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Browsing posts tagged with: wildlife 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:


Maine Audubon Receives Funding to Restore Aquatic Habitat

A crew surveys a culvert for wildlife accessibility.

A crew surveys a culvert for wildlife accessibility.


For Immediate Release

July 11, 2013

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
[email protected]
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511


Maine Audubon Receives Funding to Restore Aquatic Habitat

FalmouthMaine Audubon announced today that it has been awarded a grant from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation (Freeport) for its work to maintain and restore vital aquatic habitat connections in the state. The $75,000 grant will help support multiple projects related to aquatic conservation, including:

  • Volunteer engagement to complete brook trout pond surveys in northern Maine to determine conservation management practices.
  • Creation of aquatic stewardship best practices through the incorporation of important habitat data into an interactive web-based program that maps ecological and recreational attributes in western Maine
  • Stream-Smart workshops for professionals to repair and build road crossings and culverts that are safe for drivers and maintain habitat connections for wildlife

“Managing for the future sustainability of our water ways is important for the health of our ecosystems in Maine and northern New England,” noted Barbara Charry, wildlife biologist with Maine Audubon. “Numerous rare or iconic species, such as the native brook trout and Atlantic salmon depend on clean, cold waters for survival. Finding safe places to rest, feed and move among rivers, lakes and streams to breed are key for these wildlife.”

To learn more about Maine Audubon’s work to protect aquatic wildlife and wildlife habitat, please visit



About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

About Elmina B. Sewall Foundation
The mission of the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation is to support conservation of the natural environment and the well-being of animals and human beings in Maine. Through its giving, the Foundation seeks to make a significant impact, inspire the generosity of others and empower those who share its vision. The Elmina B. Sewall Foundation supports 501(c) 3 organizations working in the Foundation’s areas of interest (animal welfare, environment, and human well-being) within the State of Maine.



A Day in the Life of a Plover Chick

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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By Katie Burns and Mary Badger (Piping Plover project interns)

A day in the life of a plover chick can be an amazing and terrifying thing for our biologists to behold. Resembling a fluffy cotton-ball, a Piping Plover chick is possibly one of the cutest babies in the animal kingdom. However, their twenty-five day journey from marshmallow to a fledged adult is a perilous one. Once hatched, it takes only an hour before the plover chicks can run around and feed themselves. It is not uncommon to see the day-old birds weaving around towels, umbrellas, and sleeping sun-bathers as they forage along the wrack-line. Currently, there are 47 chicks running around Maine’s beaches; foraging, brooding, and, in some cases, fledging. Our hope is that a majority of these birds will survive their teenage adventures and, at the end of the summer, join their parents as they migrate south for the winter.

Once chicks have hatched, Piping Plover management becomes a much more nerve-wracking process. We experienced this yet again last Monday, June 18th when we received a call about chicks on the border of Old Orchard Beach and Ocean Park Beach. The chicks in question had hatched only 4 days earlier in front on the KebeK 3 Motel, just south of the ‘Palace Playland,’ and had already traveled, with their parents, about a mile down the beach. Despite the huge number of people at Old Orchard, these parents seemed to be on a mission and their chicks were determined to follow. We did not have time, however, to marvel at the distance these tiny birds had traveled because, as soon as they had made it over the boundary between the two beaches, the parents were immediately drawn in to a fight with another pair of plovers that had already established territory. The migrant parents alternated between defending themselves and guiding their chicks as they were slowly pushed down the beach. We looked on in amazement as dogs, gulls, and even our team seemed to become nonexistent to the plovers. All we could do was try to keep potential predators away and advise beachgoers to keep their distance. In the end, the little family was able to move far enough along the sand and their rivals calmed down. Though the situation was stressful, the plovers’ determination to move their chicks to a new home exemplifies the resilience of the species. Plover parents will always lead their offspring to wherever they feel is safest, despite the obstacles that may lie in their path.

Though many of the hardships faced by the plovers can be avoided by careful management, some obstacles are beyond our control. This past week, six chicks on Goose Rocks were lost, likely due to the high tides. Losing nests to tides, unfortunately, is not uncommon and has occurred this year on Popham and Scarborough beaches. However, on the bright side, the remaining Goose Rocks chicks have continued to grow bigger and some have even begun to fledge! Our team watched with delight as two adolescent birds made their first clumsy attempts to fly on Thursday, June 19th. Hopefully, all eleven chicks found their wings by the 4th of July.

Our team would like to remind all beachgoers that, as well as having lots of fun, please remember that we share the beach with many other creatures, including Piping Plovers. Trash can attract predators, so be sure to put all of your waste into the proper containers and please continue to respect marked off nesting areas. Also, if you have remaining fireworks you would like to enjoy, please remember these are often very stressful for nesting birds and if you are going to end your day with a bang, please avoid the beaches and find another open space to set them off.


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!