Fox responsible for seagull population decline

A red fox rests up after breakfastA Herring seagull is standing on the porch rail. We have named him for Oliver Twist, who famously went to the headmaster, bowl in hand, and said,

“Please, sir. I want some more.”

Oliver is waiting for piece of bread, which he will take, more or less gently, from the hand of the offerer – namely the other male of our camping sojourn.

It’s not something I recommend be tried by children or the faint of heart. Seagulls have strong beaks, capable of breaking open clams and other crustaceans.

But my companion is carefully foolhardy, and Oliver is considerate, taking a crust of bread and leaving the fingers. I am reminded of times I have lain on the grass, birdseed in hand, and had red squirrels come and eat. I have not tried similarly training the grays that live now in my back yard.

Another gull was not so lucky this week. I wandered to the top of the property one morning and found a loosely scattered spread of feathers, some in clumps that did not bode well for their previous wearer. It was clear from the number and types of feathers, the winged rascal had not escaped. There was no blood; I presumed the bird, after being made flightless, had been portaged to a more discrete dining area.

Suzie looked out the back window this morning and saw a fox lying under a pine about 30 feet from our kitchen. I went out the back door and quietly made my way around the house, hoping to not spook Bre’r Fox. It obligingly posed for several minutes, then decided enough was enough and vanished.

Foxes eat mice, rabbits and – circumstantial evidence would indicate – the occasional inattentive seagull. Foxes, in turn, are eaten by bob cats and coyotes, both of which reside in the nearby region.

Other species worthy of note on the coast of Maine is the horde of dragonflies, which may help explain the paucity of mosquitos. And topping the list of wildlife are lots of Monarch butterflies – though “lots” is a relative term. Seeing four or more at a time is impressive to someone used to seeing one or two, which has been the case this year near Marsh Creek.

At a time when there is general outcry about the worldwide Monarch population loss, I have to think “plentiful” must have been something that existed when I was young and not paying attention to the specifics of the butterfly populace. But the younger me was known to wander through fields of milkweed, gaining the most enjoyment from busting open the pods and scattering clouds of seeds wafting on soft feathery parachutes.

I did not know then milkweed is the favored food and hatching place of Monarch butterflies.

The past few days have been decorated by bright maple reds and birch yellows. The pigments overpowered by green chlorophyll since April or early May now splash across the hillsides like cans of paint knocked over by a wandering cat.

The watery sap that feeds the leaves in spring and summer freezes easily in winter. Tissues unable to overwinter must be sealed off and shed to ensure the plant’s continued survival.

Fallen leaves, left to their own, decompose into the hummus that feeds the soil. Raking leaves and disposing of them in landfills is wonderful for sellers of artificial fertilizers; out in the forest, trees and shrubs make their own fertilizer from decomposing hummus of the previous seasons leaves.

We will leave New England shortly and follow the color line home.

Now, I feel a need to say Good Morning to Oliver.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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