By Maeve Cosgrove, Maine Conservation Corps Stewardship Intern
Wednesday mornings are special at Coastal Mountains Land Trust, or so I learned when I tagged along to the weekly work crew session on January 25th. Every week, members of the Coastal Mountain Stewardship team are joined by groups of volunteers to tackle trail maintenance and power through construction projects. In weeks past, volunteers have added siding to the stewardship barn, aided in blazing preserve boundaries, and installed new stone steps along trails at Fernald’s Neck. On this particular Wednesday, even amidst icy conditions, Stewardship Project Manager Ryan O’Neill and I met four tenacious volunteers at Beech Hill to remove some well-worn bridges.
The weather was no issue for the volunteers, who each arrived with snowshoes, enthusiasm, and a good sense of humor. Ryan, myself, and the volunteers dug through the snow to collect shards of shredded wood and unearth stringers which had once served as boardwalks for trail patrons. A volunteer and I took turns shuttling down hunks of wood to the truck at the trailhead and as we headed back up to reunite with the rest of the crew, two volunteers and Ryan came down the trail carrying one of the stringers together.
One of the volunteers suggested they whistle while they worked together, but it hardly seemed like work with the laughter echoing through Beech Hill’s wooded trails.
By Maeve Cosgrove, Maine Conservation Corps Stewardship Intern
It’s tricky working by a window as a birder. The demands of the day can easily fall to the wayside when there is a portal granting unlimited access to outdoor happenings just beyond or, in my case, above the computer screen. The challenge to look away from the birds is especially daunting at the Coastal Mountains Land Trust office, which overlooks a far-reaching finger of the Megunticook Lake, hidden in the white pines at the wooded base of Mount Battie. On my first day at the office, I was welcomed by bluebirds and their cascading calls. Though less melodic, the squawking nuthatches were equally exciting to watch from my new desk, scurrying up trees and hanging upside down from the bark.
A new window heralds a new window list. It’s a way of getting to know the neighborhood really, keeping track of the avian locals. Tracking the birds in one spot day after day, sometimes called “patch birding,” also reveals clues about our ever-changing environment. While it’s nice to hear the high whistles of robins in Camden during January and catch their red breasts like slashes of ribbons in the winter landscape, their presence could be a symptom of climate change.
A few weeks into my tenure at Coastal Mountains, my office window list has accumulated 18 species. Two pairs of goldfinches were the latest additions, having flown or blown in from over the lake to take refuge in the bare arms of a birch. Luckily for the finches they arrived a few hours after a red-tailed hawk made its debut on the list.
We’re very glad to welcome three new Board members!
Harper is a sophomore at Camden Hills Regional High School. Harper plays on the high school soccer team and is active in the school’s Windplanners environmental club.
Harper is very excited to join the board as a student and help use her voice to speak for her classmates and peers.
Kitty moved to the Midcoast 20 years ago with her husband and 3 daughters. An educator, she has always been passionate about and appreciative of the many opportunities we have to enjoy the Maine landscape in our area. Whether it’s along the coast or our community preserves she enjoys exploring the open spaces, thanks to the hard work and dedication of land trusts. She is excited and honored to help advance the important work of Coastal Mountains Land Trust.
ROBERT S. LAWRENCE
Bob is a retired physician and professor emeritus of Environmental Health & Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife Cynthia have been coming to Maine since the 1970’s and moved to Rockport fulltime in 2017. Introduced to the Wednesday trail crew by Phil Gaudet and the late Malcolm White in 2014, he continues to enjoy helping maintain the beautiful network of trails created by Coastal Mountains Land Trust and supporting efforts to preserve open space in this beautiful part of the world.
By Jack Shaida, Stewardship & Land Protection Manager
The 444-acre Meadow Brook Preserve in Swanville is one of the Land Trust’s most ecologically diverse properties, protecting large swaths of open marsh, riparian habitat, and upland forest around Hurd’s Pond. To make it easier to access this Preserve and its wonderful trails the Land Trust recently built a new parking lot on Oak Hill Road at the Hauk Fry section of the Preserve. This 2-3 car lot at the trailhead allows for access to an easy, 0.8-mile trail to Meadow Brook. A 1.3-mile trail extension that will cross Meadow Brook and continue to Swan Lake Avenue is currently under construction and is accessible from this parking lot. This trail is nearly complete, but signage has yet to be installed. If you have never been, or are a frequent visitor, we hope you enjoy the new parking lot and the trail.
Big thanks to earthwork and landscaping contractor Garret Cross for his awesome work. The area around the lot was filled with invasive honeysuckle and multiflora rose, and Garret did an awesome job removing those harmful plants before building the lot. Thanks to volunteers Bob Olfenbuttel, Steve Bird, and Dan Reeve for there help installing the new kiosk and roadside sign.
Directions: From downtown Belfast, take High Street north out of town. Cross Route 1 and continue as the road turns into City Point Road, and then Oak Hill Road (stay right at the fork). After passing the Rail Trail City Point parking lot, reset your odometer, and continue 2.2 miles, the parking lot is on the right.
Coastal Mountains Land Trust is making an effort on our preserves to provide more people the opportunity to get outside. Over the past few months we have been working with Asa Peats Landscape Design and Enock Glidden, an accessibility consultant, to improve accessibility at Beech Hill. Guided by a design drafted by Asa Peats, Tom Jackson Landscaping of Camden installed a beautiful ramp on the building and reset all the stone stairs.
When the grass begins to grow this spring, the ramp will finish blending in very nicely. Thanks to all of those who have provided input and suggestions on this project.
We are impressed by Camden-Rockport Elementary School’s teachers and administration, who have deepened their commitment to outdoor learning. We are working with this school through our Learning Landscapes program, which has three components: conserving land adjacent to schools, creating outdoor classrooms, and supporting educators in weaving outdoor learning into their curriculum.
Last fall, we supported the CRES’ new nature-based preschool, which currently spends every day outside; the students are acclimated to their outdoor classroom and well prepared for all weather conditions. We followed last year’s pre-school class up through the year and we are now mentoring the Kindergarten team in incorporating outdoor learning into their teaching, providing continuity for the students.
We are working closely with three incredible and dedicated CRES Kindergarten teachers: Teresa Curtis, Kim Wickenden, and Danica Carpenter and their 60+ students. This partnership is based on the model of listening to the needs of educators and providing the mentoring and resources that best suit their requests. To this end, we have been working with all 60+ students every 2-3 weeks, modeling seasonally-based experiential lessons and mini professional development sessions, so teachers can ask questions, discuss group management techniques, and delve into outdoor learning methodology.
We will be providing 40+ outdoor lessons for these students throughout the year, as we take a deep and rewarding dive together into experiential outdoor education. This partnership has been incredibly fulfilling for us thus far and we are really excited to see where it will go.
Wednesday field crew was hosted at Beech Hill last week. Our ongoing field management plan prescribes the pulling of invasive plants, of which we have a couple species. While pulling up an Autumn Olive, Elaeagnis umbellata, an invasive from Asia, I noticed some white growths on the root of the invasive plant. I first thought maybe it was some kind of root gall but was unsure.
I was later able to identify the mass as a natural clump of nodules, which the shrub uses to fix nitrogen within the soil, allowing it an opportunity to thrive in less than ideal conditions, which adds to the invasive factor, along side it’s suckering roots! The nitrogen fixing process is the result of a symbiotic relationship with Frankia bacteria, which actually initiates the formation of the root nodules. We have some native nitrogen fixers in the fields as well like the Speckled Alder, Alnus incana.
Camden-Rockport’s 7th graders have spent the fall immersed in an incredible project based learning adventure. In September, Land Trust staff, board and volunteers took all 90+ seventh graders out with their nature journals to 6 preserves as part of this Learning How to See project (based on Leonardo Da Vinci quote) where they were tasked to observe and record what they saw around them. They went back to their classes where they did research on the symbiotic relationships they observed (in science class), wrote poetry based on their observations (in ELA class) and created drawings on porcelain tiles (in art class).
Nine art pieces were displayed at Beech Hill Preserve with QR codes that linked to their poetry! To see more of the students’ work, visit the Bagel Cafe in Camden.
It has been such a pleasure to collaborate with these innovative dedicated educators: Kristen Andersen (Art), Hilary Flagg (ELA) and John Dietter (Science) as part of our growing Learning Landscapes program!
February 10, 2022 – Coastal Mountains Land Trust will co-host an online Zoom presentation titled Exploring Nature in Peru’s Cloud Forests and Amazon Rainforest at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 10 with the Camden Public Library. Join us for this educational and informative online talk by Roger Rittmaster, Land Trust Board member, retired endocrinologist, and avid nature photographer.
Late last year Roger spent 4 weeks photographing wildlife in the cloud forests and amazon rainforests of southeast Peru. He photographed over 800 species of insects, birds, mammals, and other wildlife, uploading the images to iNaturalist to share with other natural history enthusiasts. In this presentation, he will take you on a tour of the places and creatures he photographed in this amazing area of the tropics.
Please visit the “What’s Happening” adults events calendar at librarycamden.org to register for a Zoom link to attend this webinar. The presentation platform is limited to those who get an invitation from the library.
Rittmaster moved to Maine eleven years ago to pursue his hobbies (natural history, land conservation and woodworking). Shortly after moving to Maine, he authored the book, “Butterflies Up Close – a guide to butterfly photography”. Roger is a Maine Master Naturalist, former chair of the Camden Conservation Commission, and serves on the Board of Coastal Mountains Land Trust. When asked about what areas of natural history interest him the most, he replied, “Anything that has DNA”.
February 9, 2022 – On Saturday, February 26th Coastal Mountains Land Trust will be putting luminaries along a section of the Belfast Rail Trail, so everyone can enjoy a little evening trail magic during the Ice Festival.
The Land Trust will have free cookies and hot chocolate at the Belfast footbridge from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. A guided excursion along the luminary trail will leave from the footbridge at 6:00 p.m. Bring footwear that correlates to the current conditions: ice grips, snowshoes or xc skis, if the conditions allow!
We are looking for volunteers to help make ice luminaries if we have freezing temperatures. If you are interested in making an ice luminary to contribute, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.