"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." ―Charles Dickens

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.
Flying squirrels will soon enter the world in a snug den or nest box. It will be a few weeks before they have grown large enough to "fly" with their parents but you will need to be in the woods after sunset and standing quietly to have a chance of seeing them soar. I'm looking forward to the return of the gray catbirds, wonderful mimics that have a large repertoire of calls, some of them sounding very un-bird-like. Look for them nesting and feeding in brushy cover.  

Click here to listen to the songs and calls of a gray catbird from the Cornell Lab's All About Birds.

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Flying squirrel photo by EEI-Tony, iStock. Catbird photo by Ed Robinson. March 31, 2021)
If you’ve wondered what is killing the hemlocks, it is hemlock woolly adelgid. "The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a small aphid-like insect that feeds on hemlock (Tsuga spp.). This insect was introduced from Japan to Virginia in the early 1950’s and has since spread north to Maine and south to Georgia...Many areas infested with HWA display extensive tree decline and mortality. HWA affects all species of hemlock, but does not affect pine, spruce, fir or other conifers. “ Maine Forest Service.

While at this point we likely cannot stop the spread, we can slow it down a little by watching where we walk and avoiding touching infected hemlocks. People and animals can spread it just by brushing against infected hemlock branches and carrying the insects unknowingly to uninfected hemlocks. HWA is easily identified by the presence of tiny white, woolly balls along the needles and twigs.

(Submitted by Priscilla Seimer. March 30, 2021)
The weekend began Friday evening with a new bird in our yard – the American Woodcock. About 7:00 pm its distinctive ‘peent’ call could be heard, though it was too dark to see the skulker amid the trees and underbrush. I was hoping that it was a female calling in a male to give us its spectacular aerial display yesterday at dusk, but no luck (yet). Woodcocks, unusual-looking, reclusive birds, spend winters along the mid-Atlantic coast and in the south, coming to Maine about this time for the breeding season.

This morning, Sunday, a flock of 20 wild turkeys spent the morning in our backyard. As they were leaving, the male insisted on putting on his own display, without evoking much apparent interest from the females present. Just as that flock meandered off, a flock of at least 34 robins flew in to claim the space. Turkeys are found year-round in Maine, as are robins, at least coastally. But somehow seeing a flock of robins on your lawn in March always seems to signal spring.

(Submitted by Jeff Stann. March 29, 2021)
On a warm evening, especially with light rain, local vernal pools come alive with sound and mating activities. You will hear the spring peeper chorus from a distance, and if you are lucky you might see large numbers of spotted salamanders moving to the water for mating. After months hidden under logs and rocks, this is their time to shine before retreating under cover again.  

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Spring peeper photo by Brian Lasenby, iStock. Salamander photo by Ed Robinson. March 24, 2021)
Another sign of spring – the pussy willows are starting to show their silvery soft buds! Pussy willows (Salix discolor) are one of many native willow species in North America. They love wet areas, so are often found on the edges of ponds and streams; I see them often along the side roads in drainage ditches in Harpswell. Poplars and some magnolias also have furry buds, but pussy willows are unique in that the soft covering is made up of a single scale. These attractive buds will give rise to one of the earliest flowers in late winter-early spring. These plants are dioecious, meaning that the male and female flowers are on separate plants. The leaves that eventually emerge are elliptical in shape. The upper surface is a bit blue-green and the underside is whitish. These shrubs can be easily propagated from cuttings. Willows contain salicylic acid, a basic component of aspirin, in their leaves and bark.

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. March 11, 2021)
With warm weather this week, maple sap will be running for a sweet reward. Cold nights and warm days with snow on the ground make for ideal conditions. The warm days may see the first groundhogs emerging from hibernation dens looking for grass to purge their dormant digestive tracts. A male cardinal has set up his territory in our neighbor's yard, calling every morning this week. Today the female was picking up small twigs as if preparing to build a nest.  

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. March 10, 2021)
It's always been a sign of spring to hear the redwing blackbirds... this time there was one on our feeder two days ago and then this morning I heard them across route 24 from us. He was really into the suet; look at that face!

(Submitted by Gina Snyder. March 10, 2021)
Yesterday evening we had a visitor to our feeders. He just sat there, presumably looking for some hapless mole or mouse in the snow. Not quite as dramatic a shot as the one I got four years ago at the same spot, on the right.

We put up a nest box for barred owls this winter in our yard, so we’re hoping he or she will stick around. It was a large, heavy box that took some doing to get it up high enough in a tree.

(Submitted by Jeff Stann. March 8, 2021)
This is the time in winter when animals are drawing down their fat reserves and the need to find food is more pressing. If you have a porcupine chewing on a white pine in your neighborhood he may end up as prey for a fisher, one of only two predators with the skills to avoid those quills. Fishers will also pursue snowshoe hares, birds that feed on the ground and mice or voles.

(Submitted by Ed Robinson. Photo by Miceax, iStock. March 4, 2021)
I found this in my yard laying on top of the snow. I asked Ed Robinson if this is the typical time of year for deer to shed their antlers. This is what he said:
"Depending upon geography, climate, age and health, bucks begin dropping antlers in late December and continue on into late February or early March. The new ones begin to grow from the pedicle fairly soon after the drop. In some cases one antler will drop days earlier and far away from the second, but from my reading it is more common that they fall off pretty close to each other in time and distance - they are often found next to each other as if the buck simply shook his head and off they came! "

So, obviously I'm going to go out and look nearby for the other one!

(Submitted by Lynn Knight. March 3, 2021)
The other day I got a photo of a red-headed seal (sort of red-headed) at Seal Ledge. It was quite visible from a distance! I haven't seen this color before.

The seal color is caused by rust. The briny environment they live in oxidizes iron particles in the ground rather quickly, so it's an entirely natural effect. “They get a curious lining of orangey red color because they lie in salt environments,” explained Mark Iley of the Essex Wildlife Trust.

(Submitted by Gina Snyder and answered by Kathy Budden Durr. March 2, 2021)