News & Notes: Conservation Issues

East Point Sanctuary: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Posted on: Friday, January 20th, 2017

IMG_0197On the outer edge of Biddeford Pool, tucked just beyond beautiful private residences and the spectacular Abenakee Club golf course, sits Maine Audubon’s best-kept secret: the East Point Audubon Sanctuary.

At only 30 acres, it is Maine Audubon’s smallest sanctuary. But what it lacks in area it more than makes up for in beauty. A short trail weaves along the perimeter of the rocky point, providing rare public access to this stretch of the Maine coast. Visitors are treated to 270-degree views of Saco Bay and the Gulf of Maine, including the Wood Island lighthouse and long stretches of important coastal habitat. It is a premier migratory stopover and summer home to birds like the Chipping Sparrow, which are easy to spot from the comfort of benches placed along the open trail.

Over the past couple of years, the trail’s viewsheds have improved thanks to a collaboration with the Abenakee Club and Biddeford Pool residents. With their support, in 2014 Maine Audubon undertook a project to remove invasive plant species that proliferated in the sanctuary. The work included a full wetland delineation and mapping. The required permits were secured, and three-and-a-half acres has been cleared to date. With sufficient financial support, the project will continue into 2017.

The benefits of this work are already making themselves clear. Robert Searle, superintendent of the Abenakee Club, reports a greater variety of birds in the area. “This year was the first time I’ve ever seen a Killdeer on the golf course,” he explains. “We’ve also had a surge in Whimbrels the past couple years.” Longer term, he says, the removal of invasive plants will result in new vegetation and create an even greater variety of habitats for wildlife.

Searle notes that members of the club and local residents have a vested interest in this work. “Our members have a deep respect for the ecological significance of Biddeford Pool,” he says. “It’s in that spirit that the club has been and will continue to be a great neighbor to the East Point Sanctuary.”

Have you visited the crown jewel of Maine Audubon’s sanctuaries? Find directions and more information at


Interested in supporting the East Point invasives removal project? Please contact Development Director Bryce Hach at 207-781-2330 ext. 218.

Nature Notes 2017: 02

Posted on: Friday, January 13th, 2017

“Nature Notes” will be a near-weekly blog post to keep you updated on some things going on with Maine’s wildlife. This will include incidental observations (many of which are shared on our Instagram page), recent unusual bird sightings, and notes on our bird walks or other field trips.
In case you missed it, last week’s Nature Notes can be found here: Nature Notes 2017: 01

The deer population at Gilsland Farm has slowly recovered after their apparent extirpation following the deep snow two winters ago. An (apparent) family has been making daily visits to our orchard and uncovering long-since-fallen apples under the snow. For information on how Maine’s deer are able to survive during harsh winters, Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a put together a great handout here: Living on the Edge: How Deer Survive Winter

White-tailed Deer – Falmouth, ME – 10 Jan 2017

Following up on the Barred Owls mentioned in our last Nature Notes, as I was photographing the vole in its talons, a large number of lice started emerging from the bird’s feathers. Identifying louse seems to be more challenging than Empids so I’ll leave these unnamed but there are some entertaining louse facts out there: Did you know there is a species of chewing louse that is only found on owls, named Strigiphilus garylarsoni. The genus Strigiphilus makes sense: strig or strix, meaning ‘owl’ and -philus or ‘loving’, but what about garylarsoni?! Apparently Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side comic, has made a few “significant” contributions to science and has had a couple insects named after him. Where would we be without Larson dubbing the thagomizer?

Louse sp? on Barred Owl – Falmouth, ME – 3 Jan 2017

Recent birds sightings:
We stopped producing the weekly “RBA” last year because of the more useful and automatically produced Rare Bird Alert from eBird’s RBA is updated as soon as reports are submitted, includes media (photo/video/audio), and links directly to Google Maps for directions. Maine’s eBird RBA can be accessed here: Here are a few recent highlights:

One bird of interest that isn’t appearing on the [above] RBA, which people may be interested in, is a King Eider in Portland Harbor. There have actually been two, an immature male (found on 4 Dec 2016) and a female (found on 6 Dec 2016) that have been regularly seen in the harbor, most easily from the Portland Fish Pier (map here).

King Eider (female) – Portland, ME – 29 Dec 2016

The Pink-footed Geese continued throughout the week in Rockland and the Orange-crowned Warbler survived the cold snap and is still being seen at Pond Cove in Cape Elizabeth as of the 13th.

Seawatch at Portland Head Light
Many thanks to everyone who joined us on Wednesday for the seawatching event at Portland Head Light that we collaborated on with the Fort Williams Park Foundation. The strong wind and rain overnight cleared just in time and brought unseasonably warm weather making for a very pleasant viewing opportunity. We were able to tally 25 different species during our watch, highlighted by Northern Gannets, Great Cormorants, Razorbills, and two Iceland Gulls. A complete list from this event can be seen here:

Birders seawatching at the Portland Light House – Cape Elizabeth, ME – 11 Jan 2017

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Reports are often posted on the Maine-birds Listserv, like this one from the 12th:

Hello Maine-birds:

What a change this week’s nearly 50º bird walk was from last week’s gusty chill! Trails at Gisland Farm, in Falmouth, remain a bit icy but much of the snow has melted and there was little-to-no ice left on the river. High tide helped bump up waterfowl numbers. Here are a few highlights:

Waterfowl (yes, mostly Mallard and Canada Geese) numbers were high thanks to the flood tide. Wild Turkeys, which are typically rare at Gilsland Farm in the winter, have been frequenting a neighbor’s yard off the North Meadow. Two Cooper’s Hawks have been stalking the feeders lately, hopefully reducing the House Sparrow population while providing our group with satisfying views. An adult Iceland Gull was bathing in the river; only my third time seeing this species at Gilsland and my first adult. A lingering Northern Flicker was in the treetops of the North Meadow with our ever-present Eastern Bluebirds. 

A complete list form the walk is available at:

Iceland Gull, digiscoped using iPhone through Swaroski spotting scope – Falmouth, ME – 12 Jan 2017

Coming up…
I’m off to Arizona! The next Nature Notes will be out in two weeks and might be supplemented with some Sonoran wildlife. Naturalist questions can be directed to our wonderful volunteers at [email protected].


Nature Notes 2017: 01

Posted on: Friday, January 6th, 2017

“Nature Notes” will be a near-weekly blog post to keep you updated on some things going on with Maine’s wildlife. This will include incidental observations (many of which are shared on our Instagram page), recent unusual bird sightings, and notes on our bird walks or other field trips.


Barred Owls seem to be everywhere this winter. There are almost daily photos posted on the MAINE Birds Facebook group of Barred Owls both roosting and hunting during the day. They are primarily nocturnal but are known to hunt in the daylight at times, especially when food is scarce. Many of the photos show owls around homes with bird feeders, most likely looking for rodents that are attracted to spilt bird seed. Unfortunately, many of these owls are also hunting along the sides of roads and are being hit by cars. The thick and heavy snow pack makes finding small mammals (the owl’s primary food source) difficult but cleared, plowed roads are easy places to find exposed rodents. The occurrence of food within the path of fast moving vehicles doesn’t bode well for Barred Owls. Deceased animals on the roadside are best left alone, natural recyclers are amazingly efficient, but if you find an injured owl we recommend contact either Avian Haven in Freedom (Central Maine) or the Center for Wildlife in York (Southern Maine). Below is a photograph of a deceased Barred Owl that was brought to us (to be used for educational purposes) after being found on the side of the road in Harpswell. The owl was still holding onto a Short-tailed Shrew, the prey that likely led to its own demise.

Recent birds sightings:
We stopped producing the weekly “RBA” last year because of the more useful and automatically produced Rare Bird Alert from eBird’s RBA is updated as soon as reports are submitted, includes media (photo/video/audio), and links directly to Google Maps for directions. Maine’s eBird RBA can be accessed here: Here are a few recent highlights:

A pair of Pink-footed Geese, along with a lone adult Snow Goose were found by Don Reimer in the ball fields adjacent to the South Elementary School (Former RDMS) on January 2nd. These geese continue to be present through the 6th and will likely stick around until snow blankets that field. This is the 10th record for this rare European goose to be seen in Maine, continuing their established pattern of fall vagrancy to the New World.

Pink-footed Geese – Rockland, ME – 4 Jan 2017

A long-staying Bullock’s Oriole that has been visiting private feeders in Camden continues to make regular visits. Details on accessing this bird are available here:

And rare for Kennebec County, a Boreal Chickadee continues to visit a feeder behind 10 Hope Way in Augusta. It is very unusual for this typically northern species to wander out of the Boreal Forest so this is a fairly easy opportunity for birders to see this species.

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Reports are often posted on the Maine-birds Listserv, like this one from the 5th:

Happy National Bird Day!

Our first Gilsland Farm walk of the year was a little low on species given the frequent 20+mph gusts that made the otherwise warm (28ºF) morning feel especially chilly. Most activity was around the feeders but we were able to boost our species count by working the river despite the low tide. Here were a few highlights:

Canada Goose numbers are increasing in the river, probably a result of local locations becoming iced in. Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser numbers were low today because of the low tide and a drake Barrow’s Goldeneye had been around at the end of 2016 so hopefully he returns. Raptors included a Sharp-shinned Hawk terrorizing our feeders, an ever-present Red-tailed Hawk around the Pond Meadow, two adult Bald Eagles over 295, and one unfortunately distant and unidentified falcon. A few entertaining White-breasted Nuthatches were around the building in the morning: two duetting males singing across the orchard and one bird making frequent visits to an old Hairy Woodpecker nesting cavity. Seems a bit early for breeding activity! A group of ~25 Snow Buntings flew overhead first thing in the morning – I’ve had two people report them foraging in the driveway this morning though.

A complete list from the walk is available at:

Downy Woodpecker feeding on an oak gall – Falmouth, ME – 5 Jan 2017

Coming up…
Next Wednesday, January 11th we’ll be doing a FREE seawatching outing from Portland Head Light. We’ll have a few scopes set up to look for sea ducks, gulls, and hopefully and alcid or two. Dress warm and bring binoculars if you have them. And Thursday night (January 12th) is our Winter Ecology talk at Gilsland Farm, a fun opportunity to look at examples of how different Maine animals survive the winter.


New Year, New Beginnings

Posted on: Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Greetings, friends.

Let’s make a few new year’s resolutions for 2017: get outside, keep informed, and stay engaged.

January is not a month to stay inside. Maine Audubon offers several exciting birding trips this month to help you make the most of the winter season. Many folks know Portland Head Light from the summer months, but did you know it is just as spectacular in winter? Join our naturalist Doug Hitchcox there for a morning of bird watching on January 11 and see for yourself. Or, join Linda Woodard and Turk Duddy on January 21 for a trip to several of Greater Portland’s birding hotspots.

Also happening this month: Maine Audubon offers an opportunity to learn more about the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, one of the most significant Maine conservation achievements of our lifetime. Join us at our January Speaker Series event featuring Lucas St. Clair to hear stories about the intensive process required to make the monument happen.

January also marks the transition to the new administration in Washington D.C. We remain deeply concerned by the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has responsibility for writing and enforcing regulations that affect water quality, air quality, climate change — core issues for our environment and for wildlife habitat in Maine and beyond. Maine Audubon has joined with other Maine-based conservation organizations in expressing our concerns to our delegation in Washington, and we stand ready to mobilize our membership on key nominations and policy issues.

Ole Amundsen and Andy Beahm

Ole Amundsen and Andy Beahm

We are undergoing our own leadership transition here at Maine Audubon, as well. This will be my last blog post. I have enjoyed my time with you — meeting Maine Audubon members across the state, and sharing your enthusiasm for the stewardship of Maine’s wildlife and habitat. It is my pleasure to be able to hand the reins to Andy Beahm, who will be serving as Acting Executive Director. Andy joins us following a long, outstanding career with L.L. Bean. He has also served as Board President of Maine Audubon. Andy hails from Aroostook County and has a deep-seated passion for the outdoors and wildlife. I know the organization will thrive under his leadership.

Best wishes,


Maine Audubon Announces Leadership Transition

Posted on: Friday, December 16th, 2016

For immediate release

Friday, December 16, 2016

Contact: Jeremy Cluchey, Director of Communications
[email protected]
207-781-2330 x222

Ole Amundsen III has announced that he will be leaving his role as Executive Director of Maine Audubon in January 2017, a decision he called “very difficult, but the right move for me and my family at a busy time.”

Ole joined Maine Audubon in early 2016, bringing strong experience in landscape-scale conservation, environmental education, and finance. During his tenure, he oversaw a critical financial review process, a detailed legal review of Maine Audubon’s approach to contracts, a focus on planning and restoration efforts at Maine Audubon’s sanctuaries, and important upgrades to internal systems and processes.

Following Ole’s decision, the Board of Trustees announced that Deputy Director Andy Beahm — himself a former board member and chair — will step into the role of Acting Director. Andy recently joined Maine Audubon’s staff after 34 years at L.L. Bean, where he served in various executive roles including Assistant Treasurer, Director of Strategic Planning, and Vice President of Business Transformation. Andy has also been involved in a leadership capacity with a range of Maine nonprofits, including Portland Nordic, Greater Portland Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the Cancer Community Center, where he currently chairs the board.

The Board also shared its intention to begin a full search for Maine Audubon’s next Executive Director in the new year.

“Many leaders have made important and valuable contributions to Maine Audubon over its 173-year history,” said Jerry King, president of the Board of Trustees. “Ole has earned his place among their ranks, and the Board thanks him for his service. We are fortunate to have Andy ready and well-prepared to step in, and we look forward to working with him and the dedicated Maine Audubon staff on the important work ahead.”


Maine Audubon is building a culture of stewardship for Maine’s wildlife and habitat. We connect Maine people to nature through a science-based approach to conservation, education, and advocacy. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually.

Please visit for more information.


Maine Audubon Deeply Concerned by Nomination of Scott Pruitt to Head EPA

Posted on: Friday, December 9th, 2016

The nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a deeply concerning signal of the incoming Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues that have critical implications for Maine wildlife and habitat.

Mr. Pruitt denies the scientific consensus around the existence of climate change and its connection to the actions of mankind. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, he joined in a lawsuit against EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He has actively opposed protections for endangered species and the health of public lands.

As a science-based organization, Maine Audubon supports public policies at the local, state, and federal level that use science to inform strong, responsible standards around issues like clean air, clean water, and protections for threatened and endangered species. A weakening of these standards and the progress the nation has made to date will pose a significant threat to wildlife in Maine and around the nation.

The very real phenomenon of climate change presents one of the biggest threats to wildlife and habitat in Maine. Increasingly, warmer and shorter winters affect many of our iconic species, such as moose, lynx, and our state bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. Warmer stream temperatures threaten Maine’s native brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon, and sea level rise will erode our state’s coastal habitats, affecting endangered birds like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.

These risks also threaten the state’s economic success, which is inextricably tied to our environment. Many of our top industries — from tourism to fishing to forestry — rely on the state’s robust, diverse ecological systems. Water quality affects human health as well as property values. Stream fishing is an important mainstay in many rural economies, generating $100 million in wages, $200 million in retail sales, and $20 million in tax revenues annually. Coastal flooding poses a distinct economic threat to Maine businesses; in York County alone, flooding threatens over 260 businesses representing $42 million in wages.

Maine has a rich history of leading the nation toward stronger environmental protections. Sen. Edmund Muskie played a central role in the development and passage of landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. It is our hope that Maine’s congressional delegation will honor and protect that legacy, and will apply careful scrutiny to Mr. Pruitt’s record on environmental issues when considering his nomination. Maine’s wildlife — and the many jobs tied to the health and resiliency of our ecosystems — depend on it.

What will be the big conservation issues of 2017?

Posted on: Wednesday, December 7th, 2016


What will be the big wildlife and conservation issues of 2017? While no one can say for sure what the future holds, it’s sure to be a busy year for those of us focused on encouraging sound and responsible decisions for wildlife and habitat. More than likely we will see continued discussions about the value of protecting endangered species, the role of humans in altering our climate, and the priorities of our education system.

Recently the Maine Sunday Telegram did a neat series of interviews with Maine environmental leaders on key issues for the future. This is an important moment to take stock and think about the future.

Photo: Doug Hitchcox

Photo: Doug Hitchcox

Our planet’s climate is changing. The impact of climate change is apparent in everyday events if you know where to look. According to our staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox, one of the best examples is the increased abundance of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in Maine. A decade ago, these birds were rare in southern Maine. Now it’s not at all uncommon to see them in our backyards. Plus, the average body mass of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in their historical range south of us is lower than it used to be. A higher body mass makes it easier for a bird to keep warm and to store energy; lower body mass is another sign that the region has warmed up.

Another topic we are likely to see active discussion about in 2017 is the role of science in public policy, in our schools, and in public health. Skepticism of science has been a theme throughout human history, and debates on the merits of science are still with us today (as evidenced this week by the deeply concerning nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA — read our statement). Consider the 75,000-square foot Creationist Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio. It features high-end interactive displays on “creation science” and sophisticated presentations of non-science approaches to answering fundamental questions about our natural world. It’s a significant tourist attraction with a national impact. The museum is bringing what were once considered fringe ideas into the mainstream.

As a science-based conservation organization, Maine Audubon will be increasingly challenged to compete in the marketplace of ideas on issues such as climate change with facilities and visitor experiences like the Creationist Museum. Yet it is more critical than ever that the public understand the importance and value of science and fact-based decision making in ensuring a sustainable future.

If you are sensing a call to action, you’re right! Maine Audubon has always sought to advance evidence-based and well-reasoned public policy on issues ranging from protecting loons to educating our children about the natural world. We work with all parties; we don’t yell; we trade in data and facts; we make steady progress. I hope you value the role that Maine Audubon plays in the landscape of Maine as a science-based advocate for responsible engagement with our natural world, and that you will support our efforts with an end-of-year donation.

Thank you for reading, and for supporting our work to build a state where we are all informed stewards of the precious natural wildlife and habitat of Maine.


ole-squareOle Amundsen is Executive Director of Maine Audubon. He has more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.

Help Maine Audubon this #GivingTuesday

Posted on: Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

I hope you enjoyed a peaceful Thanksgiving! This year, I was especially thankful for the beautiful, wild places that make Maine such a great place to live, work, and play.

Can you help us protect Maine’s special character by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Your support helps Maine Audubon maintain eight wildlife sanctuaries across the state that offer a range of habitats to explore, trails to hike, and a variety of programs designed to help children and adults develop a love of wildlife and the natural world. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

Below are notes from three of my colleagues explaining why your support is so integral to their work. Together we can make a difference for Maine Wildlife.

In gratitude,
Ole Amundsen III, Executive Director

While 2016 brought the great news of a new national monument in Maine’s north woods, it also brought a narrow defeat in the Maine Legislature of a broadly supported comprehensive solar bill.

Maine Audubon’s advocacy efforts are needed now more than ever. We remain committed to educating voters and legislators about the issues that affect wildlife.

Can you help us continue speaking up in Augusta on behalf of wildlife by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Support at the community level is what helped us achieve success on Land for Maine’s Future in January. Your support today will help Maine make the right choices on behalf of our endangered and threatened species, and will help prevent the creation of loopholes in our environmental laws.

Thank you for being part of the solution.

Jennifer Burns Gray, Staff Attorney and Advocate

As staff naturalist, one of my favorite adventures each year is guiding the fall pelagic boat trip Maine Audubon hosts that leaves out of Bar Harbor in search of rare birds. It’s such an incredible experience to share with other birders, venturing beyond our usual range to see exceptional and exciting wildlife.

Connecting people to nature is at the core of Maine Audubon’s mission. Can you help us continue offering experiences that encourage love and respect for wildlife by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Your support helps Maine Audubon offer programming that encourages people to care about Maine’s vulnerable wildlife and habitat. It allows us to create the next generation of environmental stewards through camps and activities for children and families. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

Thank you for giving what you can.

Doug Hitchcox, Staff Naturalist

This summer, Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover and Least Tern Project staff and volunteers counted 66 nesting pairs of endangered Piping Plovers on Maine beaches, matching the previous all-time population record observed in 2002. We’ve been protecting Maine’s endangered Piping Plovers since 1981, but our efforts are still needed on behalf of this vulnerable species.

Please help us continue our work educating beachgoers so that wildlife and people can safely share the beach by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign.

Your contribution supports Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover outreach, monitoring, and protection efforts on Maine’s busy beaches. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

On behalf of Maine Audubon, thank you!

Laura Zitske, Director Piping Plover and Least Tern Project

Explore with Maine Audubon

Posted on: Monday, November 14th, 2016

Each Fall, Maine Audubon hosts a pelagic boat trip that leaves out of Bar Harbor in search of rare birds. Pelagic means “of the sea.” On this year’s trip, videographer Lincoln Benedict joined us to document the incredible experience of venturing out beyond our usual range to see exceptional and exciting wildlife.

Explore with Us from Maine Audubon on Vimeo.

Connecting people to nature is at the core of our mission. If you aren’t already a member, join Maine Audubon today and explore Maine with us.

Farmers, Sportsmen, and Naturalists

Posted on: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016


November is the season of harvest, so it’s only appropriate that our November Speaker Series event will have an focus on Maine’s farmland. Amanda Beal, the new executive director of Maine Farmland Trust, will give a talk entitled “The Nexus of Conservation and Agriculture” in which she will outline the many environmental, social, and economic benefits of keeping working farmland in our communities. 

Governors of New England states have set a goal of making the region 50 percent food self-sufficient by the year 2060. To achieve this goal, a good portion of that local food most likely will come from Maine’s farms. In the next few years, entrepreneurs developing new local food ventures could breathe fresh life into our rural economy. This is good news for conservation since stewardship of the environment is fundamentally a local effort and ecosystems like the Maine north woods are more likely to survive if nearby communities are thriving. 

November is also when cooler fall weather usually catches up with us. When blustery weather has kept me indoors, I’ve been enjoying a recent book on Maine Sporting Camps by noted conservationist and sportsman George Smith. This wonderful book highlights many of the traditional Maine Woods hunting and fishing camps and has me already hatching plans for next summer vacation.

borestone-campThe book also got me thinking about the truly unique experience of visiting Maine Audubon’s Lodges at Borestone Mountain Sanctuary – a naturalist’s equivalent of Maine sports camp. If you’re interested in renting Borestone next summer, 2017 dates are filling up fast, so check the availability our calendar and make your reservation soon!

Whether you’re a sportsman or naturalist or both – the best way to experience Maine is meeting nature on its terms. These experiences are what a life well lived is about. Hope you and your family have been enjoying the outdoors this season!


ole-squareOle Amundsen is Executive Director of Maine Audubon. He has more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.