Category Archives: Nature

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Westport Island Moment of zen…

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Microburst on Westport Island?

Wind: the island nemesis

There were no emergency management alerts last Friday: no more than an expectation of passing thunderstorms. And — other than a night without electrical power — for most on the Island, Mother Nature served only a brief pounding of much-needed rain, a cooling wind, and a few claps of thunder.

For a half mile along the western shore of Westport — roughly from the Ferry Landing to 289 Main Road — August 3 brought a tad more “weather.” Donna Curry says it’s the worst damage she’s experienced from any storm in her 17 years on the Island. She had horizontal sheets of rain pushing into her attic vent, and she’ll be cleaning uprooted and snapped trees and debris from her yard for weeks to come.

According to the Weather Channel Storm Encyclopedia, a severe thunderstorm produces one of the following: hail of 3/4 inch or more in diameter; tornadoes; or wind of 58 miles an hour or more. The National Weather Service estimates that trees are uprooted or snapped with 58- to 72-mile per hour winds — so it’s fair to say that the winds that struck the Curry property and nearby were in excess of 58 mph. And, a “microburst”, which is a downburst confined to an area less than 2.5 miles in diameter, is among the most devastating expressions of a severe thunderstorm. A downburst is defined as “a sudden vertical drop of air that produces strong wind shear.” Looks like a half mile of wind-related destruction meets the definition of microburst…

The only other Lincoln County storm reports to Portland’s National Weather Service station on August 3 were in Boothbay. The winds were reported to be from the southwest.

Sometime around 7:30 or 8 p.m., Westport Island’s thunderstorm microburst “warmed up” at the Ferry Landing where it snapped a broad pine next to the Wright house and lifted a stand of pine from its rock base on the point. The wind sped onto the Curry property with increased strength where more than a dozen 20- to 70- foot hardwoods and pines were leveled. The top “feathers” of branches brushed the side of Donna’s house and broke off on her deck and roof. Part of the stairs to her dock were crushed, and she ended up with a stray orange kayak on her shore that she would like to return to its rightful owner.

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Gardening on Westport Island: An Interspecies Game

Score: Wildlife 10, This Human 0

Last night, I suffered the latest in a spate of critter attacks on my gardens. Yet another plant has been removed from my list of “surefire” deer-resistant plants: coral bells. “Nevermore” plants for my garden include: hostas, tulips, day lilies, phlox, sweet williams (dianthus), asiatic lilies, coreopsis, winterberry, mountain laurel, holly, ivy, coral bells…and hydrangeas.

I tell Justin Reynolds, Horticulturist, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens: My yard is like a scene from Dr. Dolittle. Chipmunks munching on bulb plants; turkeys on whatever; and deer on pretty much everything.

The only plants that Island animals don’t seem to eat are: catmint, lavendar, peonies, daffodils, heather, moonbeam coreopsis, bearberry, and iris. Do you have other suggestions for plants that deer will pass by — or suggestions for detering bulb-munching chipmunks?

Justin’s advice: To deter chipmunks: plant daffodils, scilla, and crocus tomasianus. Take a look at lists online for both chipmunk and deer resistant plants, starting with: Dave’s Garden. If you want to plant bulbs that are appealing to animals, consider planting a large area and covering it with chicken wire.

Hmmm… In a last ditch effort to save what’s left of this year’s hydrangea blossoms, I’m turning to:

Amanda’s Mom’s Deer-Be-Gone Spray

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T Tabasco
  • 2 T VERY HOT ground pepper
  • Put all in blender and puree. Decant into bottles or jars. Let sit for 2 days. Pour, sprinkle or spray on and around anything you don’t want the deer to eat.

We’ll see…

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Snow Day!

In like a lion! …A snow day at last.

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The Great Backyard Bird Count

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood – President’s Day, February 20, and a Monday.  The sun was shining – just a tad of snow here and there.  What to do?  Watch the NHRA drag races on Speed Vision with hubby Roger or head outside to participate in the final afternoon of the Great Backyard Bird Count? Click GBBC for info.

Chloe, the trusty beagle, and I headed outside to contribute to the Westport Island body of knowledge.

Our first sighting was – a robin (?).  Wasn’t the “Robin Redbreast” supposed to be the first sign of spring? Hmmmm…

Not regulation “birders,” we need to work on the stealth approach.  All the birds at the feeder fled when Chloe took to mole, vole, and squirrel patrol.  We spooked four Canadian Geese on the descent to the property’s back cove.   While trying to be quiet, we saw two Bald Eagles circle the old chandlery and head along the Sheepscot River.

Back towards the yard, we heard loud cawing and saw three crows retreat after finishing the “bait” bread below the feeder.  Inside, peeking from a second story window, we saw the birds return to backyard feeding: finches, chickadees, mourning doves, and a lone woodpecker. 

Back to the cove, no sign of the Canadian Geese or the Bald Eagles; but gulls were scavenging the flats, and cormorants were perched on the distant rocks.  What a great place to be…

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