Flying Friends and Creatures



Arrival at “camp”………Anticipation………Will there be any surprises?  After unlocking the chains to our 0.4 mile driveway, our friend who picks us up at the airport comments that she should have left the chainsaw in the truck, just in case.  We encounter not one, but two, bare tree tops from 60-foot evergreens over the driveway, thankfully rotten and broken into pieces that Bill could muscle out of the way enough for us to get through.


Nature takes its own course up here.  Although it seemed too early for the big mama snapping turtle to come up and lay her eggs, there was evidence not only that she had, but that a predator had gotten to her egg clutch – broken turtle egg skins laying outside a hole dug where they had been…..and I doubt they were from hatched babies as it would have been much too early for that.  A few days later, another such hole and broken skins, near the first.  It is very difficult for snapping turtles to replicate due to the need to find suitable, warm soil in which to lay their clutch and because of predators, generally raccoons and foxes (both of which we have here), who can smell the eggs after they are laid, even though buried, unless it has rained enough to wash the smell away.


The first couple of weeks were cold and wet – temps in the low 40s at night and even some days not moving out of the 40s.  (FYI, we’re now in our 5th straight day of rain and gray gloom.)  I had to finish planting the garden in a light rain and truly wondered if it would be for naught – would seeds germinate when so cold and wet?  All of a sudden, I heard raucous loon alerts right off our point, but didn’t respond immediately.  In a couple of minutes, Bill called me to the shore to catch the tail end of some happening.  An adult eagle was flapping its wings in the water about 3 feet off our shore; the 3 loons nearby continued their alarm.  Did the eagle get a baby loon, or a fish, or…..?  In another minute, the eagle took off, with empty talons.  The happening remains a mystery, but there was one eagle feather floating on the lake.  Bill was tempted to retrieve it, but decided it would take too much effort, which may be fortunate.  We found out subsequently that it is illegal to be in possession of an eagle feather, and if caught, garners a hefty fine up to $25,000, unless one is of certifiable Native American heritage in a federally recognized tribe or a current or past member of the US Army 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle Division.


Afternote:  We went on a trip to CT, NYC and VT for a week in mid-June, and miraculously, all varieties of seeds were up when we returned, even some lettuce, chard and cilantro seeds left over from last year!


It was several weeks before I mowed the foot-high vegetation on the septic field.  As I was rolling along, a bird flew up from the ground.  I knew what that meant; a bird had made its nest there.  I searched and sure enough, a nest with 2 blue eggs – a robin!  





Many years ago, a robin did the same thing, except I remember 4 or 5 eggs in that nest.  Having left a large swath unmowed, I thought for sure that when we returned from our trip, the eggs would be hatched and hungry babies with open mouths would be staring up at me.  I was disappointed.  There wasn’t even evidence of broken shells anywhere, and certainly no babies or mom.  Did a predator get these eggs too?  Another mystery.


In this North Woods Journal, I really want to glorify the heroes of the north woods – the dragonflies!  There were not many black flies when we arrived (nor many dragonflies), but given the rain, plenty of mosquitoes, even in the daytime.  The dragonflies take care of all such creatures during the day; they are out in full force on sunny days.  It’s particularly neat when I am out mowing the yard; several squadrons of dragonflies will be zipping around me, snapping up their favorite foods that the mower scares up out of the vegetation, favorite foods that sometimes like humans as their food!  Dragonflies are great companions.  They will land harmlessly on your hand, arm, leg, or shoulder and protect you from the “bad guys.”  They will even accompany you while out kayaking, sometimes perching on the kayak and going along for the ride.  Here I captured one resting on a cedar tree. 



White-Nose Syndrome, a white fungus found on the muzzles of bats that threatens to wipe out the bat population in the northeast and elsewhere, has reached Maine, although perhaps not our area yet.  If the guano on the outside of our fireplace is any indication, we still have some here.  Bats are also good guys, each taking care of thousands of mosquitoes every night.  May they continue to thrive!


The Sweet Williams are glorious now, and the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are so interesting to watch as they unroll and thrust their long tongues into each flower part for the nectar.  One can get quite close to view this.  It took many tries to get this shot because they close their wings and move before the shutter can go off. 



 Rhododendron flowers were spectacular this year too, and I augmented the half-dead bush with a new plant right next to it.  Both bees and butterflies reveled in the huge purple blossoms.


I have seen a couple of night moths worth noting.  A one-inch long Rosy Maple Moth has settled after its nightly adventures two times on different window screens.  This little guy has a fuzzy, bright yellow head, a plump body, 2 antennae, and yellow and pink wings – striking!  He’s sleeping on the screen right behind me now! 



  The other moth, which I didn’t get a picture of because he didn’t settle in, is the large Luna Moth – you can see this if you go to Google Images for “Luna Moth in Maine.”  It is light green and about 3 inches across with 2 trailing tails – unusually large, really quite a specimen!


Bill just showed me a list of all the animals and insects he has seen up here so far this summer, including deer, moose, grouse, fox, mouse, chipmunk, and ubiquitous squirrels, which may be on my hit list if they attack ripening tomatoes!


Cheers to you!