Friday, June 30, 2017

High Bush Blueberries

Ahhhh... blueberries. The iconic Maine summertime fruit. These fruits have quite a ways to go before they ripen. But, they sure are colorful at all stages of development. We have three small high bush blueberry plants in our front yard. They don't yield much fruit, but the birds, bees, and humans love them! It is always a race to see who eats the most fruit;-)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Life is grand...I've got a bug suit!

Bug Suit without gloves
As if life could get any better... Summertime is here and so are the mosquitoes! But, today I got my bug suit in the mail. Yay! Bring it on, mosquitoes. HA! You are foiled, I tell you...foiled! My main reason for getting the suit is for photography purposes. Early morning birding and late evening sky photo shoots have yielded me getting absolutely swarmed by skeeters. I am hoping that this will allow me to be outdoors during the most mosquito-laden parts of the day without having to be slathered in Deet!
My bug suit also has gloves (kinda large, but wearable.) The sleeves and ankles all cinch tight so I should be somewhat protected from mosquitoes wherever the suit stays off my skin. And, the headnet zips shut (you can see it is partially unzipped in this photo. I must wear a hat underneath it so that the mesh stays off my face and neck.

By the way, the Bug Pants are the Coghlans brand and are size small, while the Bug Jacket and Mitts are the Sea to Summit brand (sized medium.) They are meant to fit many sizes of people and are generally quite large.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Chickadee nest hole

While boating along the western edge of Caesar Pond, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. I didn't know what I had seen, so I scanned the area. The first thing that I noticed was a nicely shaped hole in the side of a long dead stump. Hmmm... I pondered. Could I have seen some bird going in or out of the hole? I decided to wedge the boat into a small island and sit a spell.
After only a few minutes, a chickadee flew to the edge of the hole, and perched.
Then, it entered the hole, and all I could see was its tail.
After a few minutes, the bird peered out of the hole...
perched for a moment,
and took flight. 
But, either it, or its spouse returned shortly. I didn't get a shot of them entering the nest hole (I was battling some wind blowing the boat around a bit), but my suspicions of chicks in a nest were confirmed with the appearance of the parent with a fecal sac.
Birds keep their nests very clean and remove the fecal sacs of the chicks, who poop after being fed.
Up, up and away goes the fecal sac! (Gee...the world does revolve around poop, doesn't it!)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Green Sweat Bee

At this time of year, we should be seeing butterflies fluttering all over the place, yet I have only seen one mourning cloak butterfly, and that was several weeks ago. There are very few bees as well.
Green Sweat Bee, female
As I stood in front of my rhododendron, I heard the familiar buzzing of a few bumblebees. As I searched the flowers, I came upon this green sweat bee. Its metallic coloring really caught my eye and I just had to snap a few photos of it. I used my 100mm lens, hand-held, but the photos aren't the best. It was very windy and the flowers were swaying this way and that, which was compounded by the fact that the bee was zipping around as well;-) I had to wait for small moments of stillness to shoot the photos.
Metallic Green Sweat Bee, female
I watched the bee as she flew from one stamen to the next, gathering pollen.
Metallic Green Sweat Bee, female with pollen stuck to the hairs on her legs
Green Sweat Bees (genus Agapostemon) are mostly solitary bees that generally live alone in small holes in the ground, or sometimes in bark. The pollen will be food for the baby bees that hatch from the brood cells that this female will raise. How do I know this is a female bee? Well, in this species, the females have solid green abdomens whereas the males have striped, black and yellow abdomens. By the way, this species of Agapostemon is not attracted to human sweat as other members of this genus are.
Metallic Green Sweat Bee, female
These bees are common throughout North America. I sure am glad that we have them as they are important pollinators.

Just a few garden flowers in bloom

Petunias atop the well cover
We don't have many flowers in bloom at the moment, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph a few of them. I bought this pot of petunias to adorn the well cover in the front yard. This tradition began with the death of my sister two years ago, and it continues to this day.
Rhododendron flower cluster
My largest flowering plant, at the moment, is my magnificent rhododendron. It is in the back yard and is in full bloom. It is working toward filling up a huge corner of the yard;-)
Dame's Rocket
Continuing with the pink theme are the lovely Dame's Rocket. These flowers are in the front stump garden as well as the gardens next to the house. 
And, who can resist planting chives? Chives are such pretty flowers, which along with their stalks can be cut for salads.
I love lupines. In fact, I really don't think you can be a bonafide Mainer without having an obsession with lupines!
Check out the top section of the flower stalk. Here you can see the little reddish-brown structures (called calyx lips, maybe), along the outer edge of the closed flowers, that separate from the flower as the flowers open.
And check out the color of the "new" flowers. It seems as if they have more white on the banners.
Then, we have the older flowers, I believe, with more purple banners. Does the white change to purple as the flower ages, or is it just that the top most flowers are a bit differently colored than the lower flowers. I shall have to investigate further.
Okay, enough lupine photos! Check out the poppy flower. My poppy is in full bloom with 6 flowers open at once!
Poppy ovary with pistils and stamen
I absolutely love the purple stamens surrounding the ovary with its fuzzy stigmas. Sooo pretty... Check out the fallen the pollen that lines the base of the petals!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Drew's red squirrel footage is in the documentary titled, "72 Cutest Animals."

Maine Nature Diary has gone international! This original video footage of red squirrels, that Drew took in May 2012, was discovered by an Australian production company. Drew gave them permission to use the footage and they actually did!

Now, that footage is part of the Australian series "72 Cutest Animals." The 2016 series can be seen on NetFlix. Drew's footage is in Episode 8 (beginning at the 18 minute mark) titled, "Tall Tails." The footage was broken into several bits, each comprising a few seconds of red squirrel film on the show. You can see the trailer for 72 Cutest Animals on YouTube. Unfortunately, none of Drew's footage made it into the trailer, but more importantly it is in the documentary. Kinda neat, if I do say so myself! Way to go, Drew;-) They even list in the episode credits! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

"How Many Did You Catch" cartoon

I brought my students on a field trip to Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary a few weeks ago, just like I always do. Some of them I dragged, kicking and screaming (not really), to the outdoors because I feel a huge responsibility to educate kids on the importance of forests and the environment. 
So many people no longer notice the great outdoors due to their obsessive cell phone/electronics use, and this cartoon is apropos to today's state of our society. Some of my students find the outdoors boring. Gee... go figure! I wish that more people would just unplug themselves and actually look around with wonder and joy at their surroundings.

I know that I am getting old when I have yet to find much use in cell phones (I am channeling my father when he didn't see the use in an answering machine;-) But, at least I see nature, see relationships in actions and reactions, see patterns, and appreciate what our planet has to offer. I am glad that I was born when I was because I feel so much more connected to Mother Earth than most of the new generation will ever be. That saddens me. Everyone should feel connected naturally and spiritually, not electronically...

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The week ahead in Weather

I can't believe I'm saying this, "Bring on some heat!"

Friday, June 2, 2017

Just a few of our favorite birds

Even though the hairy woodpeckers have abandoned the nest above our back porch, they are still in the area, hopefully nesting again nearby. They visit the suet daily and are a joy to behold.
Also visiting our grape jelly feeder, with daily frequency, are the Baltimore Orioles. Here is a female enjoying her breakfast. We've also seen the male and a juvenile male, but have yet to photograph him.
Here is a better profile of her. These are rather fuzzy images as I cannot seem to get outside quietly enough to peek around the edge of the house to get a photo without spooking the orioles. Thus, these photos were taken through the kitchen window.
And, finally our beloved catbird. (also taken through the kitchen window)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Robin Update & Woodpecker Update

Robin Update: Two robins fledged yesterday afternoon, and the last two fledged this morning. There sure is a lot of robin chatter around our yard!

Hairy Woodpecker Update: The woodpeckers abandoned the nest hole in the ash tree next to our back deck. I had seen a huge bee (never did get a good enough look at it to I.D. it) flitting around the outside of the hole. That may have been enough to drive the woodpeckers away. We are so bummed as we were excited at the prospect of photographing some baby woodpeckers up close and personal!