CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Eastern Red-Backed Salamander - "Plethodon cinereus"

     This Little guy, and a number of his friends invaded our garage today.  They were in a couple of wet spots left by our car while parked there. I think they may have possibly come in from our back yard through the floor drain which exits in a field there.  I believe this because we also found some dead ones in our basement which is very dry. They cannot survive in a dry space such as that. 

      The red-backed salamander's range extends west to Missouri; south to North Carolina; and north from southern Quebec and the Maritime Provinces in Canada to Minnesota.  They are the most common amphibian and probably vertebrate in Maine.
     They are terrestrial, and live in deciduous forests throughout their geographic range. They are found in the leaf litter on the ground as well as under rocks, logs, or in small burrows. They must live in a moist environment, as they lack lungs and require moist skin for respiration. One habitat factor affecting red-backed salamanders is soil pH. P. cinereus, like many other amphibians, is negatively effected by high levels of acidity. Red-backed salamanders have been shown to exhibit the same primary response to acidic substrate as do amphibian larvae exposed to acidic water, disruption of their sodium balance. The chronically lethal pH level for P. cinereus is between 3 and 4, and they are rarely found on soils with a pH of 3.7 or lower.
     The red-backed salamander grows to a length of 2.25 to 5 inches.   They have two different color phases. The "redback" phase consists of a gray or black body with a red or orange stripe down the back, extending from the neck onto the tail. The "leadback" phase lacks the red stripe, with a purely black or grey back instead. Its belly is a mottled white and gray in both phases, creating a salt and pepper pattern. Physically, P. Cinereus has 16 to 19 costal grooves, no circular constriction at the base of its tail, and it has five toes on its hind feet. These physical characteristics help to distinguish the red-backed salamander from other salamanders similar in appearance. No distinctions between males and females are noted.
     Red-backed salamanders lay eggs that develop directly into small salamanders. They do not have an aquatic larva stage, such as is found in other salamanders and most amphibians.
     Red-backed salamanders become sexually mature (able to mate) in approximately two years. Males mate every year and females mate once every other year.  Mating for red-backed salamanders occurs in the fall. Courtship consists of "the male secreting a substance from a gland on his chin that is rubbed on the female's head and nostrils to stimulate her to breed. Eventually he deposits a spermatophore that the female picks up with her cloaca to fertilize the eggs". The female lays three to fourteen eggs the following spring. The eggs are laid in a cluster in subterranean cavities, usually naturally occurring cracks and crevices. Eggs can also be laid in or under rotting wood. The mother remains coiled around the egg cluster until they hatch. They are entirely terrestrial and do not have an aquatic larval stage. Young mature in approximately two years, after which males mate every year and females mate every other year.

     The eggs are guarded by the mother until they hatch. Upon emerging from the egg, young salamanders are independent. Salamanders recognize their relatives through smell and although they are solitary, mothers will allow their young to stay in her foraging area.
     While there is little information on lifespan in red-backed salamanders, other plethodontid salamanders can live for up to 32 years.  Red-backed salamanders have lived for 25 years in captivity.
     Red-backed salamanders protect their limited food supply by marking out territories. This behavior occurs most often when moisture levels are low and the salamanders have to retreat under logs or rocks. Both males and females leave scent marks on substrate as well as on fecal pellets. These chemical cues provide a great deal of information to other salamanders, including boundaries of the territorial area, size and status of the resident, and identity of the resident. In addition to the chemical information, visual cues of size and threatening displays determine what the behavior reactions of the intruder and the resident will be.
     Red-backed salamanders have also shown examples of kin selection behavior. When foraging is very stressful due to dry conditions, adults holding territories will sometimes allow juveniles access to their territories. Kin can be recognized through olfactory communication, and this juvenile access is generally relegated to kin.
     Red-backed Salamanders protect their limited food supply by marking out territories. This behavior occurs most often when moisture levels are low and the salamanders have to hide under logs or rocks. Both males and females leave scent marks on the ground as well as leaving their droppings. Other salamanders can learn a lot from these clues. They learn each others territorial boundaries, the size and importance of the salamanders that live in the area, and their identity, including whether or not they are related. When finding food is very hard due to dry conditions, adults who have their own territories will sometimes allow young salamanders that are related to them to use their territories. Intruders are also warned away by seeing the size of the salamander and watching it give threatening displays.
     Red-backed salamanders feed on a large variety of invertebrates. These include mites, spiders, insects, centipedes, millipedes, beetles, snails, ants, earthworms, flies, and larvae. They forage by thrusting out their tongue in a quick, forward motion and capturing the prey. The physical environment determines food supply and foraging habits. During and shortly after rains is the optimal foraging time.  At these times the leaf litter on the forest floor as well as the forest vegetation is very moist. The salamanders wander throughout the leaf litter during the day and climb plants and trees at night to find prey, feeding on both ground-dwelling and arboreal invertebrates. As moisture decreases they are limited to the leaf litter, and as that subsequently dries up they eventually are restricted to areas under rocks or logs or in burrows that will continue to retain moisture. The decrease in moisture does not affect the availability of prey, but it limits the mobility of the salamanders due to their moisture requirements. Food levels are scarcer under logs or rocks and in burrows and the supply is easily exhaustible. Consequently, red-backed salamanders are pulse feeders that eat large amounts when conditions are favorable and store the extra nourishment as fat to live off of when conditions become poor.
     Red-backed salamanders make up an important food source for a wide variety of snakes, birds, and mammals. They have the ability to drop all or part of their tail if under attack from a predator and can grow a new one afterwards. The tail that grows back is often lighter in color than the original tail.
     Red-backed salamanders play an important biological role in both providing food for their predators as well as consuming large numbers of invertebrates.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens # 5

The Giles Rhododendron & Perennial Garden

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens # 2

     For the past three or four years my wife and I have taken an annual ride to Boothbay and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  Each time we visit, depending on the season, we have a totally different experience.  The people there have done a fantastic job creating ever changing gardens that will please even the fussiest visitor.  The beauty there during virtually any season is completely overwhelming.  That is why I have chosen to taken the time to dedicate a series of posts demonstrating just that point.  Please keep in mind that I am sharing just a very small sample of what one might see while visiting this very special destination.  Please enjoy my second post!

Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

     In June of 2009 the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses opened. This exquisite garden of about an acre adjacent to the Visitor Center allows all visitors to get in touch with their five major senses. It includes many features that make its delights accessible to the disabled.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens #1

     For the past three or four years my wife and I have taken an annual ride to Boothbay and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  Each time we visit, depending on the season, we have a totally different experience.  The people there have done a fantastic job creating ever changing gardens that will please even the fussiest visitor.  The beauty there during virtually any season is completely overwhelming.  That is why I have chosen to taken the time to dedicate a series of posts demonstrating just that point.  Please keep in mind that I am sharing just a very small sample of what one might see while visiting this very special destination.  Please enjoy!

    After 16 years of planning, planting and building, we celebrated the Grand Opening of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on June 13, 2007.  Since then, the Gardens has become one of Maine’s top attractions and one of the most distinguished botanical destinations in the country. Its exquisite gardens, dramatic and compelling natural landscape, stunning Visitor Center, and waterfront make it unique, charming and totally captivating! The Gardens presents limitless potential to inspire learning about natural history, habitats, botany, horticulture and ecological connections.
     This magnificent and ambitious project began when a group of mid-coast Maine residents who shared the belief that northern New England in general, and Maine in particular, were in need of a botanical garden, founded the grassroots organization in 1991.
     In 1996, after a thorough search for an appropriate site, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens purchased 128 acres of pristine land with 3,600 feet of tidal shore frontage in Boothbay. This was possible due to the unhesitating willingness of some Directors to use their own homes as collateral. With steadfast commitment to the organization’s vision, these members and hundreds of volunteers established a foundation of insightful planning, which helped to make Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens a jewel of rare quality among North American gardens.
Visitors Center
    The enormous scope of the plan included designs from Maine landscape architects, as well as firms of international renown. Bruce John Riddell, ASLA, an exceptional landscape architect from Bar Harbor, Maine, was part of the design team for the Rhododendron Garden, and also designed the waterfront Vayo Meditation Garden, which features a carved stone basin and granite from throughout the state. He created initial planting plans for the Central Gardens and designed the Haney Hillside Garden with its one-of-a-kind landings and stone benches. Significant renovations to this garden to respond to changing light and drainage conditions began in late summer of 2010.
Visitors Center
     Maureen Heffernan joined the small-but-growing staff as executive director in early 2004. She contacted Herb Schaal, FASLA, a widely acclaimed landscape architect who is associated with Aecon in Colorado, and with whom she had collaborated on a previous project. He was then hired to complete the final landscape master plan for the Central Gardens. Terrence J. DeWan Associates of Yarmouth, Maine, also provided design services. Jorgensen Landscaping of Bath, Maine, built the Central Gardens.  Concurrently, Quinn Evans Architects of Washington, D.C., designed the elegant Maine Cottage-style Visitor Center which officially opened in the spring of 2007.
Rose Arbor
     In 2005, the Gardens received an incredible gift of an additional 120 acres from the Pine Tree Conservation Society.  As a result of this generous gift of land adjacent to the original 128 acres, the Gardens now comprises 248 acres, which makes it the largest botanical garden in New England. The property boasts nearly a mile of tidal salt water frontage. It is also one of a very few waterfront botanical gardens in the United States. Detailed planning for the new land will begin after the main campus is completed.
     In June of 2009, we opened the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. This exquisite garden of about an acre adjacent to the Visitor Center allows all visitors to get in touch with their five major senses. It includes many features that make its delights accessible to the disabled.

Rose Arbor
      In July of 2010, the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden opened.  With themes derived from beloved children’s literature by authors with a Maine connection, this garden appeals to the imagination of youngsters and their grown-ups. It offers endless exciting opportunities to learn about and interact with nature.
     The grand opening for the Bosarge Family Education Center – a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum, net-zero-energy structure and the greenest building in Maine –was on July 15, 2011. This building’s flexible plan allows for many different types and sizes of educational activities, as well as for office space for education and administrative staff. The landscaping for this building is not only beautiful, but offers valuable lessons in ecologically sound planting.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The American Kestrel

     North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It's one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place. Kestrels are declining in parts of their range; you can help them by putting up nest boxes.

      The slender American Kestrel is roughly the size and shape of a Mourning Dove, although it has a larger head; longer, narrow wings; and long, square-tipped tail. In flight, the wings are often bent and the wingtips swept back.
    American Kestrels are pale when seen from below and warm, rusty brown spotted with black above, with a black band near the tip of the tail. Males have slate-blue wings; females’ wings are reddish brown. Both sexes have pairs of black vertical slashes on the sides of their pale faces—sometimes called a “mustache” and a “sideburn."
     American Kestrels occupy habitats ranging from deserts and grasslands to alpine meadows. You’re most likely to see them perching on telephone wires along roadsides, in open country with short vegetation and few trees.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Great Horned Owl

     The great horned owl is the second raptor (bird of prey) that we are visiting. In the archives one can find photos and information on the Bald Eagle, the largest of the raptors that we checked out some time ago. The male is smaller than the female and has a much lower-pitched call.  They have a body that ranges from 18 to 25 inches with a wing span of 3.3 to 4.8 feet and they weigh from 2'to 5.5 pounds.  Their average life span in the wild is anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
     The great horned owl is the most common owl of the Americas, easily recognizable because of the feather tufts on its head. These "plumicorns" resemble horns or, to some, catlike ears.
     They have horizontal breast barring with gray to brown, mottled bodies.  Their face has a dark outline with a lighter brown center and sometimes a white bib under the chin.  They have sharp, black talons and beaks.
     They have large, round gold eyes.  Like all owls, their large eyes cannot move.  To look up, down or to the side the owls must move their entire heads and are able to turn their necks 180 degrees.
     Great horned owls are adaptable birds and live from the Arctic to South America. They are at home in suburbia as well as in woods and farmlands. Northern populations migrate in winter, but most live permanently in more temperate climes.
     These birds nest in tree holes, stumps, caves, or in the abandoned nests of other large birds. Monogamous pairs have one to five eggs (two is typical), both the male and female incubate, and the male also hunts for food. Owls are powerful birds and fiercely protective parents. They have even been known to attack humans who wander too close to their young.

     Like other owls, these birds have an incredible digestive system. They sometimes swallow their prey whole and later regurgitate pellets composed of bone, fur, and the other unwanted parts of their meal. Owls are efficient nighttime hunters that strike from above, and use their powerful talons to kill and carry animals several times heavier than themselves. Owls prey on a huge variety of creatures, including raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, domestic birds, falcons, and other owls. They regularly eat skunks, and may be the only animal with such an appetite. Thismis because they have no sense of smell.  As a result their nests have been known to reek.  They sometimes hunt for smaller game by standing or walking along the ground. Owls have even been known to prey upon unlucky cats and dogs.
     Great horned owls are largely nocturnal so they can be difficult to spot. But in the dark after sunset, or just before dawn, they can often be heard vocalizing with their well known series of five syllable "Hoo Hoo, Hoo Hoo Hoo's".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Red-Tailed Hawk

     My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Oregon to visit our daughter and her family.  While there we visited the Gorge Discovery Center where we attended a presentation by a naturalist on raptors. It was so good I thought I would share some of the photos I took as well as information on these interesting birds of prey.  I sincerely hope you enjoy my findings that I will present in three separate posts.

     Red-tailed Hawks are large, stocky birds. They are brown with a white breast and a rust-colored tail. If you can get close enough, the tail is the best way to identify them. Young Red-tailed Hawks are more dull in color, have more streaks, and are missing the red in their tails.
     This raptor (bird of prey) grows up to 25 inches long and can weigh up to four pounds (heavy for a bird; remember, they have hollow bones!).  It's wingspan can reach four feet.
     Red-tailed Hawks live in forests near open country. Nests are usually built near the edge of a stream, lake, or field.
     Red-tailed Hawks are most often seen soaring high above the ground, looking for food. They are very difficult to identify unless they come closer to the earth.
     This hawk soars very high in the sky, hunting for food. They have excellent eyesight which is much sharper than a human's. A Red-tailed Hawk can spot a mouse from a height of 100 feet.
     These hawks also hunt from perches, usually alongside a field. Most of their prey are small mammals, including: mice, voles, shrews, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, rabbits, opossums, muskrats, cats, skunks, and bats.
     Although they eat mostly mammals, there is a great variety of other animals Red-tailed Hawks will prey upon, including: snakes, turtles, frogs, lizards, salamanders, toads, ducks, bobwhite, crows, woodpeckers, starlings, doves, Red-winged Blackbirds, kingfishers, robins, owls, other birds, crayfish, centipedes, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, earthworms, and fish.

     Red-tailed Hawks will also eat roadkill and other carrion (previously dead, but fairly fresh animals).

     Red-tailed Hawks mate in the Spring. They perform a sort of courtship "dance" where the male and female dive and roll in the sky. They will even lock talons (sharp toes) and fall together awhile before splitting apart. Both the male and female build the nest. They usually choose a very tall tree, such as an oak or pine, or a rock ledge.
Nests are built with sticks and lined with twigs, bark shreds, pine needles, and green plant material. The female hawk lays two or three white eggs with brown spots.
     While the female warms the eggs (for up to a month), the male hunts and feeds her.  Young hawks stay in the nest for approximately one and a half months.
     Once they leave the nest, the youngsters hop around a lot on the ground, looking for small prey such as insects and spiders. When they have perfected flying, they will begin to hunt larger prey from the air.
     Predators of Red-tailed Hawks include Raccoons, Great Horned Owls, and Red Fox. Red-tailed Hawks can live up to 15 years in the wild.

     These hawks swallow smaller prey whole. Birds are beheaded, then eaten. Larger prey are killed with talons, and then pulled into pieces with the hawk's sharp, hooked beak.
     Red-tailed Hawks will steal from other raptors, such as eagles, owls, or other hawks.
Mated Red-tailed Hawks will sometimes work together while hunting. An example might be chasing a squirrel around a tree until one of the hawks can catch it.
     Red-tailed Hawks throw up pellets. When they swallow prey whole, they regurgitate (throw up) small balls of hair, feathers, and bone.
     Red-tailed Hawks are very territorial. They will chase other Red-tailed Hawks and birds larger than them that get too close.