Outdoors – Press Herald https://www.pressherald.com Wed, 18 Jul 2018 14:51:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 It’s Worth the Trip: Augusta no longer just a pit stop https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/15/its-worth-the-trip-augusta-no-longer-just-a-pit-stop/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/15/its-worth-the-trip-augusta-no-longer-just-a-pit-stop/#respond Sun, 15 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1447386 Growing up less than a half-hour from our state’s capital, I’ve long had an affection for Augusta. My father, John, had a business in the city for a number of years when I was growing up, and we frequently visited his office – along with the Maine State Museum and Library, the State Capitol Building, and downtown Augusta and Hallowell. Not only that, but I often thought of Augusta as the gateway to Maine’s western mountains and wilderness. After all, after leaving the midcoast we passed through the city before suburban development gave way to trees on the way to Sunday River, Sugarloaf, The Forks or Moosehead Lake.

Until recently I thought of Augusta as only a signpost on the way to those other outdoor destinations, not a place for recreation in and of itself. With a moniker like Disgusta (lobbed at our opponents during high school matches with Cony), how could the capital have outdoors worth exploring?

Luckily a number of area nonprofits, including Augusta Trails and the Augusta Nature Club, have stepped up to preserve natural public spaces and develop trails in Maine’s capital.

In my exploration of Augusta’s trails, the biggest network seems to be the Bond Brook Recreation Area. Owned by the city of Augusta and largely developed by Augusta Trails, the BBRA is a 270-acre “urban wilderness area” with 6 miles of trail for single-track mountain biking, hiking and snowshoeing, and an additional 5 miles for Nordic skiing. The trails span the space between the Augusta State Airport and Route 27, with parking available at Mount Hope Cemetery, at Tall Pines Way off Route 27, and at a lot in the center of the BBRA.

The trails offer plenty of pleasant hiking over rolling hills and through softwood forest, though they seem best suited for mountain biking. The Facebook page for Augusta Trails is regularly updated with information about both trail conditions and scheduled competitions (trail running and mountain biking).

Just across Bond Brook Road from the BBRA, the University of Maine at Augusta maintains more than two miles of trails adjacent to campus. The trails are flat and unchallenging, but offer a pleasant stroll (or run) through forest in the heart of Augusta. Most interestingly, the trails are also home to a number of “fitness stops” – monkey bars, pull-up bars and wooden platforms for push-ups – that encourage working out parts of the body beyond the legs. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before on a trail in Maine, and it offers a unique opportunity for a full-body workout in the outdoors instead of in a gymnasium. Parking for the UMA trails is available at the campus.

Situated to the west of Cony High, the Augusta Nature Education Center is home to a five-mile network of trails. The two-mile “Red Line” trail circles the perimeter of the Center and is a packed-gravel trail that should be easily navigable by most visitors. The trail crosses Whitney Brook twice, and winds past a few ponds by Cony and an amphibian pond near Route 105. The trails that track through the center of the 175-acre ANEC offer views of granite quarries, a handful of waterfalls and active beaver ponds. Access to the trail is a breeze, with no less than 13 access points along the Red Line. There’s on-street parking at access points on Route 105 and the Cony Road Extension, and parking lots at Cony High and Hodgkins Middle School.

The Augusta Nature Education Center has a history that tracks back to 1919. At the time a group of area birders started a birding club, and over the next decade their focus shifted from birding to a general interest in nature and preservation. In the 20s the group named itself the Augusta Nature Club, and soon after began exploring the idea of a permanent nature sanctuary. In the early 70s, the club established the Augusta Nature Education Center.

Perhaps the longest and most scenic hike in the Augusta area – as well as the most easily accessible – is the Kennebec River Rail Trail. One of the many great examples in Maine of former rail bed being converted into a hiking and biking (and wheelchair-accessible) trail, the KRRT runs from just south of Water Street in Augusta to downtown Gardiner. Hugging the western banks of the Kennebec River, the trail runs just over six miles through Augusta, Hallowell, Farmingdale and Gardiner. Parking is available on either end, at the Hannaford parking lot in Gardiner or the Maine State Housing Authority parking lot off Water Street in Augusta.

The route cycles between developed downtowns and quiet woods, and the mix of rural, natural and urban space provides some nice variety. Downtown Hallowell, near the halfway point, offers a nice spot to stop for a coffee or a beer. The rail trail is part of the larger East Coast Greenway, which can take users all the way down the eastern seaboard to Florida on a mix of dedicated trails and public roads.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at::

joshua.j.christie@gmail.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/15/its-worth-the-trip-augusta-no-longer-just-a-pit-stop/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/07/1447386_518527-Augusta1.jpgThe Bond Brook Recreation Area, a 270-acre wilderness area in Augusta, has six miles of trails for single-track mountain biking, hiking and snowshoeing, as well as five miles for Nordic skiing. It is an example of the growing recreation available in Augusta.Sat, 14 Jul 2018 16:24:37 +0000
How to catch and release a fish without causing it to die https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/15/how-to-catch-and-release-a-fish-without-causing-it-to-die/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/15/how-to-catch-and-release-a-fish-without-causing-it-to-die/#respond Sun, 15 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1447554 SIDNEY — When Scott Davis is not trap netting Arctic char or wild brook trout to gather data for the state, he’s guiding fishermen in pursuit of these and other species. Davis has worked for 30 years as a state fisheries biologist and, in his free time, guided as many as 80 fishermen a year. Sometimes when he goes out to fish by himself, he brings his clipboard to gather data.

Suffice it to say, Davis has seen it all when it comes to fishing.

And when it comes to catch and release – the practice of returning the fish to water rather than keeping it to eat – Davis said he often sees fishermen botch the job. Rather than saving the fish, the angler releases a stressed fish that will soon die.

“I’ve caught the same fish 13 times,” Davis said. “Catch and release does work if you don’t kick the fish.”

Other guides and biologists say catch and release has become more common, yet many don’t know how to do it properly.

“Like any activity, some are better informed. There are probably a range of skill levels,” said Francis Brautigam, director of fisheries for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

“With catch and release, most try to get it back as soon as they can, but all too many people like to take a photo. Sometimes taking a photo becomes more important than the best interests of the fish. Fish like to be in cold water. And fish do get stressed.”

Warmwater fish such as smallmouth bass and perch are more tolerant of extreme conditions and rugged handling than coldwater species such as brook trout or landlocked salmon. But all fish will suffer if they are kept out of water too long, or handled too much or too rigorously, including getting stepped on to get the hook out, which Davis has seen youth fishermen do.

“I’ve seen adults do it,” said Don Kleiner, a Registered Maine Guide for 35 years. “You don’t want to beat it up. If I’m releasing a fish, I’m intending it to be alive when I’m done.”

In 2012, the Professional Maine Guides Association made an instructional catch-and-release video to educate more fishermen on how to release a fish without killing it. Kleiner, the group’s director, said the biggest problem is many people who are not avid fishermen are afraid to handle a fish.

“I rarely let a client handle a fish,” Kleiner said. “You have to not be afraid of the hook. And you have to know how to deal with this critter that’s flopping around in the net or at the side of the boat.”

Step 1: Set the Hook

Most things in life require a balance. Fishing is surely no different.

Releasing a fish quickly is made easy if you set the hook immediately – but not so quickly that you spook the fish.

You want to hook it quick enough that it doesn’t swallow the hook down into its gullet.

“There’s a fine line,” Davis said.

Once you’ve hooked the fish, then you reel it in, but not too quickly. Make sure you play it a bit.

If you reel in a lively big bass too quickly, it will mean more work handling it – and that means your hands will rub the fish more and dry it out. And fish like to be wet.

Once the fish is a bit tired, reel it to the side of the boat or near your waders and leave out enough line so you can raise the rod and reach the fish. If you reel in so much line the fish is at the end the rod, you won’t reach it.

Step 2: Handle the fish

With the rod in one hand, reach into the water and grab the fish with the other by pinching its cheek with your index finger in its mouth and thumb on the outside of the mouth, or vice versa.

Scott Davis demonstrates how to catch and release a fish without killing it, while fishing for smallmouth bass on the Kennebec River. Staff photos by Jill Brady

Then, while holding the fish, put down your rod and support its belly with your other hand. This is particularly important with larger fish. And it’s where a lot of photo-happy fishermen go wrong.

“If you are not supporting the belly of a larger fish, you could dislocate the jaw,” Davis said.

This is where Davis’ mantra comes into play: Don’t baby the fish – handle it, and make quick work of getting the hook out so you can let it go.

It’s best to handle the fish in the water but if that’s not possible, simply work fast.

Step 3: Get out your pliers

Taking the hook out can be done in many different ways.

If the hook is just in the lip, it’s an easy pinch and it will pop out. But if the hook has gone into the gullet, you need to thread it out. And if it went down so far that by closing the fish’s mouth the entire lure disappears, you either need a good pair of long-nosed pliers or you may need to cut the line.

Regional fisheries biologist Scott Davis has simple advice for anyone using the catch-and-release technique: “Don’t baby the fish – handle it, and make quick work of getting the hook out so you can let it go.”

“A pair of needle-nosed pliers is worth their weight in gold,” Kleiner said. “I have a pair that costs $125. But you don’t need the fancy stuff. A pair costing $12 from the hardware store works fine.”

If the hook is down deep, hold the fish by the cheek, put the pliers in and grab the hook, and try to unhook it and pull it out.

Experienced fishermen can do this on a larger fish with their finger, but a pair of pliers will ensure that the fish will live.

Once the hook is out, put the fish back in the water, but continue to hold the belly as you wait for it to swim away.

Davis warns not to just let it go because the fish may go right down to the bottom and, as a result, breath mud into its gills.

 

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Beetle grubs leaving Augusta grassless https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/10/grubs-leaving-augusta-grass-less/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/10/grubs-leaving-augusta-grass-less/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 21:22:22 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/10/grubs-leaving-augusta-grass-less/ AUGUSTA — Beetle grubs are eating much of the grass of Augusta from the roots up at an unprecedented speed, leaving behind swaths of brown, barren ground where once there were grassy lawns.

If city officials decide to attack the problem, costs could add up to a multi-year $100,000-plus grub fight.

Prominent spots in the city left either barren and brown or with weeds and crabgrass in place of the killed-off grass include the ground immediately surrounding the “Welcome to Augusta” sign that greets visitors to the city’s downtown, much of the lawn around Augusta City Center and Old Fort Western, athletic fields, cemeteries, both in-town rotaries, and parks across the city.

The solution would involve the use of chemical insecticides to kill off the grubs, and hydro-seeding to replace the many acres of dead grass now covering numerous city properties.

Leif Dahlin, community services director for the city, said he’s never seen anything like it. He said the grass is being eaten by grubs, the larval form of what will become Japanese or other beetles after emerging from the ground, which eat the roots and kill grass.

“They’ve killed a lot of acreage this year in Augusta,” Dahlin said. “City property, schools, private property, it’s everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like this is my 35 years in the business.”

Dahlin said whether the city should use insecticide to kill off the pests is a policy question, as is the matter of how much money to dedicate to the grub fight, both issues on which city staff would take direction from the Augusta City Council. He said city policy is to minimize the use of insecticides.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss the problem Thursday at a meeting, and hear a presentation on a grub prevention program from a turf consultant.

Currently there is no money in the city budget specifically targeted at addressing the grub problem, though $25,000 was added to the parks’ budget this year for beautification, which could be put toward taking on the grubs and restoring lawns.

A Japanese beetle larva

Dahlin, charged with the task of determining how widespread the problem is and how it might be addressed, estimated in a report to councilors it could require an initial budget of $100,000, not including school grounds, and require a multi-year effort, to kill off grubs and, in the program’s first year, repair and replace damaged turf including hydro-seeding of new grass seed. He said an ongoing “weed and feed” program is recommended for high priority areas annually. He said it could take at least two years to see enough program before a grub control program could be scaled back to a more modest approach.

He estimated of the 378 acres of grass in city parks, cemeteries and on other city and school properties, 142 acres could be considered for a grub treatment program, and 25 of those acres could need to be re-seeded.

In May, as councilors discussed the since-approved city budget, Mayor David Rollins expressed concern about the condition of lawns throughout the city, and a since-rejected proposal to cut the $25,000 beautification funds from the parks’ budget. He said seeing giant patches of bare earth was leaving a bad impression with people entering the city.

Councilors are scheduled to discuss the problems with grubs, and potential solutions, when they meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Discuss a proposed ordinance amendment to require residents to license their cats, and contain them to their property or keep them restrained, as dog-owners are required to do already.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the proposal to require licensing and regulation of cats was placed on the council agenda by Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti, at the request of a constituent who has had ongoing difficulties with neighbors’ cats on her property. A model ordinance Bridgeo forwarded to councilors would require cats, like dogs, to be kept “under restraint” at all times, which the ordinance defines as within the property limits of its owner, secured by a leash, or under the control of a responsible person.

• Continue discussion of a proposal to convert downtown Water Street from one-way to two-way traffic;

• Discuss the five-year capital improvement plan;

• Discuss establishing a set of core values for the City Council;

• Discuss food sovereignty; and

• Discuss Middle Street parking rule changes.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

kedwards@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/10/grubs-leaving-augusta-grass-less/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/07/895694_446287-20180710_Grubs_69616-1.jpgThe nongrassy knoll at City Center in Augusta is seen Tuesday. It's one of several areas of Augusta that have been left barren by grubs.Wed, 11 Jul 2018 09:08:27 +0000
Birding: Woodpeckers can be such troublemakers https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/08/birding-woodpeckers-can-be-such-troublemakers/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/08/birding-woodpeckers-can-be-such-troublemakers/#respond Sun, 08 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1433374 I have a few miscellaneous topics this week. The first concerns woodpeckers with a sweet tooth. I received two emails recently from bird observers whose hummingbird feeders are being dominated by hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers.

The hummingbirds don’t have a chance against these larger birds.

Woodpeckers, orioles and bees will often take advantage of the sugar water we put out to attract hummingbirds. I have several suggestions to deter woodpeckers and orioles from a hummingbird feeder.

Use a hummingbird feeder with no perches. A hummingbird can hover in front of a flower or hummingbird feeder and drink its fill of nectar or sugar water. Other birds must be perched to lap up the sugar water.

Some hummingbird feeders come with bee guards, small inserts that surround the feeding ports. These bee guards will discourage woodpeckers as well but pose no obstacle to the thin bill and long tongue of a hummingbird.

Sometimes, woodpeckers and orioles will perch on the wire or string that supports the hummingbird feeder. You can easily make a baffle with an old CD or DVD. Drill a small hole in the center and thread the supporting wire or string through the CD. Raise the CD to an appropriate height and then wrap some tape or string just below the CD to keep it in place.

Around the first of July, lots of birders look for the annual Check-list Supplement from the American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds. This committee, the NACC, is responsible for maintaining the official checklist of the birds of North America and Middle America.

Life lists can change because of NACC decisions. Recently, many birders lost a life bird as thayer’s gull was lumped with iceland gull but gained a species when the winter wren was split into the eastern winter wren and western pacific wren.

The 2018 update doesn’t have any lumps or splits affecting the Maine avifauna. One common name change has relevance for Maine. The official common name of the gray jay is switched back to Canada jay. This decision is unusual because the committee usually will not change a common name unless a split or lump is involved.

The decision to revert to Canada jay appears to be influenced by a movement in Canada to designate the Canada jay as the national bird of that country.

Many of the taxonomic changes in the current update are based on DNA comparisons that lend insight into how closely related different species are.

The hairy woodpecker and downy woodpecker are now placed in the genus dryobates, if you want to update your field guide.

Before the new checklist supplement, five North American sparrows were classified in the genus ammodramus. Now, only the grasshopper sparrow remains in that genus. Nelson’s sparrow, salt marsh sparrow, LeConte’s sparrow and seaside sparrow are now moved into the genus ammospiza.

The hydrobatidae, the family of the storm-petrels, is split into two families. The hydrobatidae now includes species that nest in the northern hemisphere so our Leach’s storm petrel, a breeder in Maine, remains in the family.

A new family, the oceanitidae, contains storm-petrels that nest in the southern hemisphere. This family contains Wilson’s storm-petrel, an abundant summer visitor to our pelagic waters.

The supplement is available at: http://americanornithologypubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-18-62.1

A record of a singing Chuck-will’s-widow in Blue Hill for the past three weeks is remarkable. Another was heard in Wells on July 1. Perhaps we will be able to add this species to the list of species that have expanded into Maine in the past 40 years. This list includes turkey vulture, red-bellied woodpecker, tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, northern mockingbird, blue-winged warbler and house finch.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

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Maine’s great blue heron study raises awareness https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/08/maines-great-blue-heron-study-tags-two-more-birds-to-increase-understanding-of-the-reclusive-bird/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/08/maines-great-blue-heron-study-tags-two-more-birds-to-increase-understanding-of-the-reclusive-bird/#respond Sun, 08 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1435102 BENTON — A decade ago, biologists didn’t know how many nesting pairs of great blue herons there were in Maine – or where the birds migrate to in winter.

Since then the state’s great blue heron study has shed some light on this reclusive bird.

Through the study, biologists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife hope to learn more about where the herons are most abundant. State bird biologist Danielle D’Auria, who leads the project, also seeks to know about the timing of the herons’ return to Maine each spring.

The great blue is the largest heron in North America, standing more than 4 feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan and distinctive yellow bill. It has a lifespan of about 15 years.

They nest in the same colony, or rookery, each year. Generally these colonies have dozens of nests bunched together in areas with sparse human populations. The birds nest together for protection from predators like eagles, foxes, hawks and raccoons.

Great blue herons are common in Maine, but a decline in the coastal nesting population since 1980 caused concern among state biologists. So IFW recruited volunteers to help check colonies, which are often far from trails or roads.

During the first eight years of the study biologists used as many as 80 volunteers to confirm where existing colonies were and roughly how many nesting pairs there were in each colony, D’Auria said.

Two years ago, radio transmitters were put on five herons in Maine. The transmitters affixed to the birds send out a GPS signal showing the birds’ flight pattern while it forages in its summer colony in Maine and where it migrates in the winter.

A heron in Palmyra that was affixed with a transmitter in 2016 flew to Haiti two years in a row and foraged there throughout the winter in an area only a few square miles in size. Another heron went to the Bahamas to winter, and a third went as far as Cuba before its transmitter was lost, while a fourth died on migration. The fifth heron in the study only went as far as Vero Beach, Florida, but there the bird turned a backyard dock into its regular hangout.

This spring, two radio transmitters that were lost were replaced when two herons were trapped near Newport and in Orrington. But already, state biologists have learned more about the herons that nest here.

Last year, state employees and volunteers surveyed 60 active colonies with 629 nesting pairs. But D’Auria said the state estimates there are as many as 1,500 nesting pairs statewide.

She also hopes to gather data on why colonies fail, so that if the statewide population declines biologists will have some idea why.

“Some colonies persist for 40 to 50 years,” said D’Auria as she checked on a long-standing colony in Benton in June. “In Maine, we’ve had some sites since the ’70s.”

The radio transmitters have brought new information – and more questions – to the study, she said.

A month ago she trapped and tagged a heron in Newport with the volunteers who helped tag another heron there two years ago. Now volunteers from nearby Nokomis High are eager to see if the heron trapped there in June goes to the same wintering grounds in Haiti as the last bird from the Newport colony.

“Right now we’re waiting to see where she goes,” said Nokomis teacher Bill Freudenberger. “We do know she’s a mature bird. But we don’t know yet where she goes.”

Freudenberger said it’s exciting that the work he and his students have done for the heron project – maintaining bait sites to lure the herons – has helped biologists learn more about the mysterious birds.

The students frequently watch the tagged herons online – at movebank.org – to see where they feed in Maine and then where they spend the winter.

“Students get excited if they see the bird feeding near their house,” Freudenberger said. “We have a message board at school with a TV with a slide show. It shows where the heron is in the world. The kids keep track of her and tell me if they saw her. When they see a heron outside the school, they wonder if it’s our bird.”

In June, Freudenberger and a few of his students baited a site at a pond with small fish to lure heron. They checked the bait site each day for weeks. When they were certain a heron was feeding there regularly, they told D’Auria. Then together they trapped the bird.

Sophomore Beau Briggs jumped at the chance to help trap the bird even though that meant getting up at 2 a.m. to go to the bait site and sit for three hours until the heron came to feed. Briggs said the feeling he experienced when he watched the bird being netted by D’Auria and handled by the biologist was incredible.

“It was an adrenaline rush,” Briggs said. “The biologist did the actual capture with the net, but we all ran out when it was trapped. It was exciting because we took so much work into baiting it – but it worked. I will never forget it.

“I was in ninth grade when I first heard about the heron project. I thought it was cool how they tracked their migration pattern just from this tiny transmitter that’s like a backpack .”

The Newport colony is unusual in that it is in a stand of mature eastern white pines far from the coast. The herons here frequently fly over the soccer field at school. But Freudenberger said the students steer clear of the colony to avoid disturbing it.

Most of the colonies seem to be along the coast or the islands. But in the next year, D’Auria hopes to trap and tag a heron from landlocked Aroostook County.

“There are accounts of nests there. But it’s an area we don’t have a lot of reports from,” D’Auria said. “It would be exciting to get a bird from a different part of the state.”

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It’s Worth the Trip: Scarborough’s a sensational place to visit https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/its-worth-the-trip-scarboroughs-a-sensational-place-to-visit/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/its-worth-the-trip-scarboroughs-a-sensational-place-to-visit/#respond Sun, 01 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1420883 This summer marks the 45th anniversary of the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center on Pine Point Road in Scarborough – an incredible resource that puts Maine’s largest salt marsh right at visitors’ fingertips.

The 3,100-acre estuary, owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, lies at the intersection of the Dunstan and Nonesuch Rivers and Saco Bay, and it’s one of Maine’s most unique and beautiful places.

The marsh is a feast for the senses. Standing on the deck of the Audubon Center (perfectly situated just feet from the water, with sprawling views) you’ll see the lazy ebb of the Dunstan River, filled with marsh birds and human paddlers; you’ll hear the sounds of ibis, herons, sandpipers and egrets; you’ll smell the salt air from the Atlantic mixing with the rivers and creeks; and you’ll feel the unrestricted sun shining down from above.

This summer, in celebration of the center’s 45th anniversary, make a point of visiting at least once – though you may have trouble exploring everything the estuary offers in just one day. If you want to paddle, you can rent a canoe or kayak and make your way through the winding waters, either alone or on a tour led by naturalists. If you want to walk, you can ramble along Audubon’s flat, .3-mile nature trail, where nearly a dozen stations point out historical, ecological and animal facts. And if you’d like to learn something new, you can visit the exhibits at the center, including aquariums, mounted birds and mammals, with interactive activities that are particularly great for kids.

Maine Audubon also has a summer full of special programs prepared for visitors, featuring everything from a night hike searching for bats to a workshop where you can build a seashell wreath. Get more information at maineaudubon.org/events.

While there are hours worth of activities at the Audubon Center, I can’t write about Scarborough without mentioning the wealth of other outdoor opportunities that surround you there. Thanks to a variety of different groups, including (but not limited to) the town of Scarborough, the Scarborough Land Trust, the Eastern Trail Alliance and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are a number of destinations where you can hike, bike, paddle or kick back on the beach.

For hiking, the town-owned Scarborough River Wildlife Sanctuary (just down Pine Point Road from the Audubon Center) offers a mile of easy walking on 52 acres of protected land. Wide mowed trails provide easy access to the banks of the Scarborough River, looping over land that has served as hunting grounds for Native Americans, farmland for Europeans and even a golf course. As the sign at the trailhead puts it, “This area has endured much history.”

Scarborough Land Trust has been around nearly as long as the Audubon Center, and it will celebrate its 41st anniversary this year – having come a long way since its formation by eight local residents as the Owascoag Land Conservation Trust in 1977.

The organization now conserves more than 1,600 acres of land and maintains nearly 10 miles of trails on six properties.

If paddling a canoe or kayak is your passion, then the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center is a destination that has to be visited and enjoyed. Photo by Jake Christie

Each property is unique, from the working farm fields at Broadturn Farm, to the extensive trail network crisscrossing Fuller Farm, to the quarter-mile Universal Access / ADA Trail surrounded by wildflowers at Pleasant Hill Preserve. The varied but not-too-difficult terrain at all these properties makes them ideal for visiting year-round, and they’re particularly good local snowshoeing spots in the winter. Find more information at scarboroughlandtrust.org.

If you prefer to explore on two wheels instead of two feet, a stretch of the bike-friendly Eastern Trail runs through Scarborough. A trailhead with parking near the Audubon Center provides access to this wide, flat, multiuse trail, which currently boasts 22 off-road miles from South Portland to Kennebunk.

In fact, you can bike all the way to Kennebunk on the Eastern Trail from this trailhead, and it’s a distinctly scenic and enjoyable way to make the journey. When traveling in the other direction, there’s a gap in the trail that prevents you from traveling off-road all the way to Bug Light in South Portland – but late last year the Eastern Trail Alliance reached their $4.1 million fundraising goal to “Close the Gap,” and an uninterrupted trail is finally within sight.

Paddling through the twisting channels in Scarborough Marsh is a unique way to see the local flora and fauna up close, but if you prefer paddling on open waters there are public boat launches at Pine Point and Ferry Beach that offer easy access to Saco Bay.

Other interesting public boat launches include the Nonesuch River just west of Black Point Cemetery, where you can paddle into Scarborough Marsh from the ocean side by rounding Nonesuch Point; and the Spurwink River on Route 77, where you can paddle a portion of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Finally, if your ideal day involves sand, sun and surf, Scarborough has a number of long sandy beaches where you can while away the summer hours.

Pine Point Beach stretches for miles, all the way to Old Orchard, but without the boardwalk or the crowds. Scarborough Beach State Park and Ferry Beach, on either side of Prouts Neck, each have their own charms; the former is bigger and a little busier, with more amenities (like the Mainely Burgers food truck), while the latter has more unique scenery, backed by the Prouts Neck Golf Course and looking across the water toward Pine Point and Old Orchard.

Higgins Beach is perhaps my favorite, with a massive expanse of sand at low tide, surfers riding the waves all day, and the remains of the three-masted schooner the Howard W. Middleton poking out of the beach to capture kids’ (and adults’) imaginations.

While it’s just minutes down the interstate from Portland, Scarborough feels like a wholly different stretch of coastline. The beautiful green spaces, incredible marsh, sandy beaches and thoughtfully stewarded trails are a testament to Scarborough’s residents – and they’re worth visiting time and again.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

jakechristie@gmail.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/its-worth-the-trip-scarboroughs-a-sensational-place-to-visit/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/07/1420883_119265_20171129_features334.jpgA stretch of the Eastern Trail runs through Scarborough. The wide, flat, multiuse trail currently boasts 22 off-road miles from South Portland to Kennebunk.Fri, 29 Jun 2018 18:50:39 +0000
What’s Up In July: Mars will dominate the celestial happenings https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/whats-up-in-july-mars-will-dominate-the-celestial-happenings/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/whats-up-in-july-mars-will-dominate-the-celestial-happenings/#respond Sun, 01 Jul 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1421003 The month of July was named for Julius Caesar and was once the fifth month of the year.

July is the first full month of summer in the northern hemisphere and this year will bring us a major highlight that won’t happen again until September 2035.

That highlight is a perihelic opposition of Mars on July 27. That’s when a planet is at its closest point to the sun at the same time it’s directly opposite the earth from the sun. The last time that happened for Mars was Aug. 27, 2003, when it was at its closest to earth in nearly 60,000 years, about the time modern humans first started migrating out of Africa, leaving genetic footprints that are still visible today. They were probably forced out during a sudden cooling period during the last ice age. That was a very dangerous time for humans because their numbers may have declined to as low as 10,000 worldwide.

We have sprung back to 7.5 billion, just over a billion people more than were around to see the last perihelic opposition just 15 years ago. Mars was only one million miles closer to Earth 15 years ago at 34.7 million miles than it will be this time. But this time it will be lower on the ecliptic in Capricorn than 15 years ago, so the views of many of its remarkable features through a telescope won’t be as easy to see.

Challenge yourself to see as much detail as you can this summer while Mars is still big and bright, because it will be 17 years until it gets this close again, allowing us to see it in some detail even without the use of a large professional telescope. Both of its icecaps, many of its dark markings and some of its thin atmosphere should be fairly easy to see in a good amateur telescope, but more exciting features like Olympus Mons – the biggest volcano in the solar system at three times the height of Mt. Everest with a base the size of Arizona and a 50-mile-wide caldera at the top will present more of a challenge. The volcanoes on Mars have been erupting for billions of years, and may have erupted as recently as 25 million years ago.

Another good challenge would be to find one or both of its moons, Phobos and Deimos, named for fear and terror. Phobos, at 14 miles in diameter, is the closer one to Mars. Deimos is the one farther out, making it slightly easier to find with a good telescope and a method to block out most of the light from Mars.

You would only weigh a few ounces on Deimos and its escape velocity is 12 mph, so you could run yourself into orbit around this tiny moon like Superman. On Phobos you could throw a baseball into orbit, since you only need to throw it at about 24 miles per hour.

Being the inner moon, Phobos is actually spiraling inward toward the Martian surface at the rate of about 6 feet per century, which is about half the distance that our own moon is drifting farther away from us every century. At that rate, Phobos will crash into Mars in about 40 million years and our own moon will be too far from Earth to create any more total solar eclipses in about 100 million years.

So enjoy this summer exploring the brilliant golden orange neighbor of ours, which still harbors many mysteries even as many more of its secrets are being revealed. We have already known that there was water on Mars at one time, but we have just recently discovered concrete evidence for large organic molecules just below its surface and possible microbial activity farther below its surface, causing seasonal variations in methane release. Mars could still be an active planet below its surface, hovering on the knife-edge of habitability.

The stories of the other planets will pale in comparison to the exciting possibilities of Mars this month, but they will provide a nice supporting cast and are always interesting to look at with or without a telescope, and to continue to learn more about them, since we really know very little about any of our seven other planets.

Venus is setting a little earlier again in our western evening sky, about an hour after sunset. But it’s still getting larger and brighter as it catches up with us in our orbits. It will be two magnitudes, or over six times brighter than Mars. Venus will appear like a waning gibbous moon through a telescope, shrinking from 70 percent to just 57 percent illuminated by the sun.

Venus will participate in two excellent close conjunctions this month, one with a planet and the other one with a star. Venus will be just one degree above and to the right of Regulus in Leo on the 9th, very close to where the sun was back on Aug. 21 of last summer when it was eclipsed by the moon. Then Venus will be less than one degree to the left of a thin waxing crescent moon on July 15 with Mercury below and to the right of the pair about 45 minutes after sunset.

Jupiter continues to fade a little this month as we leave it farther behind in space in our respective orbits. The king of the planets will end its retrograde or western motion in Libra on July 11. Jupiter won’t even get as bright as Mars this month, which is very unusual.

Saturn was at opposition last month, so it is now rising just before sunset and still visible all night long. Its golden glow is slowly fading, but it’s still brighter than usual and its rings are tilted open at 26 degrees, which is near its maximum. The ringed planet is still in retrograde in Sagittarius near the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae along an arm of our Milky Way galaxy.

Pluto is even at opposition this month, in the teaspoon in Sagittarius. Orbiting the sun once every 248 years, Pluto spends nearly 21 years in each zodiac constellation. It will only reach 14.8 magnitude this time, which is fully 2.5 million times fainter than Mars.

JULY HIGHLIGHTS

July 4: Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born on this day in 1868. She was an American astronomer at Harvard who discovered the period-luminosity relationship of Cepheid variable stars that allowed us to measure the universe and establish a distance scale.

July 5: On this day in 1687 Isaac Newton published his Principia Mathematica.

July 6: Earth is at aphelion, or farthest from the sun today at 94.2 million miles. Last-quarter moon is at 3:52 a.m.

July 9: Venus will be just one degree above Regulus, and 15 degrees above and to the left of Mercury tonight half an hour after sunset.

July 10: The slender waning crescent moon will be very close to Aldebaran in Taurus just before sunrise this morning. It will occult this red giant star in parts of Canada.

July 11: Mercury will be at its best low in the western evening sky after sunset tonight.

July 12: New moon is at 10:49 p.m.

July 14: The moon is just above Mercury this evening.

July 15: The moon will be very close to Venus this evening 45 minutes after sunset.

July 16: On this day in 1994, the first of 21 pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter, leaving a large black mark that lasted for a few weeks. I saw up to five of these marks at once over the course of six days as another piece descended into Jupiter’s atmosphere about every six hours.

July 19: First-quarter moon is at 3:53 p.m.

July 20: The moon is just above Jupiter tonight. On this day in 1969 the first humans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, set foot on the moon, just 66 years after the first primitive airplane was flown by the Wright Brothers.

July 24: The moon is just above Saturn this evening.

July 27: Full moon is at 4:22 p.m. This is also called the Hay or Thunder Moon.

July 30: Mars will be at its closest to Earth in 15 years tonight.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/01/whats-up-in-july-mars-will-dominate-the-celestial-happenings/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/07/1421003_381419-July2018SkyChart.jpgSKY GUIDE: This chart represents the sky as it appears over Maine during July. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 9:30 p.m. at midmonth and at 8:30 p.m. at month's end. Saturn, Jupiter and Venus are shown in their midmonth positions. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so –the direction you are facing is at the bottom.Fri, 29 Jun 2018 19:18:47 +0000
Birding: Nesting has many strategies https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/birding-nesting-has-many-strategies/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/birding-nesting-has-many-strategies/#respond Sun, 24 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1407799 The concept of trade-offs pervades the world. Weighing costs against benefits or risk against reward is a useful model for behavior.

Let’s start with an investment comparison. Suppose you have a tidy sum of money you want to invest. One option is to purchase treasury bills. You are virtually guaranteed to get your initial investment back when the T-bill matures but the interest you earn will be modest. The low risk is a big plus, the low return not so much.

At the other extreme, you might invest your money in a venture capital deal. Here the risk is high (you could lose all of your money), but there is the possibility of a huge return. Here we have high risk but possibly high reward.

Of course, a mixed investment plan might be the most prudent of all. The addition of some investments with only moderate risk but the chance of moderate returns can balance out a portfolio.

These investment strategies can serve as a metaphor for nesting behavior in birds. All of our songbirds as well as a number of other birds in diverse families have altricial reproduction. The young are born naked and blind. They are unable to produce enough heat to keep themselves warm. Of course, they are defenseless against a nest predator like a hawk, snake or even red squirrel.

The process of raising young until they can fledge requires 10-13 days of incubation (usually by the female) and then feeding the rapidly growing nestlings for another 10-13 days.

The adults are sanitation engineers as well. Many nestling predators detect their prey by odor, so it is paramount to get rid of smelly wastes that might attract predators. Chicks of altricial birds produce a membrane around their poop to form what is called a fecal sac. One of the parents takes the fecal sacs away from the nest and drops them elsewhere. Keep an eye out for robins, song sparrows and other backyard birds carrying their fecal sacs.

Remarkably, a nestling goes from a helpless chick to a fledged bird in less than two weeks.

Mom and dad will usually accompany the fledged young for a while, so the parents’ work is not done when the chicks leave the nest. If a nest fails due to weather, predators or parasites, birds with altricial development have plenty of time to attempt a replacement brood.

The other extreme in breeding type is termed precocial development, and is seen in ducks, loons, grouse, quail, shorebirds and others. Mom lays eggs that are rich in yolk, the prepackaged nutrition for the development embryos. As a result, precocial chicks hatch out fully feathered with their eyes open. These chicks can walk soon after hatching and are soon feeding themselves. Incubation periods are longer than seen in altricial birds. A typical precocial clutch will need to be incubated for 21 days.

Mothers will tend to the flightless brood after hatching. In many species, the father is an absentee parent. But the time to fledging is much longer than in altricial birds. Ruffed grouse chicks are not capable of flight for five weeks or more after hatching.

The trade-off then is for parents to work extremely hard for a short period of time (altricial development) or invest less energy in tending the young on a daily basis and have young at risk from predators for a long time because they take so long to fledge.

Some species show an intermediate strategy. Hawks hatch with a coat of down and with vision (precocial traits) but require parental nourishment (an altricial trait).

Now is a great time to keep an eye out for nesting behavior in birds. If you find evidence of nesting, report your valuable sighting to the Maine Breeding Bird Atlas (www.maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/maine-bird-atlas/index.html).

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments at

whwilson@colby.edu

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Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Eliot provides helping hand https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/the-seacoast-dock-dogs-club-in-eliot-provides-a-helping-hand/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/the-seacoast-dock-dogs-club-in-eliot-provides-a-helping-hand/#respond Sun, 24 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1407843 ELIOT — Kelly Dailey adopted her brother’s dog, a Labrador-retriever mix named Shannon, after he committed suicide last year. Dailey struggled with grief after her brother’s death, but found she was often comforted when the 32-pound dog would climb onto her lap.

“I fell into a deep, deep depression, and I was heading down a rabbit hole fast,” Dailey said. “Shannon helped pull me out.

“So I thought: Dock Dogs. I had seen the competitions before and it looked like a lot of fun. I wanted to give her that. And the first day, the members of the Seacoast Club were so incredibly helpful and supportive, I was hooked. They helped me train her. And she’s an amazing dog. She proves to me every day she knows who I am.”

The dog was Dailey’s grief therapy. For Dailey, the only way to repay the high-energy dog was obvious. They joined the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Eliot so they could have fun together doing what dogs do best: playing fetch by leaping into water.

Dock Dogs is an Ohio-based organization that sponsors aquatics events for dogs and holds jumping competitions around the world. The Seacoast Dock Dogs Club is the only Dock Dogs-affiliated club in Maine, and one of only three in the Northeast. The nonprofit Maine club leases the land for practices and events from the Berwick Bark Park.

Nearly every member of the club seems to have a T-shirt made for their dog, touting Team Buck, Team Can-Can or Team Menno. Many members travel to events in other parts of the country.

Ray Sumner of Kittery dries off Camo, his 2-year-old yellow Lab, after the dog jumped 20 feet and 11 inches as members of Seacoast Dock Dogs performed at the Hops and Hounds event at Raitt Farm. Staff photo by Jill Brady

There are Dock Dogs-affiliated events across North America, like the Pet-A-Palooza in St. Paul, Minnesota, Woofstock in Toronto, and the Dog Days Canine Cannonball in Osage Beach, Missouri. Results from one event are comparable to another, since the dogs use the same Dock Dogs pools and docks.

“You can compete against dogs anywhere,” said Mike Ferron of Gorham, owner of a Lab-mix named Buck, one of the Seacoast club’s finest.

Last year, Ferron and Buck finished third in the elite division out of some 800 dogs at the Dock Dogs World Championship in Nashville, Tennessee. Buck was named the Dock Dogs Rookie of the Year.

The diminutive dog has a personal-best leap of 26 feet, 11 inches in the dock jump, and now competes in the semipro category.

“He loses his mind doing this,” said Ferron, who rescued Buck from an unexpected litter. “He just about goes crazy when he’s going to jump. For Buck, it’s all about being on the dock.”

Buck’s international success aside, the Seacoast club in Eliot is mostly about the camaraderie among canine fans and the serious dog love the members share.

“These are some of the best people I know,” said Dyane Delemarre, a Seacoast member from Rochester, New Hampshire, who was competing with her Belgian Malinois, Menno, on June 16 at the Dock Dogs event at Raitt Farm Homestead in Eliot.

“They’re dog people. They’re kind and helpful. And this brings you closer to your dog.”

Lisa Podielsky drives two hours from Lakeville, Massachusetts, to train in the summer with the Seacoast club in Eliot with her dog. She traveled to Nashville for a Dock Dogs event with 10 other Seacoast members. Last weekend, Podielsky stayed at the home of a Seacoast member in Maine in order to compete at the Dock Dogs event at Raitt Farm.

And yet, it matters not to Podielsky how her black Lab, Charley, performs.

“She’s average,” Podielsky said with a shrug. “She consistently jumps in the 15-16 (foot) range. She’s a rescue dog. A lot of the dogs here are rescues.”

At the Dock Dogs competition a week ago, many of the 100 members of the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club came to compete with their Labradors, Labradoodles, Lab-mixes, herding dogs, lap dogs, guard dogs and all manner of mutts. By noon, a line of more than 40 dogs was still waiting to get into the competition.

“If it wasn’t for Shannon and Seacoast, I don’t know where I’d be,” Dailey said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/the-seacoast-dock-dogs-club-in-eliot-provides-a-helping-hand/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1407843_664485-20180616_dock_dogs01.jpgTop: Troy Gerry of Eliot watches as Tucker, his 4-year-old yellow Lab, makes a dive into the pool during the Hops and Hounds event at Raitt Farm. Staff photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer)Sat, 23 Jun 2018 15:45:19 +0000
Transmission lines over Kennebec Gorge? That may be a choke point for renewable energy advocates https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/for-renewable-energy-advocates-a-lot-riding-on-kennebec-gorge/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/for-renewable-energy-advocates-a-lot-riding-on-kennebec-gorge/#respond Sun, 24 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1409211 WEST FORKS PLANTATION — Only a sharp eye would notice the small strips of orange and blue survey tape, fluttering from tree branches along this remote stretch of the Kennebec River.

They mean nothing to the thousands of tourists who each year bob through the Kennebec Gorge on whitewater rafts. For three hours, they are immersed in a 10-mile ride through roaring rapids and past steep, forested walls that reach for open sky, unbroken by buildings, bridges or signs of civilization.

But for Pete Dostie, that survey tape is a bad sign. It marks the spot where a 150-foot-wide corridor will be etched into commercial forestland, running 50 miles to the Maine-Quebec border. Here at the lower Kennebec Gorge, high-voltage transmission lines would be strung 200 feet above the river, topped by 18 safety-marker balls on shield wires. This is where hydroelectricity generated in Canada would traverse the Kennebec, surging 145 miles to Lewiston and, finally, Massachusetts.

For Dostie, a former river guide who has navigated the gorge for 40 years, overhead wires would disrupt a cherished backcountry experience that’s becoming increasingly hard to find.

Pete Dostie rows on the Kennebec River on June 13 within an area that Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power Co., has identified for its high-voltage transmission line. Dostie, a former river guide who has rafted through the Kennebec Gorge for four decades, opposes the project. “This is one of the last pure river gorges in the Northeast,” he says. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“This is one of the last pure river gorges in the Northeast,” he said, as he pulled his raft onto the riverbank in mid-June. “I don’t want to see wires with giant beach balls on them.”

A typical NIMBY statement, maybe. Preservation versus progress. But what’s happening here in the Kennebec Gorge has regional implications, and is being watched 250 miles away, in Boston.

Crossing the Kennebec is essential for the New England Clean Energy Connect project. Being developed by Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power, NECEC, as it’s known, is the region’s biggest, multistate energy proposal currently in play. There’s no immediate benefit to Maine ratepayers. But with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts, NECEC could run more than 1 million Massachusetts homes.

But just as granite cliffs squeeze the river here, the Kennebec Gorge may become a choke point for NECEC. That possibility is making NECEC a test case around this question: Can any large-scale, multistate energy project get built anymore in New England?

The answer matters, because advocates say that without at least some big clean-energy projects, the region will be hard-pressed to lower fossil fuel-based carbon emissions enough to help blunt the impacts of climate change.

NEW HAMPSHIRE PROJECT FAILED

“These days,” said Paul Hibbard, a principal at Analysis Group, a global consulting firm with offices in Boston, “it seems to be getting more difficult to (build big projects), by orders of magnitude.”

Hibbard is a former chairman of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. He has watched ventures aimed at beefing up New England’s energy infrastructure be derailed by narrow objections. Exhibit A is the inability to build new natural gas pipelines in New England.

In 2014, the region’s governors, including Maine Gov. Paul LePage, put the weight of their offices behind a plan to expand pipeline capacity and fuel the region’s power plants with cheap gas from Pennsylvania. But opposition from residents and environmental groups, as well as court challenges, have killed or stalled all major pipeline proposals.

Now, after watching what happened earlier this year in New Hampshire, Hibbard and other experts wonder if cross-border electric transmission lines will suffer a similar fate.

A 2016 law in Massachusetts has set in motion an unprecedented process in the region to seek long-term contracts for massive slugs of renewable energy. One solution is to get more hydroelectricity from Canada.

Massachusetts utilities and energy officials thought they had found the easiest path, through New Hampshire. But their top pick – a $1.6 billion high-voltage line called Northern Pass – needed to traverse another iconic choke point, the White Mountain National Forest.

Last spring, after seven years of route changes and concessions to bury lines along additional sections of the 192-mile corridor, an obscure siting board in New Hampshire rejected a key permit for Northern Pass. Caught off guard, Massachusetts pivoted to its second choice, NECEC through Maine. At $950 million, it’s also cheaper than Northern Pass. That could translate into lower electric bills for Bay State customers.

NECEC also is less costly than a third option, a $1.2 billion transmission line called TDI New England. TDI would have brought Canadian hydro 98 miles under Lake Champlain in Vermont and then 56 miles underground along existing rights-of-way. That approach blunted opposition from most residents and environmental groups, although it was not selected by Massachusetts.

But it may turn out that NECEC is only cheaper on paper. Avangrid-CMP insists it’s too costly to spend an additional $37 million to tunnel under the river at the Kennebec Gorge, or string a longer route to cross upstream at Harris Station, Maine’s largest hydroelectric dam.

What does that decision mean, in light of the failures in New Hampshire and Vermont?

Are there lessons to be learned from Northern Pass and TDI?

Can Avangrid-CMP use that knowledge to actually get NECEC built?

The answers can’t be known yet, but these are questions that energy industry observers in New England are pondering.

“These multistate, two-country projects are so complicated to pull off,” said Bruce Mohl, editor of CommonWealth magazine in Boston and a frequent writer about the area’s economic and energy issues. “Everyone thought Northern Pass was going to pull it out. Think of how much time and money was invested in that, and in the end, it came up short.”

LOCAL OUTCRY CAN BE LETHAL

Mohl said Massachusetts officials were stunned that a small siting agency in New Hampshire had the power to kill Northern Pass. Now, officials are trying to get up to speed on the details of the Maine proposal, as well as opposition to it.

“It’s slowly dawning on folks that Massachusetts knew almost nothing about the CMP project,” he said, “and it’s not a given that it’s going to happen.”

John Carroll, a spokesman for Avangrid-CMP, offered an explanation for why Avangrid-CMP is pushing hard to cross the gorge with overhead lines.

Groups of rafters and guides prepare to set out on the Kennebec River at Harris Station on June 13. Avangrid says the Kennebec Gorge is the optimal site for the hydropower project because the route sidesteps conservation lands and big water bodies such as Flagstaff Lake. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

The Massachusetts bid process is for power at a fixed price. That’s why the added cost of laying wires under Lake Champlain made TDI’s bid financially uncompetitive, Carroll asserted.

When Northern Pass foundered, Avangrid was able to offer a winning price that was based on its preferred overland route and by crossing the Kennebec Gorge overhead. Now that contracts are signed, spending an extra $37 million to tunnel under the river – 4 percent of the total cost – would make NECEC less profitable.

But finances aside, Carroll also stressed that the Kennebec Gorge is the optimal site. The route purposely sidesteps conservation lands and big water bodies, such as Flagstaff Lake.

In addition, Carroll said, CMP’s corridor is on land it already owns. The crossing is in the lower gorge, miles past the prime white water near Harris Dam.

“We think we made the right choice from the beginning,” he said.

IRONY MIGHT BE LOST ON RAFTERS

There’s an irony about debating the wild nature of the upper Kennebec River. If the river wasn’t held back, first for log drives and later for hydropower, summer whitewater rafting wouldn’t exist.

That reality is clear at 10 a.m. on a recent weekday at Harris Station, when a warning siren blares and a loudspeaker repeats: “Water levels downstream are increasing. Exit water immediately.”

River guide Doug Alford understands that New England shares a common electric grid, but he also appreciates the ability to drift for three hours and have a full wilderness experience. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Within minutes, the river flow increases, as dam operators turn up the spigot on Indian Pond. In a nearby staging area, hundreds of day trippers and their guides are preparing to haul brightly colored rafts down a cascade of steps to the riverbank below the dam, where they’ll put in. Clad in life jackets and helmets, their thoughts are with the swirling water, not regional energy policy. Most are unaware of the power line proposal, or know little about it.

Guides who run the gorge every day, though, have mixed views.

Dana DiBiase is adamant. Overhead power lines would detract from the experience of rafting a remote river, in his view. Let Massachusetts generate its own power, he suggests.

“Would you want to put power lines in your playground?” he asks. “I think that’s the answer.”

Doug Alford, who said he’s originally from Massachusetts, can see it both ways. He understands that New England shares a common electric grid. But to be able to drift for three hours and have a full wilderness experience, that’s worth saving.

He also wonders how much more it would cost the average Massachusetts electric customer to run the line under the river, or, at least, across Harris Dam.

“That would be the best option,” Alford said. “Another set of wires here wouldn’t make any difference.”

TODAY’S ERA ONE OF ACRIMONY

These opinions, reflexive and more thoughtful, may mirror a broader mindset in a society today that is more fractured, and less able to reach consensus. That, in part, may be why it’s harder to build large projects, according to Elizabeth Swain, director of strategic communications at Power Engineers, a national consulting firm.

“I think the public has an increasingly diverse view of what defines a public good,” Swain said.

Swain is a former chairwoman of Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission. She worked on public outreach when the gas pipeline from Quebec to Portland was built in the late 1990s and currently is consulting for Avangrid on NECEC.

Local battles over regional projects have become more “granular,” Swain said, reflecting on protracted conflicts over a new Maine Turnpike tollbooth in York, and relieving traffic congestion on Route 1 in Wiscasset.

“If you have a project where there’s a greater public good, but a local impact,” she said, “it’s going to be increasingly hard to move forward.”

To prepare its permit application for state environmental regulators, Avangrid-CMP has created several photo-simulations that depict what the line would look like.

Avangrid-CMP would leave a 550-foot forested buffer along the riverbank. Because the wire spans are long, the tower structures would be far from the bank. One depiction looking north from the Moxie Gore side of the river indicates that the top of one structure would be visible at a distance of 1,530 feet.

Rafters navigate rapids on the Kennebec River. The Avangrid-CMP plan has no immediate benefit for Maine ratepayers, but it could generate enough power to run a million homes in Massachusetts. Avangrid-CMP says it would cost $37 million more to tunnel under the river. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

To get a sense of how the lines might appear, Dostie steered his raft to a stretch north of where Cold Stream empties into the Kennebec. As he approached, a bald eagle watched from atop a dead pine. Dostie tied his boat to a tree branch and looked up, trying to imagine the wires, 200 feet above the water. As he stood on the riverbank, passing rafters saw him and began chanting: “No lines! No lines!”

Dostie was one of the first whitewater guides on the river in the late 1970s, selling his company in 2006. Today he runs the Hawks Nest Lodge, which overlooks the Kennebec and Route 201 in West Forks.

His opposition to power lines crossing the Kennebec Gorge illustrates how challenging it has become to find consensus on big energy projects.

In early June, Avangrid-CMP announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with a nonprofit organization made up of some area rafting companies and recreation interests. Broadly, Avangrid would invest $22 million to support trail development, conservation land and tourism-based improvements in the area.

That and other concessions are meant as compensation for the negative impacts of overhead lines in the gorge.

This deal took two years to negotiate, but it was immediately panned by the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Maine chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. And for his part, Dostie charges that the agreement favors the financial interests of some of the co-signers. He said he has begun organizing opposition in West Forks, which has a year-round population of 60.

“West Forks was completely locked out of this thing,” Dostie said, “even though everything is happening in West Forks.”

With the permitting review still in its early stages, no one can say what impact the agreement – or opposition to it – will have on the process. But the debate shows that local conflict over a single element, or a specific place, can be pivotal to the failure or success of a regional energy project.

If there’s any doubt that the Kennebec Gorge has achieved that status, a follow-up letter sent to CMP last month by James Beyer, a licensing and compliance manager at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, clarifies its importance.

In the letter, Beyer noted that the line would be the only overhead utility crossing between Harris Dam and The Forks township, and the only visual impact for 10 miles. The letter said both the DEP and Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission need more information about alternatives to the overhead crossing.

“From the department’s perspective at this point in time,” the letter said, “both the directional drilling alternative and the Brookfield alternative (Harris Dam) appear to have less impact on existing uses and scenic character than the proposed overhead crossing.”

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

tturkel@pressherald.com

Twitter: TuxTurkel

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/24/for-renewable-energy-advocates-a-lot-riding-on-kennebec-gorge/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1409211_769334-20180613_kennebec-3.jpgRiver guide Dana DiBiase, left, heads down the Kennebec River near West Forks Plantation with rafters on June 13. DiBiase is a critic of a proposed Central Maine Power transmission line that would erect wires 200 feet above the river, with 18 mounted safety-marker balls.Sun, 24 Jun 2018 17:42:35 +0000
Arrest of Saddleback’s prospective buyer spurs nonprofit to try again to put the ski area back in business https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/22/the-nonprofit-that-has-sought-to-buy-saddleback-plans-to-make-an-offer/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/22/the-nonprofit-that-has-sought-to-buy-saddleback-plans-to-make-an-offer/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1405471

Sebastian Monsour of the Majella Group speaks with Saddleback Mountain in the background after his company agreed to buy the ski area in June 2017. On Thursday, Monsour was in jail in Australia. Staff photo by David Leaming

A group that once had been in negotiations to purchase Saddleback plans to approach the ski area’s owners about reviving those talks following the news Thursday that an Australian businessman who had entered an agreement to buy the resort was arrested and charged with fraud.

“We see a path forward that can work and we are prepared to lead,” said Crystal Canney, executive director of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit composed of area business owners and skiers.

Sebastian Monsour, CEO of the Majella Group, was arrested Thursday following a raid of his office in Brisbane, Australia. Police in Queensland said during a news conference that the arrest followed a “long and protracted investigation” into allegations that Monsour misused $5 million he received from a Chinese investor.

It is unclear how Monsour’s arrest will impact the sale agreement. Neither Saddleback’s owners, Bill and Irene Berry, nor the Majella Group could be reached for comment Thursday.

Saddleback closed almost three years ago, after the Berrys could not raise the $3 million they needed for a new chairlift.

The Saddleback Mountain Foundation reached a verbal agreement to purchase the ski area for $6 million in the fall of 2016, but were able to raise only a little more than $1 million before the Berrys opted instead for a deal with the Australia-based Majella Group in June 2017, when Monsour said he planned to make Saddleback the premier ski resort in North America.

Terms of the agreement were not announced and the sale has yet to be completed.

Monsour had hoped to close on the purchase by the end of last summer, but the Rangeley ski area remained shuttered for a third winter. This spring, Monsour said he had spent “in excess of $2 million” on a deposit with the Berrys to enter into a contract agreement and on research for a business plan to give to investors.

Saddleback owners Irene and Bill Berry pass the traditional wooden ski to Sebastian Monsour, center, chief executive officer of the Majella Group, during the sale announcement at the ski resort last year. The sale has yet to be completed and Monsour now faces charges in Australia. Staff photo by David Leaming

“We wouldn’t have spent this much money on planning it if we didn’t think it could work,” he said in March. “Our focus now is to get the deal done and get the mountain open.”

Canney said the Saddleback Mountain Foundation returned the money it had raised after the Berrys entered into a contract with Majella, but continued to work on a plan to purchase the ski area.

“We’ve been working on a new business plan the past eight to 10 months,” she said. “We wanted to be ready if the opportunity presented itself, and that’s why we continued to work on it. It’s no reflection on Majella. We continued to believe in this project.

“The Saddleback Mountain Foundation stayed together despite Saddleback being off the market. We never gave up. We care about the conservation and the economic development. And we still believe we have a place at the table.”

Canney said her group can come up with money “from a combination of funding sources. We do have a stronger business plan than the first time we were at the table. We believe we have a deep, deep connection with the community, because when this is successful it will conserve land and open the ski area and have an economic impact in the region.”

A year ago, more than 100 local supporters celebrated at the formal announcement of the pending sale of Saddleback Mountain to the Majella Group. Last winter, the ski area was closed for the third straight season. Staff photo by David Leaming

Doubts about Monsour’s intentions for the ski area arose this year when he was quoted as saying that the reason he was buying the ski resort was for the U.S. EB-5 visa program, in which entrepreneurs, their spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to apply for green cards if they invest in certain U.S. real estate projects that create jobs. The EB-5 program provides foreign investors with an expedited process to secure visas to live and work in the United States if they give at least $500,000 to a qualified project.

Monsour later said his comments in a recording of a staff meeting were part of a larger discussion on financial models and were taken out of context in media reports. He said much had happened in putting together a business plan to purchase and redevelop the resort since then.

The Chinese investor Monsour is accused of defrauding now lives in Australia and filed a lawsuit in December accusing Monsour of deceit and taking advantage of an Australian visa program.

Monsour is being held without bail, Australian police said.

Some in Rangeley said they were surprised and disappointed by the news of Monsour’s arrest Thursday.

Bob Greene of Sandy Plantation didn’t know about Monsour being arrested, but was sorry to hear it.

“That certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of his relationship with whatever deal he has with the Berry family,” said Greene, who has served on Saddleback’s ski patrol. “At the end of the day, that’s between them. None of us have any control over it. The only thing we can do is sit and wait. The Berrys may have other people interested in it, but it’s all speculation. None of us are getting any information.”

Wess Connally, the owner of Books, Lines & Thinkers bookstore in Rangeley for 22 years, said the ski area’s closure for the past three winters has hurt the region.

“When we don’t have skiing, I don’t have much business in the winter,” Connally said. “We’re all disappointed the ski area has not opened.”

Connally cited the Balsams Resort in New Hampshire, which has remained closed since 2011 despite being purchased four years ago by Les Otten, the former head of American Skiing Co.

“It’s hard to imagine that Saddleback would stay closed. It’s an awful thought,” Connally said. “But obviously that can happen. Look at the Balsams. It’s not looking good.”

However, Karen Ogulnick, executive director of the Rangeley Chamber of Commerce, remains confident.

“It’s obviously disappointing news about the potential buyer,” Ogulnick said. “I just am still going to be positive that there is a buyer out there who is going to realize what a fantastic gem Saddleback and the entire Rangeley region is.”

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/22/the-nonprofit-that-has-sought-to-buy-saddleback-plans-to-make-an-offer/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1405471_494318-Saddleback2.jpgSebastian Monsour of the Majella group is interviewed with Saddleback Mountain in the background at the resort in Rangeley after it was formally announced the company would purchase the resort from owners Bill and Irene Berry on June 28, 2017.Fri, 22 Jun 2018 10:05:37 +0000
Former Acadia National Park director accused of accepting illegal gift https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/former-acadia-national-park-director-accused-of-accepting-illegal-gifts/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/former-acadia-national-park-director-accused-of-accepting-illegal-gifts/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:50:22 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/former-acadia-national-park-director-accused-of-accepting-illegal-gifts/ A former Acadia National Park superintendent accepted an illegal gift of a Caribbean family vacation valued at more than $14,000 months before his retirement in 2015, according to a report released Thursday.

The report was issued by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the management of federal lands and natural resources.

A lawyer for Sheridan Steele, target of the probe, contends there was nothing illegal about the retirement gift announced at a dinner attended by dozens of members of the local community on Mount Desert Island.

“We don’t deny the facts, but we deny the conclusion. It wasn’t an illegal gift,” said Steele’s attorney, Jay McCloskey. He called the probe “a total waste of investigative resources.”

The U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute but provided the report to the National Park Service deputy director “for any action deemed appropriate.”

According to the report, a board member and board chairman of the Schoodic Institute provided the park official with $4,890 for airfare to the U.S. Virgin Islands and a yacht outing valued at $9,256. The gift was announced at a 2015 fundraiser in which Steele was guest of honor, and his family’s attendance free of charge constituted another gift of $625, the report said.

Don Kent, president and CEO of the Schoodic Institute, which promotes scientific literacy and environmental stewardship, said board members wanted to reward Steele’s federal service with a gift. He said they didn’t realize it was improper.

Steele and his family didn’t actually go on the vacation until after his retirement.

“Clearly we need to do a little more education. This is an opportunity for us to educate our staff and board about the intricacies of federal policy,” Kent said.

The report also found that Steele violated federal law while working with the nonprofit organization as a park official after negotiating for a post-retirement job, and then by communicating with National Park Service employees on matters related to the nonprofit after retiring.

Steele, who retired in October 2015, worked in the National Park Service for 38 years at six different parks. His last 12 years were at Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, a period during which the Schoodic Institute was created on former Navy property.

The Schoodic Institute is one of 18 learning centers associated with national parks, and it’s operated as a nonprofit with a variety of funding sources including private and public money.

After his retirement, Steele joined the Schoodic Institute board, which amounted to a part-time job where he was reimbursed for expenses but did not receive a salary, Kent said.

Steele had a reputation for having vision and an ability to get things done while serving as Acadia National Park superintendent.

David McDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit that partners to protect natural and cultural resources, said Steele was a “terrific partner” to many nonprofits associated with the park.

“He worked tirelessly on behalf of Acadia, and always had the resource and public good foremost in his public mind. This situation does not diminish our appreciation for his many contributions here,” he said.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/former-acadia-national-park-director-accused-of-accepting-illegal-gifts/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/ACAD-Sheridan-Steele.jpghttps://www.nps.gov/aboutus/nrawards-2012.htmFri, 22 Jun 2018 09:10:45 +0000
Baxter State Park, home of Mount Katahdin, gets new director https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/baxter-state-park-home-of-mount-katahdin-gets-new-director/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/baxter-state-park-home-of-mount-katahdin-gets-new-director/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 14:32:31 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/baxter-state-park-home-of-mount-katahdin-gets-new-director/ MILLINOCKET — Maine officials say the northern Maine state park that includes Mount Katahdin has a new director.

The Baxter State Park Authority announced on Thursday that Eben Sypitkowski has been named the new head of Baxter State Park, the home to the state’s highest peak. Sypitkowski is currently the park’s resource manager and oversees the Scientific Forest Management Area.

The state says Sypitkowski will lead about22 year-round, and 39 seasonal employees who maintain the park, which is a major tourist attraction in northern Maine.

Sypitkowski is a graduate of Bangor High School and Bates College, and earned a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Maine.  He and his wife and daughter reside in Millinocket.

Baxter State Park was created by Gov. Percival P. Baxter who donated the first parcel of land in 1931. Over the years it has grown to 209,644 acres. Baxter also created two trust funds to finance the operation and maintenance of the park without the need for state taxpayers’ money.

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/21/baxter-state-park-home-of-mount-katahdin-gets-new-director/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/06/919790-20160624_knife-edg7.jpgBAXTER STATE PARK, ME - JUNE 24: The Knife Edge on Katahdin seen from Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park on Thursday June 23, 2016. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Thu, 21 Jun 2018 11:22:05 +0000
Bethel group plans to create ‘massive network of trails’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/bethel-group-plans-to-create-massive-network-of-trails/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/bethel-group-plans-to-create-massive-network-of-trails/#respond Sun, 17 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1397017 BETHEL — As Alex Strugatskiy ran through the woods outside this mountain village, he leaned over and pushed his 7-year-old son, Kyr, as the boy peddled his mountain bike up a steep trail. It was double duty for the dad during a weekly trail race.

It was a scene that could be played out by even more people in the coming years because of the efforts of a local nonprofit group.

Bethel’s trail organization, Mahoosuc Pathways, is poised to launch the final phase of a $2.25 million fundraising effort to purchase 978 acres beside Sunday River ski resort in order to create the Bethel Community Forest, envisioned as a recreational playground for local residents.

The effort, in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land and Northern Forest Center, eventually would lead to a total of 3,589 acres of conserved land between Sunday River and Bethel, seven miles away. Mahoosuc Pathways is planning for a 10-mile trail from the ski area to town-owned land and then to the community forest beside Bethel.

Mahoosuc Pathways already has raised $905,700 toward the purchase of its first land holding.

Residents gave resounding support to the project at a town meeting Wednesday, with 200 voting in favor and only 11 against a motion that the town would take ownership of the community forest if Mahoosuc Pathways ever dissolves.

The overwhelming support was affirmation to those who are working on the project.

“We’re pretty excited to move forward,” said Sarah Weafer, Mahoosuc Pathways’ project manager. “I am hopeful that as our story gets out, more people will become members, and enable us to keep building trails and getting people outside.”

Mahoosuc Pathways was a committee within the Mahoosuc Land Trust until six years ago, when it became an independent nonprofit with the goal of turning Bethel into a town surrounded by trails. Now the trail organization plans to turn the community forest into a massive network of trails in a town that sits beside the White Mountain National Forest.

Julia Reuter of Bethel runs on the Bethel Village Trails during a recent trail race. A local land trust, Mahoosuc Pathways, is raising money to buy land and add to the trail system.

“We were talking to the Trust for Public Land about who would own it, and I had this moment last summer when I thought, ‘Maybe it should just be us,’ ” said Gabe Perkins, executive director of Mahoosuc Pathways.

A Bethel native, Perkins, 40, said making Bethel a more livable town by building trails is long overdue.

“This is what connects a community,” Perkins said. “For me, Bethel is already pretty good at ecotourism. This is being done for the community. It’s the community driving the process.”

Strugatskiy said the greatest value in the community forest will be in the way it inspires residents to live a more active life.

“The first I heard about it was a year ago,” Strugatskiy said. “It’s a great idea to get more people in town outside. It develops an outdoor ethic for kids growing up. And if you protect it now, it will always be protected. These trails are more for the local folks who live here. They will use them every day. It will help keep the community vibrant.”

Fred Bailey, 33, grew up in Bethel and returned four years ago to make it his home again. Now the collection manager at the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum on Main Street, Bailey said the trails built around town by Mahoosuc Pathways the past few years have caused an uptick in outdoor activity for a town already full of outdoors people.

“There were no mountain bike trails when I grew up here,” Bailey said. “They’re great for trail running. When I was growing up, there was only Alpine and Nordic ski trails. There has been a big shift to mountain biking. There is a growing culture.”

The trails at Bethel Inn Resort at the top of Main Street are one example. Three years ago the inn partnered with Mahoosuc Pathways to create a trail system. This summer the system will be extended to a six-mile loop in the woods beside the inn’s nine-hole golf course. As golfers putt from greens nearby, signs beside cart paths stop mountain bikers and alert them to be quiet.

“That’s happening in other parts of the country, integrating mountain biking into (resorts),” Weafer said.

Before the trail race a week ago, Ashley Suavez walked with Diana Gordon and her small dog, Jack, on the trails. The two women from Worcester, Massachusetts, were on vacation in Bethel and knew nothing about the local trails when they arrived. After a week they were delighted to find them.

“We just punched trails into Google. These are wonderful,” Suavez said. “I can’t walk very far or climb mountains so this is perfect. I like to be in the woods.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/bethel-group-plans-to-create-massive-network-of-trails/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1397017_473546-Bethel.jpgThe Bethel Village Trails wind through the woods next to the Bethel Inn golf course. Residents may soon have many more trail options in the area.Fri, 15 Jun 2018 17:48:53 +0000
Canoeing in Maine: Little Indian Pond highlighted by colorful scenery https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/canoeing-in-maine-little-indian-pond-highlighted-by-colorful-scenery/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/canoeing-in-maine-little-indian-pond-highlighted-by-colorful-scenery/#respond Sun, 17 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1397028 Sometimes we are in the mood for a macro-beauty kind of paddling outing, and at other times micro beauty is the preference. For macro, we might seek out the Alpine scenery at Kezar or Flagstaff lakes, or enjoy a weekend getaway exploring the lakes around Baxter State Park.

On a recent Sunday morning, we felt like micro and headed up I-95 at dawn to the Newport area for a two-hour poke around the perimeter of Little Indian Pond, with flower and bird identification guides at the ready. The pond is three miles in circumference, and Ripley Stream to the north provides another mile of exploring.

For the most part you can paddle right next to the shoreline. On a few occasions, we paddled out around dense mats of pickerelweed, and then back to the shore. The forest is far removed from the pond, so there’s a bounty of flowering bushes, and a variety of brilliantly colored bog plants and flowers to enjoy. We felt like we were paddling in a giant petri dish, with the array of botany providing the lip. Loon calls echoed across the pond, and we spied a pair of loons drifting along with a small youngster between them. We heard the cry of an osprey somewhere behind us, and looked back to see a bald eagle swoop down and try to pluck something off the surface. It came up empty and disappeared into the trees beyond the far shoreline.

Pink and blue dot the greenery around the pond. Much of the pink is supplied by prolific clusters of bog laurel flowers, and the blue is courtesy of blue flag iris, which for us has always symbolized the arrival of summer in Maine. But there are other suppliers of pink around the pond; swamp rose was in full flower, and the dainty light pink flower heads of rose pogonia emerged up out of tussocks of moss and peat.

We almost paddled by a striking orchid but put on the brakes, hastily backpaddled, and braced the canoe for up-close examination and picture taking. My wife thumbed through our wildflower guide and gleefully exclaimed, “It’s grass pink.” It was the first time either of us had seen it. Grass pink is also known as meadow gift and we could see why. It was absolutely beautiful in its brilliant pinkish-blue color, and sporting its bee-attracting beard.

We have a fondness for tamarack trees, and Little Indian Pond has many of them poking up out of the marsh grasses. They looked like green pipe cleaner men, each twisted at odd and entertaining angles. The tamarack, also known as larch, is the only evergreen tree that drops its needles in the fall after turning a radiant yellow. A few short cedar trees had wide weathered gray trunks reminding us of miniature versions of the famous bristlecone pines of California and Nevada, some of which are 3,000 years old.

A few pitcher plants rose out of the soft mounds of grass and sphagnum moss, looking like tall red lollipops along the shoreline. They are striking through the seasons, and like a chameleon changes colors as the months move on. Spring brings a lime green color to the flower heads. Right now they are a deep raspberry color. By October we will enjoy a soft brown color as their seedpods dry and open up.

Floating bur reed leaves lie gently on the water, undulating like a wheat field in the wind. They appear as thin neat rows of light green holiday tinsel. They were mesmerizing in the early morning sunlight. Dragonflies and tree swallows darted here and there. Yellow warblers dashed from bush to bush.

The two hours flew by and we headed back toward our vehicle. The tunnel leading under the road into Indian Pond looked inviting, so we ducked our heads and floated through and out into the light once again. Indian Pond is four miles long, and there are a lot of cottages on its western side. We paddled along the wild northeastern shoreline for 20 minutes.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map 31) for help in getting to the town of St. Albans via Route 43 west out of Corinna. There is no official boat launch, but there is a short access lane that leads down to the pond from the Melody Lane-Ripley road. Park on either side of the road.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses and schools.

Contact: michaelj_perry@comcast.net

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/17/canoeing-in-maine-little-indian-pond-highlighted-by-colorful-scenery/feed/ 0 Fri, 15 Jun 2018 18:10:04 +0000
Maine deer hunters had big year in 2017 as the herd grows https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/14/maine-deer-hunters-had-big-year-in-2017-as-the-herd-grows/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/14/maine-deer-hunters-had-big-year-in-2017-as-the-herd-grows/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 21:12:55 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/14/maine-deer-hunters-had-big-year-in-2017-as-the-herd-grows/ AUGUSTA – Maine’s wildlife officials say deer hunters in the state had their most successful season in the last 10 years in 2017, in part because of a growing deer herd.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife said hunters harvested 27,233 deer last year. That’s an increase of 15 percent from 2016.

Maine deer biologist Nathan Bieber said the increase in the deer herd in southern and central Maine combined with favorable hunting conditions to make for a good year for hunters.

Hunters in Maine search for deer from early September to early December every year. The season is broken down into segments for hunters who use firearms, muzzle loaders and arrows. Most of the deer are taken during the firearms season, which accounted for more than 23,000 of the deer last year.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/14/maine-deer-hunters-had-big-year-in-2017-as-the-herd-grows/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/1195506_deer_herd_jpeg_026f0-e1496377441852.jpgWay too many deer, with 60 per square mile ...Thu, 14 Jun 2018 17:18:37 +0000
It’s Worth the Trip: A beautiful place can now be seen by all https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/10/its-worth-the-trip-a-beautiful-place-can-now-be-seen-by-all/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/10/its-worth-the-trip-a-beautiful-place-can-now-be-seen-by-all/#respond Sun, 10 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1393432 When I heard there was a new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant trail opening at the Pownalborough Courthouse in Dresden, I knew I wanted to check it out.

I’ve been highlighting Maine destinations that are worth the trip in this paper for a couple of years now, but unfortunately many of them aren’t accessible for everybody. Enjoyment of the outdoors is something that ties all of us together, and it’s vitally important we keep expanding access to Maine’s wonderful places.

So I was eager to see this new trail and when I arrived, I was delighted to find much more. This beautiful spot on the banks of the Kennebec River is a hidden treasure trove of hiking and history.

Located on Route 128 in Dresden – just 10 minutes from I-295 Exit 43 (Richmond/Litchfield) – the Pownalborough Courthouse is owned by the Lincoln County Historical Association and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The three-story building is the only pre-Revolutionary courthouse in Maine – a fine example of 18th-century New England architecture. The frame was erected in three days in 1761, and thanks to the efforts of the LCHA, the building is still standing 257 years later.

Across the road from the courthouse, LCHA’s system of hiking trails winds through 71 acres of woods. In addition to the 1,500-foot stretch that’s now ADA-compliant, there are a number of routes that offer a variety of more difficult terrain – 2.5 miles of trail altogether.

The wheelchair-accessible North Rim Ravine Trail begins at a small trailhead parking lot, where you’ll find a new information kiosk and handicap parking spot. The newly expanded trail is wider, with only the slightest grades and a surface of hard-packed gravel. An out-and-back trip on this improved section of trail is a little more than half a mile and takes you deep into the heart of the woods.

Heading east, the trail quickly leaves the fields next to the road and enters a rich forest of oak and pine. The trail is a gorgeous bit of craftsmanship, combining form and function; the wide, gray path complements the forest floor nicely. The tall and stately old trees completely envelop you from the outside world, while the sun dapples the trail with bits of light. A short way down the path, a small resting spot gives a nice view over the ravine.

After about 700 feet, the path turns sharply to the right, joining the Hardwood Slope Trail. Here it runs along an old stone wall with a steep slope of pine and birch just to the east. Don’t be surprised if you see chipmunks and squirrels darting in and out of the piled stones, or if you hear them calling out a greeting. The packed gravel comes to an end at the Kennebec Courthouse trail.

To the east, the rest of the trail network offers steeper, more challenging hiking. I recommend continuing up the Hardwood Slope Trail to the top of the ridge and following the South Rim Ravine Trail, where you’ll encounter red pine, yellow birch and hemlock trees; ladyslippers and a dense glade of ferns; and a number of small, sturdy bridges criss-crossing the stream at the bottom of the ravine. While these trails are a little harder to follow than the wide gravel path, they are well-blazed, and any route will loop around to lead you west toward the courthouse again.

The Kennebec Courthouse Trail is a nice ramble through eastern white pines and verdant ferns, following a small stream before depositing you back at Route 128. After crossing the road, the trail continues up a steep rise to the Goodwin Cemetery, the plot of the family that initially managed the courthouse. The cemetery no longer has a view of the Kennebec River, but the plot itself is a sight with dozens of beautiful headstones and markers.

The Courthouse Trail continues down to the banks of the Kennebec, where it runs along the water for nearly 800 feet. I believe a family of eagles has taken up residence in the tall trees; I saw one wheeling away as I made my way back up to the courthouse.

I came for the trails but the grounds of the Pownalborough Courthouse are certainly a fascinating destination in their own right. The wide green lawn has benches for enjoying the breeze from the river, and a period garden – a collaboration between the LCHA and the Garden Club of Wiscasset – contains more than 20 flowers and herbs that would have been planted in the late 18th century. You can explore the courthouse for $5 (children under 16 are free), and get a closer look at the court, the justices’ chambers, the ice house, the tavern and more, including a number of historical artifacts.

The Pownalborough Courthouse is a wonderful place to spend the day, and increased access provided by trail improvements makes it even better. While creating ADA-compliant “universal-access” trails at outdoor destinations is challenging, I hope more organizations and land trusts will find ways to meet the need. Beautiful and historic Maine places deserve to be shared.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

jakechristie@gmail.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/10/its-worth-the-trip-a-beautiful-place-can-now-be-seen-by-all/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1393432_588877-handicap-accessible-.jpgThe wheelchair-accessible North Rim Ravine Trail begins at a small trailhead parking lot, where you'll find a new information kiosk and a handicap parking spot. The expanded trail is wider, and offers access that should serve as inspiration for other trail managers.Fri, 08 Jun 2018 18:37:23 +0000
Birding: Record-setting day for bird counters https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/10/birding-record-setting-day-for-bird-counters/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/10/birding-record-setting-day-for-bird-counters/#respond Sun, 10 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1393442 With the arrival of sharp-tailed sparrows and Nelson’s sparrows, our spring migration is finished. These two species are the last or our migratory breeding birds to arrive in Maine.

I trust that you had the chance to enjoy the spring migration. A few days were very exciting with significant fallouts of warblers, tanagers and thrushes.

Today, I will provide a second-hand report on what has to be one of the most mind-boggling birding experiences ever. Ian Davies and five colleagues collected the data reported here. My report is based on Ian’s field notes.

The setting is May 28 at the Tadoussac Bird Observatory (Observatoire d’Oiseaux de Tadoussac) in Quebec. The location is on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, just northeast of the confluence of the Saguenay River with the St. Lawrence.

The habitat here is a series of sand dunes, offering hence great visibility of arriving migrants.

The team of birders was excited about the possibilities of a good day for migration because southwest winds had blown through the night and dawn rain was expected. Throw in a habitat like the Tadoussac dunes that provide a refuge for exhausted migrants flying over the St. Lawrence River and you have all the ingredients for a fallout.

Starting at daybreak and birding for almost 10 hours, the team recorded 108 species of birds. That’s a nice total but breaking the century mark for species is not unusual during spring migration. Rather, it was the total number of migrants that was simply flabbergasting.

Buoyed by the weather conditions, the team was hoping for a great day of birding. Their first stop yielded no birds so the team decided to head for the Tadoussac dunes. Great choice.

Arriving at 5:45 a.m., the team was excited by groups of 5 to 10 warblers. The showers let up around 6:30 a.m. and the warbler floodgates were opened. For the next nine hours, the birding team did their best to count a nonstop flight of warblers. Sometimes the birds darkened the sky from horizon to horizon. I can’t help but think of the sky-darkening clouds of passenger pigeons that John James Audubon described that took four days to pass.

To cut to the chase, the birding team counted over 721,000 warblers at Tadoussac. I’ve never experienced a fallout to rival this one but even with less impressive fallouts, the birding is bewildering. There are so many birds – where do you look?

To the credit of the Tadoussoc birders, censuses of the birds were taken throughout the day. The protocol was to look through binoculars at a flight line of birds and count the number passing a vertical line each second. Then the binoculars were raised or lowered to a new flight line, attempting to account for all the birds flying past in a short interval.

From 7:15 a.m. until 8:03 a.m., 84,600 warblers were counted. Another 73,500 were estimated between 9:49 and 10:38. Finally numbers started to diminish around 3 p.m. and only 5,000 warblers were counted over the next 20 minutes when the birders called it a day.

The previous record for warblers in a day in this part of the world was around 200,000. The May 28 fallout blew the old record out of the water.

On top of the challenge of assessing the number of birds, determining the species composition posed an additional challenge. About 100,000 the birds had to go as “unidentified warbler” but most were identified.

Here are the counts of the most abundant warblers of the 22 species sighted: 72,162 Tennessee warblers, 50,513 American redstarts, 108,243 Cape May warblers, 108,000 Magnolia warblers, 144,324 bay-breasted warblers (20 percent of the total warblers), 28,865 Blackburnian warblers, 72,162 yellow-rumped warblers and 14,432 Canada warblers.

Take a look at the list, photos and videos from this remarkable day at: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46116491

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

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Search the database: 2018 moose hunt lottery winners https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/search-the-database-2018-moose-hunt-lottery-winners/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/search-the-database-2018-moose-hunt-lottery-winners/#respond Sat, 09 Jun 2018 22:00:21 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1393122
SOURCE: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
INTERACTIVE: Julia McCue
Last name First name Town State District Season Type
Last name First name Town State District Season Type
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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/search-the-database-2018-moose-hunt-lottery-winners/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/11/585560-20141112_moosehunt_7-e1450120097178.jpg NEW SHARON, ME – NOVEMBER 12: John Vogt Jr. of Oakland makes his way through the dense fog in a blueberry field in New Sharon back toward his truck while moose hunting with his father, John Vogt of Belgrade, Wednesday, November 12, 2014. The duo was hunting in Zone 16, an area that has a notoriously low success rate of tagged game compared with zones further north. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer) Sat, 09 Jun 2018 18:27:40 +0000
More than 1,000 turn out for moose lottery in Skowhegan https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/more-than-1000-turn-out-for-moose-lottery-in-skowhegan/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/more-than-1000-turn-out-for-moose-lottery-in-skowhegan/#respond Sat, 09 Jun 2018 21:23:35 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/more-than-1000-turn-out-for-moose-lottery-in-skowhegan/ SKOWHEGAN — At one of the biggest Maine moose lottery gatherings in 22 years, many of the more than 1,000 people who turned out Saturday in Skowhegan were hoping their names would be drawn for a permit. But others who applied for a permit said they just wanted to support the state’s work managing the moose population.

Some just came for the three-day Moose Festival held at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds – and to help the town in its attempt at making the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people giving a moose call.

Hunter Ingersoll, 4, of Moscow sat in the front row and joined the massive moose call with his grandparents. Neither Adam nor Linda Ingersoll put in for a moose permit, but they said they took their grandson to the festival and lottery because that’s what he wanted for his birthday.

They still hoped to hear the name of a family member.

“We’re all hunters. We love moose meat,” Adam Ingersoll said.

The state issued 2,500 permits for the fall hunt, a 20 percent increase from last year’s allotment of 2,080 after state biologists deemed this spring that winter survival of moose was better than in recent years.

During the past four years, permit numbers sharply declined from the 4,085 allotted in 2013, largely because of state biologists’ concerns about moose survival rates after a winter-tick infestation was found in the herd. State biologists now estimate the moose population is between 50,000 and 70,000, down from 76,000 in 2011, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The moose season is made up of three weeklong seasons held in different parts of the state in September and October, and another monthlong season in November.

When Katlyn Wells, 29, of Wales heard the name of her uncle, Mark Wells of Phippsburg, she tried desperately to reach him by phone. Wells managed to talk to her aunt, Betsy Wells, who screamed on the other end of the line.

“My dad is one of six, so we have a big extended family. We all put in for a permit,” said Katlyn Wells, whose name was drawn in 2008. “We enjoy moose meat. But we go north no matter what. (The moose hunt) is just fun. Being able to put meat on the table is a bonus. We still enjoy going north and being outside.”

Roxanne Shaw of Levant has put in every year and has been drawn only once. She came to the lottery with her husband, Scott, because they love hunting and enjoy the moose lotteries, which often are made into festivals by the host sites. The state holds the moose lottery at a different site each year.

“We go up to Kokadjo no matter what,” Roxanne Shaw said of the moose hunt near Moosehead Lake. “It’s a fun thing to do. It’s fun to see other people out hunting and to go to the tagging station.”

Skowhegan proudly boasts the nation’s oldest continuously running agricultural fair, which will celebrate 200 years this summer, so the town pulled together dozens of vendors, food trucks and outdoor exhibitions for the annual lottery – and even booked country singer Phil Vassar.

Joey and Crystal Levesque drove almost four hours from Caribou with their 10-year-old son, Riley.

“We put in every year, but even if we don’t get drawn, it’s just donating money to a good cause,” Crystal Levesque said.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/09/more-than-1000-turn-out-for-moose-lottery-in-skowhegan/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/1393969_962233-IMG_2588.jpgKatlyn Wells, 29, of Wales calls her uncle Mark Wells of Phippsburg after his name was announced at the moose lottery in Skowhegan on Saturday. She didn't reach her uncle but talked to his wife, Betsy, who screamed when she heard her husband's name had been drawn. Staff photo by Deirdre FlemingSat, 09 Jun 2018 21:11:21 +0000
Skowhegan aims for moose-calling Guinness world record https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/07/skowhegan-aims-for-moose-calling-guinness-world-record/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/07/skowhegan-aims-for-moose-calling-guinness-world-record/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 19:21:36 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/07/skowhegan-aims-for-moose-calling-guinness-world-record/ SKOWHEGAN — If you give a moose a muffin, he’ll want some jam to go with it.

So goes the story in the children’s book illustrated by Felicia Bond and written by Laura Joffe Numeroff.

But if you have about 1,000 people calling a moose all at the same time in the same place, what happens then?

Well, according to the folks at Main Street Skowhegan, you’ll set a record and be tops for the moose calling category in the Guinness World Records book.

The world record moose call will mean that at least 995 people will be issuing the same backwoods bellow all at the same time, said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, which is sponsoring the event.

“We’ve all been practicing our moose calls for the Guinness World Record attempt for the most people moose calling simultaneously,” Cannon said. “We hope lots of others will join us in the grandstand at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday so we can make history in Skowhegan.

“It doesn’t matter if you know how to moose call — we’ll do a crash course just before the record attempt — and you don’t have to be good. You just have to try. We have to have a minimum of 995 people for us to set the record.”

The event is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Saturday in the grandstand at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds following the Moose Calling Competition, scheduled for 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.

The three-day Skowhegan Maine Moose Festival is the setting for the annual Maine Moose Permit Lottery conducted by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, which administers a drawing to select winners of Maine moose hunting permits. To hunt moose in Maine, hunters must have one of the special permits, which are limited in order to promote a healthy moose population in the state, organizers said.

In 2017, 2,080 hunters came away with permits. This year, 2,500 names will be drawn in the random chance lottery from a pool of over 54,000 applicants.

Maine’s moose hunt is designed to manage the moose population, according to promotional material from DIF&W. By modifying the number and type of moose permits available to hunters, the department can manage the moose population in order to provide for hunting and viewing opportunities, maintain a healthy moose population, and limit the number of moose-vs.-vehicle accidents.

The Skowhegan Moose Festival kicks off Friday with events for the entire weekend geared toward hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, including the moose calling contest and attempted record break, a wild game and craft brew pairing and a country music concert featuring Phil Vassar and Bryan White on Saturday, for which a ticket is required.

All other events and attractions are free. For more information on the Skowhegan Moose Festival, including a schedule of events, visit SkowheganMooseFest.com.

There will be vendors, food trucks and activities for the whole family throughout the entire weekend, including information on Operation Game Thief, outdoor retailers, Moose Maine-iah monster truck rides, a beer garden and a game warden meet-and-greet.

On Saturday there will be four Axe Women Loggers of Maine shows, live music, a fly-casting demonstration and competition with prizes donated by L.L. Bean, a field hunting dog presentation by North American Versatile Hunting Dogs Association, and the DIF&W Moose Permit Lottery drawing in the grandstand from 2 to 5 p.m.

Events continue at 7 a.m. Sunday with a maple breakfast in Constitution Hall — $10 per adult, $5 per child under 12 — to be followed by horse-drawn wagon rides, live music with the Old Liberty String Band, exploratory activities for kids, and archery and BB-gun ranges.

Cannon said there have been other festivals in Maine surrounding the moose lottery and they have drawn thousands of visitors.

“This is not the first,” she said in January when the lottery site was first announced. “Other three-day festivals have been planned around the moose lottery, including at Cabela’s, in Scarborough; at Kittery Trading Post, in Kittery; and in the towns of Bethel, Greenville and Rangeley; and there may be others as well. All of these events brought in people from around the Northeast to stay and play in their region.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/07/skowhegan-aims-for-moose-calling-guinness-world-record/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/06/857902_947116-Leaming-moose.jpgA bull moose lifts its head out of the water in 2016 while eating in a small pond along U.S. Route 201 in The Forks. Main Street Skowhegan announced that the Maine Moose Permit Lottery would take place in Skowhegan at the fairgrounds during the inaugural Skowhegan Moose Festival for three days beginning Friday.Fri, 08 Jun 2018 11:10:21 +0000
Central Maine mountain bike chapter extends trails in Lewiston-Auburn area https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/03/central-maine-mountain-bike-chapter-extends-trails-in-lewiston-auburn-region/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/03/central-maine-mountain-bike-chapter-extends-trails-in-lewiston-auburn-region/#respond Sun, 03 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1389800 POLAND — When Thor Smith moved to Lewiston three years ago, he went looking for mountain bike trails close to home. When he discovered the Range Pond State Park trails, he was delighted that within a few miles of the urban center, he could get into the woods and ride along a rushing brook – and there even was a pond to swim in after.

Bonus.

“There are roots and rocks, so they’re challenging. And that’s pretty great you can go for a swim after on a hot day,” said Smith, 47.

What Smith didn’t realize was his local trail network has recently gotten a facelift, along with 10 other trails in the Lewiston-Auburn area, including at the region’s other state park, Androscoggin Riverlands. It’s part of the new synergy between the central Maine chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and State Park Manager Adam McKay.

In the past year, McKay has put in signs at the trails at Range Pond and Riverlands state parks, while the mountain bike club has taken over the work of trail maintenance by building bog bridges, trimming back the thick woods and blazing the trails.

“I started to work with the club and it’s been instrumental in the popularity of those trails increasing,” said McKay, the ranger of the two parks since 2012. “Traffic has increased at that Range Pond parking lot. We put in a counter last year to get a handle on how many people are out there at Range Pond. It fills up quickly in the summer now. I would say definitely in the past three years there are times that parking lot is full. That never used to be the case.”

Range Pond has about 8 miles of mountain bike trails that are mostly beginner level. Androscoggin Riverlands has just under 30 miles of trails, with a lot more technical sections.

McKay said this summer he’ll give out maps of the trails at Range Pond, and he hopes to get a grant for a waterproof map of the trails at both parks.

Meanwhile, this spring the club will use a $10,000 grant to extend another popular trail network in Auburn at Mount Apatite on the outskirts of town. Here the club will hire a trail company to build 3 miles of new trail to complete an 8-mile trail system, said Chris Riley, the club’s president.

Mountain biker Chip Keene of Poland takes note of the work that’s been done on the new trails. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

Riley said that in recent years growing membership in the club that started in Augusta forced the club to expand its scope and also serve the urban area around Lewiston-Auburn. Now Riley envisions a connecting long-distance trail between Mount Apatite and Lost Valley Ski Area.

Riley said all six Maine chapters of the New England Mountain Bike Association have been copying models offered by the state’s 280 snowmobile clubs and 63 ATV clubs that for three decades have built massive interconnecting trail networks.

“There hasn’t been a lot of focus over the past 30 years on trails designed specifically for mountain bikes,” Riley said. “If all goes well we hope to be in a position to get support to build trails like the Eastern Trail in southern Maine, interconnecting trail systems that link to neighborhoods. You could go for miles, and commute.”

Riders in the central Maine club can see it happening.

Patrick Welch, who came to Auburn two weeks ago for a meeting with his company, checked out the Mount Apatite trails after hearing about them for years. Welch rode for an hour and a half on a hot, buggy evening on the mostly intermediate trails. When he finished, he looked like he was coming off vacation.

“I heard about these trails four years ago. They’re flowy and as challenging as you want to make it,” said Welch, of Readfield. “I started riding in the late ’80s. When I started riding there were just ATV trails. Now there’s so much. The central Maine club is ridiculously energized. They have some talented people working on trail building, and a passion for it.”

Two weeks ago on a Sunday morning ride at Range Pond State Park, it was a similar story.

Five riders showed up to join Frank Jalbert, co-owner of Busy Bikes in Auburn and the central Maine club’s vice president. But Jalbert said on another day, the crowd easily could have been five times that.

“The rain yesterday kept everyone away,” Jalbert said. “We’ve had as many as 40 people on the ride.”

The five riders flew around banked trails with very few roots and rocks, and just enough incline to provide some climbing. A few big dips mixed in some challenging sections, but the stretches along the brook were easy enough to take in the views.

Travis Withee of Lewiston was riding there for only the fifth time. He used to live near Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal and rode those well-known technical trails. Withee, 37, appreciates Range Pond’s easier, more beginner-level trails, especially as he comes off shoulder surgery.

“There was a little question if I’d ride today. I’m 87 days from shoulder surgery today. My doctor cleared me. This was fantastic,” Withee said.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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It’s Worth the Trip: A good trip starts with a good book https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/03/its-worth-the-trip-a-good-trip-starts-with-a-good-book/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/06/03/its-worth-the-trip-a-good-trip-starts-with-a-good-book/#respond Sun, 03 Jun 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1389815 As a writer (and in my waking hours, a book seller), my love of the outdoors has been informed by reading as much as by exploring. Before I hiked Katahdin or camped in the Maine winter, ‘Lost on a Mountain in Maine’ and ‘Sign of the Beaver’ encouraged my awe and affection for the Maine woods.

We’re lucky to have classic books and novels that depict nature in our state, and to be inundated with new guidebooks and stories each year. Here are a few titles to keep your eyes out for this summer:

n The 11th edition of the AMC’s irreplaceable Maine Mountain Guide will be published this July. Revised and expanded significantly since the 10th edition, the new edition includes nearly 1,500 miles of Maine hiking, over some 300 mountains and 600-plus trails. Compiled and edited by Maine Sunday Telegram hiking columnist Carey Kish, the book promises to be as essential for Maine hikers as the earlier editions, deserving of a space in your bag next to DeLorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer.

n For hikers with families, Yarmouth’s Islandport Press has just published Jennifer Hazard’s Maine Play Book. Hazard, an award-winning writer and blogger, covers family-friendly nature preserves, farms and parks, along with events and activities for the whole gang. The Maine Play Book doesn’t focus on any single Maine region, instead recommending activities throughout the state.

n Though it isn’t strictly an outdoors book (nor is it only about Maine), Porter Fox’s forthcoming “Northland” deserves a mention. Fox, the son of a boat builder and a Maine native, wrote the book after spending three years traveling the 4,000-mile northern U.S. border, from Maine to California. Fox traveled by canoe, motorcycle, sloop, freighter and car, and looked at the border from a range of perspectives – environmental, historical and cultural. In Maine, the author covers Lubec and Passamaquoddy Bay, among other locales. It’s a travelogue in the great tradition of Horwitz and Theroux.

n For more of a classic take on the Maine outdoors, two recently republished titles are worthy of attention. Publisher Gibbs Smith has just put out a gorgeous paper-over-board edition of Thoreau’s “Canoeing in the Wilderness,” the naturalist’s account of the woods and waters of Maine. If you’ve never read it, this is a great time to pick it up – Thoreau’s wit and humor shine through, even a century and a half later. The Library of America has recently published “Rachel Carson: Silent Spring and Other Writings on the Environment,” a handsome hardcover that collects letters, speeches and other writings from the environmental leader alongside her most famous work. Carson spent a great deal of time in Maine, and her work is worth revisiting for her descriptions of the state’s old-growth forest and shoreline, if nothing else.

n Along with books about exploring Maine, a few printed maps are worth your attention. My favorite maps for hiking in Maine and New Hampshire have long been those produced by Peaks Island’s Map Adventures. The glossy, colorful maps – many of them waterproof – are clear and easily navigable, with topography and trails surveyed by the mapmakers themselves. Suggested tours and trails provide useful descriptions, and the trail lengths – marked on the map both as a whole and by segment – are incredibly useful for gauging distance and time.

Just last month Map Adventures published the first recreational map for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, sorely needed since its founding in 2016. Created in partnership with the nonprofit Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, the map is free to those who become members of the nonprofit by the end of June. Otherwise it retails for $9.95.

n For mountain bikers, free print copies of Wendy Clark’s Wending maps have been popping up around southern Maine throughout May. The 12 maps feature mountain biking trails in more than 50 parks and preserves, from Kennebunkport to Bath, and are available at sponsor businesses like CycleMania in Portland, Evergreen Subaru in Auburn and the new Sebago Brewing Company brewery in Gorham.

Clark, a mountain biker for a quarter-century and member of the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club, designed and distributed the maps to shed more light on local trails, because as she writes on her website, “where to mountain bike shouldn’t be secret.” Locations to pick up the maps are listed on wendingmaps.com, and more locations – including shops, schools and trailhead kiosks – will be added in June.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at:

joshua.j.christie@gmail.com

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Proposed expansion of hunting in 3 Maine wildlife refuges would apply only to newly acquired land https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/proposed-hunting-expansion-in-three-maine-wildlife-refuges-would-be-limited-to-newly-acquired-land/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/proposed-hunting-expansion-in-three-maine-wildlife-refuges-would-be-limited-to-newly-acquired-land/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 22:24:01 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/proposed-hunting-expansion-in-three-maine-wildlife-refuges-would-be-limited-to-newly-acquired-land/ Hunting would be expanded only to newly acquired acreage at Rachel Carson, Moosehorn and Umbagog.

Planned expansion of hunting at three national wildlife refuges in Maine would occur only on recent land acquisitions, not on acreage where hunting now is prohibited.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released details Tuesday of proposed regulation changes that would allow more hunting opportunities at 30 wildlife refuges across the United States, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in York and Cumberland counties, the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County and the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the New Hampshire-Maine border.

All three currently allow sport fishing and big-game hunting, as well as hunting for upland birds and waterfowl. The proposed regulations also would add wild turkey to the huntable species at the Umbagog refuge.

The department’s proposal would affect 90 new acres in York at the Rachel Carson refuge, 747 new acres at Moosehorn and 5,542 new acres at the Umbagog refuge, said Amy Lavoie, assistant refuge supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region.

The Rachel Carson refuge – which stretches from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth – encompasses 5,578 acres and currently allows hunting on 4,077 acres. The Umbagog refuge encompasses 36,957 acres, with 20,371 currently open to hunting. And the Moosehorn refuge covers 29,618 acres, with 27,492 acres open to hunting, Lavoie said.

The proposed regulations, if adopted, would bring an estimated $17,900 in increased economic activity to the York region, an estimated $239,700 in economic activity around the Umbagog refuge and an additional $1,000 in Washington County, according to the service.

The proposed rules posted on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website Tuesday will be open for public comment until June 28.

At the Rachel Carson refuge, hunters can request one of 500 permits available annually. The number of permits will not increase under the proposed regulations.

Rachel Carson Wildlife biologist Kate O’Brien said the refuge’s permits typically don’t sell out.

Hunting has already been allowed on the 90-acre parcel acquired by the refuge last year, which abuts land owned by the York Land Trust, but it’s good to have hunting officially written into refuge regulations, O’Brien said.

“As the rapidly developing coastline changes it has become harder for people to find areas to bird, hunt and fish,” O’Brien said.

Gary Green with the Springvale Fish and Game Club doesn’t hunt on Rachel Carson land, but he was delighted to hear more land in York County might be open to hunting. Green said southern Maine has become heavily developed since he began hunting there in 1965, and hunting grounds have decreased.

“I think of Rachel Carson as the Wells coast. I didn’t realize it stretched all the way to Route 91 in (the town of) York,” Green said. “I used to hunt off Route 91 in the mid-1970s and that was a happy place for me. We hunters have all experienced the diminishing hunting grounds and urban sprawl. And that’s disappointing. This is a good thing. That land is a natural habitat for the deer. In there, they have protection and a water supply and plenty of food, and a diversity of forestland.”

Joe Anderson with the York Land Trust agreed the thick woods in the 90 acres in Rachel Carson have plenty of wildlife and offer open land to hunters.

“A lot of wildlife passes through there. Typically bird hunters use the field in our preserve, but in those woods it’s a different kind of hunting, it’s different habitat,” said Anderson, the land trust’s stewardship director. “All our land is open to hunting. We’ve been pretty active meeting with the York Fish and Game Club to show them how we manage our land and to talk about land that’s suitable to hunting.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/proposed-hunting-expansion-in-three-maine-wildlife-refuges-would-be-limited-to-newly-acquired-land/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/moosehorn.jpgThe forests and wetlands of Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County provide habitat for over 225 species of birds, endangered species, resident wildlife, and rare plantsWed, 30 May 2018 00:59:29 +0000
Battle brewing as side-by-sides divide all-terrain fans https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/with-battle-brewing-all-terrain-fans-choosing-sides-on-side-by-sides/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/with-battle-brewing-all-terrain-fans-choosing-sides-on-side-by-sides/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1387613 When the Abbotts of Waterboro head Down East to go blueberry picking on backwoods trails, they leave their ATVs at home and pile into one vehicle. Todd Abbott said his family of five prefers riding together in their side-by-side, or utility task vehicle.

“It’s fun to be able to get out to locations we have not been able to access as a family,” he said. “Originally, farmers were the ones who had them. Now people are buying them to do yard work, and older people like them because they’re more like a car. You don’t have to throw a leg over them.”

Maine ATV clubs report as many as half their members own side-by-sides, the supersized off-road machines that have grown in popularity over the past five years.

The vehicles also are at the center of a growing controversy in Maine, where they are taking a toll on the largest ATV trail system in the continental United States. Ninety percent of the 7,000-mile trail system is on private land.

The problem is the size of side-by-sides. While all-terrain vehicles have room for one or two riders and are up to 50 inches wide, side-by-sides fit as many as six and are up to 72 inches wide.

In 2010, the state established landowner permits that allow trails on private land to be no wider than 60 inches, said Brian Bronson, Maine’s ATV coordinator.

“None of the machines made at that time were wider than 58 inches,” said Bronson, who works for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. “We’ve managed under those agreements ever since. Meanwhile, the problem gets worse. We have repeatedly told the industry that our trail system is on private land and the landowners control what happens and so the manufacturers shouldn’t go wider.”

In New Hampshire and Vermont, laws were passed making side-by-sides illegal on certain trails. In Maine, some riders fear landowners will close their land completely to ATV use.

“There is a growing concern that more and more larger machines on the trail system will shrink the trails,” Abbott said.

Side-by-sides sell for $8,000 to $28,000 and have features such as power steering, heated cabs, bucket seats and power windows. Once purchased mainly by farmers and foresters, they’re now used more recreationally.

“It gets a lot of people outside that couldn’t otherwise,” said Duane Taylor, executive director of the National Off-Road Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. “They’re very popular.”

Sales have grown by 6 percent to 8 percent annually since 2012, according to Wells Fargo, a major financier of the power sport industry. Luke McCannell, sales manager at Bangor Motorsports, said sales at his shop are up 30 percent to 40 percent since 2013.

“The growth is fantastic,” McCannell said of side-by-sides. “It’s a strong family-oriented sport. You can buy one that supports six people. That plays well with a family.”

“A lot of people are switching over from ATVs to side-by-sides,” said Dennis Patenaude, a salesman at Reynolds Motorsport in Buxton. “It’s just like driving a car except you can take it in the wilderness.”

Side-by-sides also are attracting older riders.

“You’re seeing a lot more retired folks getting out on four-wheelers,” said Chris Gamache, New Hampshire’s trails chief. “The demographics of who is going in the woods is changing.”

TRAIL DAMAGE, SEEKING NEW LIMITS

Maine includes side-by-sides in its count for ATV registrations, which have been at roughly 70,000 each of the past five years. ATV registration brings in $3 million annually that goes to ATV clubs in grants to repair trails, and to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to pay for enforcement.

It’s not enough, Bronson said.

“What is happening now is we try to maintain what we have,” he said. “If there is a damaged trail and we don’t have the money, it doesn’t open.”

Ossipee Mountain ATV Club Trailmaster Roger Letendre said most trails in southern Maine are 60 inches wide, but people with 65-inch-wide machines still try to make them fit.

Alicia Cote drives her all-terrain side-by-side, vehicles that can cost from $8,000 to $28,000 and allow more older people to get access to remote woods and fields. The Cote families have constructed and maintain about 14 miles of ATV trails on their properties. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“We’re trying to get the state to prohibit the sale of side-by-sides wider than 60 inches, unless it’s for private use,” Letendre said. “They take up more space on the trails, they chew up the trails, they tear up the mud.”

Gerry Marcoux in Dixfield bought his side-by-side four years ago to work on the ski glades at Black Mountain. But when the ski area opened its slopes to side-by-side races last year, Marcoux quit its board of directors.

“I knew it wasn’t going to end well, and it didn’t,” Marcoux said. “Those machines have crazy horsepower. I said it would tear up the mountain, and it did.”

Central Maine Power Co., which allows ATV trails on its properties, has concerns. CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said this spring that Maine game wardens put up signs there to remind riders of restrictions that there is a 60-inches-wide limit on CMP’s 50 miles of trails.

Rice said deep ruts full of water on CMP land show the damage done by vehicles exceeding 60 inches.

“There is a requirement under the master license that (the Maine Warden Service is) to install signs, but that may not have been consistently followed,” Rice said. “So the signs are there now, and that should clarify what is and is not allowed on the corridor.”

RESTRICTIONS IN OTHER STATES

Whether the more powerful machines make the sport more dangerous is uncertain.

In Maine, there has been an average of four fatalities a year involving ATVs since 2010, according to the state. Nationally, there have been fewer than 900 fatalities on ATVs annually since 2003, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Three years ago, New Hampshire passed a law restricting the use of side-by-sides in the lower two-thirds of the state, where ATV trails are designed to be 50 inches wide. But in the northern third, ATV trails are now allowed to be 65 inches wide to accommodate side-by-sides. Trails there are still threatened by side-by-sides, Gamache said.

“Absolutely, we could lose access,” Gamache said of New Hampshire’s trails, which are mostly on private land. “The reality is the manufacturers are going to build what the consumer wants. The dealers aren’t going to tell people if you buy it you can’t ride it on the trails.”

Three years ago, Vermont lawmakers raised the minimum width of ATV trails from 60 to 64 inches. It was the second time that Vermont has changed its laws “to accommodate the manufacturers’ ever-increasing desire to make them bigger,” said Danny Hale, the Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association director.

“We made it clear to manufacturers we are not interested in bigger, faster ATVs,” Hale said. “Unfortunately, the manufacturers don’t care.”

LEGISLATION LIKELY IN MAINE

ATV Maine, the state’s ATV advocacy group, would like to see similar laws here.

Real Deschaine, president of ATV Maine, wants to see side-by-sides defined in statute. Right now the term “ATV” in Maine law applies to both ATVs and UTVs.

“We’ve been trying for years to get the state to change the definition, but we never could,” Deschaine said. “Now that New Hampshire has changed the definition, maybe we can.”

State Rep. Danny Martin, who sits on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, plans to sponsor an ATV bill next session.

“(ATV Maine is) concerned about this one model that could damage trails considerably,” said Martin, a Democrat from Sinclair. “The UTVs are quite popular up here. Most folks when they buy a new unit now, buy a side-by-side. As long as they are registered as an ATV and comply, the Maine Warden Service will allow them.”

Bronson thinks Maine law will soon change the sport here.

“The Legislature has the potential next session to define tighter restrictions, where you can buy it, but you can’t register it,” he said. “You can only use it on your land. If the industry keeps pushing, that’s possible.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/29/with-battle-brewing-all-terrain-fans-choosing-sides-on-side-by-sides/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1387613_576619-20180517_side-by-s4.jpgAlicia Cote drives a side-by-side on her family's property in Bowdoin this month. The popular vehicles are larger than ATVs and can take a toll on the land, which could lead to a diminished trail system if private landowners close their property to the off-road vehicles.Tue, 29 May 2018 11:35:36 +0000
Birding: New technology will provide a better way to track birds https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/birding-new-technology-will-provide-a-better-way-to-track-birds/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/birding-new-technology-will-provide-a-better-way-to-track-birds/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1386464 Miniaturization is one of the wonders of our technology. As a case in point, consider the ENIAC, the first supercomputer in 1945. It occupied 1,800 square feet and weighed 25 tons. It could perform 5,000 instructions per second, astounding for its time.

Now consider an iPhone. The device that fits in the palm of your hand can perform billions of instructions per second. It would take about 10 million ENIACs to equal the power of an iPhone.

This trend to miniaturization holds great promise for ornithological research. In today’s column, I want to report on an exciting new technology that I believe will revolutionize our understanding of bird migration.

Thanks to Christmas Bird Counts, eBird records and records from more local birding organizations, we have a good handle on where our migratory breeding birds nest, when they migrate and where they spend the winter. However, our knowledge is very coarse. Rose-breasted grosbeaks nest broadly across the northern tier of the U.S. as far west as Minnesota and into Canada. We know they winter in Central America and northern South America. But where do Maine nesting birds spend the winter? Where do Minnesota birds spend the winter?

One way to answer these questions is to band birds. Birds are captured and fitted with a numbered aluminum band. If the banded bird is recaptured on its wintering grounds, we learn a little about the movements of the bird.

Unfortunately, this technique is inherently inefficient for long-distance migrants. Banding stations are scattered irregularly across the U.S. and Canada and the number of banding stations in Central America and South America is limited. The odds of recapturing a banded bird after a migration is slim. Bird-banding is a much more effective tracking technique for nonmigratory resident birds.

An improvement is the development of radio transmitters. These devices are placed on birds with a harness or glued to the feathers. Each device emits a unique radio frequency. Using an antenna, observers can detect the frequency of a bird with a transmitter. These transmitters are relatively large so are only suitable for larger birds like birds of prey or waterfowl. The range of detection is limited as well. Plus, observers have to cycle through all the frequencies used by their transmitters to listen for particular birds. Having done such a project with American black duck movements 30 years ago, I know this can be laborious.

Satellite transmitters allow tracking over longer distances. However, they are also large and quite expensive.

And now the new developments. Improved radio transmitters are now being produced that are small enough to be put on any bird and even large dragonflies. The transmitter emits a radio signal with a unique frequency, just as before. However, detection stations now can be set up to “listen” for any signal. The stations cycle through all the available frequencies and download records of any bird that passes over.

This new technology is the cornerstone of a new research effort called Motus, which is Latin for movement. The idea is that a network of researchers will set up one or more Motus receivers at strategically placed areas to detect the migratory movements of birds with affixed radio transmitters.

Ideally we will be able to set up “fences” of Motus stations in an east-west direction, spaced close enough to capture any migrant with a transmitter as it moves south or north.

Smaller models are limited by battery size so they have to be programmed to emit radio signals less frequently or we must accept a useful life of less than a year. Expect miniaturization to continue and this shortcoming to be rectified in the future.

This technology will also be useful for tracking the movements of birds while they are nesting or while they are spending time on their wintering grounds.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/birding-new-technology-will-provide-a-better-way-to-track-birds/feed/ 0 Fri, 25 May 2018 19:25:01 +0000
What’s Up In June: Summer arrives with planets visible in night sky https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/whats-up-in-june-summer-arrives-with-planets-in-the-night-sky/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/whats-up-in-june-summer-arrives-with-planets-in-the-night-sky/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1386469 The month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess who was the wife of Zeus and queen of the gods. According to myth, Juno had the power to see through a veil of clouds that Zeus put up, so our latest mission to Jupiter was named Juno since it does much the same thing today.

June always marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. This year that will be at 6:07 a.m., June 21.

We should get much warmer nights this month, but they’ll also be shorter because of the high angle of the sun. There are many interesting highlights this month, which include good appearances of all five of the brightest planets with Saturn reaching opposition on June 27. There will also be some close conjunctions with the moon and as a nice bonus, the brightest asteroid, named Vesta, will reach opposition June 19 and be visible without optical aid.

Venus reaches its highest altitude on June 6 at 28 degrees above the horizon. It will then set around 10:30 p.m., which is about as late as it could ever set. Venus will go from 80 percent illuminated down to 70 percent this month. Venus, now in Gemini the twins, will be almost evenly spaced with Castor and Pollux on June 8 and, as it continues to travel eastward along the ecliptic, will get very close to the Beehive open star cluster in Cancer on June 20, just before summer starts.

The Beehive cluster is one of the closest open star clusters to Earth. It’s visible to the naked eye as a faint smudge about three times the width of the full moon, but knowing more about it will make it that much more interesting. It has over 1,000 stars and spans about 30 light years of the sky at a distance of 600 light years away. The Beehive cluster is related to the nearby Hyades cluster in Taurus, since they both have a common point of origin in space within our galaxy based on their age and proper motion around the galaxy. The Beehive cluster is only 600 million years old, which is quite young. Our own sun and earth are about eight times older. Fish had not even emerged in our oceans at that time. Only some primitive jellyfish existed.

Jupiter is still high and bright in our eastern evening sky. The other night at 9 p.m., I saw Venus setting at about the same height above the western horizon as Jupiter was as it was rising over the eastern horizon. That was 25 degrees. Right in the middle was a first-quarter moon. Roughly the same setup will happen again at the first-quarter moon June 20.

Jupiter is getting a little fainter and farther away now, but is still much closer and brighter than usual. It will end its retrograde loop in Libra on July 9, two months after its opposition last month on May 9. Look for all four of its bright moons with just a pair of binoculars.

Saturn will reach opposition in the constellation of Sagittarius on June 27, the same day the full moon will be only one degree above the ringed planet. That’s a very auspicious way to mark its opposition this year. Saturn’s rings are now tilted open at nearly 26 degrees, about the maximum possible from our line of sight. Since Saturn is now at its closest and brightest for the year, look for its dusky polar caps, its elusive and shadowy crepe ring near the planet, and the very narrow Encke Gap in the A ring out beyond the much wider Cassini Division. You would need a telescope.

Mars is the most dramatic planet this month. It will again more than double in brightness, from minus-1.2 to minus-2.2 magnitude. It will also get 25 percent larger because we are rapidly catching up with it in our orbits. Mars begins the month rising at midnight but ends the month rising by 10:30 p.m. Mars will slow it eastward motion and begin its retrograde motion in Capricorn on June 28, one month before its long-awaited opposition on July 29, which will be its best opposition in 15 years. Look for its beautiful golden-orange glow one constellation to the east of Saturn.

Mercury makes a brief appearance low in the west-northwestern sky half an hour after sunset starting near the middle of the month. Look for a slender waxing crescent moon to pass near Mercury on June 14, then pass near Venus the next night in Gemini.

As a bonus, the brightest asteroid, named Vesta, will reach opposition on June 19 in Sagittarius, very close to Saturn. Vesta is the second-largest asteroid after Ceres, is about half its size at 330 miles in diameter, was only the fourth one discovered, in 1807, but it is the brightest. It will be visible even without optical aid this month as it reaches 5.3 magnitude before fading a little toward the end of the month.

Vesta is fascinating because it could have become a full planet based on its geology, if it hadn’t been prevented from developing due to Jupiter’s strong gravity. Vesta has a crust, mantle and core like the earth, making it unique among the millions of asteroids that orbit between Mars and Jupiter. A huge chunk of Vesta is missing near its south pole. That happened during a massive collision about a billion years ago that almost blew it apart. That one collision ejected a half-million cubic miles of material into space and is even now the source of fully 5 percent of all of the meteorites we find on Earth.

JUNE HIGHLIGHTS

June 1: The moon passes near Saturn in Sagittarius this morning.

June 3: Mars and the moon will rise just 3 degrees apart this morning.

June 4: The Compton Gamma Ray telescope was deorbited on this day in 2000 after 10 years.

June 5: Voyager 2 reached Neptune on this day in 1989 and made numerous discoveries. The last transit of Venus occurred on this day in 2012. The next one won’t be until 2117.

June 6: Last-quarter moon is at 2:33 p.m.

June 13: New moon is at 3:44 p.m. On this day in 1983 Pioneer 10 left the solar system, crossing the heliopause at 121 a.u. from the sun, or about three times farther out than Pluto.

June 16: On this day in 1963 Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space and still remains the only woman to do a solo space flight. Look for the Beehive star cluster halfway between brilliant Venus and the waxing crescent moon.

June 19: Vesta is at opposition with the sun tonight in Sagittarius near Saturn.

June 20: First-quarter moon is at 6:52 a.m..

June 21: Summer starts at 6:07 a.m.

June 23: The moon and Jupiter are only four degrees apart in Libra tonight.

June 26: Charles Messier was born on this day in 1730. He was a French comet hunter who developed a catalog of 110 objects in the sky that were not comets.

June 27: Saturn will reach opposition tonight, rising at sunset and not setting until sunrise.

June 28: Full moon is at 12:54 a.m. This is also called the Strawberry or Rose Moon.

June 29: George Ellery Hale was born on this day in 1868.

June 30: On this day in 1908, a comet or asteroid exploded a few miles above Tunguska, Siberia, with the force of 20 megatons of TNT, or about 1,000 times the energy of the first atomic bomb.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/whats-up-in-june-summer-arrives-with-planets-in-the-night-sky/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1386469_589405-June2018SkyChart.jpgSKY GUIDE: This chart represents the sky as it appears over Maine in June. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 9:30 p.m. at midmonth and 8:30 p.m. at month's end. Saturn, Jupiter and Venus are shown at their midmonth positions. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you face is at the bottom.Fri, 25 May 2018 19:05:27 +0000
Hunting: Early birds have easier time catching turkey https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/hunting-early-birds-have-easier-time-catching-a-turkey/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/hunting-early-birds-have-easier-time-catching-a-turkey/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1386471 It would be interesting to survey the mass of Maine turkey hunters and ask how many hours they log in the field each day. I’d venture to guess most are out of the woods early. After all, dawn is the most dynamic period of the day.

It begins in darkness, everything a mystery. A lonely peeper, outlasting his brethren whistles out the final notes of the previous night’s frog chorus. A distant barred owl beckons daylight but gets no reply. Then a cacophony of crows elicits a treetop gobble and the game is on.

Dawn is usually a hit-or-miss proposition. If you’ve done your homework and picked the right place, and the birds are hot and working well, your hunt may be over soon. If they’re being “uncooperative,” as turkey hunters like to say, no sweet seductive siren’s song will summon them into effective range. Discretion being the better part of valor, you either find another bird or call it a morning; get in a good hunt and still put in a full day’s work or attend to whatever other obligations you may have. It’s not a bad way to spend your season, but as the early mornings accumulate the rest of the day seems to lag.

Those with less pressing distractions may linger longer, hunting until mid to late morning. You can seek out new ground, implementing Plans B, C and D, or circle back and see if those stubborn dawn birds are a little more receptive to your pleading, now that the objects of their affection have gone off to their daytime duties. If the action has died you can head in for a big breakfast, and maybe a little siesta.

Bacon and eggs beckon, but if the birds are working you stay and soldier on. From late morning on it’s a different scenario. The woods seem downright deserted. The deafening din of songbirds has long since dissipated so now only the ovenbirds and vireos sing. Mosquitoes are gone but the black flies are out in force. The thundering gobbles that quickened your pulse have abated. But if you can make a turkey gobble after 10 your chances of killing it are exponentially greater.

You can play hit-and-run, covering long distances by foot or vehicle, banging on a box call to strike a gobble, then moving on to the next location when no response is elicited. Or you can go old school. Set out a decoy or two, settle into a shady spot with what little comfort you can find and wait them out, calling sparingly every 15 or 20 minutes.

It can be an effective technique but not without risks. The sun is high, the air warm and still. Any energy derived from breakfast has long since been used up. And your eyelids seem ponderously heavy. The thoughts you entertain to pass time gradually turn to dreams as consciousness fades.

Far fewer folks venture out after lunch. Being relatively new to us in the northeast, afternoon hunting is foreign and unfamiliar. Like the mid-day period it’s typically slow, and lying in ambush is as effective as any deliberate means of killing a turkey. Besides, the bass are biting and kids are on the ballfields. Better to save those precious hunting hours for the mornings.

Late season is a lot like late in the day. The sprint has become a marathon and most of the pack has fallen behind or left the course. Even the turkeys seem to have abandoned any sense of urgency. You might get a courtesy gobble here or there but the grass and the days have grown long and the longbeard’s lust has waned. If he comes to a call now it could just as easily be curiosity that motivates him. You can grind it out until the end or pack it in, take stock of this season and look forward to the next.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/hunting-early-birds-have-easier-time-catching-a-turkey/feed/ 0 Fri, 25 May 2018 19:04:40 +0000
Kennebunk is far more than a rest stop https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/kennebunk-is-far-more-than-a-rest-stop/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/27/kennebunk-is-far-more-than-a-rest-stop/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1386473 Close to a million cars will travel on the Maine Turnpike on this holiday weekend, bringing visitors from near and far to enjoy our long-awaited summer.

Whenever I cross back into the state, it fills me with a calm feeling of returning home, which E.B. White put best (as he often did) in his 1955 essay “Home-Coming.”

“What happens to me when I cross the Piscataqua and plunge rapidly into Maine at a cost of seventy-five cents in tolls? I cannot describe it. I do not ordinarily spy a partridge in a pear tree, or three French hens, but I do have the sensation of having received a gift from a true love.”

The stretch of highway from Kittery to Portland hums with an intoxicating mixture of sensations: anticipation, excitement, and (depending on how long you’ve been on the road) boredom, impatience and leg cramps. The Kennebunk Service Plaza is an oasis for weary travelers, with bathrooms, pamphlets and quick food – a pit stop on the long trip toward the midcoast, Acadia National Park or Baxter State Park.

A heron in the Mousam River does its own exploring, but with breakfast on its mind. Photos by Jake Christie

But Kennebunk is a treasured destination in its own right, and anyone who breezes by the charming seaside town is missing out. There are sandy beaches to sunbathe on, big breakers to surf, museums to explore, and a bustling main street filled with restaurants and boutiques. These attractions have made Kennebunk a vacation spot for travelers from around the world.

You might not know that Kennebunk is also home to a number of beautiful green spaces. A large stretch of town along the Mousam River is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, dutifully stewarded since the refuge’s establishment in 1966. Locally, the Kennebunk Land Trust has protected more than 3,400 acres of forest, fields and waterways in the area since it was founded more than 45 years ago.

Nine of the Kennebunk Land Trust preserves feature trails for walking, bicycling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and their placement across Kennebunk makes them accessible and attractive destinations – whether you’re visiting the town, or just looking to get in a little exercise or fresh air while traveling along the coast.

If you’re looking for a quick excursion from the Kennebunk Service Plaza – maybe you need to stretch your legs or get the kids tired out for a nap – the 90-acre Clark Preserve on the Kennebunk River is right nearby. Take Alewive Road for .3 miles to the Eastern Trail, then follow this paved, multiuse path for a mile to reach the preserve. Despite this property’s small size, there’s an abundance of local wildlife to be found: moose, deer, fox and owls have all been spotted here.

A few miles west of the Turnpike, you’ll find 625-acre Alewive Woods Preserve, the “crown jewel of KLT properties.” More than two miles of easy trails traverse the pine trees, leading to lilypads and pussywillows on the edge of Alewive Pond. Keep an eye to the ground for blueberry bushes if you’re hiking later this summer – keen-eyed visitors will find plenty of berries. Arrive early to park at the small lot on Cole Road, .7 miles north of the intersection with Alfred Road.

Near downtown Kennebunk, a number of preserves complement an afternoon of strolling on Main Street. The Wonder Brook/Murphy Preserve, less than a mile from Main Street at the end of Plummer Lane, crosses a brook before winding through a hilly forest, eventually leading to the banks of the Kennebunk River. The Mousam River Sanctuary, just off Main Street at the end of Water Street, offers similar outlooks over the Mousam River on the other side of downtown.

The Secret Garden, located at the rear of the town’s Evergreen Cemetery, is an enchanting ramble that feels far removed from the busy beaches and downtown. The 1.5-mile loop trail passes through bogs, forest and thick carpets of ferns, crossing a number of bridges over Lake Brook before returning to the cemetery.

The Secret Garden bridge connects with an enchanting part of Kennebunk, yet so close to the downtown region.

Near the beaches, the Madelyn Marx Preserve is home to stunning views of the salt marshes at the mouth of the Mousam River. The air and water are abuzz with activity; within five minutes of stepping onto the preserve, I spotted a massive heron fishing for breakfast. The quickest way to access the preserve is to park on Western Avenue near the bridge over the Mousam River, but I recommend parking at Sea Road School and taking a three-mile journey down Kennebunk’s Bridle Path. This wide town-owned trail – perfect for walking, jogging or biking – runs parallel to Sea Road, along the Mousam River at the edge of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Stretches of cool, shady woods are broken by views over the salt marsh.

The Bridle Path ends just past the eastern edge of the Madelyn Marx Preserve, depositing you less than a half-mile from the beach. Dip your toes in the ocean surf and enjoy the views before retracing your path back through the preserve. As you do, take a moment to smile and relish what an indescribable gift these protected lands are.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

jakechristie@gmail.com

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Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/heres-why-there-are-so-many-coyotes-and-why-they-are-spreading-so-fast/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/heres-why-there-are-so-many-coyotes-and-why-they-are-spreading-so-fast/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 13:28:51 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/23/heres-why-there-are-so-many-coyotes-and-why-they-are-spreading-so-fast/ For eons, coyotes roamed what is now the western United States, with its wide-open plains. Then came European settlers, who cut down forests for farms and ranches in a steady east-west march. Along the way, they killed large predators such as pumas and wolves to protect livestock and for their own safety.

The predators they obliterated were mortal enemies of the coyote, holding them in check, a new study in the journal ZooKeys says. As mountain lions and wolf packs disappeared from the landscape, coyotes took advantage, starting a wide expansion eastward at the turn of the last century into deforested land that continues today.

Coyotes are newly established in every state, several Canadian provinces and are rapidly moving south of Mexico into Central America, the study released Tuesday says. They’ve even been spotted by camera traps in Panama. They are in the Washington’s Rock Creek Park and New York’s Central Park, and they have been known to attack household pets and, on very rare occasions, people. Their rapid expansion into North Carolina in the past decade is a major reason a program to rehabilitate critically endangered red wolves there is on the brink of failure.

Coyotes are animals federal wildlife managers and state game officials love to hate, marshaling armies of hunters wielding guns, poison and leg traps to kill them. But the current study adds to evidence that people unleashed coyotes with programs that wiped out their bigger, stronger competitors.

“The north extension into Canada and northeast moved faster than the southern one,” said Roland Kays, a research associate professor at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, both in Raleigh, an author of the paper. “It goes down through Mexico. It’s all open country for the most part.”

Coyotes have been around forever. Today’s species originated from ancestors that lived alongside saber-tooth tigers, mastodons and dire wolves.

Kays and James Hody, a North Carolina State graduate student during the research, mapped the historic range of coyotes using archaeological and fossil records. Then they plotted their range expansion across North America from 1900 to 2016 using museum specimens, peer-reviewed reports and game department records. Over the course of the study, the authors reviewed more than 12,500 records covering 10,000 years.

For reasons biologists don’t quite understand, coyotes prefer open land over forest. It could be that bigger predators that kill them over territory and competition for food could better sneak up on them in forests, Kays theorized. But now, cameras have caught coyotes in forests where the apex predators have largely been removed, opening the prospect that coyotes could continue to move into territories where they’ve never been, such as into South America.

Unlike mountain lions, wolves and bears, that were hunted to near-extinction in state-sponsored predator control programs, coyotes don’t give in easily, Kays said. “Coyotes are the ultimate American survivor. They have endured persecution all over the place. They are sneaky enough. They eat whatever they can find – insects, smaller mammals, garbage,” he said.

 

Stanley Gehrt, an Ohio State University professor and wildlife ecologist who runs the Urban Coyote Research Project, which studies coyotes in the Chicago area, said coyotes “are extremely flexible and adaptable to different kinds of environments . . . they’re generalists for sure, so generalists tend to do pretty well in cities, but they also benefit once they move into cities.

“Their primary source of mortality in rural areas is now removed, and that was people. You might wonder: How can that be removed? That’s because you don’t have hunting and trapping occurring in the cities. The cities actually act as a kind of refuge for coyotes once they get established.”

Coyotes don’t breed like rats, but they could hold their own in a contest. It’s an animal that, when threatened, somehow reacts by making more coyotes, becoming more stealthy, nearly impossible to find even as their numbers grow.

The attitude of game officials in the 1930s, the researchers said, was to get rid of the wolves and then deal with coyotes. “But you can’t get rid of coyotes,” Kays said. “It doesn’t work. The one thing that will reduce coyote numbers are wolves.

“In many ways, wolves are more easily managed than coyotes,” he said. “They don’t breed as fast. You have to manage their behavior. A bold coyote is a dangerous coyote because they attack humans.”

The first inclination, at least it used to be, [was] ‘We want to get rid of them, so how do we get rid of them?’ ” Gehrt said. “Just to be clear, we’re not in the business of protecting coyotes or defending them or anything; we provide the best science that we can. What our science tells us is that you’re not going to be very successful at trying to remove them permanently.” The better approach is to let the public know that they must reduce the artificial food supply for coyotes, he said, and keep their pets inside.

Another problem wrought by killing animals that contained and killed coyotes is that the larger gray wolf, left without mates, turned to another species, perhaps the first waves of eastbound coyotes, and hybridized. That happened in the case of red wolves, which dominated the East Coast, from Pennsylvania to Florida to Texas, until hunting left a few stragglers in Louisiana and Texas. (Fearing that red wolves would disappear forever, federal wildlife officials removed the last few to start a captive breeding program.) The first wave of coyotes, also lacking mates, turned to a smaller animal – dogs.

“Wolves and coyotes don’t breed, except where they are really, really rare,” Kay said. Now scientists are looking at what will happen as a new wave of coyotes continue south, where they are little studied so far. “The mystery is Central America. No one has tested them for dog, but they look doggish.”

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Maine wildlife biologists recommend record number of any-deer permits in 2018 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/wildlife-biologists-recommend-record-number-of-any-deer-permits-in-2018/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/wildlife-biologists-recommend-record-number-of-any-deer-permits-in-2018/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 16:38:16 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/wildlife-biologists-recommend-record-number-of-any-deer-permits-in-2018/ AUGUSTA — State biologists on Tuesday recommended issuing 84,745 any-deer permits for this fall’s hunt, an increase of 28 percent from last year and the highest total since Maine launched its permit system in 1986.

The proposal mirrors objectives outlined in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s big-game management plan, which was updated in April for the first time since 2001. The plan, which involved extensive input from the public, calls for culling the deer herd in southern and central Maine – largely over concerns about tick-borne diseases.

“The vast majority – 90 percent – of the permits are in central or southern Maine,” Judy Camuso, director of the department’s Wildlife Division, said during an IFW Advisory Council meeting Tuesday morning.

Maine also fell short of IFW’s projected doe harvest in last fall’s hunt. State biologists had projected a doe harvest of 7,114, but it came in at 5,950.

“This is one of the reasons for the proposed increase in permits for 2018,” said wildlife biologist Nathan Webb.

In nine of the state’s 29 hunting districts, mostly in southern and central Maine, the proposal would increase any-deer permits by as much as 50 percent to 75 percent.

IFW estimates there are 230,000 to 250,000 deer statewide. From 2002 to 2005, IFW allotted more than 70,000 any-deer permits annually; this year would mark the first time more than 80,000 permits are distributed. The advisory council will vote on the proposal this summer.

As recently as 2015, the department allotted only 28,770 any-deer permits after a harsh winter caused concerns about the health of the herd. The number of permits has nearly tripled since then. In 2017, 78,393 hunters applied for 66,050 permits.

In northern Maine hunting districts, permit levels will remain the same or be reduced because the winter was harder on deer, Camuso said. In six of 29 hunting districts, permits would be reduced by 50 percent to 75 percent.

“The winter severity includes the cold temperatures, the snowpack and the sinking depth for deer. It was a very severe winter up north,” she said. “But it was much less severe in the middle of the state, and a mild winter by comparison in southern Maine.”

IFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said the dramatic increase in permits may alarm the public, but he said in general there is only one doe harvested for every 10 permits because many hunters choose to shoot a buck if given the chance.

“We are only looking to have 8,500 does harvested, not 85,000,” Woodcock said. “And it’s a south-central situation, where we have to manage the deer.”

The increase in permits made sense to hunters across the state, particularly the huge jump in southern Maine.

“We talk of leaving Aroostook County and moving closer to the grandkids in Massachusetts,” said Nick Archer, president of the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club. “But then we hear about the ticks (and Lyme disease in southern Maine). It’s like that part of the state is contaminated with them.”

White-tailed deer are a host for the deer tick, which carries the Lyme disease bacteria. In 2017, there were a record 1,787 cases of Lyme disease, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

George Fogg, president of the Cumberland Rifle and Pistol Club, said the dramatic increase in permits is welcome.

“I know the deer down here are quite thick,” said Fogg, 86, of North Yarmouth. “And there are two problems: There are fewer hunters, and more deer spread more Lyme disease. So I really want them to keep the numbers under control. When I drive at night now, I have to drive slower and watch the road carefully or one will step out in front of me.”

In Washington County, hunter Butch Moore of Milbridge said it’s widely known that southern Maine has a serious deer problem.

“It’s the story of the two Maines,” Moore said. “Southern Maine is less about hunting and we don’t have near the tick problem that they have down the coast, even in Augusta. My wife was walking her service dog two days ago outside Augusta and pulled 22 ticks off the dog.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/wildlife-biologists-recommend-record-number-of-any-deer-permits-in-2018/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/01/1315963_566524-Deer.jpgYour chances of a successful deer hunt in the fall can be improved by taking advantage of the upcoming show season to interact with outfitters and learn more about what they offer for guided hunts.Wed, 23 May 2018 14:19:34 +0000
Interior Department wants to expand hunting and fishing on 3 wildlife refuges in Maine https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-administration-wants-to-expand-hunting-fishing-on-wildlife-refuges-including-three-in-maine/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-administration-wants-to-expand-hunting-fishing-on-wildlife-refuges-including-three-in-maine/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 14:22:01 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-administration-wants-to-expand-hunting-fishing-on-wildlife-refuges-including-three-in-maine/

The Trump administration wants to expand access to hunting and fishing on 30 national wildlife refuges, including three in Maine.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Monday a proposal that would open up nearly 250,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities.

In Maine, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in York and Cumberland counties would expand existing white-tailed deer and wild turkey hunting, and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County would expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big-game hunting, such as moose and deer.

Additionally, the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the New Hampshire-Maine border, would open to wild turkey hunting for the first time and would expand existing migratory game bird, upland game and big-game hunting.

In each instance, hunting already is allowed in certain areas. This rule would simply expand those areas, although it’s not clear by how much. An Interior Department official did not respond to questions. The department plans to publish the proposed rule in the coming days, it said in Monday’s statement.

“As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage,” Zinke said in the statement. “These 30 refuges will provide incredible opportunities for American sportsmen and women across the country to access the land and connect with wildlife.”

The Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County, where hunting for migratory game birds would be expanded. U.S. Department of the Interior photo

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said it was too early for the group to take a position on the proposal. He said he wants to strike a balance between hunters and other users of these lands.

“We certainly can’t be hunting in areas with too heavy traffic,” Trahan said Tuesday. “We would have to look at each place case by case and evaluate whether hunting is appropriate in those areas.”

A spokesman for Maine Audubon declined to comment on the proposal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior Department agency that oversees the country’s refuges, will seek public comments on the proposed rule for 30 days. The notice will be available online at www.regulations.gov, under docket number FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020.

Presently, hunting is permitted on 337 wildlife refuges and fishing is allowed on 277 wildlife refuges.

Zinke said he hoped the changes would be implemented before the 2018-19 hunting seasons and he framed the change in economic terms. Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in the U.S. in 2016, according to the service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has explored changes to public access of protected lands.

Last year, he directed Zinke to review 27 national monuments, including Maine’s Katahdin Wood and Waters, to see if any should be reduced in size or altered in any way.

After months of debate, Zinke did not recommend changes to Katahdin Woods and Waters but did leave the door open to timber management on the site, in part to accommodate hunting and snowmobiling.

National wildlife refuges are government-protected lands where experts monitor and conserve various species of fish, wildlife and plants. The system was created in 1903 and now includes more than 550 sites covering 150 million acres.

Maine has six refuges. The others are: Maine Coastal Islands in Milbridge, Sunkhaze Meadows in Baring, and the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone near the Canadian border.

The Rachel Carson refuge, named after the famed conservationist and nature writer, was established in 1966 to protect salt marshes and tidal estuaries, a habitat for migratory birds. The area stretches from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth and encompasses about 14,000 acres.

The Moosehorn refuge, totaling 30,000 acres in rural Washington County, was established in 1937 to protect wetlands that serve as a habitat for migratory birds and other endangered species.

And Lake Umbagog has been established since 1922 as a wetland preserve that is home to many migratory birds.

Staff Writer Megan Doyle contributed to this report.

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/22/trump-administration-wants-to-expand-hunting-fishing-on-wildlife-refuges-including-three-in-maine/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/moosehorn.jpgThe forests and wetlands of Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County provide habitat for over 225 species of birds, endangered species, resident wildlife, and rare plantsWed, 23 May 2018 00:16:47 +0000
Hunting: Show respect to fellow turkey hunters https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/hunting-show-respect-to-fellow-turkey-hunters/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/hunting-show-respect-to-fellow-turkey-hunters/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382906 For over two hours I worked a squad of birds that casually fed across the expanse of green field before me. Six hens, four jakes and five big longbeards milled about the middle of the field.

The toms would gobble and the jakes yelp in their coarse, deep-throated voices in response to my calls, but none showed a strong inclination to move my way. At least not until I hit just the right note.

It was a hen, not a tom or a jake that suddenly got fired up, perhaps perceiving me as a potential rival. Regardless, she started toward me with a scolding cacophony of calling, which her suitors apparently mistook as being directed at them for they followed along obediently. The long hours were about to pay off.

Then the group stopped en masse and every head went up like a periscope. I hoped against hope for any other possibility but was pretty sure what it meant. The group first trotted, then ran out of the field and several seconds later a hunter stepped out of the woods on the far side. I was frustrated, but not all that surprised as interference is a pretty common occurrence where I hunt turkeys.

One of the objectives of Maine’s wild turkey management plan is to provide a quality hunt. The working group that developed that plan defined quality hunting as “… hearing, seeing, working and hopefully harvesting a turkey without interference from others.” Four out of five ain’t bad.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) has done a commendable job of providing ever-increasing opportunities for hunters to hear, see, work and harvest some of this tremendous wildlife resource. They’ve helped grow the turkey population in terms of both number and range, while continuing to increase hunting opportunities through longer seasons and larger bag limits. In some ways turkeys have helped to pick up the slack created by our diminished deer herd in terms of hunting opportunity and revenue. However, the one area over which they have the least control, interference, continues to be an issue.

Fortunately, it’s not that way all over the state. Where I live and hunt it’s the routine rather than the exception. My hunts were interfered with on three of the first four days of this season alone, which is about average.

Sometimes interference is unintentional, but it’s interference none the less. And a lot of it boils down to knowing and more importantly following a few basic rules.

Don’t enter the woods where you know another hunter is present. If you see another vehicle parked by the side of the road, drive on to another location; not a different access point to the same place, a completely different location. If you hear another hunter calling or see their decoys, leave the area.

Turkey hunting is not like deer hunting, where sometimes having a few other hunters in the woods gets the deer moving. Having multiple hunters in the same block of woods hunting the same birds reduces everyone’s chances while also increasing everyone’s risk of injury.

When spring turkey hunting was still relatively new in Maine and hunters had to be drawn for a permit to participate, IFW used to send a questionnaire along with that permit that hunters were required to fill out at the conclusion of the hunting season. One of the questions asked if they had been interfered with. That question no longer gets asked, but maybe it should. Wildlife managers continue to seek ways of creating more turkey hunting opportunity and potentially attracting more hunters while ensuring those efforts do not put the population at risk. However, they’re no longer considering the impact putting more hunters in the woods has on those already there, or the quality and safety of everyone’s hunting experience. Perhaps it’s time they step back and take another look.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

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After 40 years living alongside wild turkeys, half of Mainers are tired of them https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/after-40-years-living-alongside-wild-turkey-half-of-mainers-already-are-tired-of-the-big-game-bird/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/after-40-years-living-alongside-wild-turkey-half-of-mainers-already-are-tired-of-the-big-game-bird/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382924 Wild turkeys were reintroduced to Maine four decades ago, mushrooming to an estimated population of 50,000 to 60,000 today.

Some folks aren’t so thrilled to have them back.

“They’re everywhere. They’re like rats,” said Patrick Chase as he worked his yard in Eliot last weekend.

“I’m 48, I never saw them when I was little. Now there are as many as 36 of them that walk through my yard each day. I know because we count them. If you sit here long enough, you’ll see them, too.”

According to a state survey released this spring, a third of Mainers feel wild turkey are too prolific and their population should be reduced.

Only half of Mainers surveyed in the statewide survey said the state does a good job managing wild turkey. More than 85 percent of Mainers strongly support hunting wild turkey. That percentage grows to 94 percent in southern and central Maine, where the birds flourish.

The state’s Big Game Management Plan, unveiled in April, reports that half of Maine residents take issue with turkeys because of “property damage and perceived negative interactions with other wildlife.”

Critics blame wild turkeys for crop depredation, such as in apple orchards or strawberry fields, said state Wildlife Biologist Kelsey Sullivan. Some farmers take exception because wild turkeys eat silage, stealing the winter feed from cows.

But Sullivan said many of these grievances are misdirected or even overblown. He said sometimes wild turkeys are blamed for problems caused by other wildlife.

“People see turkey during the day out on the landscape, and they may come in and pick up on something a deer or crow did during the night or early morning, when maybe the lawn was dug up for grubs,” Sullivan said. “Deer and crows have been there, too. But people see turkeys.”

Wild turkeys were once native to Maine but were extirpated in the early 1800s from overhunting and the clearing of forests along the coast.

But in 1978 wild turkey were reintroduced in Maine by state biologists – and the birds have thrived since.

In 1986, a limited hunt with 500 permits was established in York County. From 1992 to 2006, the hunt was expanded most years with increased permits or a larger zone.

Biologists trapped and transferred birds throughout the state, establishing regional populations. By 2006, the state established a southern Aroostook wild turkey working group to help manage the birds at the far northern end of Maine.

Today, roughly 18,000 hunters pursue wild turkey in Maine in hunts during the spring and fall, each lasting about a month. Each hunt has a bag limit of two birds.

In the towns of York and Eliot, where the birds were introduced in Maine 40 years ago, many residents take a love ’em or hate ’em stance.

“You see them hit in the road,” Chase said, “but this is Maine. We see lots of wildlife here. There’s been lynx seen near here, a lynx or a bobcat. But with the turkey, I think they should raise the limit on them in the hunt.”

Carol Morris-Scata and David Scata have a summer house on York’s Short Sands Beach, right by the ocean. As they walked Long Sands Beach last Saturday, they expressed concern.

“They are right there near the beach,” Morris-Scata said of wild turkeys. “People shouldn’t encourage them by feeding them. And you’re talking to two environmentalists who love wildlife.”

Heather Burnell of York said she can’t understand why anyone would find wild turkeys a nuisance. She stopped on her way to a Little League game with her 8-year-old son, Theo, to talk about how much they enjoy watching wild turkey.

“They are in our neighborhood a lot,” Burnell said. “I think they are cute. I enjoy showing them to my son. It’s wildlife. I think they’re cute. We used to live in New Hampshire and didn’t see them as much there, but it was more urban.”

Likewise, Kristina Sanborn grew up in York, stopped on top of Mt. Agamenticus and laughed when asked about wild turkey. Sanborn, 28, said she and her parents loved seeing wild turkey in her yard when she was growing up.

In her lifetime, they’ve always been here.

“I think they are so cute. It’s hard not to when you see their little babies running after them,” Sanborn said. “And I love wildlife. So wildlife doesn’t bother me.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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Canoeing in Maine: Lake George is in full bloom this time of year https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/canoeing-in-maine-lake-george-is-in-full-bloom-this-time-of-year/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/canoeing-in-maine-lake-george-is-in-full-bloom-this-time-of-year/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1382943 If each month could be defined by a color, then May would have to be green, and that would include every shade of green possible.

A nice place to enjoy the unfolding of spring is Lake George on the Canaan-Skowhegan line. Surrounded by low ridges and rolling hills, all matted with emerging green, the lake offers an easy four-mile circuit. Parts of the shoreline are dotted with cottages, but things are pretty quiet this time of year. A necklace of medium-sized boulders lines the shoreline. Sandpipers flitted from rock to rock ahead of us. In the dark understory of the mixed hardwood and evergreen forest the white flowers of hobblebush burst out of the shadows like headlights of a car.

Five turkey vultures wheeled about the sky over the western ridgeline. With our polarized sunglasses on it was magical as their wing angles constantly changed and caught the sun at the perfect angles to transmit dazzling flashes of light down to our eyes. It was quite the light show.

Up in one of the northern marshes a bold red-winged blackbird came right at us as we gazed through our binoculars. Its brilliant red wing patches were emboldened even more by their black wing borders. It appeared we might be taking the red and black right between the eyes until we smartly lowered the binoculars to find that our lives were not in peril.

A great egret delicately bounded off a tree branch over the water and with its 55-inch wingspan headed for more solitude just before I got the camera focused and ready to snap. Isn’t that the way that it usually goes. Kind of like the fish that got away.

The 520-acre Lake George Regional Park elevates this lake to gem status. Located on the shores of the southern end of the lake the park contains two parcels on each side of the lake. Miles of hiking trails crisscross each parcel. Each side contains a sandy beach.

We enjoyed a surprisingly warm swim without the usual first swim of the year icy water induced scream. Grills and picnic tables dot the lush green lakeside lawn under lofty white pines. From 1922 to 1992, park lands and buildings used to be a summer camp for youngsters; Camp Modin. We noticed a couple of touching granite markers in tribute to the magic of a lifetime of love germinated at the camp long ago. One couple’s tablet read: “Their love for each other started here at Modin in 1945 and endured for more than 60 years.” It seemed an appreciative husband-wife hug under the pines was in order after gazing at such commitment.

Although the park land is owned by the state, it is managed by a local nonprofit. Day use fees during the summer season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, provide all the annual income for maintenance and staffing needs. It is permissible to land your canoe and enjoy the park in the offseason as we did one recent Sunday morning.

Just off the boat launch a peninsula sticks out into the lake. This is part of the western side of the park. We landed on the sandy beach on the opposite side and walked out onto what used to be an island until a narrow causeway was created to easily access the island. This is the spot for a classic summer picnic. Load up the egg salad sandwiches and lemonade in the wicker basket, and head up again in a few months to enjoy this timeless spot.

People have been enjoying this magical place for a long time. In 1993 archeologists from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission unearthed many artifacts along the lake dating back to the Paleoindian period emerging in Maine after the glacier receded 12,000 years ago.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map #21) for help in getting to the boat launch area on the southeastern side of the lake just off Route 2 on the Skowhegan-Canaan town line. Signs are clearly posted both for the park and the boat launch.

If you are driving up via Route 201 from Route 95 be sure to stop and enjoy the striking architecture of the L.C. Bates Museum and the granite Moody Memorial Chapel on the campus of the Good Will-Hinckley School. This beautiful setting is also home to the Harold Alfond campus of the Kennebec Valley Community College.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools.

Contact: michaelj_perry@comcast.net

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/20/canoeing-in-maine-lake-george-is-in-full-bloom-this-time-of-year/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1382943_120962-Painted-turtle.jpgA painted turtle rests on a log along scenic Lake George on the Canaan-Skowhegan line.Fri, 18 May 2018 19:14:57 +0000
White Mountain National Forest an ‘incredible conservation success story’ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/when-white-mountain-forest-was-established-100-years-ago-it-was-a-burned-out-mess/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/when-white-mountain-forest-was-established-100-years-ago-it-was-a-burned-out-mess/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 21:10:48 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/when-white-mountain-forest-was-established-100-years-ago-it-was-a-burned-out-mess/ PLYMOUTH, N.H. — New Hampshire’s most iconic attraction had been decimated by forest fires and logging when President Woodrow Wilson established it as a national forest a century ago.

Now, the White Mountain National Forest stretches over 800,000 acres in the northern part of the state and part of Maine. The forest is home to several ski lodges, campgrounds and has more than 1,200 miles of non-motorized hiking trails.

It attracts millions of visitors each year and has become part of the state’s economic engine, contributing to the nearly $9 billion outdoor recreation industry that supports almost 80,000 jobs. Beyond that, it is a source of pride among New Englanders.

“There’s a reason why it’s called ‘the people’s forest.’ It belongs to us all,” said Cynthia Robinson, director of the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University.

The U.S. Forest Service kicked off the centennial celebration with an exhibition Wednesday that illustrates the forest’s history through art, artifacts and interactive experiences. Visitors will be immersed in sounds from different parts of the forest – bird calls, babbling brooks, leaf-crunching – and will also be able to comment on what they envision the next 100 years to be for the federally protected land. The exhibit will run through mid-September.

A timeline of the 100 years runs along the walls of the two-floor exhibit, marking important events in the forest’s history, like in 1959 when the Kancamagus Highway was completed and designated as a national scenic byway. It also tracks the amount of acreage purchased by the federal government through the years.

“I hope people who come to the exhibit learn things about the forest they had no idea existed,” Robinson said. “The goal is to get people excited enough to participate and show good stewardship.”

Good stewardship was mostly a dream more than 100 years ago in the forest. Mostly in private hands, 10 percent of the region had burned in a series of forest fires, according to forester David Govatski. Hillsides were denuded by logging and streams and creeks had become polluted. It was those dirty waterways that prompted the Weeks Act of 1911, which led to the creation of national forests in the eastern U.S.

“Looking at the history of it, it’s an incredible conservation success story,” said Evan Burks, public affairs officer for the White Mountain National Forest. “We have this diverse forested landscape that provides clean water and unsurpassed recreation activities, and it’s become this symbol for not just New Hampshire, but all of New England.”

When the forest service took charge of preservation efforts in the early 20th century, its original intent was to regrow those forests and restore polluted streams. Govatski, a retired U.S. Forest Service worker, said much has been done to return the forest to its natural state – though it remains a work in progress.

“It took a long time to get to where the forest is now, but restoring wildlife and fisheries is still a continued effort to this day,” Govatski said. “My impression is that they want to take a look back and reflect on its successes, but also look forward on how we’re going to preserve these resources for future generations.”

The forest service hopes the events planned this summer, including field trips and lectures, renew the call to action from over a century ago that set the environmental legislation in motion. The forest service seeks to inspire younger generations to volunteer to help maintain the land.

“This has been a huge history lesson on a place that I spent a lot of time in growing up,” said 19-year-old Liam Colby, a junior at Plymouth State and the museum’s receptionist. “It makes me want to be part of something bigger than myself.”

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/16/when-white-mountain-forest-was-established-100-years-ago-it-was-a-burned-out-mess/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1381536_White_Mountain_Forest_Cen2.jpgThe White Mountain National Forest is visible from Hart's Location, New Hampshire. The U.S. Forest Service is marking the forest's centennial with a new exhibition on its history.Thu, 17 May 2018 14:45:33 +0000
Maine is counting its eagles, which not long ago were on the brink https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/15/maine-is-counting-its-eagles-which-not-long-ago-were-on-the-brink/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/15/maine-is-counting-its-eagles-which-not-long-ago-were-on-the-brink/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 18:47:24 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/15/maine-is-counting-its-eagles-which-not-long-ago-were-on-the-brink/

A bald eagle takes flight on a rainy morning in Friendship in 2012. This year, Maine wildlife officials have begun conducting the largest statewide survey of bald eagles in the state in five years. Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

Maine wildlife officials are conducting the largest statewide survey of bald eagles in the Pine Tree State in five years.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists and game warden pilots are conducting the survey of the iconic bird.

The birds nearly disappeared from Maine in the 1970s, when there were only 39 pairs remaining. There were more than 634 nesting pairs in the state in 2013.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the eagles might have improved even more in the last five years, said Susan Gallo, a wildlife biologist with Maine Audubon.

Some defenders of another beloved Maine bird, the common loon, have expressed concern that more eagles could be bad for loons, but that is unlikely, Gallo said. Bald eagles and loons overlap in broad swaths of their range in the U.S. and Canada, and while eagles do prey on loons, the two can coexist, she said.

“They have to keep their eyes on their chicks,” Gallo said. “It’s certainly not going to be the end of loons because we have a healthy eagle population.”

Biologists started counting Maine’s nesting eagle pairs from a plane in March. They hope to finish up with aerial survey flights by the end of May, state officials said.

State surveyors are checking on more than 1,800 sites, some of which were used as nests as long ago as the 1960s. Generations of bald eagles can use the same nesting territory over decades, the state wildlife department said.

Biologists want to find out whether the eagle population has increased, slowed or stabilized, the wildlife department said. They will also use the results to “re-evaluate the future needs for monitoring of Maine’s breeding eagle population,” the department said in a statement.

Bald eagles underwent heavy decline around the country in the early and middle 20th century, when they were harmed by pesticides, habitat loss and hunting. But federal protections followed, and they are now considered one of America’s greatest conservation success stories. The bird was removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

The Maine survey project is funded via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Restoration Program, which gets the money from an industry excise tax that is paid on hunting equipment.

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/15/maine-is-counting-its-eagles-which-not-long-ago-were-on-the-brink/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1380919_Eagle_Survey_23924.jpg-3efc.jpgA bald eagle takes flight on a rainy morning in Friendship in 2012. This year, Maine wildlife officials have begun conducting the largest statewide survey of bald eagles in the state in five years.Tue, 15 May 2018 23:18:57 +0000
Maine hunter returns to what he loves at 86 – it just took a few surgeries https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/14/that-moment-maine-hunter-returns-to-what-he-loves-at-86-it-just-took-a-few-surgeries/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/14/that-moment-maine-hunter-returns-to-what-he-loves-at-86-it-just-took-a-few-surgeries/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1380147 RAYMOND — Daybreak is a sliver on the dark horizon when Lou Haskell parks his pickup truck on a rise and starts unloading his gear. It’s 4:59 a.m. Maine’s spring turkey hunting season opens with civil twilight, the half-hour before sunrise in Bangor. Which means technically, Haskell, 86, could have been hunting two minutes ago.

He’s not exactly impatient, but he’s eager. He has two new knees to try out.

On Feb. 14, Haskell had his right knee replaced, and then on March 7, the left knee. At his age, he might not seem like the most obvious candidate for such extensive surgeries and the recovery process involved, but his continued passion for hunting convinced his doctors that the surgeries would be worth it. This day, whether he gets a turkey or not, is the payoff for those surgeries and the long weeks of recovery and rehab.

In anticipation, a few days ago he put up the blind, a tent made of camouflage fabric, in a favorite spot not far from his camp on Panther Pond. His giant thermos of coffee and layers of warm clothing speak to the hours he’s willing to spend in that blind, waiting.

By 5:15 a.m., he has maneuvered, somewhat gingerly, into the tent, opened the flap and loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, a Mossberg 835. The chickadees have just started singing.

From Panther Pond comes the sound of a loon. Haskell can hear it, but barely. His hearing suffered from years in the Army, including 18 months in Korea during the conflict.

“I should have put my hearing aid in this morning,” Haskell says.

To lure his prey, he pulls out a gobbler, a noisemaker that mimics the call of the male turkey. In the spring, hunters are limited to taking two male turkeys. Hunting hens is allowed only in the fall.

Haskell can recite these rules. After retiring in 1987 as director of the housing program at Brunswick Naval Air Station, where he worked for 29 years, 11 months and two weeks, he became a volunteer with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. He taught hunter safety classes and recruited and trained other volunteers until 2007. Then he retired again. But not from hunting.

The rise where he has set up his blind is a reliable spot; he’s shot 26 turkeys since 2004 right in this area. But as the morning light brightens, only a chipmunk appears outside the blind. No one answers the call of the gobbler.

Haskell stands to stretch. The new knees are sore.

THERAPY, PAIN WITH A GOAL IN MIND

Twice a week, Haskell drives to Falmouth for physical therapy at Saco Bay Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. When he arrived for his last appointment before the opening of turkey season, his team had a new item on the agenda, a date with an isokinetic machine that would stretch his left knee. Both of his physical therapists, Kurt Jepson and Samantha Reid, were well aware that he had an important date with turkeys coming up.

“You can sit on my deck and shoot a nice tom,” Jepson said. He produced a photo of a bunch of turkeys in his backyard.

Ethically, Haskell told him, he could not shoot turkeys in someone’s backyard, even from 100 feet away as the law requires, and with the homeowner’s permission. There would not be any sport in that.

Jepson got Haskell strapped into the machine. “All you’ve got to do is sit there,” he said, making adjustments on the machine to regulate the resistance. The trick was to get the knee to work but not to strain it.

“As long as you get done by Monday,” Haskell said.

Haskell’s left leg moved up and down, the knee bending and stretching. On this machine and on others, he’s a careful student, striving to do more.

“Lou is really good about doing his exercises,” Reid said.

As they move through the hourlong therapy session together, Haskell told Reid he hasn’t taken any Tylenol since Sunday. He’s using the Vitamin E cream on his scar tissue. There is pain, he said, which comes and goes, sometimes sharp, sometimes dull. But overall, his condition is improving.

Reid settled him into a different round of exercises, meant to re-educate his quad muscles. “Do you want something under your knee?” she asked. Haskell told her he was fine.

“If it gets to hurting, then I’ll holler,” he said.

THE CALL OF THE GOBBLER

Two hours pass in the blind. Haskell stretches another time. He speaks softly of the quiet and the wait of hunting, both in and out of a blind. “Sometimes I roll up my jacket and make a pillow and go to sleep,” he says. Once, he woke up to a dog licking his face. He’s seen bobcats and coyotes.

He started hunting in 1945. He was 14 and lived on a 60-acre farm in Pownal. Hunting was a part of the culture, but in his family there was no one to teach him how to hunt. “My dad was crippled,” Haskell said. “He couldn’t walk on rough ground at all, so I was out by myself.”

He hunted birds that first time and got himself a partridge. He knew how to get the meat off the bird from processing chickens on his family farm. He’d learned a lot there and on neighboring farms, where he earned his first salary – $1.25 a day.

Shortly after 7 a.m., there’s a distant gobble. Haskell tries his gobbler call again. As the minutes pass, it seems the gobble from outside gets closer. Or maybe not. He drinks coffee and waits. Then at 7:40 a.m. comes the sound of a hen and a sudden ratcheting up of gobbles, close by. Peeking out of the blind, Haskell spots the tom, about 18 yards away, its blue-hued feathers gleaming in the morning sun. His gun goes up within seconds and the shot resounds through the blind.

He moves as swiftly as he can to get out of his chair, through the zippered door of the blind, and out to the path where the injured turkey lies. It takes a second shot to kill the tom, but Lou Haskell, on new knees, has taken his first turkey of 2018.

BACK AT CAMP, REMINISCING

After stopping at the Hilltop Mini Mart in Raymond to register his kill for a $2 fee, Haskell seems ever so slightly disappointed to find that he is the second successful turkey hunter in the region; the first signed in and got his tags about an hour earlier. After the paperwork, Haskell drives back to the camp on Panther Pond that he has owned since 1978, where his wife, Anne, is waiting with cookies, coffee and a clear case of admiration. Her husband had left her a note before he left, starting with: “4:40 Knee some better.”

“I’m convinced he’ll outlive me,” Anne Haskell says as her husband sits down to take off his hunting boots. Representing Portland, she served eight terms in the Legislature, split between the House and the Senate. She and Lou met 14 years ago. She was widowed, he was divorced.

When they were courting, they had one of those cut-to-the-chase conversations over a game of cribbage, putting the question to each other, “What bothers you the most?”

Her answer: “If you get between me and my family.”

His: “When you say that you are going to do something, that you do it.”

They looked at each other. These answers sat well with both of them.

“I think we ought to get married,” he told her. She agreed. Thirteen years ago, they wore simple suits to be wed at their church in Portland – his gray, hers white. It has become their tradition to wear those outfits on their anniversary.

THE DECISION TO HAVE SURGERY

Hunting together is another tradition. Anne has been hunting since her 20s, although she says, “I don’t hunt as vigorously as he does.” In 2012, she got a moose permit, and in 2013, he got one. Each succeeded in taking a moose.

She understood why he wanted the knee replacement. Two years ago, they had discussed it with his doctors, and ultimately settled for a corticosteroid injection to increase mobility. That steroid shot had been effective, but only up to a point. By last fall, it had gotten harder and harder for Haskell to make his way over the rough ground. The invitation of the woods was more risky to accept. He modified his hunting, staying close to the edges.

“I was using a walking stick,” he says. He mimes the slow movements, the way he had to stop, get himself balanced and then lift the gun. He asked Dr. Peter Guay about knee surgery. He explained how hard it was to hunt, and how he was not ready to be done with it.

“He is still quite active,” Guay said, even with very arthritic knees. When they decided to move ahead with the surgery, Haskell asked to schedule the replacements in time for hunting season.

“I said, ‘Hunting season isn’t until November,’ ” Guay recalled. Haskell corrected him, told him about spring turkey hunting. Could they do it in time to get him rehabbed? It usually takes six weeks after the surgery to resume light activities, Guay said, and 12 weeks for full activities. They timed the surgery for turkey season.

“That is the one thing he wanted to do,” Guay said. “That is his life.”

THE PARTRIDGE AND THE FOX

After weighing his freshly shot bird – just about 18 pounds – Haskell sits down to process the turkey on a picnic table outside the Panther Pond camp. He dunks it in a big bucket of just-boiled water to make the feathers easier to pluck. While neatly pulling out the feathers with deft fingers, he talks about why he hunts.

“I like the challenge,” he says. “Being able to figure out what animals are doing. To learn more about them. Part of it is just being out there and enjoying the anticipation of seeing animals, even though you might not actually want to take one that day.”

He keeps plucking, moving over the bird’s breast, and brings up a story that he had told at physical therapy.

An animal kingdom drama had played out in front of him one morning while he was deer hunting. He spotted a partridge in the leaves in front of the blind. He was tempted; a partridge breast makes a fine hunter’s breakfast. Suddenly, the partridge went flat on the ground. He watched. It seemed to have disappeared into the leaves. Flat as a pancake, he said.

Along came a fox. It trotted through, sniffing, yet somehow missing the partridge. After it passed, the bird rose like a phoenix from the leaves and fluttered up to the safety of a tree.

“What do you think I did?” Haskell had asked. “Did I take the partridge?”

This had the feel of a riddle out of Aesop’s Fables, but the unspoken question was, what kind of hunter am I? What kind of a man? At physical therapy, the answer wasn’t so obvious. On Panther Pond, after a morning in and out of the blind with Haskell, it was clear.

The partridge had evaded the fox. It had shown him how it survives. Maybe they would meet again, on another day. But on that day, he left the brave bird safe in the tree and sat quietly, enjoying the woods where both felt so at home.

“Days like that,” Haskell says, are why he got new knees.

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/14/that-moment-maine-hunter-returns-to-what-he-loves-at-86-it-just-took-a-few-surgeries/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1380147_481143-20180430_turkey-h12-e1526318398128.jpgLou Haskell approaches a turkey he shot in Raymond on April 30, the first day of turkey hunting season. Painful knees had forced the longtime hunter, 86, to curtail his hunting, but he was not ready to be done with it, so he had replacement surgery on both knees.Mon, 14 May 2018 13:20:12 +0000
Longtime sportsman’s health has changed, but his love of the outdoors has not https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/longtime-sportsmans-health-has-changed-but-his-love-of-the-outdoors-has-not/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/longtime-sportsmans-health-has-changed-but-his-love-of-the-outdoors-has-not/#respond Sun, 13 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1379274 VASSALBORO — Who would have thought a trout fisherman would enjoy fishing for black crappies?

But that’s what happened last week when longtime Kennebec Journal columnist George Smith cast a spin-casting rod to black crappies and largemouth bass with his friend Ed Pineau – and the lifelong trout fisherman laughed his way through a morning of catching warm-water species.

However, this spring fishing season is very different from any other for Smith.

A year ago Smith, 69, told his friends that he had ALS and it was uncertain how the disease would progress.

“Nobody knows what will happen,” Smith said Wednesday.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, mainly involves the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement. The disease is progressive, and currently there is no cure and no effective treatment to halt or reverse its progression.

In 2015, I went hunting with Smith after years of reporting on his work at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, where he was the executive director for 18 years before retiring in 2010. That deer hunt ended up as one more hunting story Smith loves to tell – a tale of more than a dozen whitetail sightings, only a few shots fired, and a whole lot of arguing between two strong-willed people.

Yet in the woods of Maine, in this fierce sportsman whose family goes back generations in Down East Maine, while mine goes back generations in New York City, I found a friend. Our pasts and personalities are very different, but our love of the outdoors is the same.

So last week I fished with Smith and Pineau to learn just how my friend’s life had changed, and to check that his love of the wild places in Maine had not.

There were plenty of smiles during Smith and Pineau’s fishing trip, with the longtime friends happily trading verbal jabs.

Smith walked with a cane slowly down Pineau’s lawn toward the dock. When he got to Pineau’s 17-foot Lund motorboat, he stopped and asked for a hand as he carefully stepped in, since his right leg is now too weak to lift.

In the last six months Smith has had more difficulty walking, and now uses a cane. His hands have tightened and lost strength. He can type with his index fingers, but nothing more.

He uses an adaptive razor, and has a computer that uses voice-activated software so he can write.

“I can’t open anything. I have an adaptive device to button my shirts, but it takes so long, so Linda helps me,” Smith said of his wife of 40 years.

Smith knows soon he won’t be able to do many of the things he and Linda love to do together.

When they go to Monhegan Island to bird this month, he will bird from town while Linda goes off on the woods trails. When Linda does the 4-mile morning walk they used to do together every day, George now waits for her in their yard.

“Today I was ecstatic I could fish. I really was,” Smith said after nearly cancelling the trip, uncertain he would be able to cast.

“Our home is a warbler heaven,” Smith said, referring to the outdoor activity that has taken the two to Italy, Costa Rica and the Southwest.

Last week, Smith almost didn’t go fishing. He didn’t know if he could step into the boat, or cast. But he changed his mind a few days before.

And just as the boat pulled away from the dock on Webber Pond, even before the first fishing rod was cast, the mood started to change. The stories began. Then the two men were bossing each other.

By the time Smith started to cast, the insults were already flying, as if they were overdue.

“I’ve been carrying you for 15 years, what’s one more day?” Pineau said as he unhooked a bass from Smith’s line.

Smith held the spinning rod in hands that are bent and no longer grip. But he could set the hook and turn the reel, and cast.

He was delighted.

He landed dozens of fish, losing count after an hour.

All the while Smith and Pineau told stories of the last log drives in the ’70s. They talked of hunting dogs they each had, about the one that ate the duck Smith shot. There were wildlife stories of bald eagles that ate loons, of loons that ate the fish off the fishing line, and the loon that flapped around the boat Smith fished from with his dad.

And after two hours, when Pineau asked Smith if he wanted to head in, his friend smiled.

“No, I’d like to fish a little more,” Smith said.

For an outing that had been uncertain, it was a success.

“Yup, he did enjoy himself,” Pineau said. “His quote when he cast: ‘Hey, I can do this.’ And he was in the company of good friends.”

After, as Smith drove away, he talked about his beloved camp of 27 years in the Maine woods, just beyond Baxter State Park, and how he won’t be able to fish his favorite remote stream there.

But he refuses to focus on what he can’t do.

“I had so many adventures in there, seeing bear and moose,” Smith said. “Will I miss it? Oh, very much. But the thing is, I am determined not to be negative. My life has changed dramatically. It’s frustrating I can’t do so many things. But I’m trying to enjoy life. I’m trying to enjoy the view.

“Today I was ecstatic I could fish. I really was. I didn’t think I’d be able to cast. At camp if I hit the hex hatch just right on Nesowadnehunk Lake, then I won’t need to cast more than eight feet.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/longtime-sportsmans-health-has-changed-but-his-love-of-the-outdoors-has-not/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379274_616500-20180509_GeorgeSm3.jpgGeorge Smith casts his line while fishing with his friend Ed Pineau on Webber Pond in Vassalboro last Wednesday. Smith, a longtime Kennebec Journal columnist and former director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, was diagnosed with ALS about a year ago.Sat, 12 May 2018 16:08:51 +0000
It’s Worth the Trip: Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway offers history and beauty https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/its-worth-the-trip-roberts-farm-preserve-in-norway-offers-history-and-beauty/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/its-worth-the-trip-roberts-farm-preserve-in-norway-offers-history-and-beauty/#respond Sun, 13 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1379283 Driving home to the Portland area from Sunday River late this ski season, I found myself on a GPS-dictated detour.

Rather than my usual ramble along Route 26 past the eastern shores of South Pond and Bryant Pond, I found myself on the scenic, winding Greenwood Road. It’s a worthy detour, winding past Twitchell, Hicks and Mud ponds, as well as Maggie’s Nature Park on the way from Locke Mills to Norway.

After 15 miles of rural, two-lane road, Greenwood Road meets Route 118 on the southern end of Pennesseewassee Lake. Stopping at a rest stop between Roberts Road and Crockett Ridge Road that looked like a simple parking pull-off, I was pleasantly surprised to find a trailhead for the Roberts Farm Preserve. Little did I know that beyond this rest stop was a 165-acre preserve, with a network of over 7 miles of trails, including multiuse and universally accessible routes.

Roberts Farm Preserve is a conservation and recreation project of the Western Foothills Land Trust, on the grounds of a farm that was built in the late 1700s. Just over a decade ago, the land trust negotiated for the preserve’s purchase after an effort in the early 2000s to develop the land into a technology park never materialized.

The preserve now supports four-season recreation. Community partnerships ensure that it’s a place for children in the Oxford Hills School District to engage in interactive learning, from leadership and natural-science skills to garden maintenance.

While you can enter the preserve from the parking area on Route 118, the “real” trailhead and parking for Roberts Farm are about a quarter-mile down Roberts Road. A warming hut and info center abut the parking area, and from here trails extend to the south and east.

The Libby Trail is a good starting point: a universally accessible trail that meanders a bit over a half-mile to a scenic overlook of Pennesseewassee Lake. Another good option is the Rust Trail, which crosses a number of small streams and takes hikers past the historic Pike-Roberts house, the learning center and the large garden housed in the preserve. For more of a workout, the Stephens Trail follows the outer boundary of the preserve. With a handful of pitches that are rated as black diamonds during ski season, the route offers some strenuous climbs that the others lack.

The trails are charmingly named for notable residents from the surrounding community. The Libby Trail is named for Minnie F. Libby, who was the town photographer in Norway for some 60 years. The Dunham Trail, which connects the parking area on Route 118 to the rest of the preserve, takes its name from snowshoe craftsman Mellie Dunham, who outfitted Admiral Peary for his Arctic expedition. Author and Bowdoin graduate C. A. Stephens gives his name to the Stephens Trail, the longest in the network.

During the winter, the trails are popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Amazingly, the warming hut at the head of the trails offers free loans of snowshoes and ski equipment (though donations are welcome, of course). The warming hut is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends during the colder months.

The scenic Libby Trail is named for Minnie F. Libby, who was the town photographer in Norway for some 60 years. Josh Christie photo

Founded over three decades ago, the Western Foothills Land Trust “protects farmlands, wetlands, forestlands, natural resources and open spaces in the foothills of the Oxford Hills region.”

The organization protects more than 7,000 acres around the Oxford Hills, with a mix of fee lands and easements. Like many of the great land trusts and preservation organizations in Maine, Western Foothills is a member of both the Maine Land Trust Network and the national Land Trust Alliance.

A number of the parcels protected by the land trust have trails for hikers to explore. Just across Pennesseewassee Lake from the Roberts Farm Preserve, the contiguous Witt Swamp and Shepard’s Farm preserves offer trails through white cedar swamps, pasture and woodlands. To the east, in Buckfield, a two-mile trail, the Packard Trail, in the Virgil Parris Forest skirts South Pond and offers view of a handful of waterfalls. Another trail, the Lowell Trail, is being developed on the eastern side of South Pond. Greenwood’s Noyes Mountain Preserve has three miles of trails. Hatch Preserve – on Waterford’s Hawk Mountain – is home to a short trail with gorgeous views, as is the Twin Bridges Preserve in Otisfield.

More information on all of the land trust’s projects and events – along with more detailed directions to its trails – can be found at wfltmaine.org.

Now that we’re transitioning into hiking season, the mountains of western Maine beckon. Rather than speed through the foothills of Norway and the Oxford Hills, I recommend stopping to explore the protected land in those hills.

While not as taxing as the bigger peaks, the peace and history of these places offer a reward of their own.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Jake, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Josh can be reached at:

joshua.j.christie@gmail.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/its-worth-the-trip-roberts-farm-preserve-in-norway-offers-history-and-beauty/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1379283_914440-JoshChristie1.jpgWith more than 7 miles of trails, including some that are universally accessible, the Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway provides plenty to see, such as views of Pennesseewassee Lake.Sat, 12 May 2018 16:13:31 +0000
Birding: Waiting for those southerly winds https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/birding-in-maine-waiting-for-those-southerly-winds/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/birding-in-maine-waiting-for-those-southerly-winds/#respond Sun, 13 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1379286 Although the spring migration was underway by early February, we are at its peak now.

Warblers, thrushes, cuckoos, flycatchers and other migratory species are streaming through Maine. Some will breed here and others will continue north.

Each species has its own migratory schedule, timed to ensure arrival when its favored food is available. Warblers, vireos, tanagers and cuckoos glean caterpillars from the leaves of deciduous trees. Arrival before leaf-out would be a recipe for starvation. Similarly, flycatchers, swifts and night-hawks have to delay their arrival until flying insects are on the wing to provide their meals. It is no wonder that most of our migratory birds arrive in May. Species that can arrive earlier have broad diets and can subsist on seeds or residual berries. Such species include red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and song sparrows.

You can see the spring arrival schedule of Maine migratory breeding birds at: hobbes.colby.edu/arrival.

How does a bird know when to migrate? Each one has an internal clock that is responsive to changes in the length of the day. When the days on the wintering grounds get longer than a critical time (or shorter than a critical time if the birds are wintering south of the equator), a bird’s internal clock induces it to start getting ready for the northward migration.

The internal clock induces a behavior called migratory restlessness, easily observed in migratory birds maintained in captivity. The bird is getting antsy to leave. A bird will also begin to feed voraciously to put on fat for the first leg of its migratory journey.

The weather can strongly affect bird migrations. Long-distance migrations are arduous enough without flying into a headwind. In the spring, good migratory flights are induced by periods of strong southerly winds to provide some tailwind for the migrants.

You can get a good idea of how many migrants you can expect to see on a particular morning by looking at a weather map.

High-pressure systems – anticyclones in meteorology-speak – have a clockwise rotation, so southerly winds are found on the trailing edge of a high as it moves across our continent. Low-pressure systems, or cyclones, rotate in a counterclockwise manner, so southerly winds are found on the leading edge.

The perfect time for migration is when a low-pressure system is pushing against a high-pressure system to the east. Both systems produce southerly winds at their intersection and, if you are lucky, the front where the two air systems meet will produce rain. Birds will migrate at night to take advantage of the southerly winds but will be forced to land by the rain. Voila – a fallout. Birds can seem to be dripping from the trees at dawn under these conditions.

Hawk watchers are well aware of this phenomenon. Spring hawk counts are conducted daily from Bradbury Mountain in Pownal. The best counts occur on days with southerly winds. When the wind is from the north, forget it.

NEXRAD weather radar can be used to monitor migrations. Migrating birds show up as blips on the radar screen. These were originally called angels before radar operators realized they were birds. You can delve into NEXRAD at aos.wisc.edu/weather/wx_obs/Nexrad.html.

A fantastic resource called Birdcast incorporates eBird observations, NEXRAD images and weather forecasts to predict the magnitude of migration all across the United States and beyond Visit birdcast.info.

I recommend starting with the link called “A Primer for New Migration Forecast Tools.” The maps are the most useful and fascinating aspect of this site. The prediction of migration intensity is made for every area of the country three hours after sundown and is updated every six hours. Spotlight links and special interest links will keep you occupied for hours. What a resource.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

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Hunting: Back to the earth after years of use https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/hunting-back-to-the-earth-after-years-of-use/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/13/hunting-back-to-the-earth-after-years-of-use/#respond Sun, 13 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1379288 The mountains lying along the New York-Vermont border began as sedimentary deposits during the Precambrian era, eventually to be covered by layer upon layer of similar deposits. For eons they lay sequestered beneath the earth’s surface, until roughly 450 million years ago, when the collision of tectonic plates pushed these deposits upward. The intense pressure of that interaction metamorphosed the rocks into slate. I’ve hunted those mountains and on occasion dropped a loose blade of slate into my turkey vest with the unfulfilled aim to one day fashion my own turkey call from it.

The wild turkeys I chased have inhabited those mountains at least since the last glaciers retreated over 10,000 years ago, and probably were present before the last ice age. Otherwise they were absent only for a brief period around the turn of the previous century when unregulated hunting erased the species entirely from New England.

Around that time, chestnuts were the most common mast-producing hardwood in the eastern U.S., no doubt providing vital sustenance for turkeys, deer and countless other forest dwellers. They were erased by a blight, introduced from overseas. The chestnut’s absence provided an opportunity for other mast producers like oak and walnut to proliferate, oak being an important food source for wildlife and walnut being highly desirable for its wood.

Somehow through the vagaries of fate, a piece of walnut stock and a block of slate arrived at the workshop of custom callmaker David Halloran of Great Valley, New York. There he fashioned round discs of slate and affixed them to wooden pots of walnut, which he then engraved to commemorate the first wild turkey crossbow grand slam. Only 25 of these calls were made. One now sits in the museum at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina.

Another traveled in the pocket of my hunting vest for more than a decade. I’ve lost track of how many longbeards have fallen to its sweet, seductive sound: 50, 60, maybe more. It’s been the downfall of birds from Maine to California, Texas to Florida. So you can imagine how badly I felt upon looking in my vest, into the same pocket that faithfully carried that call for the last dozen turkey seasons only to find it empty.

I realize it would take nothing short of a miracle to find it. It’s only been three days, but in that span I’ve covered mile upon mile, anywhere upon the length of which the call could have fallen out. Maybe it was when I removed my vest to take pictures of and then load up the first bird of the season. Perhaps it was during the belly crawl that got me close enough to the edge of a field to sidle up against a tree and start my calling bout. It could have been while jumping across a stream, navigating cautiously over a barbed wire fence or haphazardly taking my vest off after a morning hunt.

So there it lies, somewhere in the woods of Maine. Perhaps someone else will find it and it will bring them good luck. More likely it will, over time, return to the earth. Eventually the shellac will wear away, water will seep into the wood and freeze, cracking the tight grain. Moss will grow on the slate surface and ever so slowly etch away at its polished finish. And though it’s just a few ounces, my vest will still feel noticeably lighter.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

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Longtime canoe racing partners learned from the best – their fathers https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/longtime-canoe-racing-partners-learned-from-the-best-their-fathers/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/longtime-canoe-racing-partners-learned-from-the-best-their-fathers/#respond Sun, 06 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1375739 Steve Woodard recalls paddling at age 13 with his friend, Jeff Owen, in Maine’s spring canoe racing series. They weren’t very good at first, dumping their canoe in rivers almost every time.

Now both 52 years old, Woodard and Owen have continued to race together for nearly four decades. The pair has won five titles at the Whitewater Open canoe nationals on the Penobscot River and nine titles in the two-man, medium canoe division in the Kenduskeag Stream canoe race.

“We learned together at a really young age. I can’t think of many paddle partners who started that young,” said Woodard, who lives in Cumberland. “When I look back on it, there’s something about being in a race in a boat just 12 feet apart giving it your all. You really learn to understand this person you’re paddling with, and appreciate them.”

Longtime canoe racing partners like Woodard and Owen say the thrill they get from paddling together is unparalleled in any other sport.

And their passion for canoe racing has much to do with their fathers – Frank Woodard, 78, and Bucky Owen, 80 – who first raced together 46 years ago.

“We have a competition brotherhood, I guess,” Frank Woodard said. “Now that I think about it, we were like a couple of brothers. It’s special because such great coordination is required and you can tell when your coordination is perfect. It’s a great feeling. I can’t think of anything else that requires such perfect coordination as much as canoe racing.”

Frank Woodard started paddling in the Kennebec River beside his hometown of Bingham at age 12. Bucky Owen, a native of Rhode Island, bought his first canoe in graduate school in Illinois. When he came to Maine in 1969, he started canoe racing and never stopped.

The two first raced together in 1972 at a now-defunct race in the Carrabassett River.

Frank Woodard of Falmouth, front, and Bucky Owen of Orono race to the title in the Kenduskeag River canoe race in the two-person canoe long division in April 1974. Courtesy of Frank Woodard

Woodard, an engineer and retired University of Maine professor, and Owen, a retired UMaine professor of wildlife management, would train together at dawn on the Stillwater River in front of the university.

“Sometimes we paddled around ice chunks,” Frank Woodard said.

They teamed up in races that no longer exist, like the Carrabassett race and the St. Croix River race. They placed well in several, winning the Kenduskeag race in the two-man, long-canoe division in 1974.

Eric Gallandt, president of the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization, said when Bucky Owen and Frank Woodard were racing in 1980s, it was the “zenith of whitewater canoe racing.” The group continues to oversee a 12-race point series on rivers in northern Maine.

To excel in canoe races, paddle partners have to coordinate strokes, switch sides at exactly the same time and make adjustments in perfect sequence. Even with that, Mother Nature can confound the effort.

“We left a bunch of canoes on the Lower Dead River,” Bucky Owen said.

Owen would race in the stern and Woodard in the bow where he had to read the water. Before every race they would walk the river to find the problem spots. Then they would study aerial photographs and maps.

Still things didn’t always go according to plan.

“I don’t remember a single time that we actually hit 100 percent of the route,” Woodard said.

Yet the two men raced as a team with gusto every spring until Woodard moved to southern Maine in 1984. Then they continued racing in Nordic events and road-running marathons until three years ago, when they teamed up again in the National Whitewater Open Canoe Championships in the Penobscot River, which they raced in as a team from 2015-17.

Jeff Owen started racing with his father at age 10. Steve Woodard started racing with his father when he was 7.

By the time the boys were in their early teens, they started racing together.

Steve Woodard went to college in Massachusetts, but after returning to UMaine for graduate work in 1992, the two raced again.

“We often take the most aggressive route. We’re able to make that choice because of the skill set we have,” said Jeff Owen, who still lives in Orono. “If I were paddling solo or with a different partner, it wouldn’t be the same.”

Both competed on the track and soccer teams at Orono High. But Owen, an Orono High science teacher who started a varsity canoe racing team at the school this year, said canoe racing is very different because the course is an unpredictable force of nature.

And then there’s the bond forged on a team formed in childhood, which Woodard said runs deep, at least a good 40 years.

“It’s just so easy,” Jeff Owen said. “We can paddle a whole race and not talk about where to go. We know the race courses so well. And we’re still able to paddle hard and well, and smoothly. We can pick up right where we left off, even if it’s been five or 10 years. I can’t think of any other sport where you have to be perfectly in sync, or it’s easy to sink the other way.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/longtime-canoe-racing-partners-learned-from-the-best-their-fathers/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/1375739_675678-canoeteams.jpgFrank Woodard of Falmouth, front, and Bucky Owen of Orono race to the title in the Kenduskeag River canoe race in the two-person canoe long division in April 1974.Fri, 04 May 2018 21:02:51 +0000
Turkeys are the guinea pigs as Maine embarks on digital recording of hunters’ harvests https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/maine-poised-to-enter-digital-age-in-recording-game-kills/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/maine-poised-to-enter-digital-age-in-recording-game-kills/#respond Sun, 06 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1376093 The first time that Wisconsin bowhunter Larry Bonde tagged a deer using his cellphone, his hunt suddenly became more enjoyable.

“I’m not overly technologically savvy,” said Bonde, a hunter for 42 years. “I fell in love with the (remote tagging) system right away. I love the simplicity. I’m a person who harvests six antlerless deer, which is unusual even in Wisconsin. What I love is you can tag it by phone (call) or computer, or on your smartphone. I tried all three and each is so simple.”

Wisconsin is among a growing number of states that have opted for electronic tagging, allowing hunters since 2015 to record their harvests without going to a tagging station.

In Maine, the process of recording big-game harvests is still done the way it was a century ago – using pen and paper at 295 tagging stations across the state.

That’s about to change, though somewhat gingerly.

This month the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife will launch a beta test during the spring turkey hunt in which tagging stations will record harvests on computer software. Once fully implemented, the program will allow biologists to get real-time data on harvest numbers and a more immediate read on the health of the state’s moose, deer, bear and turkey populations. It also will enable Maine’s 170,000 licensed hunters to see state harvest maps before the end of the season.

“Turkey season has started and there is no harvest map for 2017,” said Jim Wescott, a turkey hunter and guide from Windham. “They’re still counting the turkeys from last spring. … It really is an archaic system, although it does give accurate numbers.”

Maine Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso said the beta test will be conducted at five Maine tagging stations during the last two weeks of the turkey hunt, which started last week and runs to June 2.

The plan is to then train vendors at the other 290 tagging stations around the state this summer, and then roll out the new system for the black bear season starting Aug. 26. It also would be employed for the deer and moose hunts in the fall.

“If they have internet connectivity they can do this,” Camuso said of the tagging stations. “It’s no different than ordering from Amazon.”

‘A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF DATA’

Tagging stations, or game-inspection stations, can be found in all of the state’s 29 Wildlife Management Districts and all 16 counties. They have been used in Maine since 1919. A tagging station can be found at a variety of businesses, such as a general store, a gas station, trading post or hardware store.

Hunters pay a tagging fee of $5 for moose, deer and bear or $2 for wild turkey. The tagging station keeps $2 of the fee.

The harvests are recorded in registration books sent to tagging stations from DIF&W. At the end of each hunting season, the stations mail the books back to the department. DIF&W spokesman Mark Latti said it can take up to two months for the books to be obtained by state biologists.

Then the information from the registration books is entered into computer software. DIF&W has one full-time employee who handles the chore, Latti said, supplemented by contracted data-entry workers.

In 2016, there were 36,454 big-game harvests entered into the department’s system.

“It can be a considerable amount of data. They have to enter every single animal,” Latti said. “It’s human nature. Some people are very good and very prompt about returning the registration books, and with other tagging stations it’s been difficult to get them to return them in a timely fashion.”

MIXED REACTIONS AT STATIONS

The new computer system will speed up the process considerably. Tags will be received by state biologists and game wardens immediately. Biologists will know in real time where a particular hunter harvested an animal, and how many harvests there have been during a hunting season.

Camuso said the computerized system is expected to be more accurate, because the information collected from hunters won’t be written down but entered directly into a computer system using drop-down menus that guide the vendors in filling out detailed information.

“The only cost savings will be in the printing of the books, but it will provide high-quality data,” she said.

Despite getting real-time harvest data, Camuso said wildlife biologists will not be able to determine annual allocations of moose or any-deer moose permits any earlier on the calendar. That’s because other factors, such as winter severity and mortality, play a role in their decision-making.

Reaction is mixed at tagging stations about the new computer software. Some store owners said they had yet to be contacted by DIF&W about the plan.

Dennis Beaulier is owner at the Ashland Gateway Variety Store, located at the crossroads between Presque Isle and the entrance to the North Maine Woods. His tagging station gets as many as 100 moose on a fall day. Beaulier said too many things could go wrong if tagging were to go away from the tried-and-true pen and paper.

“I think that’s a horrible idea,” he said. “Some tagging stations are so busy with registrations they can’t be paying attention to a computer. If I had computer issues while I’m trying to register them, it could be a disaster.”

But Amy Haynes, manager at Scarborough’s First Stop Convenience, said a computerized entry system makes sense. Her tagging station gets as many as 20 deer on a busy day.

“It will make my job easier,” Haynes said. “It usually takes me five minutes to tag each animal. I have to fill out the paperwork. It’s a process. It’s a pain.”

CONCERNS OF UNDERREPORTING

Bonde, the hunter from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, enjoys not only the ease, but also the anonymity in electronic tagging.

Before 2015, Bonde would go into his local bait shop and tag his deer in a logbook. Other hunters would be standing around and could see where he shot his deer and the size of the whitetail he recorded.

“Now it’s just between me, and the landowner where I hunt, and Wisconsin,” Bonde said.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Department used to have more than 1,000 game-inspection stations. Now it has only 200 – as a convenience for hunters who do not have home computers or have poor cell service – and registration for deer is totally electronic.

Hunters in Maine harvest 20,000 to 30,000 deer annually. In Wisconsin, hunters kill nearly 350,000 deer each year. The state needed a better way of collecting information, said Kevin Wallenfang, a Wisconsin big game ecologist.

“When the season was over, all the paper, every single one had to be hand-entered,” Wallenfang said. “It’s months of work involving dozens of people. One great benefit of the new system – we can track harvest almost daily.”

Wallenfang said it’s too soon to tell if there is significant cost savings with the online process. But he said compliance among hunters is at an all-time high. In 2017, deer-hunting compliance was about 90 percent during gun season and 94 percent for bow season, Wallenfang said.

Maryland and Missouri are other states that have embraced technology to record hunting data. Deer and turkey hunters in Maryland must tag their game within 24 hours and can do so remotely via the internet, telephone or a mobile app. Missouri uses “e-permits” to tag deer and turkey using a mobile app.

Several other states, including South Dakota, Utah and Nebraska, allow hunters to carry their hunting license on their smartphone. Starting this year, Nebraska allows turkey hunters to cancel their turkey tags using their cellphones.

In Maine, some hunters are wary of embracing remote tagging for fear it could give rise to poaching. Others say it’s about time that Maine is moving toward recording harvests via computers at tagging stations.

Wescott, the hunter from Windham, said the current system is outdated. But he’s not a fan of electronic tagging in the field.

“I’ve hunted in states with electronic tagging, where you phone it in like in Connecticut,” Wescott said. “The problem with that is underreporting. People get home and they don’t phone it in. They did everything legal but they forget. I like it where you bring it in to a tagging station and you have to present it. It’s an honest system.”

NOW, TIME FOR TRAINING

Adam Tibbitts of Berwick said having tagging stations input the information on a computer lets biologists get it more quickly, while still maintaining the culture of tagging stations.

“I think we need tagging stations,” said Tibbitts. “It’s more of a heritage thing. And if there is no tagging station, I don’t know what you’d do about poachers. Now wardens have to see an animal has the seal or the tag from a tagging station.”

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said his group is going to introduce legislation that would allow hunters to tag remotely rather than going to tagging stations.

“Phone tagging, calling on your phone, other states are doing that,” Trahan said. “This is a good start for the department, to get their feet wet. But we’ll be pushing for more.

“We’d like to see an opportunity to where a guide can tag a bear by phone, particularly in remote areas. In the remoteness of the North Maine Woods it makes sense. It’s the future.”

For now, DIF&W is moving ahead with its plans to get tagging stations up to speed with the computer software by the start of the bear hunt in August.

But Camuso, the department’s wildlife director, notes that it has yet to hire anyone to help train folks at the tagging stations – and that five of the stations don’t have computer access.

“The trouble now is we need to get the stations adequately trained,” she said. “The tool is ready. If the stations are trained, we’ll deploy the tool. We don’t want to set them up to fail.”

 

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/maine-poised-to-enter-digital-age-in-recording-game-kills/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/05/488139-20180501_Tag-e1525566094977.jpgWELLS, ME - MAY 1: Turkey tagging registration forms and tags at Chase's Convenient Store in Wells. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Sat, 05 May 2018 23:17:16 +0000
Hunting: Deer, turkey do just fine, and that’s the flat truth https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/hunting-deer-turkey-do-just-fine-and-thats-the-flat-truth/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/05/06/hunting-deer-turkey-do-just-fine-and-thats-the-flat-truth/#respond Sun, 06 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1376219 It being Sunday, I thought it appropriate to offer a reading from the Book of Revelation. Actually I’m going to offer three revelations, for it is through knowledge that we gain a greater understanding and acceptance of the truth.

Revelation I – The earth is not flat. For centuries people believed it was, and if you traveled too far you would simply fall off. But there were some pretty clever fellows around, even back then, and by looking at the stars they theorized the world was round. These heretics were ridiculed, demeaned and ostracized until Magellan circumnavigated the globe. That silenced the critics until more recently, when a cult of heavily medicated millennials decided it was trendy to revive the flat-earth theory.

Revelation II – The moon is not made of green cheese. This is one of those myths that, like rabbits and reindeer, our parents instilled in us at a young age. By the time we’re old enough to reason, we’ve pretty much figured out it’s not. Imagine how many cows it would take to make the milk for that much cheese. Besides, floating out in space for 4.5 billion years, it would almost certainly be covered with a dense forest of mold by now. Anyway, Neil Armstrong put that myth to rest when he took one small step for man in 1969.

Revelation III – Wild turkeys aren’t detrimental to other wildlife populations. This myth, like the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, who was shot, stabbed, poisoned and beaten, refuses to die. Perhaps part of that is because to anyone born before the 1980s they are new to the state. There was a brief tick on the geologic clock where they were absent from New England, but for most of the last 12,000 years they thrived in our fields and forests, long before even the Vikings set foot on our shores.

But New Englanders, particularly Mainers, tend to be suspicious of “foreigners.” It probably doesn’t help their case that these recently restored returnees are quite visible and vocal. An even larger coincidence is the recent decline in deer numbers. Blaming turkeys for that is like blaming the introduction of zip codes for the death of President Kennedy because they were in the same year.

Fortunately we can turn to the same reliable source that brought us a round earth and non-dairy moon – science – for verification. Because humans are so skeptical, not always a bad thing, biologists have toiled tirelessly to investigate the interaction between wild turkeys and other forest dwellers. What have they learned?

As utterly absurd as it seems, some people actually believe wild turkeys eat grouse chicks, or eggs (see: moon made of green cheese). They don’t. They eat many of the same foods as grouse, including plants, seeds and insects, but the two species have coexisted peacefully for millions of years. But the grouse aren’t quite as adaptable to and tolerant of deforestation and human development. Add a few cold, wet springs, look in the mirror and the real cause of low grouse numbers is revealed.

Ironically, their insect diet has done far more harm than good to the wild turkey’s reputation. Watching a dozen or more birds glean their way across a blueberry field might send chills up the spine of the landowner, until they dispatch a bird and find it full of harmful, plant-eating insects. And turkeys don’t restrict their diet to six-legged creepy-crawlies.

They also love to eat ticks; so not only are they not responsible for the recent proliferation of these eight-legged pests, they may be the most effective means of holding tick numbers in check.

It’s probably the wild turkey’s affinity for acorns that draw the most ire from the green cheese flatlanders. They do indeed share a preference for hard mast with their furry, four-legged friends, white-tailed deer. And I suppose if enough aggressive birds show up in the same place at the same time, they might even run a few deer off the acorn flats from time to time, though more often they simply feed side by side. But when the sun sets the deer will be back and can have their way.

It’s also important to note that acorns are a luxury, providing a welcome bounty in years with a strong mast crop. But deer and turkeys do just fine in those years when few if any acorns hit the ground.

Remember, they grew up together and except for the brief period of a human generation or two, have coexisted in New England since the last glacier. So rather than disparage them, perhaps we should welcome back our wayward wild turkeys, and stop perpetuating silly myths.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

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Hunting: Turkey hunters should always be prepared https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/hunting-turkey-hunters-should-always-be-prepared/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/hunting-turkey-hunters-should-always-be-prepared/#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1371522 I’d heard about it but didn’t really believe it true until I witnessed it for myself. The early-morning hustle of activity was over, the sun was up and the woods were settling into the post-dawn doldrums.

The turkeys had quit gobbling so I opted to pick a likely spot, set out a decoy and settle in for what I figured to be a long morning. Calls and other gear were carefully arranged. As is often the case I started my serenade with a box call, softly at first, in case a bird had somehow slipped silently in close. Then I belted out a few loud yelps, all to no avail.

Sensing the serenity of the scene, I switched to a slate, starting with a few clucks and purrs, followed by more yelping, and still more silence. Obviously I was alone and so figured to get in some practice with a new mouth call, beginning with a few sharp cutts. I never got to yelps as my first few cutts were cut off by a booming gobble just over the rise. And I barely had time to settle the shotgun on my knee before a full strut gobbler hastened toward my decoy. The next boom was mine.

The point of all that is this: Don’t go into the woods undergunned when it comes to turkey calls. There’s almost no limit to the list of things turkey hunters might consider bringing afield with them but foremost among the essentials are calls. And you should carry several because gobblers can be fickle. Some days they’ll gobble at the creaking of a rusty farm gate and others they seem to have lockjaw. Then there are days when, as the tale illustrates, you have to find just the right tone to strike a responsive note.

My rotation begins with a box call. It makes a good starter because it’s loud enough to strike a bird from some distance; and as long as they’re that far off, I need not worry about the motion of cranking the paddle. I typically only carry one but on inclement weather days sometimes carry two. The primary one is wood, which to me produces a purer sound. I honestly don’t know if it makes a difference to the turkeys. The alternate would be some synthetic device that will still work when it’s wet.

Those are also among the reasons I carry several “slate” or pot and peg calls as my middle relievers. One is always a wood pot with a genuine slate surface. Again, I don’t know if the turkeys can tell but it sounds better to me. The second slate is some type of synthetic, and you have many to choose from: aluminum, copper, steel, composite, plastic and glass. I prefer some type of acrylic surface. The metal ones do work but they sound too tinny to me.

To complement my slates I carry three strikers. That gives me six options as each sounds differently on each slate. At least one is natural wood; more often two. The other is usually a carbon shaft with a wood or synthetic handle – something that will work even when wet. If none of those elicit the requisite gobble, I still have ample options.

If I had to head afield with only one call, and thankfully I don’t, it would be a mouth call. The vast majority of my calling is done with diaphragms. I use box calls to strike a distant bird and may work him a bit with a slate, but eventually I’ll switch to the hands-free luxury and much greater diversity of the diaphragm. With a twist of the tongue and a change of air pressure I can alter the pitch, tone, mood, intensity and volume. And because they take up no space, I typically have at least three and often a half-dozen, because you just never know.

Like one morning in Texas, years ago. I started with my box, switched to a slate but couldn’t raise a gobble. Then I heard the competition, a real hen, garner a gobble with her first set of yelps. Her voice was much higher pitched and it took several attempts before I found a diaphragm that rivaled hers. The birds came much easier after that.

Bob Humphrey is a certified wildlife biologist, registered Maine guide and the author of two books on turkey hunting. He can be reached at:

bhhunt@maine.rr.com

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/hunting-turkey-hunters-should-always-be-prepared/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/04/1371522_504799_turkey.jpgTurkeys can be fickle when responding to call, so hunters should carry several calls and be prepared when they go into the woods.Sat, 28 Apr 2018 17:34:38 +0000
Birding: Volunteers are needed to work on new bird atlas https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/birding-volunteers-are-needed-to-work-on-new-bird-atlas/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/birding-volunteers-are-needed-to-work-on-new-bird-atlas/#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1371558 Like most organisms, birds vary in abundance in space and time. To protect our wildlife and manage our natural resources, we have to have an accurate inventory.

Preparing an atlas of distribution is an important tool for environmental managers.

An atlas establishes a baseline for gauging changes in the distribution and abundance of organisms. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife recently conducted atlas projects for dragonflies and damselflies, reptiles and amphibians, butterflies and currently bumblebees. IFW also spearheaded a breeding bird atlas for Maine based on field work between 1978 and 1983. It’s time for a new and more ambitious one.

IFW recently kicked off the second Maine Breeding Bird Atlas project. Under the direction of Adrienne Leppold, the new atlas will be a five-year project beginning this year. The project is a cooperative one with important partners in Maine Audubon, the Biodiversity Research Institute and the Maine Natural History Observatory. Hundreds of citizen scientists are needed as well.

Here’s the way it works. The state has been gridded up into 706 quadrangles based on the U.S. Geological Survey 7.5-minute maps. In turn, each quadrangle is divided into six equal blocks, each 3 miles by 2.9 miles in area. The state has 4,082 blocks. IFW has identified 974 “priority blocks,” equally spread across the state, that will be sampled. The remaining blocks will be sampled as time and person-power permit.

Within each block, volunteers seek evidence of breeding. Three levels of evidence are acceptable. “Possible breeding” is indicated by the presence of a singing bird or sighting of birds in suitable nesting habitat during the breeding season.

“Probable breeding” is indicated by various behaviors including seven or more singing birds, a bird singing at the same site for at least seven days, courtship behavior or visiting a probable nest site.

“Confirmed breeding” is indicated by such evidence as birds feeding young, birds carrying fecal sacs, distraction displays, nest building and parents feeding fledged young.

Anyone with an interest in birds can contribute records to the atlas. Perhaps you will have eastern phoebes nesting on your porch or see begging behavior by recently fledged black-capped chickadees at your feeder. You should report those records.

Volunteers are encouraged to adopt a block. A volunteer is expected to devote at least 20 hours of observations to surveying the block over the breeding season. You aren’t expected to sample all of the 8.7 square miles of the block but need to sample all the habitats.

Doing atlas work is great fun and a change of pace from typical birding. You focus on the behaviors of birds. Plus, 20 hours of birding spread out of two or three months is a modest commitment.

How do you sign up? Visit the Maine Breeding Bird Atlas website at maine.gov/ifw/fish-wildlife/maine-bird-atlas/index.html

First, download and read the volunteer handbook. Once you are ready to adopt a block, go to the Explore & Adopt a Block link on the website. Navigate to your part of the state, find an unclaimed block and click.

You will be prompted for your name and other information. Once completed, the block will be marked with hatch marks and the block is yours.

If you would like to participate but don’t feel confident enough to adopt a block, you may wish to go in the field with a volunteer who has agreed to serve as a mentor. Contact the regional coordinator for your area (listed in the handbook) to see if any local block-owners are willing to mentor.

Data entry will be through a eBird portal (ebird.org/atlasme/home) although you can submit your data in written form.

IFW wants to have 2,000 volunteers in the project. Why not be one of them?

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

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What’s Up in May: It’s a month for higher, brighter, closer planets https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/whats-up-in-may-its-a-month-for-higher-brighter-closer-planets/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/whats-up-in-may-its-a-month-for-higher-brighter-closer-planets/#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1371567 The month of May is named after Maia, the Roman goddess of the earth. Even though the official Earth Day was at the end of April, May is really the month when we become more aware of the earth again here in the northern hemisphere. Our entire landscape will slowly transform itself as the earth awakens in response to more direct sunshine.

This will also be a great month to venture outside again to get reacquainted with the night sky. There are plenty of interesting highlights to enjoy and appreciate this month.

Four of the five brightest planets will become evening planets by the end of May. All four of them are also getting higher, brighter and closer to Earth. Jupiter will be the first; it reaches opposition on the 8th, followed by Saturn in June, Mars in July and finally greatest elongation for Venus in August. Mars will exhibit the most dramatic increase; it nearly doubles in brightness and gets one-third larger by the end of May. The annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks May 6. None of the planets are really getting any closer this month, but the moon will pass close to Saturn and Mars early this month, close to Venus on the 17th, and close to Saturn again on the 31st.

When Jupiter reaches opposition on May 8, it will rise at sunset, reach its highest point in our sky at midnight and not set until sunrise. It is directly opposite the sun in our sky, similar to the full moon each month. It’s still in westward motion in Libra, as it has been since March 9. Opposition always marks the midpoint of a superior planet’s retrograde loop. Jupiter begins a normal, eastward motion through our sky again in early July.

Look for the great red spot this month if you can manage a view through a telescope. Jupiter is 10 times larger than the Earth, and this one spot can fit about two Earths into it. Jupiter rotates quickly, completing one rotation in just 10 hours. This generates the incredible turbulence we see on its surface.

The Juno mission, launched in August 2011, reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016. It’s since taken many astonishing images as it continues to dive just 2,700 miles above its cloud tops every 53 days. The planet’s south pole turned out to exhibit far more turbulence than expected. It has five giant cyclones surrounded by hundreds of whitish swirls against a bluish surface, looking more like an impressionistic painting or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” than the normal surface of a giant gas planet.

The north pole is equally astounding, displaying eight evenly sized cyclones circling around a single 2,500 mile-wide cyclone. By contrast, Saturn has one cyclone at each of its poles, but the one at the north pole is a giant hexagon with each side measuring 8,600 miles. Both Jupiter and Saturn have lightning, and northern and southern lights near their poles. But their auroras aren’t in sync as on Earth. The ones on Jupiter are brightest in X-rays. Jupiter’s magnetic field is 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s, so it makes sense that its aurora is also more powerful and intense.

Saturn starts the month rising around midnight, but it will rise two hours earlier by the end of May, approaching its own opposition on June 24. The ringed planet falls a little farther behind Mars this month in Sagittarius but they are still fairly close. Watch as a nearly full moon passes near Saturn on the 4th and 5th, then close to Mars on the 6th, the same day the Eta Aquarids will peak.

Mars will rise around 1:30 a.m. starting the month and around midnight by the end of the month. But Mars will exhibit the greatest size and brightness increase of any of the planets due to its unique orbit. We are catching up with the red planet to create this effect, as we are with Jupiter and Saturn, but Mars is much closer than the other two planets. Venus is getting brighter and higher in our sky because it’s catching up with us. Mars will get to a brilliant minus 1.2 magnitude, or about four times brighter than nearby Saturn by the end of the month. Mars will be at its best opposition in 15 years by the end of July, at just 35.8 million miles from Earth, or only 1.2 million miles farther than its closest opposition in August 2003 in nearly 60,000 years.

Look for tiny, sand-grain-sized pieces of Halley’s Comet to disintegrate high in our atmosphere during the first week of May, peaking on Sunday morning, May 6. The nearly last-quarter moon will rise around 1 a.m. that day to spoil the show after that, but it will be well worth catching what you can All these tiny pieces of the comet will appear to radiate out of the water jug asterism in Aquarius that night. That’s a summer constellation, so it doesn’t even rise until a few hours before dawn, meaning you’ll see fewer meteors than if the radiant would have been higher in the sky.

MAY HIGHLIGHTS

May 2: Venus and Aldebaran in Taurus, 6 degrees apart, set together in the west around 9 p.m.

May 4: The moon is near Saturn.

May 5: On this day in 1961 Alan Shepard became the first American in space aboard Freedom 7.

May 6: The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks this morning. The moon is near Mars.

May 7: Third-quarter moon is at 10:10 p.m.

May 9: Jupiter reaches opposition.

May 10: Cecelia Payne-Gaposchkin, British-born American astronomer, was born on this day in 1900. She helped decode the complicated spectra of starlight along with the famous “Harvard Computers.” She wrote one of the most brilliant papers in astronomy as she finally determined the true composition of all stars. She was also an excellent musician.

May 14: Our first space station, Skylab, was launched in 1973.

May 15: New moon is at 7:49 a.m.

May 17: A thin waxing crescent moon with earthshine joins Venus as they set just 6 degrees apart.

May 21: First-quarter moon is at 11:50 p.m. It will be less than one degree from Regulus in Leo, about where the sun was last Aug. 21 during the total solar eclipse.

May 25: Spica and the waxing gibbous moon will cross the sky in tandem separated by 6 degrees.

May 28: On this day in 1959, Able and Baker became the first primates in space that returned to Earth safely.

May 29: In 1919, Arthur Eddington led a total solar eclipse expedition to Africa that proved Einstein’s general relativity correct by measuring the exact displacement of star behind the eclipsed sun. Full moon is at 10:21 a.m. This is the Planting, Milk or Flower Moon.

May 31: The moon and Saturn rise just two degrees apart around 9 p.m.

Bernie Reim of Wells is co-director of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England

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https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/whats-up-in-may-its-a-month-for-higher-brighter-closer-planets/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2018/04/1371567_355321-May2018SkyChart.jpgSKY GUIDE: This chart represents the sky as it appears over Maine during May. The stars are shown as they appear at 10:30 p.m. early in the month, at 9:30 p.m. at midmonth and at 8:30 p.m. at month's end. Jupiter and Venus are shown in their midmonth positions. To use the map, hold it vertically and turn it so that the direction you are facing is at the bottom.Fri, 27 Apr 2018 20:07:41 +0000
It’s worth the trip: Boothbay’s in full bloom this time of year https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/its-worth-the-trip-boothbays-in-full-bloom-this-time-of-year/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/29/its-worth-the-trip-boothbays-in-full-bloom-this-time-of-year/#respond Sun, 29 Apr 2018 08:00:00 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/?p=1371583 This time of year, conversation always seems to turn to flowers. “Did you see the crocus blooming?” “I spotted buds on the way to the office.” “Do you have your flowers in?” “Have you cleaned the yard yet?” (I heard that last one a lot during the spring vacations of my youth.)

The brilliant colors of the flower garden herald the arrival of Maine’s all-too-short spring more than any specific date marked on the calendar.

There are countless places in Maine to enjoy the sight of blooming flowers, from backyards to country roads to greenhouses, but there may be no better place than Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which opened for the season earlier this month. They’ve planted 50,000 spring bulbs on their 300-acre property for the April opening, with May’s magnolias and azaleas not far behind. Admission is $16 for adults, $8 for children and free for members.

After spending a few hours tiptoeing through the tulips at the Gardens, I recommend taking the opportunity to explore some of the less-trafficked spots that Boothbay has to offer. Thanks to the hard work of the Boothbay Region Land Trust, there is an absolute treasure trove of protected land to enjoy by foot; BRLT stewards over 30 miles of pet-friendly hiking across nearly two dozen trails and preserves, open year-round.

My favorite preserve is Oven’s Mouth, which spreads across two peninsulas on Boothbay’s northern border. The West and East peninsulas are connected by a gorgeous wooden bridge, and a loop around the entire preserve will take you on a hilly hike of nearly three miles. The well-marked network of trails passes through wetlands and woodlands, with fine stands of pine filtering the sunlight on its way to the forest floor. Many of the best views are at the preserve’s northern end, along the Back River where you may see eagles, osprey and otter, in addition to paddlers and fishermen.

The West and East peninsulas on Boothbay’s northern border are connected by this wooden bridge. The loop around the preserve will take you on a hilly hike of nearly three miles.

To the west of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, on Barter’s Island, you’ll find another small, lovely BRLT preserve: Porter Preserve. Donated by Nathaniel Porter 35 years ago, this 19-acre plot is packed with spruce, oak and pine, traversed by a winding 0.6-mile loop trail. Short offshoot trails lead to a half-dozen benches placed at scenic outlooks on the Back and Sheepscot Rivers, offering secluded views toward Sawyer and Westport Islands. One of the most stunning views is not across the water at all but back into the park itself, where a sheltered cove protects a small, picturesque beach.

If you continue to meander along the coastline, Southport Island offers a number of enjoyable diversions. Spring is a perfect time to enjoy the lovely views of the Sheepscot River and the red-roofed Hendricks Head Light from Hendricks Head Beach before crowds arrive for summer. Just across the road from the beach is another BRLT preserve, the aptly named Hendricks Head Preserve. While this small half-mile trail doesn’t have the saltwater views of Oven’s Mouth or Porter, the tall pines, quartz-filled rock and thick moss will make you feel as though you’ve strolled into a children’s book or a high fantasy novel.

If you’re visiting Southport Island this summer, don’t miss the Maine State Aquarium, operated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The aquarium was a staple of childhood visits, when my brother and I would beg our mother to let us spend just a little more time enjoying the giant touch tank filled with starfish, urchins, sea cucumbers, scallops and dozens of other creatures. The aquarium opens for the 2018 season on May 26; admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children.

On the southern tip of the Boothbay Peninsula, in East Boothbay, you’ll find some of the most splendid views in the area at Ocean Point. The long, rocky beach offers a seemingly endless variety of subjects to gaze at: the lighthouses on Burnt Island, Ram Island and Cuckolds Island; small islands and ledges like Card Ledge the Hypocrites; and seabirds wheeling overhead while seals play in the water.

Ocean Point is also home to BRLT’s Ocean Point Preserve – which doesn’t face toward the ocean, but instead takes you inland to Tibbetts Pond, a significant waterfowl wildlife habitat. Two easy trails approach the pond, both leading to a lovely viewing spot over the water. Here, too, there is a seemingly endless variety of subjects to view; ornithologist Jeff Wells once documented 75 species of birds utilizing the area.

A kaleidoscope of colors in bloom. Migrating bird species, returning from southern climes. Shutters coming off the windows, projects getting dusted off and friends from away visiting once more. It’s spring in Maine and there’s so much to see and do – and Boothbay is a pretty good place to get started.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

jakechristie@gmail.com

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LePage warns sportsmen against hunting in area of manhunt in Somerset County https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/27/lepage-suspends-hunting-in-area-of-manhunt-in-somerset-county/ https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/27/lepage-suspends-hunting-in-area-of-manhunt-in-somerset-county/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:52:03 +0000 https://www.pressherald.com/2018/04/27/lepage-suspends-hunting-in-area-of-manhunt-in-somerset-county/ All hunting, including the start of turkey season, has been suspended in areas of Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Fairfield where a manhunt continued Friday for John Williams, who is suspected of killing a Somerset County sheriff’s officer early Wednesday morning.

Gov. Paul LePage ordered the action Friday.

“Considering the ongoing manhunt in that area, a heavy police presence remains and will continue until the suspect is apprehended,” the governor said in a statement. “The activities associated with hunting may trigger residents to report suspicious activity and cause an unnecessary police response.”

LePage is suspending until further notice all hunting to include youth wild-turkey hunting day on Saturday and regular wild-turkey season, which begins Monday, in the area.

The area is described in LePage’s proclamation and shown on an attached map.

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