Quoddy Nature Notes – Spring Wrap Up

Here it is, June, so spring in the Quoddy region is essentially over.  Now is the time to take a deep breath, stand back a bit from the clutter of ongoing projects, both physical and mental, and wonder, “What happened?”

Our spring arrived early this year, and the leaves and flowers followed suit.  The amphibian walks suggested to me that this generation of wood frogs would be less than normal.  Although they started early, the calling season was short and the egg mass numbers were low.  The successful wood frog tadpoles have already left their ponds. Toad numbers seem to be normal as they typically call for about a week; peepers have only a few romantic stragglers still calling, and the gray tree frogs are gearing up. Spotted salamanders eggs were common, but a high percentage of the eggs seem to be non-viable.  Fortunately, these guys live for upwards of thirty years, so most will be able to try again next year.  Turtles are out looking for good nesting sites and are currently being spotted on the roads. It is sometimes tricky to determine which direction they are going, but try to carefully get them out of the way of traffic. The Painted turtle will usually get off the road with a little coaxing but if you have to pick it up remember they have a tendency to pee on anyone that handles them.  Snapping turtles are more obstinate and often get pretty defensive when you try to help them.  I usually put a hat over the snapping end and carry them to the roadside where I thought they were headed, but be careful.  Don’t carry turtles by their tail, as this could result in injuries that may be fatal. Snakes can usually be coaxed off the road with no handling, but if you come upon a big watersnake in the Big Lake/Pocomoonshine area, remember these guys, while not poisonous, can give you a memorable chomp. All reptiles, dead or alive and everywhere in between, are potential carriers of Salmonella, so use caution. I’m interested in all of these critters, especially the big ones.

It looks like we will have a good crop of slugs, but the black flies, in the too few times that I have been out checking, have not been particularly hungry.  The bigger maneaters:  deerflies, mooseflies and horseflies, are just starting to show.  We have had a couple of minor ant hatches but have not yet been inundated with them.  Carpenter ants consider log homes, especially those off in the woods, as their favorite gingerbread house, so we must be ever alert. This spring has been a much more productive period for the Maine Butterfly Survey, as the Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, Sulphurs and others are showing up in good numbers.  If you want to learn about the dragonflies that are making their appearances now, Dr. Ron Butler, Professor of Ecology at UMF, will be giving a course about the local Odonata at the Humboldt Field Research Institute from July 4th to July 10th. On an expected but sad note in regards to insects, Emily passed away a couple of weeks ago.  A quiet spinster she never complained and when I put her weekly ration of half an apple core and sometimes an over ripe grape in her Coolwhip mansion her antennae seemed to quiver with anticipation.

Our raven family with their two noisy brats have left.  They will probably be back periodically to check out the stump where I leave the table scraps in the morning.  I don’t mind the ravens and bluejays and even the skunks but the raccoons are an intelligent nuisance, and can get into lots of mischief.  The robin family living on the ledge on the barn is still incubating, and no little heads are looking up yet.  There are lots of robins around this year.  The bobolinks are also more numerous, but there are fewer kestrels. The hummingbirds arrived a week late, but are making up for lost time, and so far we’ve had to rescue three of them when I’ve inadvertently left a door open in the barn.

So that’s the news from South Pembroke, where all the critters are well behaved.  If you believe that I’ve got a bridge to Campobello I can sell you, complete with a Homeland Security facility.