Quoddy Nature Notes – Around the House


 Around the House

White-Throated Sparrow

A male White throated sparrow

I finally moved Sophie the spider and her mass of eggs out of the house.  I hadn’t seen Sam around, so I don’t know what happened to him.  After communication with the Maine Entomological Society I found out Sophie isn’t a House Spider after all, but more likely a Rabbit Hutch spider, Steatoda bipunctata.  She is, like most of us, an invasive species from Europe.  I was concerned about how Sophie would like her new digs, which is a garden storage shed I built over my septic tank.  I have a pump septic system, and these seem to be characterized by midwinter failures.  After my last catastrophe, which occurred two days after Christmas 2011, I built a ‘Sewer Shack’ over my septic tank for ease of midwinter access and maintenance.  In between pump failures, etc., I use this building to store flower pots and miscellaneous gardening implements, besides housing visiting spiders.  With a hoity-toity European lady living there now, however, I felt I had to change the name to something more continental, like, ‘ Le Chateau de Poop’.

As of this writing I haven’t tilled my garden or gotten as many things started indoors as I had hoped.  Although it has been very pleasant the last few days, a pile of dirty snow in the shade near the woodshed is a reminder not to push the season, as do some of the weather reports for the Midwest.  I’m limited in digging in my pile of mulch because it is still frozen six inches below the surface.

There are quite a few flowers blooming, with Coltsfoot and wild strawberries obvious in sunny locations. Some butterflies have been spotted like Mourning Cloaks and I did take a picture of a Spring Azure.  Black flies are about in some places as are solitary wasps, grasshoppers and Tiger beetles.

Tiger Beetle

A handsome Oblique lined Tiger Beetle Cicindela tranquebarica

Many egg masses of Wood frogs and the mole salamanders are in the local vernal pools, and the Spring Peepers are still calling although the Wood frogs have largely finished spawning and have retired back to the woods.  The birds are still busy at the feeders, and since I don’t have a bear problem I leave them up just about all year.  I have solved the problem of squirrels and raccoons with an electric fence zapper guarding my feeders.  The Juncos are with us all year and should be starting to nest now;  the Robins can’t seem to decide whether they want to nest on the logs or the shelves I put up on the barn; the Chickadees are checking out some of the nest boxes and the White-throated sparrows are a relatively new seasonal addition as are the handsome Purple finches.

I haven’t seen any snakes around yet.  Speaking of snakes, one of the enjoyable aspects of writing this column is the comments or replies (or corrections) that I receive from others who study nature.  The best one recently was from a lady that found snakes interesting.  She wrote, “…We have had many snakes here over the years-Red-bellied, Brown, Green, Garter and Milk.  However, it has been a while since we have had some of them.  A Milk snake used to live in our attic, at least that is where we used to find shed skins.  Our living room ceiling had some missing plaster near the top of the wall and on one occasion a large Milk snake slowly passed over the space and caused some alarm in one of my nephews who happened to be camped out on the couch beneath.  All four of my daughters caught snakes.  My youngest had one attach itself to her nose and she was quite a sight running up the driveway with it…”.  Sounds like a very interesting household.  Probably a good thing they live in Maine and not in the tropics.