Part of the Landmark Heritage Trust's mission is to provide educational activities for our members and the community. Throughout the past several years our volunteer experts have led several fun and educational nature hikes, workshops, and outings. We hope you will join us for the next one.
The photo to the right shows Mike Shannon, who led a late winter Snowshoe Outing at the NPNA on March 20, 2011. This outing is an example of how the Landmark Heritage Trust fulfills this part of its mission statement.
Mushroom Day at NPNA
On July 22nd, Greg Marley and members of the Maine Mycological Association visited the NPNA to conduct a mushroom "foray". This reporter can only speak for himself when he says that it was a fascinating day, a day which focused on a subject about which he knows very little. How little? His first question was, what is a foray? So, first lesson learned: A mushroom foray is when a group of people set off in different directions with instructions to collect as many kinds of mushrooms as they can find, then bring them back an hour and a half later. At that time, Greg and other knowledgeable members would identify and talk about them. Since we were in the middle of a dry summer and this reporter assumed that not too many mushrooms would be around, he was stunned when people came back with baskets, each one filled to its brim with a colorful assortment of mushrooms. So second lesson learned? Don't assume that a dry summer leads to a scarcity of mushrooms. It was incredible what experienced eyes were able to find at the NPNA. And finally, the third lesson this guy learned was, the world of mushrooms can be overwhelming to a beginner so here's his recommendation for those who want to learn their names: invest in a mushroom field guide, then join the Maine Mycological Association.
NPNA Bird Day with Seth Benz:
Including Seth, 11 people showed up at 7 am at the NPNA on June 2nd to see how many birds we could identify. Seth, a highly regarded ornithologist and environmental educator who lives in nearby Belfast, patiently told us what bird was singing each song we heard within the NPNA forest. Focusing on warblers during much of the day, we got to see most if not all of these colorful sprites of the bird world, difficult as it was to do so since they move about so quickly and are expert at hiding amongst the tree foliage. Highlights included three Eastern Kingbirds who seemed to terrorize all other birds who flew into their midst. Amongst the birds they chased away from their territory was an Osprey, who sure looked big and tough enough to defend its own airspace, but it didn't look like it wanted to.
For an up-to-date list of birds that have been identified as of June 2nd, go to the Properties page, read the selection for the NPNA, and follow instructions.
WINTER WALK ALONG N. BRANCH MARSH STREAM, MONROE
About 14 people met at the home of Rebecca Childs on Sunday, February 19, 2012 to walk along the North Branch Marsh Stream, before convening for a pot luck meal. Unfortunately, the lack of snow was not conducive to using snowshoes, or for looking for animal tracks, but the walkers did enjoy the scenery and noted signs of bird activity, which included finding an owl pellet and newly excavated feeding holes made by a pileated woodpecker (see tree in the middle of photo).
The Landmark Heritage Trust and the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust co-presented a Grasses and Sedges Outing on Saturday, August 13, 2011. Led by Don Phillips, an environmental consultant from Monroe, the outing was held on a half-acre woodlot adjacent to the Sandy River in the Town of Unity. Some might ask: why wasn't it held in a larger field or a pasture, where they are abundant?
But he had reasons for holding it in the forest. In this half-acre setting underlying a deciduous forest, we identified and discussed 14 species of grasses (including one described by the highly regarded Flora of Maine as "very rare") and 6 species of sedges. These are the species that go almost unnoticed during a casual stroll through the forest. The setting also underscored how ubiquitous grasses and sedges are more effectively than if it was held on a multi-acre field. But perhaps more importantly, said Don, is that unlike our more comon lawn and pasture grasses, almost all of which are introduced species, those that are found growing in the shade of the woods are, by and large, natives. What we saw are vestiges of what was here before the colonization of Maine. These are the species that are (arguably) most vulnerable following unrestrained habitat alteration.
Marsh Stream Paddle
Those of us who paddled the Marsh Stream on June 11th got another reminder of Mother Nature’s golden rule that her world is dynamic. Things don’t stay the same from year to year. With time, pastures may become old-fields, which then become young forests, which then (alas) sometimes become new subdivisions.
And so it is with the Marsh Stream. Always known as idyllic flatwater, this 2.5-mile stretch that flows between the Stream Road in Monroe to the West Winterport dam meanders lazily through pastoral countryside through parts of Monroe, Frankfort, and West Winterport. Unfortunately, soon after we adventurers launched our canoes and kayaks, we began to notice that the water level was lower than anticipated. The more brilliant amongst us deduced that it was most likely due to the removal of the West Winterport dam awhile ago, which we had all forgotten about.
The upshot was, we river rats did not enjoy the blissfully lazy paddle yours truly advertised it to be. While it wasn’t that bad, there were still plenty of boulders we had to avoid, riffles some of us got hung up on, and even a few stretches of rapids to navigate. Now, “rapids” may not be the technically correct word to use in this case since it might conjure up stretches of truly scary white-water, like those that famously characterize some of our State’s wilder rivers. But for a novice paddler like me, what we had to run certainly added an unexpected bit of adrenalin to the day. Fortunately, we all managed to get through them and stay dry, thanks to trip leader Skip Pendleton who expertly coached us through the faster rips.
Still and all, this guy admits that he can hardly wait to do it again.
May 1st Vernal Pool Tour
A half-dozen "kids" showed up at LHT member Rebecca Childs' home on this date to check out the vernal pools on her property. We visited three, all created differently, of the many pools on her property in Monroe. One pool was long and narrow, suggestive of a flooded forest skidder trail, which it is at drier times of the year. A second, smaller (<0.1 acre) and more oval in shape, temporarily floods a low spot in the woods. The third, the largest (almost a quarter acre) and deepest (>4'), was probably a kettle hole formed when the glacier retreated thousands of years ago, but which now fills and dries each year.
But we didn't dwell too long on how they formed. Instead, we had fun catching some of the underwater creatures who call vernal pools home. Sort of like how many rural kids used to do. Or, still do. What do you think, Rebecca? Anyway, we captured inch-long dragon-like caddis flies preying on a spotted salamander egg mass from their leaf cases, just like backpackers do while eating their breakfast on a cold morning while still in sleeping bags. We saw lots of oh-so-tiny mites, bright red and colorful. And there was that ferocious looking 2" long monster we identified as a "predacious diving beetle" that was swimming around with impunity in the pool. And, of course, we had fun checking out the egg masses that breeding wood frogs and salamanders leave behind, after they mate in the springtime waters of a vernal pool. We talked about their fascinating and complex life cycles, both so dependant on vernal pools.
FEBRUARY 20TH SNOWSHOE OUTING IN MONROE
Eleven people showed up at Rebecca Childs’ home to go snowshoeing on a forest trail along the North Branch Marsh Stream. The day was sunny and brisk, the snow deep and crusty. One never can tell what an outing might reveal. On that day, the group was on the lookout for bobcat sign since one was observed by neighbors only the day before. Unfortunately, we did not see any signs, but we found a currently used den deep in the bank of the river. After taking photos and gathering a sample of scat, the group went back to the house to conduct further research by asking a wildlife educator, Nancy Childs, what she thought. River otter! The presence of fish scales was a surefire indicator.