Flocks of iridescent grackles and red-winged blackbirds are stopping by my feeders. Red squirrels are teasing us, and the cats, on our back deck. And skunks are emerging. I’ve seen at least four in the last week throughout the village, digging in the soft dirt at the base of trees. I have not seen a tick yet, but a friend in Brooks found one crawling on her hubby in the last week.

Speaking of ticks: Some of you may remember I participated in the Maine Forest Tick Survey as a citizen scientist last summer. This involved dragging a tick-collecting cloth, then plucking, counting and popping them in an alcohol filled vial. The results have just come in!

Tick Survey results

Ta-da! Let me just start by saying that last summer was noticeably dry with drought conditions to some extent throughout the region. For this reason the tick survey volunteers did not collect anywhere near as many as would have been collected in a normal rainfall year. Ticks like a moist environment.

That said, 111 volunteers collected ticks from York County, up the coast, through Hancock County. Kennebec and Cumberland had the highest collection counts with 405 and 336 total ticks respectively — and 103 and 37 blacklegged tick nymphs. You may remember that it is the nymphs who are most infectious to humans with tick-borne diseases, most commonly known to be Lyme, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Here in Jackson, on Bog Road, in my three tick collections, I only found a total of five blacklegged tick nymphs, and only one was carrying Lyme disease — giving my count a 20% positivity rate for Lyme, and that in a drought year. Ugh! Waldo County had no incidences of Babesia among the ticks collected. There were some in Waldo County — not mine — carrying Anaplasma.

If you are curious what is hiding in your woody undergrowth, please feel free to sign up to be a part of the next Forest Tick Survey at UMaine.edu/ForestTickSurvey.

Other interesting notes: Properties that had timber harvests in the last 20 years had significantly fewer blacklegged ticks than those that had not been harvested in the past 20-plus years. Ticks love invasive plants, specifically barberry and honeysuckle.

Jackson history nugget

At the moment I am enjoying reading "Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820" by Alan Taylor. This fascinating history explores the growing pains of Maine as settlers laid claim and worked the land, both here in Jackson and throughout Midcoast Maine. Jackson was originally a part of Western Hancock County before becoming Waldo County — named after Samuel Waldo, who acquired the patent for this area in the early 1700s.

Samuel Waldo was one of the Great Proprietors, men who were given great tracts of land by the government, in expectation of making it productive, through agriculture or timber harvesting. At the same time, free men were settling throughout these areas and through clearing and farming, also expected to lay their own claim to parcels of land. These Great Proprietors and the so-called Liberty Men on their land grants were not destined to see eye to eye. More to come….

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