Wild, Open Space Remains Important to Kirk Siegel

Kirk Siegel has always been involved with the outdoors.He spent four years competing for the U.S. Biathlon Team, 10 years teaching and coaching cross-country skiing at Gould Academy, and 18 years doing real estate and conservation law in South Paris and Bethel. Executive director of the Mahoosuc Land Trust since January 2018, Siegel is working to conserve the 500-acre Ginny McCoy property in Gilead, Bethel and Newry. He lives in Albany Township with Martha, his wife of almost 27 years, and they still find time to ski. Their daughter, Molly, works in rural development on Isle au Haut, and their son, Andrew, is a sophomore at the University of Vermont.

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I was born in the Lake Tahoe area in Truckee, California, right up in the high Sierras near Donner Summit. My parents ran the ski lodge at Walt Disney’s Ski Resort called Sugar Bowl. When I was about 3, my parents let me walk on skis a couple 100 yards from our house to the lift with skiers all around me.

My parents met at a ski resort called Alta. My mom, who was from St. Louis, Missouri, was an accomplished powder skier in her early 20s. My dad, who was from Salt Lake City, lost his leg in a skiing accident when he was 26. He had a below-the-knee amputation, but he learned to ski again and skied until he was 80. Without me realizing it, my dad became an inspiration of how not to let adversity slow you down.

After Sugar Bowl, my dad was the manager of Mountain Operations at Park City. Then when I was going into the first grade, my dad became the marketing director at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire.

We moved to North Andover, Massachusetts, when I was in third grade. It was really hard to leave the beautiful mountains. I could not get back to the mountains fast enough.

When I was 13, I got a scholarship at Holderness in New Hampshire. Holderness is right near Waterville Valley and adjacent to the White Mountain National Forest. There was an outing club, ski team, ski jumping, and cross-country. It was heaven.

Though I was a mediocre downhill ski racer and a terrible ski jumper, I was a cross country runner. Junior year, when I started figuring out that I was an OK cross-country skier, I saw a picture of a biathlon race in a ski racing magazine. I was captivated. I stuck the article up in my room. I said, “I want to do that.”

I went to Dartmouth, where I ended up being a Division I cross-country skier. The new coach was a former Olympic biathlete. It took a couple of years, but eventually a few of us talked him into coaching biathlon.

I was on the U.S. Biathlon Team for two years while I was in college and two afterward. I tried out for the Olympic Team in 1984, but I did not make it. I came to work at Gould three days after the Olympic trials as an intern in the English department and a cross-country ski coach.

Though I had only been to Maine one time in my life, Western Maine was a perfect place for me. It had a combination of the mountains and the ski world that I grew up in. It was also far enough from suburbia to be an inspiring place to live, with enough of an economy to support an interesting community.

I had always been interested in working with young skiers. I’d had a tremendous opportunity to compete and travel internationally when I was on the national biathlon team. It seemed natural to want to give back. Gould gave me a chance to keep my hand in a sport I really loved. I also discovered the Mahoosuc Region.

One thing that came out of being a young, single faculty member with an interest in the outdoors and conservation was being involved with local organizations. One of those was the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

One day after a small group of us founded the land trust, we were messing around with legal documents. I realized none of us were attorneys. That I got me interested in law school.

I went to the University of Maine School of Law in 1994. I really liked law school. I’d had 10 years off. I was hungry to learn and excited to be a student again. I love to read and write and discuss issues. I did not find it to be drudgery. It sounds boring, but I found it challenging and exciting to develop the ability to think and write clearly and analyze problems and issues, things that are useful in any part of your life or profession.

I spent my first year out in a clerkship with the Maine Supreme Court with Justice Robert Clifford. Then, I practiced real estate and conservation law, which I sometimes did outside of Oxford County. I also did a lot of pro bono work for land trusts.

In 2017, when the position of executive director of the Mahoosuc Land Trust opened up, I applied. I started the job on Jan. 1, 2018. I really liked practicing law, but it was a great move for me.

The Western Maine Mountains are a globally important region from an ecological standpoint. The five million acres that comprise it are part of the largely unfragmented forest that runs across New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and into Quebec and the Maritimes, the largest (such forest) in the Eastern half of the United States. It’s just so important to have connected landscapes where wildlife and habitat can move. It is super important to our region, our state, and our planet.

By Pam Chodosh, Advertiser Democrat, April 4, 2019

The World Is Our Classroom

Author, Cindy Ross to speak Thursday, April 11, 7:00 p.m.

McLaughlin Auditorium, Gould Academy

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Cindy’s story begins in the Rocky Mountain wilderness on a unique and extraordinary journey: two parents leading their young children 3,100 miles on the backs of llamas. This Canada-Mexico trek illustrated to Cindy and her husband what experiential education can do. Inspired by the experience, they went on to create a new way of supplementing their children’s education, focusing on two arenas for learning: the natural world and travel.

In this age of world connection, it is important to raise broad-minded and empathetic children who are knowledgeable about other cultures. To accomplish this goal, Cindy chose an unorthodox approach: she orchestrated learning opportunities for her children, Sierra and Bryce, in twelve countries. The family traveled the world, moving about on foot and bicycle, living simply and intimately. But just as important, and more accessible for many parents, were the opportunities for learning closer to home.  

These adventures brought intangible gifts: values—such as compassion, empathy, resilience, self-reliance, and gratitude, among others— not always fostered in a traditional curriculum but crucially important to raising children.

By sharing her story, along with honest insights from her children about the importance of their unusual education, Cindy aims to empower parents to believe they can be their children’s best and most important educators. It is for parents who are seeking inspiration, who love a good story, and who are looking for an unorthodox way to raise the happiest, healthiest, and brightest children they can.

About the Author:

CINDY ROSS has written about raising children alternatively, via outdoor adventures and travel, for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Toronto Star, and Backpacker magazine. The author of six published books, she has lectured on the virtues of this educational approach and its effects on children’s creative minds and their thirst for learning for twenty-five years. Cindy lives in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania.

Blue Trickster

I had just spent 30 minutes trying to find a red-tailed hawk in the tree above me. It was a weak call but clearly a hawk. The bird seemed to be moving from branch to branch. Finally, I found it. Except, it wasn’t a hawk. A blue jay peered down at me and made the call. I could see a twinkle in his eye and was convinced he was laughing at me.

Blue jays, a family member of crows and ravens, are one of the most identifiable birds in our area. They regularly come to feeders and will even steal dog food, if we leave it out. Jays spend a good deal of time finding and storing food for later. In fact, they are known for their ability to remember the location of thousands of acorns, beechnuts and other foods they stash during the fall. They are also not above stealing from each other, if they find these hidden treats. Another trick they have learned is to make a hawk call to scare other birds into dropping food and fleeing.

Blue jay

Blue jay

Some people don’t like blue jays because they are aggressive toward other smaller birds. And, it’s true, blue jays can be bullies, going so far as to rob eggs and chicks from other song birds during nesting season.

Still, I like these bold and dashing birds. One reason is the habit blue jays have of gathering together to chase away predators. This is a behavior known as “mobbing”. For several weeks now, a group of blue jays start their morning screaming at something in my back yard. I can’t resist it. When I hear them start their daily commotion, I rush out to see if they’ve found a hawk, an owl or some other interesting predator. And, every morning, I find them fussing at some poor, beleaguered squirrel they’ve decided they don’t like. I don’t know what that squirrel does to make them so mad. Then again, maybe it’s not the squirrel. Maybe they know they can trick me into coming out in my slippers and pajamas. Sometimes I swear I see a twinkle in the eyes of one of those blue tricksters.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Winter Irruptives

Merriam Webster dictionary defines irruptive as “a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a natural population. . .” Winter in Maine often sees irruptions of a variety of birds which range from Alaska to the Canadian Maritimes.  These birds include Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks and two crossbills. For these birds, it’s all about the seeds.

Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

One of my first winters in Maine, I had some of these birds regularly visit my feeder. Growing up in Mississippi, I seldom, if ever, saw these birds and was delighted to think they were common in Maine. Unfortunately, since that early winter, they seldom visit and I haven’t seen an Evening Grosbeak in seven years.

So, where do they go? Have you ever noticed that White Pines produce a lot of cones some years while other years are modest? This same cycle happens with many other trees, including oak and beech. If you’ve noticed these cycles, you can bet these birds have noticed too. 

When I moved to Maine, I learned a new word from hunters and foresters - “mast.” Mast, in this case, are the fruit, nuts or seeds of a tree. A good “mast year,” produces a super-abundance of seeds and may attract these visitors. Here is a quick summary of each:

Pine Siskin: This bird may remind you of a dull, female goldfinch. Look for a streaky brown and black bird with yellow-to-white bars on its wings. Its underparts are streaked in brown as well.

Common Redpoll: This small bird is brown streaked on top and lighter underneath. Males have a raspberry patch on their forehead and raspberry on their throat to their chest.

Evening Grosbeak (pictured): This large, chunky bird is bright yellow with black and white highlights. If this bird visits your feeder, you won’t soon forget it. In our area, there’s no other bird this big and this yellow.

Crossbills: There are two types. Red Crossbills (pictured) and White-winged Crossbills. The males are reddish with black, white and brown highlights. The females are olive. What sets them apart is their beak. The upper bill crosses the lower one. This allows them to pry open cones for the seeds. Look for them in the tops of pine, spruce or fir trees.

Keep watch for these unique visitors. They irrupt into our area, especially during high, mast years. (Information sourced from www.birdsna.org.)

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Valentine Farm at, 162 North Road Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Rush Hour on Vernon Street

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I think I surprised Donna Corriveau when I stopped by unannounced one cold December morning. She was shoveling snow from her porch, and I thought it would be a good time to find out how she attracted so many birds to her yard. As I explained the reason for my visit, I could see a hairy woodpecker and a blue jay at one feeder a few feet over her shoulder. Chickadees and nuthatches were busy at another. Like every other time I drove by, Donna’s yard was full of birds. In fact, I had recently waited as a long line of turkeys crossed Vernon Street for a visit.

Donna uses a few feeders to convert her entire property into a café for birds. She scatters cracked corn on the ground for turkeys and doves. She mixes un-popped popcorn and bread in a feeder, which the woodpeckers and jays enjoy. She has suet in another feeder and black sunflower seeds in yet another. 

She’s been doing this for 22 years. The result is a yard full of birds and a potential traffic jam due to all the turkeys crossing the road.

Why does she do it? Simple - she takes great pleasure in sitting in her chair with a cup of coffee and watching what shows up. Over the years, she’s seen some interesting things, including 52 turkeys during one visit! When turkeys show up, crows do, too. “The crows like to torment the turkeys.” She’s counted over 60 crows at one time.

A raven once hung around imitating the scream of a fisher cat. Another time, a turkey climbed onto a dirt flower bed and peered through the window. “It was like he was asking me to bring him food.”

Sometimes a goshawk shows up. “It’s terrible,” she said. “I don’t like it when he carries off my birds.”

Most of us will never feed birds at the scale Donna does. She buys popcorn by the case and goes through 20 pound bags of cracked corn every few weeks.

However, take a tip from Donna. Try sunflower seeds in a feeder.  Scatter some corn. Then, get a cup of coffee and see what shows up. Oh, and next time you drive down Vernon Street, watch out for turkey rush hour. It just means Donna’s feeding her birds. 

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust, which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Little Tin Horns

On one of my first visits to the Mahoosuc region, almost 30 years ago now, I watched a Red-breasted Nuthatch hiding sunflower seeds in the crevices of a massive white pine growing alongside Hutchinson Pond. As a flatlander, it felt a long way from Mississippi where I had grown up. The “yank, yank, yank” of that little nuthatch was like a tune played on a little, tin horn. It has stuck in my head to this day and is how I learned to identify the difference between the Red-breasted Nuthatch compared to the White-breasted Nuthatch who’s call is a more nasal, “Quank, quank, quank.” Both of these species occur commonly in the Mahoosuc region. The Red-breasted Nuthatch prefers fir and hemlock forest while the White-breasted seems to occur more widely. Both species come regularly to feeders.

A distinct behavioral characteristic of all nuthatches is that they perch and climb in a head-down position. They use their wedged-shaped bills to pry or hammer open seed and to probe tree bark for insects and spiders. Both nuthatches can be found traveling in loose, mixed flocks, especially in the winter, along with chickadees, kinglets and downy woodpeckers.

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The White-breasted is the larger of the two. It has grey and black wings and back. Its face is white with a black cap extending down to the back. Its throat, belly and flanks are white, but it has a rusty, brown wash under its tail. They may blend in with the chickadees at your feeder if you aren’t watching closely.

                The Red-breasted Nuthatch has a gun-metal grey back and wings. The top of the bird’s head is complicated in appearance and is black on top bordered by white stripes on both sides. The bird has a broad, black eye-stripe with grey/white cheeks and throat. Its belly and sides are a rusty red.

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According to Birds of North America Online that the Red-breasted Nuthatch is known to collect and smear sticky sap around the holes they excavate and use for nesting. Red-breasted Nuthatches are said to be more nomadic, with populations visiting into one area for a time only to move on to another region later. Therefore, you may hear this bird and its little tin horn more some years compared to others.  (Information sourced from www.birdsna.org.)

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Mahoosuc Land Trust celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit us at Valentine Farm, 162 North Road Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about an upcoming event or to contact James send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Hairy or Downy?

Several woodpecker species live in Maine year-round. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are among the most common and often visit feeders for sunflower seeds or suet. Both species sport a black and white checkered pattern on their wings, with a white throat, chest, sides and belly. Males have a red patch on the back of their head. Juveniles may have some red feathers on their forehead.

Whereas most birds have three toes with two pointing forward and one back, woodpecker’s feet are “zygodactyl” with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward. Their stiff tail feathers give leverage as they grip the sides of trees. Their bills are shaped and used like a chisel to hammer holes or flake bark looking for insects. Both species have long, barbed tongues which flick into crevices, holes and tunnels for insects.

To the casual observer, these two species are virtually identical. So, how do you tell a Hairy from a Downy?

The Downy is a petite bird with a small beak. It can forage on small stems, twigs, fruit or seed clusters. The Hairy is bigger and heavier and cannot manage these acrobatic moves easily. So, where a bird is foraging may give you a clue. Also, experienced birders tell me they can identify the differences based on their calls, with the Hairy making a stronger, “Peek, peek.” The Downy’s call is a shriller, “Pik, pik.” I don’t trust my ear to hear these difference, but it is fun to try.

The best method for confidently identifying these two is by their bills. The Downy’s bill is tiny. When seen in profile, its bill is about half the length of the bird’s head. The Hairy’s bill is much larger. Its length is about the same as the length of its entire head. Of course, this trick only works if you get a good look at the bird’s profile. The good news is that these birds are easier to observe at the feeder or through binoculars than many smaller, faster moving birds.

Fill your feeder with black sunflower seeds and you are sure to find one or both of these species as regular visitors. Practice observing their beak proportions and you’ll become an expert in no time. (Information sourced from www.birdsna.org & The Sibley Field Guide to Birds mobile app.)

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at Valentine Farm, 162 North Road Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Raven or Crow?

“How do I tell the difference between ravens and crows?” This question was asked during a recent birding class at the Mahoosuc Land Trust and one I hear a lot. So, I thought I would offer a few tips.

Ravens and crows, both members of the Corvid family, are large, black birds. Both occur commonly in our area. Several tips help distinguish Common Ravens from their more often seen cousins, the American Crow.

Ravens are more reclusive and tend to avoid populated areas. Ravens are larger and heavier. Their bills are notably bulkier, and they have elongated feathers on their throats which are sometimes called “hackles”. A raven’s call is a throaty, “Gronk” versus the crow’s signature, “Caw”. A caution here – both birds are vocal and make different sounds and calls. Both have been documented imitating other animals and birds.

Raven or crow?

Raven or crow?

Both birds are strong and acrobatic flyers, often seen wheeling and cavorting in the wind. Ravens, however, can soar like a hawk for long periods. Crows can only glide for short periods without flapping. When seen flying, raven’s tails are often a give-away. A raven’s tail feathers form a wedge shape like in the picture above, whereas a crow’s tail is squared-off.

These are the primary clues I look for when I spot a large black bird here in our area.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.

Chickadees the Size of House Cats

“It’s a good thing Chickadees aren’t the size of house cats!” I don’t remember where I read this, but I smile when I refill my feeders and am scolded by an impatient, food-line of Black-capped Chickadees which call my yard home. I doubt I’d be as bold if, in fact, they were the size of cats. Even at their small size, these birds do not find me intimidating. One year, a Chickadee, probably a youngster, repeatedly landed on my hand as I filled the feeders. This kept up for twenty minutes until another, in my mind, more experienced bird appeared. The new arrival scolded us until my new friend flew away. Over the next few days, I looked for him but he never came back to feed from my hand. Scientists tell us not to attribute human characteristics to animals, but I can’t help it. I think that scolding Chickadee was the youngster’s mother, aghast to find her child taking seeds from a stranger. In any event, I am lucky that she weighed-in at under half an ounce and wasn’t the size of a house cat. I don’t think I would have gotten off with just a Chickadee-cursing, if her size matched her personality.

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Black-capped Chickadees live year round in our region and can be heard and seen on almost any walk, whether in the woods or down a side walk. Brian Sullivan on Birds of North America Online reports that males are slightly larger than females. But, to my eye, it is almost impossible to tell one bird from another as they dangle from cones and branches in a big white pine or move, conveyer-belt fashion, back and forth to my feeders.

Bernd Heinrich in his book, Winter World, describes how Chickadees often are found moving about in loose flocks with other types of birds. So, if Chickadees are around, look for other birds which may be nearby including White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Safety may be one reason these birds flock together. Loud Chickadees may serve as an early-warning-system for the flock. In fact, I’ve learned to look for predators when I hear scolding Chickadees. Recently, at Valentine Farm, angry Chickadees led me to a Norther Saw-whet Owl hiding in a hemlock a few feet from the trail. I wouldn’t have seen it without the mad-as-a-house-cat personality of the Chickadees. (Information sourced from www.birdsna.org & Winter World, Heinrich, 2004.)

 Mahoosuc Land Trust celebrates its 30th year working to conserve the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit us at Valentine Farm Conservation Center, 162 North Road Bethel, ME or atwww.mahoosuc.org to learn about how you can join us for a hike or attend an upcoming event.

 James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. He can be reached at info@mahoosuc.org.

Why Birds?

There are a host of reasons to pay attention to birds. Watching tree swallows sail over a meadow, or listening for a ruffed grouse’s drumming from deep in the forest can bring pure joy.

Paying attention to the birds around us is also a way to access the wild world we enjoy here in the Mahoosuc region. Hearing a loon for the first time can be as exciting as seeing a moose. When yellow-bellied sapsuckers return in the late winter, you know that sap is running.

Common Loon with chick

Common Loon with chick

Maybe more important, birds can be a good indicator of change in the world we share with them. Like the old saying, “the canary in the coal mine” birds can signal when something is wrong. The World Wildlife Fund in its 2018 paper, Living Planet, reported a 60% drop in animal populations across the planet in recent decades. And, birds have not been immune. The 2018 State of the World’s Birds report states that 1,469 types of birds are threatened with extinction. 

Here in the Mahoosuc region, loon populations are being watched closely to protect the waters on which they rely. Many of the birds that migrate to our region from the tropics are undergoing dramatic drops in their populations. Understanding these trends isn’t just for the birds. If birds are doing poorly, it is a good bet that the air, water, soil and forest we share may be threatened as well. 

Birders can help. More and more they are reporting their sightings to scientists who use the information to gain insights into trends and patterns. This is often the first step in finding solutions. Here are few success stories:  

  • Nesting bald eagles are regularly reported along the Androscoggin when, just a few decades ago, they had almost entirely disappeared.

  • · Wild turkeys, once absent from New England, are now common. I recently had to stop my car on Vernon Street because a flock of almost 30 turkeys were crossing the road.

  • · Dick Albert of Fryeburg tells of how in the last five years sandhill cranes, a wading bird larger than a great blue heron, has returned to nest along the Saco where they had been absent for decades.

    If you are interested in learning more about birds, watch for upcoming events sponsored by the Mahoosuc Land Trust. On January 12th, I am teaching a Beginning Birder Class. It’s free and will provide tips designed to help all birders but is designed for beginners. Call (207) 824-3806 To find out more and register.

A Landscape of Superlatives

“The Western Maine Mountains region is a landscape of superlatives.” That is how Janet McMahon, writing for the Maine Mountain Collaborative, opened her recent paper describing our corner of Maine.

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

Those who live and visit here know this to be true. Mahoosuc Bird News periodically focuses on those “superlatives” by highlighting birds (and our other non-human neighbors) of the Mahoosucs. 240 different kinds of birds have been reported in Oxford County. Many travel here hundreds, even thousands of miles in the spring to raise their young. Others, like the Golden-crowned Kinglet, weighing scarcely more than two dimes, have found a way to survive our long winters.

Our area is home to some of the last remaining tracks in the Eastern U.S. which can host populations of large mammals like moose and bear. There are many unique plants and birds. For some, like the Boreal Chickadee which typically lives further north in Canada, we are at the extreme Southern point in their range. We truly live among “superlatives.” So join us as we explore the nature around us – who they are, where they can be found and what we can do to ensure they endure for generations to come.

Now for those Golden-crowned Kinglets - this tiny bird lives year-round in our region. It prefers hemlock and spruce forest. Kinglets are olive-green above and paler below. They sport two white bars on their wings and what I call black and white racing stripes on their head.

When alarmed, the males display an orange patch on the top of their head. This patch can be concealed. Females only show a yellow wash. Because of their size and the dense forests they prefer, they are hard to find. They constantly seek insects to eat in order to survive through long winter nights in Maine.

Kinglets are known to travel in mixed-flocks with other small birds. They may find security following the much noisier chickadees, which scold any threat. To find Golden-crowned Kinglets, first search online and listen to their high, soft song.  Then, the next time you are out and surrounded by a flock of chickadees, listen for tsee-tsee-tsee-tsee-teet-leetle. Once you hear them calling, a little patience may reveal this “superlative” of the Mahoosucs urgently seeking food for the cold night ahead. (Information sourced from www.birdsna.org).

 

Mahoosuc Land Trust celebrates its 30th year working to conserve the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit us at Valentine Farm Conservation Center, 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or atwww.mahoosuc.org to learn about how you can join us for a hike or attend an upcoming event.

Welcome to Mahoosuc Bird Notes, written by James Reddoch, MLT member and bird enthusiast. This is the first of a year of weekly articles celebrating everything birds.

Volunteers Prep for Black & White 2 Peak Challenge Sept 23

Volunteers from Mahoosuc Land Trust and Chisholm Ski Club and an Outward Bound group from Lowell, MA, worked together to clear downed trees, brush, and leaves over approximately two miles of the Black and White Trail.  The trail, which connects the land trust's preserve at Whitecap Mountain with Black Mountain is the route for the upcoming September 23rd Black and White 2 Peak Challenge, an annual 8.7-mile foot race organized by Black Mountain of Maine.  Information is available at www.skiblackmountain.org or by calling (207) 357-8844.

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Member Profile - Mahoosuc Guide Service

Photo credit: Greg Nolan

Photo credit: Greg Nolan

Photo credit: Little Outdoor Giants

Photo credit: Little Outdoor Giants

I want to share with all of you my mid-night encounter with a big black bear on Umbagog Lake...Polly Mahoney

Polly Mahoney and Kevin Slater, owners of Mahoosuc Guide Service, live the dream life.  Each year they lead people from all over New England and the world on wilderness canoe trips and dog-sledding excursions.  Kevin and Polly will pull back the curtain and give us a peek as to how things have changed in their 28 years providing guiding services to the public.

Before meeting at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in 1989, both had already experienced outdoor adventures.  Polly was born in Bangor and grew up in South China, Maine. She went to Alaska when she was 20, spending the next 9-½ years in the Yukon living a subsistence lifestyle and perfecting her bush skills including learning to dogsled.  The dogs they have now are direct descendants of the ones she learned to mush with 38 years ago. Kevin grew up in southwest Pennsylvania and came to Maine at the age of 18. He initially worked for Chub Foster on Grand Lake Matagamon and with various Outward Bound Schools.

He is a mountaineer, paddler, guide to far off places like Denali in Alaska, and Ben Nevis in Scotland and he is one of the first people to paddle the Grand Canyon in a canoe. Kevin is a Master woodworker who makes dogsleds, wood canvas canoes and paddles.

After 28 years in business, Polly and Kevin have seen lots of changes.  The weather is different – winters are shorter, storms are more extreme in both summer and winter.  The clientele have changed too – some people are looking for “shorter experiences not wanting to be away from their phones” too long, while others want to connect with family away from their everyday lives and welcome being “unplugged.”  Schools have added trips to enrich students’ education – a Harvard student said the highlight of his four years was a three-day dogsledding/winter camping trip with Mahoosuc Guide Service. However, not all clients are looking to shorten their stay. A couple from Scotland started taking trips with Polly and Kevin when they were in their late 60’s and continued to do so for 21 years! At the spry age of 85, Polly’s Mom still accompanies them on multiple day canoe trips, using her experience as a sailor to help read the weather and water.

Dogs are central to Kevin’s and Polly’s work and life. They have raised dozens and dozens of Yukon huskies, from puppies through training to in-house retirement. Currently they are caring for 34 sled dogs. 

When not guiding trips, Polly’s pastimes include organizing events in the Mahoosuc Mountain Lodge – concerts, dances, first aid courses, retreats, and meetings.  The timberframe building (which they mostly built themselves) has spectacular views of the Mahoosuc mountains and beckons visitors to come and sit awhile.

Polly and Kevin have been supporters of Mahoosuc Land Trust for about 20 years.  “We know many of the people on the board and officers of the organization. We like what MLT is doing and love to see more country go into conservation so that future generations can enjoy it as we have.”

On Wednesday, October 24th, Polly and Kevin will be speaking about “A Day in the Life of a Maine Guide” at the McLaughlin Center at Gould Academy at 7pm.

MLT Receives Large Conservation Parcel in Bethel, Gilead, Newry

A Gem of a Property: The McCoy-Chapman Forest

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After working with Geneva “Ginnie” McCoy of Gilead for a number of years, and with her estate after her death in 2016, Mahoosuc Land Trust recently took ownership of the McCoy-Chapman Forest. This incredible property, located on the North Road in Bethel, stretches from the north side of the Androscoggin River in Bethel and Gilead, to 1600’ in elevation in Newry. To ensure Ginnie’s desire to maintain the property in an undeveloped state, MLT took title subject to permanent restrictions allowing for recreation, education, timber harvesting, and related conservation uses.

MLT will prepare a management plan that is likely to include future pedestrian trails to some of the over 4000 feet of Androscoggin River frontage, snowmobile access across the existing route parallel to the river, and walking and skiing trails north of the North Road. Some exciting features of the property include mature pine and hardwood stands, clear mountain streams with cascades and pools and abundant signs of bear and other wildlife.

We are working with other organizations in the region toward the common goals of a connected Bethel area and are exploring the possible linkage of the McCoy-Chapman Forest to other recreational parcels in the area, including the future Bethel Community Forest.

Relatives of Mrs. McCoy and her late husband, Sam McCoy, made very significant financial gifts to MLT in order to facilitate the transfer. In order to complete the terms of the transfer, MLT took out loans which will need to be repaid within two years, through a fundraising effort which will also cover costs for initial recreational improvements, land management, and perpetual stewardship responsibilities.

MLT is looking for interested individuals to join a group of volunteers to inventory and plan for future uses of the property in a manner that serves public needs. For further information, or to assist the Trust in its effort to make the project come to fruition, contact Kirk Siegel at MLT, at 207-824-3806 or kirk@mahoosuc.org.

Global Big Day at Valentine Farm

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How many birds can be seen in one day? That’s the question that drives a ‘big day,’ a 24-hour birding binge that is a fond tradition among birders. The current record for a single Big Day team is 431 species, set in Ecuador.

Traditional birding ‘big days’ focus on a single team of birders, which got Cornell Lab of Ornithology thinking: what if everyone in the world joined together for a single Big Day? The answer, it turns out, is an incredible 65% of all the bird species on the planet—at least.

On May 5, come to Valentine Farm at 8:00AM and join more than 20,000 other birders from around the world counting bird species as part of Global Big Day

Androscoggin River Watershed Conference

The Androscoggin River Watershed Council will be hosting the 23rd Annual Watershed Conference on May 3rd at Sunday River Ski Resort.  The agenda addresses both environmental and recreational opportunities and challenges in the watershed.  A final session addressing climate change in Western Maine should be of interest to all.  Presenters include MLT's Executive Director, Kirk Siegel and Gabe Perkins, Executive Director of Mahoosuc Pathways.  For more information and to apply, click here

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