Sunday, July 30, 2017


Drew decided to take some shots of the hummingbirds from a different perspective than usual. He positioned our cheap GoPro knockoff camera - Apeman - above the feeder. The hummers did not disappoint! We are constantly amused and amazed by these birds.

A Plague of Grackles

The grackles have been driving us crazy! They decimate the food in the seed feeder on a daily basis. They try to get to the suet feeder but are less successful now that Drew has installed his grackle-inator. Aughhh! But, we do enjoy their antics and the iridescent blue of the male head feathers;-)

Friday, July 28, 2017

PLT Teachers' Tour # 2 - Camp Wapiti, Maine - July 25-28

I participated in a Maine Project Learning Tree Teachers' Tour (through the Maine Tree Foundation), from July 25-28, with 20 other teachers. We stayed at Camp Wapiti, along the shore of Davis Pond, in Patten, Maine. Our goal was to explore the implementation of Project Learning Tree activities into our curriculum as well as to gain a better understanding of the history and importance of forests, forest industries & products, as well as forest related careers. One of the many reasons that I love this program is that it gets teachers and kids outdoors. (By the way, you can click on any photo in this blog post for a larger view.)

Upper half - Counting Tree Rings / relating to history and climate
Bottom row - Inner Parts of a Tree Model - Bark, Phloem, Cambium, Xylem, Heart
Day 1: We had a very busy schedule that filled our days from 7am to 8pm each day. The first day consisted of camp check-in and a PLT Workshop (for which I was one of three facilitators.) My activity was centered around the inner parts of a tree and the wonderful world of tree cookies. My goal was to show teachers how to incorporate a variety of lessons, each of which were interconnected through different disciplines, all within Project Learning Tree. 

You don't have to be a science teacher to use this curriculum. PLT activities can be centered around visual art, movement, social studies, math, science, language arts, and performing arts. It could be your sole curriculum or supplement what you already do in the classroom, nature center, or workshop about the environment.

Top Right: Feller Buncher - grabs tree, saws it, picks it up and moves it.
Center Left: Grapple Skidder - Drags tress to landing
Bottom Left - Feller Buncher Operator
Day 2 began with a timber harvest. We got to witness different types of logging equipment in action on conservation forestry land. We heard about rules and regulations regarding sustainable logging operations, observed buffer zones, etc.

Timber harvests are so dynamic. The Feller Buncher operator, Josh, showed us how he cut the trees.

My favorite machine is the Delimber. It takes a tree and removes the limbs, lickety split. Then the logs will go to a sawmill.

Top: Ranger Eben discusses the extent of the Scientific Forest Management Area and we head out onto the trail
Middle: Eben pointed out a Chanterelle mushroom and showed us one active research area with marked trees.
Next, we proceeded to Baxter State Park to tour the Scientific Forest Management Area with Ranger Eben. He talked about the types of research going on in the park and introduced us to a couple of college students assisting with the research.

First Exhibit: The Lombard Steam Log Hauler that gave rise to tracked vehicles. Super Cool!!!
Finally we headed off to visit the Patten Lumberman's Museum for a tour, where we began by viewing the Lombard Steam Log Hauler. By the way, it did not have brakes!

I love seeing old equipment that gives rise to modern day technology.

Sleigh Brake
Click on the picture for a larger view.
Forgive me, but I do love seeing all this old logging gear. This building was filled with great stuff! I especially enjoyed seeing the Sleigh Brake and knowing that it saved the lives of horses was very important.

And now we'll pause for a self-portrait through the window of the museum. I try to take a "selfie" on every trip;-)

Onward into the tool and diorama building. Of course, I bee-lined it for the tree cookie room where I had to take some photos. I am a sucker for tree cookies...Oh, be still my heart; check out that American Elm cookie. It was 122 years old when it was cut down in 1948! I only wish I had thought of snagging a cookie from every big tree cut on our property. Duh!

And, then I spied all kinds of specific scaler's rules for calculating board feet of trees. Yowzer! The most impressive one was the Legal Scaler's Rule where you would calculate tree length by running the star-shaped wheel along the log.

So many tools and so little time;-) There was a wall of saws. There was a wall of booming logs, and my favorite figure of a logger with a Peavey. ["Blacksmith Joseph Peavey's name went down in history as the inventor of the improved cant dog. Used to roll logs, break jams, pry rocks, tighten chains, and push over trees (with a pole, known as a "killig" or "kilhig"), the peavy is the logger's all-purpose tool.]

We headed off to the two different replicas of camps in the 1800's. The first camp was a single camp, and the second camp was more modern with the kitchen being separate from the bunk house. But, check out the bunkhouse. There were two sets of bunks with 3 beds on the bottom and 3 beds on the top. Each bed would sleep 2 men, so the bunkhouse would sleep 24 men. Crazy!

After the tour was complete we had a lovely supper followed by a talk on the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument. I didn't take any photos as my camera battery was low. Needless to say, the evening was awesome!

Day 3 dawned a bit cloudy. But the clouds added drama to our early morning view of Mt. Katahdin (about 20 miles west as the crow flies.)

We boarded the bus and headed north to the Irving Softwood Lumber Mill in Ashland, ME. Along the way, we passed numerous potato fields before coming to the mill entrance. Check out all that wood! We paid close attention to our guides as sawmills are dangerous places. We had to don vests, put in earplugs, and stay together.

My buddy, Shannon, was kind enough to take my photo. I find sawmills to be quite exhilarating! And, the noise is deafening.

Logs ride conveyor belts and whiz by at blindingly fast speeds. They are sorted and are processed into all kinds of products. And, there are monitors to keep track of all the activities in the mill.

And, now for your viewing pleasure...a wee bit of mill action!

After the wood is milled, it is packaged and shipped by rail to its final destination. And, off we went to our next destination!

Logging roads can be a bit rough for a tour bus to traverse!
We did a quick bus tour of a harvest on Irving Woodlands land before busing on south to Smyrna Mills, ME for the tastiest destination on the tour;-)

Spring Break Maple and Honey production and shop. Owners Kevin and Kristi Brannen have 3000 taps, and run lines from around 300 meters out in the forest to the production shed. (I may have the numbers wrong, so if anyone can correct me, I'd appreciate it;-) They use a plastic spout reducer to keep each hole clean and open (each spout reducer needs to be changed out seasonally.) Reverse osmosis equipment takes out at least 60% of the water from the sap before boiling it. This saves a lot of fuel. And, business is booming!

I bought a few Spring Break Maple goodies. Wowee! That maple candy is delicious! By the way, you can buy it at L.L. Bean;-) Support Local!

And, here is a poem (by a Maine author) that local school children gave to the sugar house. Love it!

We took a short visit to the Katahdin Cedar Log Homes factory in Oakfield. They are the largest builder of cedar log homes in the USA. Each part of a house is numbered according to the plan that is created for the buyer. Kinda neat!

The last highlight of the trip was the Oakfield Wind Project. There are 48 Vesta wind turbines, each of which is 275 feet heigh. Yowzer! There are 26 miles of access and ridgeline roads.

Check out the video. These were really impressive.

We finally got a bit of rain out of the clouds at the end of this busy day. A gorgeous double rainbow arched over Camp Wapiti, much to the delight of all.

I had a difficult time choosing between photos, so I posted two of them taken from different vantage points.

Day 4 was a bit cloudy at the start of the day. I went down to the dock before breakfast to check on the status of the local loons and leeches. Bailey, the lab, accompanied me. And, Shannon the leech hunter, came as well. I couldn't get any decent still shots of loons or leeches, but I did get a great shot of a green frog.

The loon swam near the dock and I was able to get a bit of video. Unfortunately, it did not call on this morning.

The leech alert went out and I raced over to record its underwater action. Ewwww...These bloodsuckers were the largest I've ever seen! You can really see its flattened body shape as it swims in an undulating pattern. Cool! The biologist in me knows of its importance, but I've never been a true fan of leeches, having removed up to 50 at a time from our German Shorthaired Pointer in past years;-)

Final prepping for presentations.
We ended our Teachers' Tour with presentations by everyone sharing out how they will use Project Learning Tree. This was the most beneficial part of the Tour for me. I gained so many awesome ideas from each of the dynamic educators who attended. Great work, everyone!

I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to the awesome Bowdoin Central School teachers (and Pat, a former BCS teacher) who transported me to and from the camp. It was fun to meet you all and spend quality time together;-)

And, here is my last view of Mt. Katahdin as we took the scenic route home!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Homemade "Grackle Proof" Feeder

Drew made this "grackle-proof" feeder from a plant saucer, an old suet feeder and bits & bobs found in the shed. It might be more accurate to call this a "grackle-resistant" feeder as these birds are incredibly smart and persistant. But at least now a block of suet lasts a few days instead of a few hours! As you watch the video, notice that each species of bird has their own style of feeding. Some are built for clinging upside down, others not so much.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summer Adventure List

Our summer adventure list has become reality. It is something we should have created back in May, but our busy life got in the way. We'll be lucky if we can accomplish at least one thing on the list. Here goes:

Summertime Adventures

  1. Sequin Island with Ethan DeBery. Gulls nest on the island and young gulls can be seen in nests in early to mid July.
  2. River Run Tours - Around Bath, Arrowsic, Georgetown (through July 28th)
  3. Machias Seal Island - Book island reservation and Bold Coast Charter reservation in February (go in late July/early August when seas are “calmer.”)
  4. Maine Maritime Museum Lighthouse and Nature Cruises (go through October 29th)
  5. Cap’n Fish’s Puffin/Whale Combo Cruise to Eastern Egg Rock - from Boothbay Harbor Pier 1. Check out Audubon Project Puffin.  (Through October 19th)
  6. Whale Watching - Odyssey Whale Watching Tour (Portland.)
  7. Monhegan Island - Monhegan Boat Line out of Port Clyde / Hardy Boat Cruises out of New Harbor
  8. Casco Bay Lines - Cruises and Tours
  9. Corey Walker’s boat - The Sea Walker - Freeport Harbor
  10. Oh yeah...Shannon says "Go To The Beach!"... Um...that might not happen until the next solstice when the weather is cooler;-)

Oriole Feeding Chicks

Yay! We finally got footage of the male oriole feeding one of the juveniles. By the way, there is lots of grackle chatter in the background. We have a huge flock that visits our feeders several times each day. They made this oriole chick a bit nervous. In fact, the adult has taken to feeding the chicks in a shrub nearby during many of the daily visits to the feeder. Before this portion of the video clip, papa oriole was feeding the other chick in the shrubbery, too.

We tried out the new video camera and found that it took lousy video. But, we are going to run it through its paces before returning it. Maybe it's just user error...So, sub par video, but at least you can tell that you are seeing birds;-)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Baltimore Orioles (adult and immature)

We have Baltimore Orioles galore! They nested somewhere nearby and we now have at least two immature birds along with the parents. The second bird to fly in is a bit younger. He has spots on his head as if it hasn't completely filled in with the black feathers. And, he hasn't yet figured out how to perch on the jelly feeder. Too cute! 

I used our new Apeman motion camera (inexpensive GoPro type camera.) It took really nice, clear video although I had to have it practically touching the bird feeder;-) We have a new, dedicated video camera arriving tomorrow, so we'll see how it does in comparison.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Video courtesy of Google Photos Assistant. Enjoy!

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Wow, it's been a year since I've been to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, and how I have missed them. On this trip, my bosom buddy, Jane Ray (hailing from Colorado), accompanied neighbor Shannon and I.
Flowers galore...That's what the gardens are all about. I was surprised to see this species of Echinacea. It was so pretty, and so different from what I am used to observing in my garden.
And, of course, the daisies were numerous and cheery.
Twelve-spot Skimmer
I am sad to say that we did not see a single butterfly in the gardens. However there were some Twelve-spot Skimmers fluttering about. It is so disturbing that Maine has virtually wiped out the honey bees, butterflies, and most dragonflies due to pesticide use. Upon the early days of visiting the Botanical Gardens, we used to be surrounded by so many butterflies that we felt as if we were in a scene from Fantasia. Alas, those days are no more...
I think that the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are probably just about the best in the country (but I am biased;-) The Children's Garden is awesome and provides us with so much pleasure. There are pathways lined with flowers, tiny buildings galore filled with all kinds of treasures, sculptures, and even a tiny greenhouse to explore.
The spouting whale rocks are favorites, in the Children's Garden, for young and old. Here you can cool off in the spray of the spouts which go off randomly. Magical!
Just a few of the many fairy sculptures in the children's garden.
Within the Children's Garden, there are lots of fairy sculptures by various artists. I love, love, love all the details by these imaginative people.
The gardens are also about sculpture. There are sculptures scattered hither and yon throughout the trails and gardens. Here are a few of my favorites! When going to the gardens with Shannon, everyone must pet the bunny. It's tradition!
One of my favorite places is the Vayo Meditation Garden. There is a pool carved out of a gorgeous piece of schist rock that is stunning. And, you can sit on benches that look out over the garden toward the Back River.
As we walked toward the rhododendron garden, we passed a forested fairy house village for kids. Kids of all ages can create their own fairy houses within this magical space;-)
Our final destination was the rhododendron garden. It still had a few late blooming rhododendrons flowering, and was so gorgeous. The hillside view, looking out at the waterfall and down to the pond, is always stunning.
Duckweed covers the pond and there are green frogs galore!
Of course, my favorite part of this garden is the waterfall. The rock that the water falls over is horizontal and allows for such a pretty ribbon of water.
Top Left: Shiatsu Rocks, Top Right: Chair in Children's Garden
Bottom L: Meditation Garden, Bottom Middle: Whale Rock in Children's Garden, Bottom R: Garden Tool Arbor
Here is Jane in all her glory. Sweet;-)
And, finally I leave you with Mother Earth. Namaste...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Where the Jelly Goes

We present here, a short video of the frequent visitors to our jelly feeder (the last of which came to us as somewhat of a surprise). Notice that the catbird's head stays steady as the feeder sways and he/she daintily takes a drink of water after every bite. The oriole on the other hand is a colorful, and shall we say, "enthusiastic" diner. And finally an explanation as to how the feeder can get licked clean at the end of the day...

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasps have made a nest next to Neighbor Carla's bulkhead. Whooeee! The nest is medium-sized and has a fair number of wasps actively working to build the colony. At one point, you can see a wasp carrying something into the nest. And, there were always wasps doing repairs to the outside. Neato! (P.S. Look at the video full-screen to see more details;-)

Paper wasps are important pollinators, and our world food supply does revolve around insects. It would be great to be able to leave the nest alone (although it is in a high traffic area with Carla's gardening) as it should deter other wasps from building here next year. 

I was able to get fairly close with the video camera (on a tripod) and the wasps ignored me, although I did walk away slowly and tried not to do too much mucking around near the nest. Awesome!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Life sucks (when you're a leech)

An interesting hitchhiker on the exploratory vessel EV Colossal during a recent visit to Caesar Pond.