I mentioned last time that the warblers have reached the Acadia National Park area. Yesterday morning a black-throated blue warbler showed up amid the large flock of goldfinches that has been hanging out here at our house for the past week. Then, on a drizzly late-afternoon walk, we saw two other types—a ridiculously adorable black-throated green (which landed on a branch almost close enough for us to touch) and, we are 98 percent sure after observing it for several minutes and then checking every birding book and website we can find, a rare (for Maine) cerulean warbler. I would have photographic proof of the latter for you except that, distracted by work and a thousand other things, I had neglected to grab our camera when rushing out the door.
Cerulean warblers, more typically found in the Appalachians between Tennessee and Pennsylvania, are one of the species of greatest concern in the Eastern U.S. They're losing habitat both in their wintering grounds in northern South America (where more than 60 percent of their forest habitat has been cleared away, much of it for sun-grown coffee plantations) and here in the States (where more than half of their forest breeding grounds are gone, including some that have been gouged out by mountaintop-removal for mining). They are don't typically migrate any closer to Maine than northern Massachusetts after wintering in the Andes mountains. But they are occasionally seen here. It's astounding to think of these tiny birds, who weigh less than a third of an ounce, flying 2,000 miles or more—and crossing the Gulf of Mexico in a single, nonstop, energy-sucking, life-or-death effort.
Seeing a cerulean warbler (if we didn't misidentify it) has special meaning to Pamelia and me and The Naturalist's Notebook. Ever since we opened in 2009, we have sold bags of what's known as bird-friendly coffee. It is organic, fair-trade and—most important—certified as shade-grown by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. The cerulean warbler is but one of a number of North American songbirds that are declining because their winter habitat has been destroyed to create sun-grown coffee plantations.
If you don't choose to buy bird-friendly coffee from us, at least look for the bird-friendly logo from the Smithsonian center when you're shopping. And, no matter what, try to buy shade-grown coffee of some sort. It will make a difference.
Jack and the Beanstalk Dahlias
Sign Up (Well, Not Quite)
Answers to the Last Puzzlers:
1) You have a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass. You need to time something that lasts exactly nine minutes. How can you use your hourglasses to do that? Answer: Start both hourglasses. When the four-minute glass runs out, turn it over. When the seven-minute glass runs out, turn it over. When the four-minute glass runs out again (now eight minutes have elapsed), turn the SEVEN-minute glass over. The seven-minute glass has been going for only one minute at this point, so when you turn it over that one minute of sand runs out, bringing you to exactly nine minutes.
2) Unscrambled words:
a) warbler (bralewr)
b) nectar (erncat)
c) clouds (sloduc)
d) root (toro)
Match the state to its state bird:
2) West Virginia
3) New Hampshire
a) purple finch
c) ruffed grouse
Rachel Carson, the Pennsylvania-born, Maine-loving marine biologist and writer who helped inspire the environmental movement, would have turned 104 years old this Friday. Carson is best known for Silent Spring, the 1962 book that exposed the toxic effects of pesticides such as DDT, and for her courage in standing up to smear attacks by chemical companies and big-business interests, but her first love was the sea and the creatures living near shore in the intertidal zone. I highly recommend that you read her definitive biography, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, by Linda Lear. And, if you get a chance, visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, a stretch of wildlife-sustaining estuaries and salt marshes in Wells, Maine.
William Gilbert, the English physicist who first proposed that the Earth was magnetic and had an iron core, would have turned 467 years old today. He also suggested that magnetism and electricity are connected and is credited by some with coining the word electricity, or at least a root of that word. Gilbert called it "electricus," from the Greek word elektron, meaning "like amber"—the fossilized pine resin that when rubbed with a cloth produces an electrical charge.