Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's New At The Farm? 3/10/10

The tenth of March and the signs of spring abounds. Geese are coming back. Grass is coming to life in sheltered south facing areas, and the thoughts of fresh greens are becoming more of a reality daily. The turkeys are getting ready for breeding season; I saw a flock this morning with the males all strutting their stuff. My tom turkey at home is gobbling; he needs much practice. The ducks are getting quite talkative and are laying eggs now. Killdeer should be arriving soon along with ospreys and other migratory birds.

Speaking of ospreys, several years ago I was in Dresden watching the alewives migrate up a local stream in order to reach Damariscotta Lake to spawn. There were three types of birds sharing the feast:

  • Cormorants which work together and seem to never miss a fish; they fly downstream and swim upstream chasing a school until they are at the base of the falls. The fish are trapped so the birds concentrate on gorging themselves. Once the birds have eaten all the easy to catch fish, they repeat the process again and again. I can see how easily they could decimate a fish population.

  • Ospreys get most of the fish they target. There were six or eight that day, some perched in trees overhead and others circling. They would spot their intended target, circle, then go in to a dive folding up their wings and hitting the water with their legs extended and their talons ready to catch the prey. They got perhaps 75% of the fish they dove for. By far the most interesting to watch.

  • Seagulls which were poor fisherbirds at best. They preferred to steal their meals from the ospreys through a constant barrage of harassments. Even after they convinced an osprey to give up their catch they weren't very good at handling a thrashing alewife. The waters just below the falls are filled with alewives and yet the seagulls couldn't seem to figure out how to grab one. Perhaps it was just easier to steal them.

Watching the alewives run is something worth driving down to the coast to see. Usually the locals will know where they're running and sunny, warm days in mid May are best. Allow a couple of hours if there's lots of activity especially if you're watching birds. Peg and I went the following year but they weren't running that day. It was cool and cloudy and, when I asked a local where the alewives were, she replied "in the ocean". Funny. It was a nice ride anyways and we stopped at one of the many greenhouse/landscaping businesses on Route 1. We didn't see any alewives but did bring home a really nice Magnolia tree.

I was in my garden last weekend; it's drying up pretty well. I should be able to get on it shortly if the weather holds. I've got some cleanup left to do before I get it ready for this year. The carrots from last fall are still there and they look fine; I think I'll pull some up for supper. The beets and chard I left fed the deer this winter: works for me.

Until next week, enjoy the spring. Brian

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