News & Notes

Browsing posts tagged with: habitat

Report: Veazie Dam Ceremony, Celebration and Breaching

Friday, July 26th, 2013
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Maine Audubon is proud to be part of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and this unprecedented project for the people and wildlife of Maine. Our long history of work to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat includes extensive efforts to keep the state’s major rivers open for travel – for fish, wildlife, and people. In the Bangor area particularly, Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter has long advocated to protect the ecology of the Penobscot River and watershed and has played a key role in helping build support for this project.

We support the Penobscot Project because it provides an incredible national example of large-scale watershed-based collaboration and conservation. Maine Audubon is also especially committed to the Penobscot Project because it provides new and exciting opportunities to foster a better understanding of the broad benefits of river restoration to birds as well as to sea-run fish and other wildlife. Birds such as the Barrow’s goldeneye, belted kingfisher, osprey, and bald eagle are likely to benefit directly from an increased fish population in the river, and wintering and juvenile common loons that eat marine fish may also benefit.

In the spring of 2011, IF&W biologist Charlie Todd documented the largest eagle aggregation in Maine in recent times and the highest breeding density of ospreys anywhere in Maine along the Sebasticook River. Mr. Todd attributed this to the large alewife run that was restored following the removal of the Edwards Dam in 1999. The potential benefits are even larger on the Penobscot once we remove the Veazie Dam and complete the fishways upriver and on tributaries, such as the Pushaw Lake Fishway.

Ecological benefits will be broad:

  • New wetland habitat along the riverbanks
  • Possible expansion of rare mussels as they catch a ride upstream on returning Atlantic salmon and alewives
  • More kingfishers, river otters, osprey, and bald eagles feeding on burgeoning fish populations
  • More waterfowl feeding in the open riffles during winter

Opportunities for people to observe and enjoy this wildlife while strolling along the riverbank, picnicking at a riverside park, fishing, or paddling will be greatly expanded. A similar revival on the Kennebec has occurred since the removal of the Edwards Dam, including millions of river herring and a recognized run of American shad, an important and valuable sport fish.

We would like to thank all those who have made this day possible.

View this special report from Maine Audubon board member, Bob Duchesne:


Piping Plovers: Endangered, Small, and Tough.

Monday, June 24th, 2013
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This Piping Plover Chick is struggling with a crane fly. The crane fly got away but this shows just how small and vulnerable the young are in this species. Photo: Chuck Holmer

This Piping Plover Chick is struggling with a crane fly. The crane fly got away but this shows just how small and vulnerable the young are in this species. Photo: Chuck Homler

By: Katie Burns, Piping Plover project intern

Due to their endangered status and small stature, Piping Plovers are often given a bad rap by the general public. For years, they have been deemed “wimpy” or “pathetic,” but this is simply not the case. It’s time to set the record straight: Piping Plovers are tough cookies.

Though this hardy little bird makes its habitat in one of the harshest and most exposed environments, it is perfectly adapted to do so. Nesting on the edge of dunes, the sea provides them with plenty of food, and the sand offers many places for them to nest. Their coloration allows them to blend in with the sand, seaweed and rocks, making them very hard to spot and providing them with protection from predators who may seek them out. Plovers also lay eggs that are well-camouflaged, as they blend in with the rocks and sand. Though they are constantly at the mercy of the elements and the rising tides, the birds are resilient and will stick with their nests to ensure the safety of their eggs. In general, they had a pretty good thing going on until humans began flooding the beaches! Trash cans and other human food sources have attracted “smart predators,” such as foxes, raccoons, and crows, which are adept at detecting nests to feed on the eggs. Humans have also introduced domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, which also prey on the birds. But “smart predators” aren’t the only threat – urban development, off-road vehicles and fireworks have contributed to a very difficult environment for these shorebirds survival.

True to the resolute nature of their species, the Piping Plovers that nest along the coast of Maine have remained tolerant in the face of adversity. Our team monitors nests from Ogunquit to Reid State Park and has witnessed the trials and triumphs of the species. After a rough start to the season, what with the stormy spring weather and astronomical high tides, the birds have re-nested and many now have tiny chicks. They continue to defend their offspring with an intimidating ferocity and selflessness, often putting themselves in danger to protect their brood. The other day, a particularly brave plover at Pine Point came within inches of a biologist as she tried to get a good look at his nest. The bird stood his ground, piping heartily and fluffing himself up, before chasing the well-meaning biologist away.

Currently there are about 43 pairs of Piping Plovers in the state of Maine. Our team, working with the Maine Audubon Piping Plover and Least Tern Recovery Project, monitors 34 of these pairs. We are out on the beaches almost every day checking on nests, counting chicks, setting up stake-and-twine barriers, and educating the public about what they can do to help the species. This year, our busiest beaches have been Popham and Goose Rocks, which are each home to about 6-7 pairs. As of June 10th, all the eggs at Goose Rocks had hatched, and there are presently 17 little chicks running around out on the sand. We hope a majority of chicks that hatch this season will survive the summer, though it requires cooperation and support of Maine’s beach goers. The best thing that people can do while on the beach is to give these birds their space. Keeping dogs leashed and respecting posted nest sites will help to keep the birds safe and healthy.

The plover’s robust nature has allowed them to prevail against all odds over the years. However, they can’t do it all on their own. We were the ones who changed the game, and now these tough little birds need us to help level the playing field.


Piping Plover Nesting Update

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
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With nice weather due to return for the weekend here in Maine, we would like to take a moment for a short update on our Piping Plover Monitoring Program.


After the storms in late April, a group of plover/endangered species biologists from United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and Maine Audubon met to tour some of Maine’s plover beaches. Maine Audubon staff biologist, Laura Minich Zitske, was on hand to share an update on the many issues plovers face. The group surveyed beach and dune damage from the winter and spring storms and examined proposed and existing seawalls to better understand how can balance the needs of people and birds.

On a southern Maine plover nesting beach ... surveying conditions.

Everyone is checking out the male plover know as “Bahama Papa” (pictured below) Joining Laura was Kate O’Brien- Refuge Biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS), Kaiti Titherington- Plover and Tern Technician at RCNWR (USFWS), Mark McCullough- Endangered Species Specialist, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Laury Zicari- Field Supervisor, Maine Field Office (USFWS), Anne Hecht- Endangered Species Biologist (USFWS), Lindsay Tudor- Shorebird Biologist (MDIFW), Charlie Todd (Endangered & Threatened Species Coordinator (MDIFW)

Seawalls may help protect homes from storm damage, but they may ultimately destroy the very beach on which people built homes to enjoy. When waves hit the sea walls, it encourages increased speed of the water, picking up sand in the wave actions. Thus, we see much greater erosion around the walled sections of beach; the sea walls also prevents the natural rebuilding of beaches. This not only hurts people who enjoy the beach, but the nesting habitat for the endangered Piping Plover,  which have only 43 nesting pairs in Maine.

Nesting Conditions and Damage to Habitat Caused by Storms and Tides

When we get storms rolling in with full moon tides the landscape on our beaches can change fast. The storm damage to dunes has been so extensive on one particular beach that Laura  noted, “I barely know how to orient myself on this beach because there is so much dune washed away.” In the photo below, she demonstrates the approximate height of what was the leading edge of the dune before the most recent erosion after the storm/tide combination of late April.

Laura Minich Zitske, staff biologist and piping plover project manager shows the previous approximate height of the dune before the storm.

Seasonal biologist Caroline Cappello took the photo below of an exclosure which originally cordoned off a full section of dune before the storm; after the storm, more than three feet of dune was lost.


Pictured below is the nest which used to be under the above exclosure. Our staff were able to safely remove the exclosure and the parents returned to tend the brood.

Nesting piping plover.

Nice Weekend Coming – Please Be Alert!

If you like to enjoy walks on a beach and see the sign in the photo below, please keep your pets on a leash and maintain a good distance from the chicks who start life little larger than a typical cotton ball.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.

A typical nest exclosure. This helps keep predators out and allows the plovers to come and go.


Not only are the chicks small, but they also blend into the sands of the beach. This was taken from more than one hundred feet away with a 400mm lens.

Pictured below: seasonal biologist, Traczie Bellinger, and intern, Mary Badger, spotting the chicks pictured above, which were then only a few days old.
Seasonal biologist and spotting the then few days old chicks.

Some playfulness between male and female.

Some playfulness between male and female.

A plover on the outside of an exclosure.

A Plover on the outside of an xnclosure which demonstrates how the Plover can easily fit through the fencing while a cat or other predator could not.

Learn about “Bahama Papa” – named for his location when first banded

“Bahama Papa” was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has been seen on the same stretch of beach in Maine every summer since. Each winter he has been observed on the same stretch of beach on Grand Bahama where he was originally banded. In his Maine summers, he has already fledged 8 chicks!

We saw Bahama Papa on April 29. As of today, we know he has a mate and they have been scraping nest spots there is no definitive word as to whether or not Bahama Papa will be a father for another year.

This is "Bahama Papa" who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas.

This is “Bahama Papa” who has been seen in southern Maine a few years now and was first banded in the Bahamas in 2010 and has fledged eight chicks!



Desperately Seeking Birders

Well, maybe not quite desperately, but we would love to have your help! Maine Audubon is looking for birders willing to travel to bird habitat “hotspots” throughout the state, and report back their findings via eBird, the on-line checklist program from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The goal of this effort is to expand Maine’s Important Bird Area program to include some of the many places we believe are important for species of high conservation concern, but for which we lack quantitative data.

With every new checklist added by birders, we’ll be able to build the case for the more than 20 sites that have been identified by the Important Bird Area Technical Committee as needing more information before they can be approved as Maine IBAs. See the map below for the sites we are focusing on this spring. If you have additional sites you’d like considered as IBAs, or if you have questions about the locations or using e-Bird to report your sitings, e-mail Susan Gallo at [email protected].

Visit the IBA home page for more information about the Maine IBA program or to see a list of current, approved IBAs established in Maine.

Thank you for your help, happy birding!


New resource shows high-value habitat connectors

Thursday, September 27th, 2012
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Wood turtle, photo by Tom Hodgman

In Maine, we are lucky to have many large and small patches of valuable habitat for wildlife. Conserving these habitat pieces is vital to ensuring that wildlife populations in the state remain healthy–but so is protecting the connections between them.

Beginning with Habitat’s Map #3–Habitat Blocks and Habitat Connections–has new information about where the best habitat connections are in each town. Maine Audubon’s newly published fact sheet Conserving Maine’s Wildlife Habitat Connections accompanies the map and is now available to download.



Loons and Real Estate: It’s all about Location, Location, Location

Friday, September 21st, 2012
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Loon on Nest

The Pemaquid Watershed Association will host a presentation about loon habitat by Maine Audubon wildlife biologist Susan Gallo at the Friends’ Meeting House, 77 Belvedere Road in Damariscotta on Tuesday, October 2, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Gallo will answer many Common Loon questions, including: Why do loons choose to nest on one Maine lake and not another? Why do some loons successfully raise chicks year after year while others seem to never give up the bachelor lifestyle? Audience members will learn more about where loons are in Maine every summer and how they can participate in Maine Audubon’s new study designed to answer some of the more intriguing loon “real estate” questions. Lakeside residents are vital to Maine Audubon’s efforts and can help collect information about the features of loon lakes that might help or hinder loon nesting and success every summer. Come to learn more about the loon habitat study and loon natural history in this multi-media presentation.


Stream Survey Crews at Work

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
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Ever wonder what happens to a brook trout when a poorly functioning culvert keeps it from moving up and down stream? Anglers know fish need to move – between spawning, nursery, feeding, and cold water summer refuges – to survive and grow. But about 40% of our culverts are fish barriers and up to 90% keep fish and wildlife from getting where they need to go at least part of the year.

To address this challenge, Maine Audubon has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to survey bridges and culverts in western and northeastern Maine to determine how well fish, wildlife and floods can move through the bridges and culverts at each site. The data will be shared with landowners and towns so they can prioritize which sites to fix first to re-create natural stream flows so fish and other wildlife can move safely up and down stream and so that the culverts, bridges and roads don’t get washed out during heavy rainstorms or floods.


Great Works Dam Removal: a long term effort for wildlife and habitat

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
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Maine Audubon was one of many partners and supporters on the banks on the Penobscot River on Monday, June 11, 2012 in Bradley, Maine to celebrate the first step in the restoration of the Penobscot River. The removal of the Great Works dam is the beginning of a larger effort along the Penobscot River that will open over 1,000 miles of river habitat for sea-run fish, and eventually spur additional wildlife and habitat changes. Once the fish return we expect to see more fish-eating birds and mammals as well, including kingfishers, osprey, bald eagles, mink, and otter. This effort took thirteen years and collaboration between several organizations, agencies, and the Penobscot Indian Nation.


Chief Kirk Francis – Penobscot Nation


The Great Works Dam


Barry Dana, Former Chief of the Penobscot Nation


Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior


Sally Stockwell, Director of Conservation, Maine Audubon

Chief Kirk Francis – Penobscot NationThe Great Works DamBarry Dana, Former Chief of the Penobscot NationKen Salazar, Secretary of the InteriorSally Stockwell, Director of Conservation, Maine Audubon_MG_2512

Visit The Penobscot River Restoration Trust for more information »

Partial list of news articles and videos covering the event: