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!



Dog bowl bird bath

Thankful for another day of blue skies and temperatures in the high 80s. We are on “staycation” so the weather suits us perfectly.  If I had to be in my office I’d be climbing the walls.

Busy day today with too many obligations away from the house.  Voluntold my husband to take me for a motorboat ride this afternoon so that we could identify the stretch of shoreline that I’ve been assigned to monitor for milfoil.  After we found the location we took a short boat ride  and ended up mesmerized by a pair of loons that were bathing and fishing.

I took over three hundred photos of the loons and need to sort through them to find the best ones.  The male of the pair (I think it was the male because he was larger) was acting like my younger dog acts when she is in a silly mood – lots of wiggling and similar joyful movement. I’m sure the loon’s behavior was typical preening and bathing but it looked for all the world like he was just goofing off.  Can’t wait to review those pictures more closely, do some research,  and share my absolutely unscientific conclusions with you in the next few days.

On my way back to the house after our ride the shadow of a wagging tail under the deck drew my attention.  Note in first and fourth photos that there is a bird on the handle of the lawn mower wagon and a shadow on the house foundation beneath.  I snagged a few photos of this new parent (the chicks are still in the nest and appear to be doing okay) and I couldn’t help but think this phoebe looks like a worn out new father.  He looked perplexed and exasperated, but really he was catching bugs.

The temperature under the deck was at least 90 degrees (I checked) and so after I finished the phoebe photo shoot I grabbed a dog bowl and filled it with fresh water, then put it on a pile of slate stacked conveniently beneath the nest.   A crude bird bath for certain, but better than nothing for the balance of the afternoon, as I had to leave and didn’t have time to do more.  Granted the phoebes are 300 feet from a lake, and I’m sure they are meeting their hydration needs somehow…..and my husband figures (probably wisely) that these birds aren’t likely to start drinking out of a shiny bowl….but the effort cost me 3 minutes and 16 ounces of water.  Drink up, hot birds.

Lean Times

Sleep came late last night, after fireworks and thunderstorms finally drove me into the basement with my sweet old lady Jessie (on the left).


And morning came too soon thereafter, since my little lady needed to get up with the sun to empty her bladder.

An hour later I tried out my legs and my lungs on a slow morning run.  Last night’s rain still sat heavy on the forest canopy, and the wind that was with us all day started early, so I ran through mini-rain showers with the deer flies cheering me on with their “teeth” (more like blades, actually).

I cut off the main trial to follow the brook path for a quarter of a mile and was glad to see that we’d had enough rain in the night to quicken the flow of water.  I am humbled by the power of moving water to sooth me.  Research in the field of neuroscience and similar fields of study has consistently documented a connection between proximity to water and overall well-being.  (Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols explores this concept in his 2014 book Blue Mind; the book has received solid reviews and is probably worth reading this summer.)

I followed up my run with  errands and visits, and it was mid-afternoon before I was back in my yard with my eyes to the sky.  We hadn’t been outside long before osprey overhead  caught my attention. I watched with interest and then concern as first two and then three and finally four adult osprey circled our yard and the adjacent fields, as well as several thousand feet of waterfront, for over four hours searching for a meal.  I am guessing that the wind on the lake made it difficult to see the fish.  I’m not sure why the rodents in the fields were so hard to find today.  I do know that the song birds that nest in our woods had a long afternoon of nest defending.

The osprey still have nestlings and I wonder if they’ve had a meal today.

Eventually I turned my attention from the sky above to the ground below. Earlier in the afternoon my younger dog had nearly lost her marbles because a painted turtle had scooted under the deck to use the loose soil for egg laying.


In addition to being a turtle sanctuary, the back deck is also the location of a phoebe nest.  Finally today patient mama phoebe welcomed a clutch of babies today.  (Her first nest was raided before the eggs hatched.)

This time around there were four eggs, though only three have hatched.  I was able to see their tiny beaks by peering through the space between two boards.  (Last week I crammed a bit of corn husk in between two boards to give me a quick visual cue for where to look.)   I wish I could capture this on camera for you but it cannot be done in any responsible way.  I will be eager to check on them in the morning.