Archive for the ‘birds/wildlife’ Category


May 14, 2013

alewifeSpring is alewife season in Maine.  No, it isn’t when we go hunting for the wives of ale-drinkers or -makers, it is when the alewives, a sea-going fish in the herring family, using their sense of smell, return to the freshwater lakes and ponds where they were spawned to themselves spawn. IMG_2985 Alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus), are fairly small fish of less than a foot in length, whose number used to be so great that bears would wade into streams to eat their fill as the millions of fish made their way upstream.  They have long been smoked and preserved for winter use, or harvested for lobster bait in Maine, but the damming of Maine’s rivers and streams for energy interrupted their passage and the number of alewives has plummeted in recent years.

Maine is working to restore the populations of alewives and other sea-running fish by dam removal aerialand the construction of fish ladders and passageways.  Even in the 12 years I’ve lived next to the Kennebec River, several dams have been removed, hastening the return of salmon and even sturgeon to the river.  Community groups, municipalities and state and federal agencies are working together to restore fish passageways and fish ladders across the state to keep the alewife and other sea-run fish from extinction.  IMG_3020

Sunday we took Dan’s mom to the historic Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder to see the alewives. The ladder allows the fish to pass from Great Salt Bay into the ladder, marked with a yellow arrow in the photo, and then upstream along the yellow line into Damariscotta Lake at the second arrow.

A coalition of local community groups has been working hard to restore the ladder and educate IMG_3028the public about the alewives and the role they play in the ecosystem.  It is an amazing, inspiring sight.  Thousands of fish fill the stream, swimming as one body, packed so closely together it is difficult to see them as individuals when you first look.  The new fish ladder is engineered to add oxygen the water and has 8 resting pools where the plucky fish can catch their breath, so to speak, before continuing.  Netting over the pools prevents eagles, osprey, seagulls and other birds from excessive snacking as the fish make their way up the ladder.  The fish IMG_3033ladder is abutted by homes on one side.  In the photo above you can see some of the resting pools looking down the ladder.  At the top of the fish ladder is a concrete dam.  The alewives fight their way through a small opening in the dam into Damariscotta Lake.  After all their struggles to return to the lake, they are met with hungry ducks and cormorants (as seen in the photo) eager to dine.   The alewives form large schools, and eventually move to quiet water to spawn.  After spawning, the fish return to the sea, IMG_3041traveling downstream tail first, much like they traveled upstream.  A female alewife might lay 60,000 to 100,000 eggs, but only a tiny fraction survive to adulthood.  It is truly an amazing journey.

(above aerial photo from the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration webpage, my graphics added)

If you feed them, they will come

May 11, 2013




Spring Peepers!

April 5, 2013

Tonight we heard the peepers** for the first time this year.  Winter is coming to an end at last.

Spring peepers are small coppery brown frogs, Pseudacris crucifer, and their high-pitched peeps are actually the males calling to attract a mate. They hibernate in cold Maine winters, and in mid-spring, awaken when warm rain falls, and the ice is out on a nearby pond where they will breed. Check out the link to Wikipedia to hear a recording.

**Thanks Lou for pointing that typo out!

Protecting the babies

June 13, 2012

Monday afternoon we made some hardware cloth baffles to protect the inhabitants of two of our birdhouses, which are currently occupied with finches.  The parents have been busily flitting to and fro with food for the babies.  Monday afternoon, I noticed a cat (not one of mine) climbing the fence post the birdhouse sits on, hunting for some baby birds.  I scared the cat off right quick, then Dan and I headed to the barn to solve the problem.  Fortunately we had some hardware cloth in inventory, so it was a quick job.

They aren’t pretty, but yesterday afternoon I observed the same cat attempting to reach the birds, but giving up in defeat.  Phew!

Spring peepers awake

March 21, 2012

Last night, Dan heard the peepers for the first time this year.  Spring truly is here!  For more about peppers, or to hear their magical song,check out my post from a few years ago.

This is early for peppers, although in 2010 we heard them March 20 as well.  More typically, we here them in early April.  Either way, I am happy to hear them.

Backyard drama: Snake vs. Toad

August 27, 2011

In the midst of scurrying about preparing for Hurricane Irene this afternoon, Dan and I were startled by a large garter snake crossing the back lawn.  A few minutes later, I saw a toad hopping oddly near the maple tree and went t look.  I called for Dan, and we arrived just as a large garter snake got the toad by one of its back legs.

It was very cool to see, and a vivid reminder that nature is cruel.  That poor toad was alive for at least 90% of the ordeal, and maybe all, and it took at about 70+ minutes.  The first photo I took was at 2:35, the last at 3:38.  Photos are in the album below, don’t look if you are squeamish.  I also shot a lot of video and will try and upload some of that later.

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Early August garden report, part 2

August 13, 2011

A bird in the bush is worth….

The tomatoes  stand witness to my tomato gluttony and absolute inability to cull a seedling.  I planted them 2 per cage, but placed the cages WAY too close together, i.e. touching.  The plants now desperately need pruning to give the peppers planted at their feet some breathing room and light.  That lovely rain, however, has delayed pruning as I am seeing some signs of fungal disease and I don’t want to spread it among the wet leaves.  The problem is exacerbated by my decision to plant the pole beans across the narrow pathway from the tomatoes (see photo on right).  All I can say is it seemed like a good idea at the time!

Once things dried off enough that felt like I could prune, however, I discovered my feathered friend, busily constructing a home for the family.  I don’t want to disturb her more than necessary, so I will limit my pruning to the plants further away.  Of course, I started writing this post Tuesday, but have yet to get to it, as it has proved to be good painting weather, and we are painting fools.

Nonetheless, with some good hot weather (it has been clear, but not hot — perfect for painting, but cool nights are not great for tomatoes) I think we will be awash in tomatoes, my counter will look like Daphne’s.  I sure hope so.  If the cool rainy weather returns, well, I think we may end up battling fungal diseases.

I am beginning to see signs of hope.  The Sungold Cherry tomatoes are ripening and beginning to pick up speed. Let’s hope they are a sign of things to come.

I have begun fall plantings.  I have more onions, leeks and a patch of kale and broccoli in the former garlic bed, and Wednesday sowed a small patch of Cylindra beets for pickles, and some Napoli carrots.  I hope to get more carrots planted in the hoophouse soon, I have some Little Fingers and more Napoli seeds for that purpose.  I have another empty spot where the onions were, and think I will plant some scallions and cilantro there (in hopes of salsa).  I need to find more space for a few more beets and some fall salad veggies such as salad turnips, radicchio, radishes, escarole, spinach, etc.

Dan has done a lot of weeding, and I cut back some of the self-sowing calendula flowers that were taking over.

Another harvest I haven’t blogged much about is our hops.  Last fall, we harvested the hops in early September, dried them thoroughly on screens in the barn attic, then popped them in the freezer for future use in some home brewed beer.

Well, finally, that day came this week when Dan brewed up a batch of Blackberry Wheat Beer, flavored with blackberries from the garden and our very own hops.  This year’s crop of hops is doing well on the hop swing, and I hope we will be using that harvest, too.  I need to do some research on the value of hops and then taste that beer now bubbling away in the fermenter.

There’s always something in the works here at Henbogle.  Let’s hop the latest project is delicious. I will report out in mid-late September.

Hummingbird in the Bee Balm

July 26, 2011

I have a big patch of Bee Balm (Raspberry Wine) alongside my deck for exactly this reason:





April 10, 2011

The peepers were out tonight, April 10, 2011. for the first time.

Snow day

January 12, 2011

A birds' gotta eat

We are getting our second big storm of the season.  Initial forecasts called for 8″-10″, but the most recent forecast has upped the prediction to 9″-13″ during the day, with an additional 1″-3″ into the evening.  Yee haw!

I let the girls out this morning as the snow began. They did not look impressed, but gladly scurried about after a handful of scratch while I freshened up the coop with some straw.

While I was with the hens, Dan fired up the woodstove and made the coffee.  He then joined me to refill the birdfeeders, and we settled down to a homey snow day.

We started with a leisurely breakfast watching the flurry of bird activity at the feeders, then we went to work in front of the woodstove. I tele-commuted and Dan worked on schoolwork.

Later this afternoon we will do some shoveling and I will finish my seed sorting and do some prep work for the seed swap I’m helping to plan.  I love a good snowday.