Weekly Notes February 10, 2013


Barred-Owls have dark eyes. Notice the feathers covering the feet to minimize heat loss.

Barred Owls may be one of the best known of the Owls that inhabit Maine.  Their call is a distinctive ‘Who Cooks for Whooooo’ and they are often seen during the daytime.  Owls are thought of as being Nocturnal or Night hunters but the Barred Owl is also a Diurnal or Daytime hunter. This picture shows the best distinguishing features of the Barred Owl, it has a Barred pattern across the chest with streaks length-wise down the front of the body.  The easiest way to I.D. a Barred Owl is by the Dark eyes.  The only other owl in Maine to share the dark eyes is a Barn Owl, which has a distinctive white heart-shaped face.  This picture was taken in Kittery, Dma&g map 1.

Spalted Wood

Spalted Wood

It looks like someone took a Sharpie permanent marker and drew a design on this piece of maple.  At first glance we can almost imagine a map outlined on the wood, but the design is actually made by Fungi.  Fungi that have inhabited dead or dying wood create Zone Lines, a territory of sorts that keeps competing Fungi on their own side of the fence.  This stage of decomposition is called Spalted and the quality of the wood is still good enough that it can be turned into a beautiful bowl or made into a handsome keepsake box.  This piece was taken from the top of a Maple stump that had been growing on Route One in Kennebunk long enough to be considered an antique.  Dma&g map 3.

When out in the woods, there is hardly a time when two people pass a large hornet’s nest without remarking about it.  This week, while exploring the woods, C. Eaton and J. Thompson found this nest of the Bald-faced Hornet hanging about 20 feet from the ground.  These delicate paper shelters protect their occupants from wind, rain and heat and are a reminder of some of the great architects in nature.

This abandoned nest was started last spring by a single Queen.  The nest was made by chewing wood mixed with saliva to make a paper pulp.  She then laid a few eggs in the first cells and waited for them to hatch before laying more eggs.  These first emerging hornets became workers and helped the Queen to expand the nest and feed up to 700 hornets by the end of the season.  Once cold weather set in all of the hornets died except for the females that had mated.

In the pictures above, the top of the nest looks worn and almost ready to give away from the many drops of rain that have fallen upon it during the season.  We can see that it was woven around the twigs and leaves of a Red Oak to give it stability.  There are still a few brown leaves that with the curling layers of paper, beckon the eye of the artist.  Inside we can see the layers of cells that are built for each new generation.  The most recent of those are females who mated and are now tucked into the crevices of the bark of trees and like us all, are waiting for spring to arrive.

In this week’s Almanac, the New Moon is today bringing the coastal tides back to high during the mid-day/mid-night and low at sunrise/sunset, same as the Full Moon.  This week watch for the Waxing Crescent Moon low in the West just after sunset along with Mercury and Mars.

In the weather this week a Nor’easter named Nemo generously piled two – three feet of snow along the southern coast with less north and west.  The current snow depth map is here…   Portland reported a record 31.9 inches of snow.  Interestingly enough the National Weather Service announced that January 2013 was drier than the average with Portland recording only 1.36″ of rain and 7.3″ of snow.  Perhaps a season average is the more accurate measurement than any given 30 day window of time.

This storm also brought with it more high winds and cold temperatures across the state.  Below is a picture taken at high tide outside Lunt’s Harbor, Frenchboro on the north side of Long Island. NOAA weather buoy 44034 located east of this area was reporting NNE winds with 23.6ft waves at 11 seconds.  Mt Desert Rock reported the highest wind gust of 89 mph, Matinicus Rock at 77 mph and the Isles of Shoals at 70 mph.

Lunt's Harbor Frenchboro

Lunt’s Harbor during high tide winter storm Nemo. 2013 Dma&g map 16




  1. My library references indicate that Racoons and Birds will break open nests at the end of the season to get at any remaining insects. This nest was too high for a Raccoon but there didn’t seem to be holes where the birds might have stuck their bills into the nest. I would assume a bird tore the bottom of the nest off, layer by layer as it perched on the very bottom.

  2. John DeWitt says

    Over the years I have seen many bald-faced hornet nests in the fall, usually in low bushes, that have a large hole in the side or bottom. It’s obvious that a mammal or bird has torn its way in. Does anyone know what it is ?