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Observers View Bird-life in Messalonskee Marsh

Written by Logan Parker, MLRC Community Engagement Coordinator

Photographs by the trip participants

It was under an overcast sky that a handful of eager wildlife enthusiasts came aboard the Melinda Ann early on a foggy Saturday morning. Boat captain, Phil Mulville, eased the 30-foot pontoon boat away from the Sidney boat launch and directed the boat south. The passengers quietly chatted among themselves as the boat steadily made its way toward the expansive marsh that runs the length of Messalonskee Lake’s southern end. Meanwhile, the trip leaders, Louis Bevier, Don Mairs, and Logan Parker discussed where to begin the search for Sandhill Cranes, Black Terns, and other forms of marsh wildlife.

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Black Tern – Louis Bevier

As the boat neared the wetlands, Common Loons of various ages were spotted flying out over the lake and diving in pursuit of fish. A Bald Eagle was observed high in a White Pine 100 feet from a large eagle nest in another pine on the lakeshore. After a few minutes of raptor admiration, the boat pressed on along the marsh’s edge. Along the way, the birders observed a handful of acrobatic Purple Martins, the largest of the swallow species, and a female Common Loon sitting silently on her nest. Minding their distance, the crew pressed on deeper into the marshlands where Black Terns could be seen pursuing insects over the water.

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Sandhill Crane with chick – Alexander Wall

The sun broke through the clouds as the full boat of birders scanned the southeastern section for the marsh. The Black Terns (an endangered species in this state) were scarcer and more distant at first, but soon flew increasingly closer as the boat slowly traveled along the shore. “I’ve got a crane” said Bevier “A pair of Sandhill Cranes with chicks”. Mulville slowed the boat to stop. All optics were pointed east trying to pick out the tall, rusty-plumed cranes with their downy, chicken-sized chicks. The trip leaders worked with each participant until each had a good look at the well-camouflaged bird family foraging in the meadow-like wetlands.

Under sunny skies, the passengers chatted about their good fortune and reviewed photographs as the boat traveled back up the lake towards the boat launch. By the trip’s end, the crew aboard the Melinda Ann observed a total of 37 birds species. The participants (some of whom had driven nearly an hour to take part) departed with smiles on their faces and an eagerness to get out in the field again soon. The trip had been a great success.

To stay posted for future wildlife observation opportunities in the watershed, check keep up with our events page and follow the MLRC on Facebook.