Mother Nature Abounds

Monday afternoon I was delighted to find a great horned owl perched high in the limbs of a pine tree about 200 feet from my back deck.  I had followed a very specific sound into the woods, hoping to identify the animal responsible for the intermittent shrieking that has been piercing our sleep for several weeks.  I’m not sure I found the culprit, but I did find this amazing owl.  I have never seen a great horned owl so I was very excited.  I didn’t have a great deal of time to stay and take pictures, and I didn’t want to bother the owl anyhow, so I did my best and the result is the top row of photos.

Tuesday afternoon I went looking for this same owl and found a juvenile great horned owl.  The juvenile was perched in a tree that overlooks the abandoned stump that was, I believe, the place where my murder mystery/kayak attack began a few weeks ago.  (See I Swear I’m Not Making This Up if you need to come up to speed.)  So now I’m wondering if the predator in that crazy showdown was an owl and the prey was in fact a family of raccoons that nested in the top of the stump (which is more of a 12 feet broken tree than a stump, but you get the idea).  I think I may be on to something here.

Seeing the owls would have been enough to last me for the entire month.  (Though of course I’m greedy and already hoping to see them again, or at least for my husband to see them.)  But Mother Nature is really outdoing herself at the moment.  This morning I saw a doe and two fawns.  No camera on hand.  I also saw a little brown rabbit twice, but again I was without a camera.   Monday and Tuesday I saw a lone turkey (a female, so a hen) and her baby (a chick).  Wondering where the other chicks went.  Guess I might know.  The first time I saw the mama and baby turkey I scared them when I opened my always-stuckish garage door; the second time I didn’t have my camera.

Did my milfoiling yesterday and today.  Loads of fun, that.  Thankfully my milfoil sector has been changed from one (nearly free of green stuff growing) across the lake to the sector where I live, which is so full of green stuff growing you can hardly paddle through it.  I guess the only reason I’m thankful for the switch (aside from not needing to inconvenience my husband, who would have had to motorboat me to the other sector) is that while I’m paddling around mumbling “whorled, feathered, whorled, feathered” to remind myself of the key features of variable-leaf milfoil, I can also take note of the osprey adult clutching a fish in its talons and flying back to screaming nestlings, the great blue heron poking about for a meal, the swallows swooping low for dragonflies, the loon calls echoing in from further down the lake…

I also have to make time to water the flowers that I insist grow on the front and side of my house.  I find myself doing this in the late afternoon most days, after I have given up on rain coming through in the night.  Watering these flowers requires a fair amount of watering-can-lugging, and so I make it into an exercise task, this lugging, since I never do seem to exercise as much as I’d like.  My lugging route takes me past the back deck, which means I simply turn my head to the left and look for baby phoebe beaks in the nest.  Finally – three beaks!


I think these birds are way too hot under the deck. I’ve considered a fan, or a small wading pool, but decided I should leave well enough alone and let their parents handle the care and feeding of hot birds.  Observant readers  will quickly note that my concern for these hot birds is a minor obsession (see Dog bowl bird bath).


Whenever I peer through the space between the deck boards to check on these babies all I see is heaving sides – birds trying to breath through the July heat.

And July’s heat has arrived.  June’s Strawberry Moon has come and gone.  The 4th of July is behind us. My neighbor’s garden is going gangbusters, so I’m looking forward to grilling zucchini and summer squash soon.  (Okay, my husband will be grilling.  I’ll be eating.)  Sort of like that phoebe on the left. That gal is always beak open looking for a snack.

The farm stand down the road from us is boasting two cabbages and some garlic.  Yes, two cabbages.  Cut them some slack – it’s a hobby stand at best and besides, I certainly haven’t grown a cabbage yet.  (In fact, I’m not even trying.  But I’m sure hoping that the pumpkin seedling I bought last month does amazing things.)

Wildflowers keep changing in the field beyond the farm stand.  We’ve gone from a wave of lupines to a wave of Rudbeckia hirta, or black-eyed susan’s.   Rasberries are ripening.  And old axes have been sunk into deadwood to rest.

Yes, folks – summer in Maine has arrived.  Get some while it lasts!



Hoop dreams

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The rain we needed finally came today, at least partially.  I’m guessing we could have used a longer, steadier rainfall to really soak the earth, but it’s the best we’ve had in awhile.  (I’m not usually anxious for rain, but my goodness the earth has been looking thirsty.)

The rain had faded to insignificance by the time I was headed out the door for my second milfoil identification class.  (Oh yes, good stuff, this.  Let me know if you want a laminated card and a quick tutorial.  Milfoil is coming soon to a lake near you, most likely.)

Just before getting into my car I noticed this rose-breasted grosbeak on our basketball hoop.  I watched while the bird landed, paused, turned, turned again, jumped to the other side of the rim, circled out behind the backboard and repeated the entire performance.  I watched the bird do this about four times before it flew out of sight.  Just as well – I had milfoil class to attend.

Water-lilies and pond weed (Or, Is That a Giraffe in Your Lake?)

On Wednesday night this week I spent two hours in a high school biology lab learning to identify invasive milfoil.  Yes, this was as dull as it sounds.  And also vitally important. Maine depends on healthy lakes for a healthy economy, and native plants and animals depend on healthy lakes for their lives.

The instructors mentioned in passing that lakes in other states are so thoroughly infested with invasive (non-native) aquatic plants that the people there have given up on trying to prevent infestations – because they have already lost this battle – and instead they MOW – yes, I said mow – their lakes, and take similar startling measures to cope with the fact that plants that do not belong in our ecosystem have nonetheless made their way here.  So what?  Well, non-native species of plants and animals do not have natural predators, which means they can go wild, grow wild, run amok, overrun, overtake and choke out the life of native species.  (This is a gross oversimplification but I’m only a citizen scientist, after all, and besides I bet your eyes glazed over three sentences ago.)

Thursday morning, armed with scant knowledge of how to identify the type of milfoil that has taken root in at least one part of Annabessacook Lake, I trotted myself down to the water, ready to look for trouble.  Okay, who am I kidding?  The sun was out and the water was calm and I was itching to see what I could find through the lens of my Nikon.  Happily for my budding efforts at learning to distinguish invasive milfoil from native look-a-likes – or the bad plants from the good plants – the water was clear to a depth of four feet.

I’ve attached some of my photos.  The startling giraffe-neck looking thing is the root system for some of the many lily pads that camp out in my muck.