My crash course in studying nature started when we were going to participate in the Bio-Blitz at the Schoodic Educational Research Center (SERC), and on the way we stopped at Birdsacre to see how Edgar Raven was doing. He was in a big cage with another raven, and the caretaker said that he had been very vocal. I’m not sure he recognized me, but he eyed me pretty closely. His foot, which had been clenched in a tight ball, was spread out like a pad, and they are trying to repair it enough to flex the toes so that he can grab onto things and perch like a normal bird. Edgar can negotiate ramps and was in the upper regions of the cage, and appeared alert and healthy.
The Bio-Blitz this year was focused on aquatic insects, and at the introductory briefings I mentioned that I was interested in leeches, and, although they are not insects, I’m sure some would be collected. The literature on Maine leeches seems to be very sparse. Because of my unusual request I was known as ‘the leech guy’. On Saturday we were divided into 5 groups, each with an expert entomologist, a liaison person and a park ranger, and each group was assigned to specific sites on Mount Desert Island for collecting. We had been briefed on the collecting protocol, and were issued the necessary equipment. At the first site, two large ponds connected by a brushy, 200 yard stream, we were shown how to collect and what samples to put into what bottles and with what paperwork. In the sampling of the stream I was the first casualty, as I bungled too close to a bald-faced hornet’s nest. The hornets had obviously read the National Audubon Field Guide that “…Adults are extremely protective of the nest and will sting repeatedly if disturbed.” A hasty retreat was not possible because of the terrain, and apologies didn’t calm them so I got whacked a few times, but after I got out of range I used some good Polish balm (mud) to ease the pain, and proceeded to collect elsewhere. Saturday night was spent sorting the collection, and some worked until 4:00AM Sunday morning. Sunday we worked on the Schoodic peninsula, and collected at the beaver dams on the Alder Trail near the ranger station. Somewhere in the site I lost my hearing aid, so if you happen to find one there it might be mine. I’m not sure beavers know how to use a hearing aid. Maybe it works better underwater.
Saturday July 21st was the Loon count. We saw one in Schooner Cove early in the morning, but at our assigned lakes, Patrick Lake and Great Works, we saw a disappointing nothing. At Patrick Lake even the herring gulls from the dump hadn’t arrived to gargle and wash their feet, and we saw no waterfowl or swallows. We did see some bluejays, robins, flickers, cedar waxwings, chickadees and nuthatches. At Great Works we saw some Canada geese, but nothing else besides hordes and hordes of Moose and Deer flies. There were no swallows to harvest this bounty.
Saturday afternoon we went to the ‘Bugarama’ at the Pottle Tree Farm in Perry. This was an outing run by the Fundy Chapter of the Audubon Society and Stephanie Allard was the instructor. She is such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructor! We found another leech that I couldn’t ID, and lots of other things like damsel fly larvae, caddisflies, hellgrammites, water pennies, water striders and even some planaria. These are neat little worms that you can teach simple acts. If you cut one up into 4 relatively equal pieces each piece will regenerate the necessary parts to become a complete planarian. Generally, at least 3 of the new worms will remember what you taught the original worm. I’m not sure if any use can be found for that alleged phenomena, but for some reason the government keeps popping into mind.