Thursday, June 27, 2013

It happened under a full moon

This past weekend Summer made her presence known, and under the “Super” Full Moon, called by some the Strawberry Moon, there was a lot happening.
The Super Full Moon.

Many nesting mammals have been quietly rearing their first broods of young. Rabbits, chipmunks, woodchucks, and foxes all have young in dens and burrows. In an old favorite children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, the Mother animals tell their young to “Wait, Wait, Wait till the moon is full” and then they can emerge to experience life beyond their nesting places. On the full moon nights all creatures great and small seem to be out and about; possums, raccoons, and skunks with families forage in backyards, hedgerows, and sadly along roadsides. It’s fun to spy their glowing eyes, but way too dangerous for the little ones. Adult mother mammals are often seen out at times you may think are unusual, like mid day, and many fear it means they are sick or rabid. It often just means they are taking a break from the kids! Be patient, observe from a distance, but do not fear unless the animal is looking very sick, or behaving erratically.
Woodchucks out for a stroll.

Many of our favorite birds are tending young and may already have fledged their first broods. Bluebirds and Tree Swallows have popped from their nest boxes, while other species are still tending eggs. Our Purple Martins at the Knox Preserve have completed four nests with five eggs each. Crows can be extremely vocal when moving around following their young who are testing their wings. Most birds do not fly at night unless they are migrating. If you were out wandering on the Full Moon night, you may have startled a roosting bird or come upon a fledgling on the ground and created a commotion. The adult birds will bring food to their young on the ground and will often create a noisy diversion to lure a predator, or curious human, away from a hiding baby.
Bluebird on nest box.

A group of dedicated Horseshoe Crab taggers, intoxicated by the lure of the full moon and high tides, just like the crabs, paddled out to Avalonia’s Sandy Point to survey the island on several of the nights around the full moon. These nights are prime time for the crabs to come up on the shore for egg-laying in shallow sandy nests. Click here for more about Horseshoe Crabs.  We tagged hundreds but had to leave many hundreds more untagged simply because we ran out of tags. Part of the adventure is recapturing those with tags that were attached in previous years, as far back as 2009, returning to the same beach for their full moon ritual.

On Monday night the moon was just past full. It rose huge and nearly blood red on the eastern horizon over Watch Hill. There was enough light from the moon to illuminate the hundreds of gulls nesting on the island, all complaining as we disturbed their night. Canada Geese with young of all sizes, grumbled as they made their way off shore to wait until we passed. Oystercatchers and Willets peeped and called in the moon light. Once in a while, a small pale sandpiper would fly up in front of our head lamps and look ghostly in the beams. We nearly stumbled upon a resting sub-adult loon, sitting quietly, close to the water’s edge, surely confused by our lights and appearance out there.
In the shallow water the horseshoe crabs came and created a frothy mass of bubbles as they laid their eggs close to shore. Seemingly attracted to their activity were schools of Spot-fin Killifish, most likely also spawning in the warm shallow waters. They were so intent on their activity, we could scoop them up in our hands! We watched Green and Blue Crabs foraging in the moonlight, Snails and Hermit Crabs making their way on the sand flats.
A swimming lesson for young Canada Geese.

We paddled home on the calm sparkling waters under the light of that still full moon.
There will be other lovely summer nights, other full moons in July and August, but nothing can compare to that first full moon occurring near the Solstice and the first warm nights of summer.

Written by Beth Sullivan.

Photography by Beth Sullivan (Full Moon), Maureen Dewire (Woodchucks), and Rick Newton (birds).
Find out more about the Super Full Moon here. The next Super Full Moon will be August 10, 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment