December 16, 2012

Allen Afield: A December walk into the wetlands won't bog you down


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Maine’s bogs and swamps make for interesting nature walks, especially in winter when the semi-frozen surface means less chance of sinking in mud.

2006 Telegram File

Common redpoll, gray catbird, northern waterthrush (really a warbler), veery (most faintly spotted of eastern thrushes emits a beautiful call), alder flycatcher (solitary species not always easy to spot), yellow warbler and American woodcock live in this habitat in warmer seasons.

For the record, I see woodcock more in upland alders with thick goldenrod, ideal earthworm soil that's richer and moist but not too wet. It attracts this game bird more than red-maple swamps do.

The nocturnal star-nosed mole lives in red-maple swamps, too, a creature with 22 star-like, pink, fleshy projections, sticking out around the nostrils. House cats living by swamps prey on these moles and leave the carcasses in driveways, often in spring. That's usually our introduction to this unique rodent with star-shaped tentacles centered on the face.

December makes it a great time to poke around bogs and swamps, so now folks can easily explore two habitats that they might have missed in life. That's the joy for amateur naturalists -- the opportunity to explore places that many people skip. At first, these lands may seem strange but soon they become familiar for astute observers of the natural world.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:


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