Stories from the Field

  • A Busy Week On The Trails

    A Busy Week On The Trails

    above: Great Farm Brook Preserve

    The last few weeks I have been quite busy with a variety of chores on the land trust properties.
    This week I have been out on all the trails for another round of maintenance as well cutting out a few new areas:

    • I cut the closed portion of Connor Mill Trail across the creek so we will be able to open it as soon as a crossing is installed.

    • The Rines Wetlands & Wildlife Preserve,  and Moulton’s Mill Preserve second access at the field, now have landings cleared of brush for parking.

    • I got my fair share of exercise with a GPS in my pocket for  marking the trails. Trails  I walked include: Freedom Forest Preserve, Kanokolus Bog Preserve, Rine’s Wetland and Wildlife Preserve, and the entire Connor Mill Trail.


    On Great Farm Brook Preserve we have been having some issues with ATVs. We have now gated the back of the property and closed off a makeshift access ATVs were using off the main road as well.

    On the Great Farm Brook property I completed several rounds of net surveys above the dilapidated culvert on the Great Farm Brook. I have mixed emotions about my findings because above the culvert where an area of the stream is closed off except at high spring time flows, I have found migratory fish. I have also found numerous white suckers which tend to migrate out of lakes to spawn.

    More critically I found large numbers of Northern Red bellied Dace and Black Nose Dace. They migrate up from the main stem stream after ice out and stay until ice pushes them away again. The presence of these fish shows that this small stream is critical spawning habitat . Unfortunately their presence in this season of low water behind the old culvert means these young of the year are trapped and unless they get a high water event before winter they could face heavy loss. Every year adults return to give birth to young that will never see a second spring, the futility of nature in it most evident form. I believe this shows the necessity to replace this broken culvert with a fish friendly one to restore passage asap.

    With all our Outlet Stream sites assessed I have spent a few days completing a Health Of Our Watershed Report. We are in the first draft stage and hopefully within the week will have it on the website.

    My current project is completing a draft of the same type of report for our Great Farm Brook Tributary Restoration Project. Please keep an eye out for both report in the coming two weeks. My goal, time permitting, is to complete similar studies and papers on all the riverine resources in our charge.

     

  • Getting In The Groove     

    Getting In The Groove     

    My second week of Summer at the land trust held as much excitement and adventure as the first. I completed work on our Sebasticook Regional Land Trust Citizen Science Stream Monitoring Protocol so for years to come we, as an organization, can ensure the health of our water resources will thrive. Our protocol is based on the USDA Stream Assessment Program and can be used for almost any river or stream in the Northeast. This ensures that we can apply our protocol to the other watery resources under our charge. This protocol is  specifically designed to quantify, or put numbers to, the features of a given stream in order to see how healthy it is.  Scores can be compared over time to indicate long term trends.

    The first field application of our new protocol is assessing the Outlet Stream for the Alewife Restoration Initiative. I spent two days this week assessing sites in Outlet Stream and was lucky enough to get to paddle around both the Masse and Lombard impoundments where I could see up close the habitat we are working to improve. In next 5 years I hope we will see vast improvements to the health of this stream.        

    On Thursday I set time aside for land stewardship. I spent the day split between Burnham and Unity. I started the morning off with a stewardship trip to the Albert J. Sousa Preserve where I located an old “Unity Wetlands” sign and replaced it with the up to date “Sebasticook Watershed” one. Heading to Unity I gated the entrance in order to restrict  vehicle traffic and ensure safety for hikers on the trail. Please check out this gem of a property that can be located across Rt. 139 from the Moulton’s Mill Preserve.

    This week I had the opportunity to meet several more of our knowledgeable board members and gracious supporters. It is such a treat for me seeing the people who have been doing the land trust work long before I showed up and who are still making SRLT work today. I look forward to seeing you out on the trails or at Outlet Stream in the coming weeks. If you see me please don’t be shy, because I would love to answer questions, hear concerns you have or just have a chat!!!!!

  • Angelo's First Week

    Angelo's First Week

    My first week at Sebasticook Regional Land Trust was full of excitement. I had the opportunity to tour all 6 dam sites for the Alewife Restoration Initiative on China Lake Outlet Stream. We laid out a plan to begin habitat assessments along the stream in order to track progress as the dams go and the fish return. I also got a self-guided tour of most of the miles of hiking trails we maintain from behind a Weed Eater. So to all trail users please enjoy the freshly cut trails and remember to please be respectful of the property. Along with freshening up our established trail network, I cut two new trails on property we have recently acquired, one as an addition to the existing Moulton’s Mill Preserve.  

    The new Moulton’s Mill  trail is cut out into a field immediately west of the original preserve. While cutting I had a run in with some poison ivy and wound up getting some oil on my forehead and via sweat, into my eyes. Two swollen eyes cut my second day on the job short since cutting brush with a power tool barely seeing out of one eye wouldn’t be recommended. Amply medicated, the swelling decreased, and seeing clearly out of both eyes, I reported to my third day of work ready to go. If temporary blindness doesn’t scare me away, I don’t think the land trust is going to have an easy time getting rid of me! I closed out my week helping some of our passionate volunteers clean up and cut a trail on the Rines Wetlands & Wildlife Preserve – a new property across Route 139 from the Moulton’s Mill Preserve. It was great to get to meet some of the folks that give so much to make our mission possible and the property is totally cool! Our new trail runs along a raised hedgerow, which is possibly an esker, out into a large bog offering many glimpses at the expansive wetland surrounding you. This property is a hot spot for wildlife with lots of evidence of deer and many different species of birds from eagles and herons all the way to warblers and sparrows. So please get out there and take advantage of one of our gorgeous properties, and  if you take any of my advice, please watch out for poison ivy. 

  • Winter Tracking with the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust

    “Eyes in the front, ready to hunt. Eyes on the side, ready to hide.” On Saturday February 27th a fifteen person group from the Unity community, and surrounding areas trudged out like a herd of deer into Sebasticook Regional Land Trust’s Moulton’s Mill Preserve on 25 Mile Stream in Unity to scout for animal tracks.

     

    Trevanna Frost Grenfell advised the group to notice their walking pattern, tread lightly, and first step with the toes.

    “If you go out there like a 150 pound ape, you probably won’t see to much—you have to act like a 120 pound deer” said Grenfell, our tracking guide. Sporting a forest-green vest amid the late-winter browns of central Maine she bent to the ground and crawled on her hands and feet with elegant ape-like form.          

                     

    Soon after breaking trail, we saw signs of beaver: chips of wood with sharp straight lines cutting down through the surface. The remnants of chip resembled a piece of gnawed corn on the cob. But the beavers did not stop with this small twig of a tree. A sweet retired naturalist in a florescent lime puffy-coat discovered a two foot wide girdled tree that had become too much for the beavers to handle. It had claw and bite marks, but was probably too big of a job to finish before winter.      

                           

    Scurrying through the woods, everyone  split up to look for tracks. People would walk out of sight, find something, and speed walk back over the fallen trees and brush to share their discovery. This felt like a primary school recess memory.

    Everyone would find scat, half eaten seeds, or broken parts of trees they so eagerly wanted to bring back as nature presents for the teacher. Trevanna accepted these gifts and doubled the excitement for the teaching opportunity. A cute elderly lady in a swirly rainbow hat brought her a gnawed on stick, Trevanna gasped and lit up while saying “Oh! How beautiful!”                

     

    As our toes were starting to stiffen in the blustery winter air, we ended our hour-and-a-half outing in a circle by the trailhead. Two middle-aged gentlemen discovered some holes that Trevanna predicted skunks had dug out while searching for food. Elated by the discovery, Trevanna decided we would end with a song two of her Vermont campers had made for her.

    Our stiff frozen faces creaked open and repeated after her “The skunks are coming out, oooo they’re coming out, the skunks are coming out to find some food” (repeat three times). In a jazz chorus tone we sang about the skunk’s reemergence into spring and the maple sap getting ready to flow. The base line for the third and last verse was “Drip. Drip. Drip. Drippy, drippy, drip.”                        

    Getting out into nature helps the world slow down. In order to truly see or understand what has happened in an area takes a great deal of time and focus. You may even come across some music. The Sebasticook Regional Land Trust owns twelve properties, and in March will purchase another property next to Moulton’s Mill Preserve.

    The executive director of SRLT, Jennifer Irving started our excursion by waving across the street to this exciting new area, and telling us that they continue to increase conservation lands in order to “Make sure all creatures have the ability to move as climate change continues”.

     

    Trevanna Frost Grenfell teaches wilderness skills at The Wildwood Path. Wildwood Path is a woman’s apprenticeship circle focused on wilderness skills, nature connection and earth-based ceremony’s in Unity, Maine. She deeply enjoys living life from a naturalist’s perspective and has been a wildlife tracker for a variety of schools and organizations since 2006.

    - Stefanie Burchill, Unity College, text

    - Sandy Olson, Watershed Narratives, images

  • Rain in the Woods

    Rain in the Woods

    We all have been there, staring at the sky and missing the sun that allows life to not only survive, but thrive. While we wish we had one more sunny day, I invite you to go outside on a dreary day. Recently I decided to venture into the slippery world that is an early winter rain, where leaves steal your traction and the raindrops provide a white noise that calms every part of you.

    I began clearing trail at the Carlson Easement, graciously donated by Faith Carlson. I have been visiting this property since I began at Unity College, attempting to learn about forestry and begin to understand the woods. Now I spend my time trying to make a place for others to understand its significance, and find joy in it as I have.

    I toiled over downed trees in my path, cutting and dragging small ones, pruning branches in my way, while being accosted by every rain drop precariously hanging on that side of the tree. The rain actually couldn’t have been any lighter, yet its ability to permeate the forest and soak every inch is something I will never question.

    I stopped on one of the edges where the earth seemingly dropped off into another world: a cedar bog. The terrain here is always unexpected and just when you think you have the land laid out perfectly in your head, you come across another drop, another wetland. I took this moment to see what I so desperately wanted everyone else to see: trees that fight every odd, the harsh weather, the possibility of becoming a wildlife snack, and even neighboring plant life competing for sunlight. I picked out the deer trails, the pileated woodpecker’s home stories above, and a cavity tree that screamed evidence of a porcupine’s shelter. All of this life that stays out here, rain or shine, snow or blistering heat, fighting what most people would claim to be unfair treatment. Yet, despite all of this, I like to think every one of them finds joy in this rain as I have. 

  • On Common Ground

    To capture the numerous ways that Mainers love the great state of Maine would be near impossible, as I came to realize this past week while I enjoyed just a few of these loves. I splashed mud with a 1947 Willy’s Jeep in Embden and hiked along water-carved stone in Newry all before hitting work on Monday.

    On Wednesday I was able to witness the banding of geese with the Inland Fish and Wildlife Service and walk through the woods with a landowner to increase the awareness of invasive plant species. By Thursday morning I was discussing low-impact forestry and conversing with anglers (which has lead me to finally purchase my fishing license, yay!) At the end of the week I was also able to meet a couple starting their own farm in Freedom, my current home.

    With every adventure I was interacting with vastly different people from all over central and western Maine, and I would not be able to discern one love from another. I have had the pleasure of enjoying every unique experience with people who are passionate about what they do in the great outdoors.

    All of this I contemplated while floating on Carlton Bog in Troy Friday, with a view of the water that could calm anyone’s soul. With that in mind, I hope everyone who reads this (and doesn’t) goes on to appreciate the diverse ways to work with the land to enjoy life and remembers that we can all connect through our love of the outdoors.

  • A sighting

    Once you discover the woods of Maine it’s difficult to love anything else more. I am, however, guilty, as most are, of forgetting that love in the monotonous day to day, but today was not one of those days.

    Today work led me to Newport, where a lake view forced me to stop and appreciate the tufts of clouds lining the deep blue horizon. I was envious of the landowner relaxing in her lawn chair, appreciating the view. I pulled myself away to get to work, only to find myself in wood where the trees seemed to be from a poem that Emerson once wrote. Massive in size, they had the ability to shade out the understory, claiming the entirety of the forest floor as their own.

    Birches and Hemlock that had been standing the test of time lead way to a wetland with so many ferns I was forced to be cautious with each step. The funny thing about the woods is that you always feel alone, but if you look hard enough and pay attention, you would know that you never are.

    Just as I began to wonder if the mosquitoes were worth the adventure, I was awestruck, forced to look for key features in all my disbelief as a bobcat gently lifted itself from a small nestle of ferns and woody debris. He (or she) trotted not more than 30 yards farther through the bog and tucked itself under a larger, down tree. I stood frozen, keeping my eyes on the new cover where it attempted to hide. Gently, I walked over to where it had laid, finding little evidence of it ever being there in the first place. I contemplated the direction it had gone, another siting surely available to me.

    Hushing my excitement, I chose in favor of letting the bobcat be. After all, my intention was never to bother him but simply to take part in conserving the land he needed to survive.

    Northern Leopard Frog

    Deer tracks