Flora and Fauna

Eagles

Hardly a day goes by when we don’t wake up to the sound of the eagles—chattering away at each other, from one end of the island to the other. We’ve learned quite a bit about them during our visits here.

There are several nesting pairs living here. Oddly we haven’t been able to locate the nests, but they’re here. We see eagles leaving in the morning and returning at night—like commuters off to work. Some days they all stay here—particularly when the wind is up and they can sail on the currents.

On windy days they play—soaring, then diving at each other. Often you will see two young ones flying together, jostling for position. Sometimes one will invert and they will lock talons—tumbling through the air together. It’s great fun to watch, and appears to be great fun for the birds.

In the late summer and early fall, the house provides front-row seating for the eagle show. The young ones must learn how to fish. We’ve read that even mature eagles only come up with a fish on average one of twenty attempts. From what we’ve seen, that seems about right. The rock just below the deck is a favorite place for eagles to sit and watch the schooling fish go by. When the time is right, they’ll jump off the rock, soar down to the surface of the water and try to grab herring. When they are successful, they’ll either take the fish back to the rock or to the top of a nearby tree, then dine on sushi.

Listening for Whales

From our perch on the deck we can frequently see whales swimming by feeding on the krill and schools of herring in the Passamaquoddy Bay. Though it’s always a thrill to see them there’s nothing like being out on the water with the prospect of a closer view. This is the story of one of those perfect days, calm seas, blue skies, warm sunshine. It all began with Ralph, Michael and I piling into the boat and heading off toward the bay to see what we could find.

There are a lot of ways to find sea creatures this time of year. One of the easiest ways is to follow the many whale boats. It’s their business, after all, to find whales for the eager tourists. So after picking Ralph and I up from the beach, Captain Mike headed down the “river” to see what the tour boats were up to.

We started spotting groups of porpoise right away and could only guess that fish must be plentiful as group after group of porpoise sliced through the waters around us. We cut the engine, sat out on the stern in the sun and started listening. Each of our local sea creatures have wonderfully distinctive sounds that make it easier to see them… the quiet rhythmic whosh of the porpoise, the noisy sneeze of the seals, and the loud swoosh of air and water the whales make as they break the surface of the water. Its the sounds, not the sight that guide the eye to just the right place, just in time, to see these incredible creatures glide through the water.

As much as we enjoy these playful creatures.. we wanted to see WHALES.. and we were not disappointed. Guided by the distinctive swosh of air and water, we saw a number of minke and finback whales. In the distance we could see great spouts of water as two fins filled their lungs and disappeared into the blue green water. We spotted a pair of minke whales swimming in tandem, heading toward Eastport for afternoon tea…

But the absolute thrill of the day, was when one of the enormous fins broke the surface not 50 feet from the stern of our boat! The finback whale is the second largest baleen whale reaching a maximum size of around 78 feet! They are fast swimmers, and are difficult to follow, so it is a wonderful surprise to have one pop out of the water right by the boat. Ralph gave a startled bark… and I couldn’t help but wonder if these beautiful creatures are careful about the little boats in their path.

Before the day was over we saw more porpoise than I could count… Several finback whales… two minke whales, and as an extra bonus, we passed a couple dozen sleepy seals, resting in the afternoon sun on the rocks just off the east end of our island. Quite an afternoon !

Living in the midst of these beautiful creatures is definitely one of the blessings of life on Casco Bay Island.