Weekly Notes – September 8, 2013

Natualized ApplesThe picture shown above is of the fruit of two apple trees that have naturalized along the edge of an abandoned field.  This year the trees have produced fruit that is especially large and abundant.  This field edge was previously the fence-line for grazing milking cows about 45 years ago.

I have observed this edge closely for about 10 years which has afforded me unbelievable wildlife viewing.  No matter what the season, there is most often something to see.  If you know of an area with an edge, here is why you might want to take the time to discover how rich your opportunities for observing wildlife will be.

Cedar Waxwing in apple treeThis past week I could hear the Cedar Waxwing’s (Bombycilla cedrorum) buzzing voice, zeeee overhead, and I knew there were birds landing in the apple trees.  It took me a while to find them hidden among the leaves.  The fruit attract many insects in late summer and the birds found a ready meal.

The picture below shows 2 adult does and 3 fawns that had been grazing in the field and are now eating the drops under the apple trees.  The edge affords them protected cover where they can quickly ‘disappear’ from sight into the underbrush and can’t be seen.  Often times I hear the deer crunching the apples before I see them.                                         Deer under apple tree Look at the picture above once more and notice the overall landscape as we continue to discover creatures that live along this edge habitat.

In the lower left corner of the picture is Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina).  This plant is a classic border species in abandoned fields.  It is one of my favorites because the seeds of it’s dried flowers attract birds throughout the cold months and in fall, the compound leaves, each 16-24 inches long turn beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow.

It is however a fast growing plant and once it has taken up residence it is hard to control, growing several feet per year until it matures between 10-20 feet tall and sending up numerous new shoots when not kept mowed.   This plant is in the same family as poison ivy and poison sumac but it is not poisonous although some people do report having a reaction when handling it.

 Staghorn SumacThe field in the picture is actually a natural lawn that has been left unmowed during late summer to allow the forbs to blossom and reseed themselves.

WoodchuckThis woodchuck (Marmota monax), is fattening up on the english plantain and red and white clover.  Not always a welcomed creature near gardens, the woodchuck plays an important role in the ecosystem as a secondary consumer eating herbacious forbs then itself as prey for carnivorous meat-eaters.  Hawks will often capture young woodchuck however this adult need only worry about foxes and coyotes.

Also found in the field edges is the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), that like mice and woodchucks is a rodent.  The pictures below show the distinctive teeth, 4 front toes and a tail that is twice as long as the hind feet.  This tiny creature is a prolific breeder and an important secondary consumer as prey for birds and mammals.

 If you missed Tuesday’s post on Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars click here…..

I found an interesting website that provides links to nature sound recordings.  We don’t give much thought to the idea that many people do not have the opportunity to observe nature in it’s wild state.  Observation is much more than just seeing with our eyes.  In the notes above, I mention hearing the cedar waxwing and the deer crunching the apples.  If you have the opportunity to be out in nature, challenge yourself to use your ears to expand your observation skills.  Click here to learn more about The Acoustic Ecology Institute….

I was at Frost Pond T3 R11 on Friday morning when temperatures dipped enough to explain the possible meaning behind this place name.  Although the rising warmth off the pond kept the grass and gardens clear, there was a light frost covering the roofs of the buildings.  Click here for the National Weather Service in Caribou low temp report

Enjoy your week, September is beautiful month to be out observing Maine Nature!