probably noticed rhododendron leaves curling under in winter when temperatures dip below a certain point. Plants can’t relocate if they don’t like what is going on around them, but some have little tricks to help protect themselves.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. April 5 2021)
I believe that what I heard in the Long Reach Bog this past week is the wood frog! I also heard the spring peepers north of there in the wetlands along Route 24 (and elsewhere!).

Click here to check out a resource for identifying the sounds of spring.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. April 3, 2021)
I went for a walk after the rains last weekend with Priscilla Seimer, HHLT’s Stewardship Coordinator. Happy and refreshed with their long drinks, all the mosses were bright green and lush; and the lichens were standing erect, showing off their stunning colors. I found an interesting dusty rose-colored lichen I have never seen before. Alan Seamus identified it as Peniophora rufa. You can click here for more information.

Priscilla pointed out two other interesting moss specimens. The first is Neckera pennata.
This species of Neckera is easily identifiable after you’ve seen it once. This moss likes our cool, deciduous forests, often found growing a few feet up and higher on a deciduous tree trunk. The moss grows out away from the trunk often looking like small green waves. While not our most common moss it is not difficult to find once you know what to look for. There are some sparse patches along the trail at Long Reach Preserve.

The second is Lungwort, Lobaria pulmonaria. Lungwort is a large lichen that you can find on trees in older, mature forests on hardwoods like beech, maple or oak. Lungwort is greener when moist, browner and papery when dry. It is a favorite food of moose in the northeast. The name “Lungwort” may have been inspired by the “Doctrine of Signatures”, a concept from the 13th and 14th centuries that said plants resembling certain body parts could be used in treating illnesses of those body parts. “Lungwort” looked to some like human lungs. (“Wort” is the old English word for plant.) Lungwort is sensitive to air pollution and acid rain, and in parts of Europe is now considered rare or threatened because of its decline.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight and Priscilla Seimer. April 2, 2021)