Painted Turtles

Out on the lake early this morning, searching for invasive milfoil. (Our lake has been one of the winners of the invasive weed contest since 2013. We discovered this fun fact when we bought our house in 2014. Our luck at finding a foreclosure with lake front was the poor fortune of a family whose children inked their names on the back of a garage stair case at some point before departing. Defiant gesture, perhaps, made my children with no control over the whims and weaknesses of the adults trying to raise them. To this day – literally this day – we find golf balls embedded in the back yard and the woods – smashed into the air by the father who couldn’t hold it together for his family.)

But back to the milfoil: A small team of volunteers scours our lake for several months each summer to help the professionals to help us. Searching for milfoil in a weedy cove from the seat of a kayak is slow work. I bring my camera and have it at the ready to add something for me to the task. At the front of my short, non-tippy (sit-on) kayak I have several milfoil buoys attached to anchors. These are ready to be tossed if I find what I don’t want to find. Then between my knees I have a bag with my camera, sunscreen, and other odds and ends. Coffee mug is busy wobbling around in a cup holder that is much too wide and insufficiently deep. (Maybe it is meant to hold a burger?) And all this only after I have managed to get myself into the kayak without tipping over into the lake. (Seriously, how does one do this gracefully?)

Then off I paddle, looking for milfoil and scanning for my animal friends. This morning I watched the osprey snag weeds for the nest (pictures coming soon). Watched small birds chase a great blue heron for a few quick moments of brave flapping wings. Heard my red-winged blackbirds. Didn’t mind when a small pale spider with a pot belly crawled across my leg and damselflies landed on my head, arms, feet. Watched my muskrat buddy munching on lake weeds in his usual spot. And my loons. Always my loons. No chicks this year, from what the loon count and my observations tell us.

And oh, the turtles! Turtles on logs. Turtles on rocks. Turtles lazy-paddling through lake weeds; turtles wriggled into lake bottom mud. Snappers that may be closing in on 40 years old. Painted turtles new to the world, or tired from three decades of enduring. Along the way I found this darling baby painted turtle. About twenty feet away I spotted an adult painted sunning on a rock. Turtles startle easily, so I was thrilled to get a handful of pictures of this little fella. (Hooray for my zoom lens!)

Hungry Fledglings

Four phoebe fledglings ready to fly. Watched them off and on today from my home office. Such a cold day that we lit a fire in the woodstove. Rain and wind made miserable conditions for all. The nest has grown tight and one of the fledglings in particular is restless and ready to explore the world beyond. The parents swoop in to feed so quickly that I struggled to snap clear images.

Update: Twenty-four hours later and the nest is empty. It was a windy day and the first bird to fledge struggled to find his footing. (Footing?!) He ended up on the ground under a drain spout so we hustled the dogs into the house, did some quick research (thanks Avian Haven!) and prepared a back-up nest that we could put him in next to his siblings. Thankfully he had flown off (presumably to the nearby tree line with his parents) in the interim. (That was mid-morning.) As I write this it is 7:10 pm and we’ve been out in the yard (again, with our dogs) and I’m quite certain I say two of the fledglings practicing landings and take-offs in a nearby tree.

Adult brings dragonfly to her brood.
One gaping mouth wins the prize.

Phoebe adult on dog’s tug toy (or, bug catching perch, as it were).

She is under the deck where her children are nesting. She is actually wondering why they can’t be quite.

What Gorgeous Thing

“What Gorgeous Thing” by Mary Oliver

I do not know what gorgeous thing
the bluebird keeps saying,
his voice easing out of his throat,
beak, body into the pink air
of the early morning. I like it
whatever it is. Sometimes
it seems the only thing in the world
that is without dark thoughts.
Sometimes it seems the only thing
in the world that is without
questions that can’t and probably
never will be answered, the
only thing that is entirely content
with the pink, then clear white
morning and, gratefully, says so.

from Blue Horses
Copyright 2014 by Penguin Press

Female perched on top of our umbrella.

Juvenile on the left, male on the right.

As of late…

Beautiful dragonfly in my flowers last weekend. Not sure what kind. Watched it for a few minutes through my zoom lens. I am always intrigued by what I see when I’m spying this way. He reminded me of an alien, or a robot, or a robot alien. I haven’t taken the time to identify it yet but I hope to circle back and do so.

Still having fun taking photos of the several bluebirds frequenting our backyard this year.

This bluetail butterfly was enjoying our weedy lawn one day last week.
Went out at about 6:00 this morning to check the lake for invasive milfoil (sadly it has returned) and was delighted to watch this muskrat gobbling up some weeds. This guy was so focused on eating that he was about three feet away from my kayak before he noticed me and swam in another direction.
What better way to start the day than sunshine and fresh greens?
This is the osprey pair that lives across from our place. I didn’t have my camera ready (I was supposed to be searching for milfoil, after all) so I missed a shot of one of the birds gliding back to the nest with a stick. Now I am curious how far into the season (perhaps all season, as needed?) they work on their nests. The answer to this will have to wait for my day job to quiet down a bit.
Had I not paddled closer to the osprey nest for these shots (still taken with a zoom at a distance) I would have missed seeing Marty Muskrat enjoying fine dining.

Full moon madness

Next full moon is June 14th. This month’s full moon is known as the Strawberry Moon. Lately humans have been acting more like wild animals than the wild animals. I’d like to blame the moon but at some point we probably ought to own the chaos humans wreak upon each other, our planet, and all of the plants and creatures and rocks and minerals we share space with.

Memorial Day Morning

Out for an early paddle. Saw six adult loons and two osprey. Also watched an eagle first frighten the loons (see below) by flying low overhead and later enrage a pair of ravens. The raven pictured below slowly worked his way closer to the eagle by jumping from branch to branch, vocalizing, fluffing up his wings, and ripping off small bits of tree (twigs and pine needles) and flinging them around. The eagle was unmoved.

Of hummingbirds and fluid traps

The ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) migrates to breeding habitats primarily east of the Rocky Mountains, from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Canada. It is the only species that nests east of the Mississippi River and is the only hummingbird that is regularly seen in Maine. Source:, Bulletin #7152, Understanding Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and Enhancing Their Habitat in Maine.

Hummingbirds drink nectar using tongues that are so long that, when retracted, they coil up inside the birds’ heads, around their skulls and eyes. At its tip, the tongue divides in two and its outer edges curve inward, creating two tubes running side by side. The tubes don’t close up, so the birds can’t suck on them as if they were straws. Instead, scientists believed that the tubes are narrow enough to passively draw liquid into themselves. That process is called capillary action. It’s why water soaks into a paper towel, why tears emerge from your eyes, and ink runs into the nibs of fountain pens. Source:


Bluebirds, Baltimore Orioles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Great Blue Herons

The past few days have given us a reminder of August – hot days, blazing skies, parched earth. Yet for the wild animals that I share space with, it is spring business as usual. The phoebes have completed their nest beneath our deck, and I believe the osprey are done their nest refurbishment too, since I have not seen them fly over with sticks for at least a week now. This is our first year with bluebirds, and they seem to live in the field across from our dirt road. Our fence is a hit with the phoebes and the bluebirds, and the Baltimore Orioles are thrilled with our offering of oranges and grape jelly. Who wants to live in the city? Not me.