Category Archives: Nature

Westport Island Solar Eclipse

A brief shadow on a beautiful day

About 1:30 p.m., the light inside the house dimmed for about 20 minutes as with the shadows of passing clouds. An “instamatic” digital camera and a handheld welding mask gave a peek at the progression of the celestial crossing — more impressive with the eye than with the lens.

Not since June 8, 1918, has there been a coast-to-coast solar eclipse. And, this one just nipped the northeast with the moon blocking less than 60% of the sun’s face. Although impressive as a partial eclipse, Maine has a date with a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 — leaving plenty of time to save up for the proper eyewear and camera equipment…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What a Difference a Day (or five) Makes…

Welcome spring!

Today, spring bliss. Welcome to the greening of Maine, the promise of summer and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens tulip bloom! There were 80 degree temperatures in some parts of Maine today after a record 4.5 inches of snow in Caribou and 5 inches of snow in New Sweden and Caswell, Maine just five days ago.

Westport Island did not escape last week’s unexpected spring snow as our resident osprey will attest from atop their new island home. Thankfully, snowy memories of last week’s slipping and sliding along island roadways are now a faint memory. But we were left with some interesting visions of winter unwilling to yield to the onward march of spring…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Exclusive Westport Island Property Delisted

The osprey have taken an option…

You may have seen the property listing at the Westport Island Town Office. The iconic osprey “property” was listed for sale after Central Maine Power (CMP) “condemned” and demolished the original nest. In its place, CMP constructed a replacement nest platform — without a “ready-made” nest.
osprey nest platform real estate listing
The property listing was a light take on island-wide concern that Ma and Pa Osprey would return to find a turkey decoy perched on the power lines in place of their home; and a hi-rise fiberglass platform for building a new nest a little too lacking in the comforts of home. The three plus “starter sticks” left on the platform fell considerably short of a nest. So, the waiting and watching began. The First Selectman, the Fire Chief, the Chair of the Planning Board, bird lovers from the island’s north end to the south end…

The usual return date a week or so before tax day came and went. Then, the first sightings of Ma and Pa Osprey came in on Friday. Over the course of the afternoon, they landed, circled, landed, circled, flew away and flew back. They flew south on the island on Friday evening, and were absent from the nest on Saturday. On Sunday, they returned; the decision made; the work underway. Now, a new wait begins…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Exclusive property listing” for the nest site courtesy of Fire Chief Bob Mooney

Westport’s “Welcome Osprey” Will Not be Homeless

The osprey nest will return next week if the weather is favorable

For those of you who enjoy watching Ma and Pa Osprey keep house on the Island from spring through summer — they will have a home to return to this spring.

As many of you noticed beginning on Tuesday, the osprey nest at the head of the Island was gone. One of the first alerts came as a text:
“Crisis on Westport…the osprey nest is gone…” Then, there were phone calls and emails — “the nest is gone, will it be back?” “Where has our osprey nest gone?” Two residents offered to sign a petition to Central Maine Power (CMP) Company to bring the nest back. Westport’s osprey are iconic — witness Erin Bailey’s square for the 2011 Town Quilt: “Mr. & Mrs. Osprey” (pictured above).

Based on past discussions with a CMP lineman from the Wiscasset field station, workers are trained on state and federal laws protecting the osprey and work with the the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife to protect the birds and their nests where possible. According to a state biologist, nests can be moved as long as there are no eggs or baby chicks in them.

Janet Dyer, from CMP’s Environmental Department, said they are planning on putting up a new platform next week, weather permitting. The nest was replaced because it was in bad shape and rotting — which presents a risk to both the birds and the power lines. The platform will be going on the new pole that was put up last fall, so the nest will no longer be on the transmission pole where falling sticks and debris from the nest pose a potential risk of fire and power outages. Dyer said CMP realizes it has a limited timeline to work within, because the birds are usually here by the first of April; and the mild weather may mean an earlier arrival. So, stay tuned for nest construction activity and a, hopefully, happy housewarming.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spring Springs on Westport Island

Say goodbye to snow…and hello to awakenings…

The osprey are back, turkeys are strutting — and the woodlands and wetlands are stirring. The scents of spring beckon. More than one Westport cat has pursued curiosity too far from home and found itself at the Lincoln County Animal Shelter in the last three weeks — five to be exact — at least two (a spayed female and a neutered mail) remain there awaiting calls from their families.

Birds are building nests and starting families — none more notable in my neighborhood than “Peepers.” Peepers, so named by the Abbott family, is a ruffed grouse — or partridge — that has claimed McCarty Cove Road as home territory. Neighbors of McCarty Cove have likely had their cars chased, examined or accosted by Peepers. Jason Abbott feeds Peepers apples and can walk up to her and pick her up for a visit. It’s the mating season, and she may be protecting territory, defending a nest or looking for love. Whatever… she is the talk of the neighborhood.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Blizzard 2015 on Westport Island

Better snow and wind than no power…

crow on branches in blizzardIt wasn’t a good day to be a bird or an “essential” employee, but all in all, life could have been much worse.

In my mind, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood — fluffy white snow that didn’t weigh down trees and wires; wind that blew snow in foggy waves — but didn’t blow trees onto power lines.

The schools were closed, the state was closed, the county was closed, Bath Iron Works was closed, the post office was closed, pretty much everything, including the Westport Island Town Office, was closed. The closures brought fond memories of what it was like to be a kid with a snow day. All that, and a bag of chips — we had heat and lights.

tractor coming up a hill blowing snowPer Lincoln County Emergency Management: as of noon today, the storm pivoted unpredictably east, so many were spared the worst — although given that we are east, we will probably end up with about 24-30 inches of fresh snow.

Further into the Atlantic, winds and waves have been higher. Matinicus Isle reported gusts up to 67 mph as of noon. Monhegan had sustained gusts of 40-45 mph, its weather meter flew the coop during nighttime gusts, and it was down to one operable plow — but they were still seeing a glass half full.

Westport Island did not have downed trees, power has maintained, and it’s likely to be pretty in the morning…

A Monochromatic Westport Day

First snow..(after the thaw, that is)

Falling snow makes the Island quiet: a peaceful place to walk the dog and muse.

FIRST SNOW

You’ve come to frost the rubble-shaven hill…
to fill the frozen valley’s cup until,
with joy, a flood of runnings over will
noise of spring…then flowers will erase
even the memory of your pale, white face.

–Jerry Day Mason, Speaking to Strangers (1986)

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Westport Island Sky

How cool…

Image of Aurora Borealis from Kehail Point, Westport Island, December 8, 2013

Photograph by Michael Lewinski

On December 17, Mike Lewinski and Heather Voke came into the Westport Island Town Office to get married. They cemented their commitment to each other on our island — though regrettably for us, they will soon be moving to Milo.

We wish them well.

The Lewinskis left Islanders a gift from their time here. On December 8, when the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights, put on a show — Mike filmed it from Kehail Point.

This is his “production story:”

I was almost ready to go to bed for the night around 11pm when I saw a post on Facebook from a photographer in New Hampshire that the aurora was putting on a display. Knowing that anything visible south of us would be visible here too, I ran outside quickly! I was already making a time lapse video of the moon setting to the west, which meant my camera and lens was pre-cooled to the air temperature and ready to capture the show. I grabbed it from the deck and took it to the edge of the water, thankful for low tide because my northern view is really hindered by trees otherwise.

I grabbed another camera and started walking up East Shore Drive, still in my pajamas because I’m a little crazy that way. I was hoping to capture Comet Lovejoy rising with the aurora next to it, but was just too early for it. I came back and stayed up until 2am post-processing the photos taken by the shore.

The camera is far more sensitive than the human eye. The northern lights looked just faintly reddish to my eye, and were not nearly as spectacular as the colors my camera saw…

Thank you! This is awesome.

A Micro Westport Bird Count

On what was not a good day to be a bird…

Once again, this was the weekend for Cornell’s Great Backyard Bird Count. What a difference a year makes…

Last year, the Sunday of the count was a February-dream-come-true: blue sky, sunshine, an early robin and lots of other birds soaking up the day. This year, swirling snow and icy temperatures equaled: bird scarcity. The birds proved to be a more intelligent life form than me – they stayed out of the blowing cold — and I, too, retreated after a couple of hours.

The sightings:
A lone eider duck bobbing on the Sheepscot River at the mouth of McCarty Cove;
Three crows fleeing the feeders when psycho-puppy bounded across the backyard snow;
A dark-eyed junco at the thistle feeder;
A mourning dove taking refuge on and under the deck; and
A blue jay working the feeders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Westport Island Moment of zen…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.