Category Archives: wildlife

Update from the Lake Science Manager – Spring 2017

– Written by Brenda Fekete with photographs by Logan Parker

Wow! Is it really May already? It seems like we were just out cutting holes in the ice to collect winter water profiles. Watching the ice go out at the end of April and listening to the sound of loons on the lakes always reminds us that spring is here and it is time to get sampling! With the recent windy and wet weather and a few boat issues behind us, Logan and I have been sampling on all seven lakes. So far the profiles show typical spring mixing with lots of dissolved oxygen and cold water right to the bottom of the lakes. It is so great to back out on the water!

This year’s team includes nine Colby students. We are pleased to have two students returning from last year’s efforts, and welcome seven new students to the crew. Besides the water quality sampling and data analysis efforts that are so fundamental to our research initiative, one student will be working with Matthew Leahey on an educational program at Camp Tracy on McGrath Pond, and one will be working with Fluid Imaging on the new “CyanoCam”, a FlowCam that is optimized for Cyanobacteria analysis. Please stop us when you see us on the water. We would love to introduce ourselves!


We knew we were sampling in the right spot on Great Pond when our buoy popped up when we opened the hatch!

We are often out on the water by 8 am. As in the past two seasons, we plan to continue our weekly secchi measurements, Insitu water profiles to include temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH analysis, and surface water samples for plankton analysis on all seven lakes. Grab samples for nutrient and elemental analysis will be taken every two meters on a biweekly basis. We be collecting spring sediment samples and plan to get another round of sediment samples in the fall.


In addition to the CyanoCam, new additions to the MLRC wet lab will be equipment to include ChlorophyllA (to compliment our FlowCam work) and color (to compliment our water sample analyses).

The various tanks in the MLRC Gallery and in the Wet Lab are still populated with wildlife collected in the watershed. In addition to the native warm water fish and mudpuppies, Logan has begun working on a new macro-invertebrate tank. He’s collected dragonfly and mayfly nymphs from Mill Stream that will be reared to adulthood and released back outside.

We are currently working with two licensed Colby drone pilots to design protocol that would allow us to update the shoreline maps for each of the seven lakes (last completed in 2011). A second experiment will be to use the drones to locate and assess the movement of metaphyton, and possibly cyanobacteria blooms in late summer. Perfected, this would be a very useful tool to monitor harmful algae blooms (HAB) on our lakes.

The Colby summer interns and our valuable volunteers will continue to monitor Gloeotrichia in all of the lakes, and we are looking forward to becoming involved in the EPA CyanoMonitoring program this year. This program will allow the Belgrade Watershed to be involved in a nationwide CyanoMonitoring effort! We would love to recruit a few more volunteers in the north and south basin of Long Pond and in the North Bay area of Great Pond. If interested, please contact Logan Parker. Please stay tuned for more information about Gloeotrichia monitoring training sessions.

After a bit of a cleanup and redesign, Goldie will be deployed on May 22. Real time data is displayed and explained on the Goldie website.

One of our early spring 2016 projects was to place a Water Quality Test Site buoy at each of the DEP sampling sites on all seven lakes. These buoys required a state permit. Placed at the deepest parts of the lakes, these buoys allow our teams to sample at the exact same site every time on every lake. This results in more consistent data collected from the deepest holes of the lake, thus increasing the accuracy of our results. If you want to know where the deepest part of your lake is … come visit the WQ buoy. However, when visiting, please do not attach your boat to the buoys. Pulling on the buoys will cause the buoys to move from their desired DEP locations. We are currently checking and repositioning the buoys because of movement due to the winter ice.

I would like to, again, thank all of our wonderful volunteers that escorted our students to the sampling sites last season. The students truly enjoy your company and appreciate your help in the sampling process. We would love to ask for your help again during the heavy June through August sampling season. We also welcome any new volunteers that would like to join in the fun!

The weekly secchi measurements, temperature and dissolved oxygen data is presented on the online interactive map. You can also find the present and past weekly data on the MLRC website. Logan has been working all winter to develop a dynamic display that will represent each of the seven lakes in the Belgrade Watershed. This interactive kiosk will function as a library documenting all of the conservation and research efforts in the watershed. Come by this summer to check out this and other updates we’ve made to the Maine Lakes Resource Center gallery over the winter.

If you have any questions or comments about the Belgrade Watershed Water Quality Initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me.

“Pulling together we can save our lakes!”


Scenes from winter sampling. We trekked out on every lake in the watershed to collect samples and winter water profiles.



“Cold-blooded”: Winter Survival of our Amphibians and Reptiles

Written by Logan Parker, Director of Programming and Assistant Lake Science Manager

Those of us who remain in New England throughout the winter know all too well the struggle to stay warm. For me, a typical January day begins with pulling on many layers of clothing, driving to Belgrade Lakes in the tropical microclimate of my heated vehicle, and dashing from the car into the comfort of the climate-controlled Maine Lakes Resource Center. All through the day, I eat a variety of foods that keep my metabolism fueled and my internal temperature controls operational. My evenings are often spent studying in an armchair beside the wood stove. Both modern technology and my own biology have made it so that I can endure winter in such a climate. Without either, I’m in real peril up here in a short amount of time.

There are some animals, however, which get by with much less. Enter the ectothermic reptiles and amphibians: the “cold-blooded” inhabitants of our watershed. Unlike endotherms, such as you and me, these ectotherms are largely dependent on environmental sources of heat to regulate their body temperatures. They have neither dense fur nor insulating feathers and lack the appendages to fly to more favorable conditions. No, our resident frogs, snakes, turtles, and salamanders must endure the Maine winter by deploying a different set of adaptations.

The Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)  is perhaps the least popular ectotherm in the watershed due to its aggressive behavior when encountered on land (although in water these turtles are quite meek and skittish). These large turtles have a long history of ambushing prey in the marsh, streams, and lakes of North America dating back some 60-100 million years (Coulter, 1999).  To survive the rigors of winter, these turtles retreat to below the water’s surface to spend the season hibernating under ice in shallow marsh areas, stream inlets, and under submerged trees (Ultsch, 2006). Snapping turtles will enter this mud-mired hibernation state alone or sometimes in the company of other turtles. These turtles, which typically breathe air, are anoxia-tolerant in winter- meaning they can survive several months underwater in even poorly oxygenated lakes (Ulsch, 2006). They are suspected of being capable of absorbing oxygen through folds of their pharynx that are exposed to water (Ultsch, 2006).


A Common Snapping Turtle immobile beneath the winter ice. (Photo courtesy of Cliff Fairweather.

Unlike the snapping turtle, a number of native frog species survive the coldest months on dry land. Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus), Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), and Gray Treefrogs (Hyla versicolor) spend the winter near the soil surface under leaf litter, tree roots, and woody debris (Davis, 1999). This means these animals are exposed to a more dynamic array of freezing conditions. What is a native ectotherm to do? Why, freeze of course! Extreme conditions call for some equally extreme survival measures. To survive undergoing a freeze, these frogs reduce the water content of their organs and accumulate either glucose or glycerol (depending on the species) as a “cryoprotectant”, a substance that prevents cell damage during freezing (Layne et al. 2001). As much as 80% of the frog’s body will freeze during particularly cold spells.

Snakes lack the anoxia and freeze tolerance of the preceding species and so deploy a different set of adaptations to persevere through months of freezing conditions. The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is the most widespread reptile in the region and stays active sometimes well into November (Haskins, 1999). When the winds shift and snows begin to fall, these snakes head for crevices, rock walls, and old foundations to pass the winter singly or en masse, sometimes by the thousands (Shine et al. 2003). By retreating below the frost line, these snakes are able to avoid potentially lethal low temperatures at the soil’s surface (Shine et al. 2003). These animals remain in the hibernaculum until spring when they emerge, mate, and disperse.


A “ball” of Common Garter Snakes mating outside their winter dens.

Through a variety of physiological and behavioral tactics, our watershed’s native ectotherms endure the harshest part of the year. As with all of the various life forms that inhabit our watershed, proper habitat must be fostered if they are to flourish here. Each of us can contribute to the success of these animals by preserving wild spaces and propagating habitat on our own land. Furthermore, the lakes, streams, and vernal pools in our watershed are of vital importance to wildlife. The needs of the biotic community must be maintained when considering the management of this resource.


Coulter, M. W. (1999). Common Snapping Turtle. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Davis, S. L. (1999). Gray Treefrog. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Haskins, J. J. (1999). Common Garter Snake. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. University of Maine Press. Orono, Maine, USA.

Layne, J. R. & Jones, A. L. (2001). Freeze Tolerance in the Gray Treefrog: Cryoprotectant Mobilization and Organ Dehydration. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 290: 1-5. 

Shine, R. & Mason, R. T. (2003). Patterns of mortality in a cold-climate population of garter snakes. Ecography. 12 (2): 81-86.

Ultsch, G. R. (2006). The ecology of overwintering among turtleswhere turtles overwinter and its consequences. Biological Reviews. 83 (3): 339-367. 

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.


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.


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.