Category Archives: Wildlife

Wildlife in Acadia National Park.

Tales of beaver in Acadia National Park, and other wildlife stories

Whether it’s moose or beaver in Acadia National Park, rare and unusual wildlife sightings can sometimes become the talk of the town, the chatter on Facebook, and the lore of the islands.

Take the cases of beaver on Isle au Haut, or the young bull moose that once wandered all over that remote island outpost of Acadia, and then the moose that followed hikers in the woods of Mount Desert Island.

Are there beaver on Isle au Haut? A management plan by the National Park Service says that beaver are absent from the Maine island, but a newly-released photo and recent sightings suggest otherwise.

One island resident says he has long seen beaver activity on the island, half of which is included in Acadia National Park.

beaver on isle au haut in acadia national park

A lone beaver, thought to be absent according to Acadia National Park’s recent management plan for Isle au Haut, was caught on camera in July 2014, apparently wary of Eli’s Creek, swollen by rains that month. (NPS photo taken by Ana Casillas and  provided by Ranger Alison Richardson)

Other compelling evidence includes a recent photo of  a beaver on the banks of Eli’s Creek on the southwest side of Isle au Haut.

The photo of the beaver was taken during a rain storm in July 2014 near a work cabin for Acadia rangers, said Acadia National Park Ranger Alison Richardson, who provided a copy of the photo.

Isle au Haut is in Penobscot Bay in the Gulf of Maine, about 7 miles south of Stonington. Richardson said she did not know how the lone beaver made it to the island.

“I don’t know if I would say beaver live on Isle au Haut,” but the single beaver was on the island somehow, she said. Fellow Ranger Nick Freedman said he thought it might be a transient.
Continue reading

Look, up on the Precipice of Acadia – peregrine falcons!

UPDATE 8/6/15: The Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove Trails opened today, according to the official park news release.

While we wait for the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park to reopen any day now, and as a follow-up to our blog post on the 7 peregrine falcon chicks that fledged this year, here are some never-before publicized photos of peregrine falcons, taken by Erickson Smith, biological science technician with the park.

peregrine falcon

One of the female peregrine falcon chicks banded this year in Acadia National Park, on the Precipice of Champlain Mountain. Looks cute and fluffy now, but once mature will dive after prey at more than 100 miles per hour. (NPS Photo / Erickson Smith)

Continue reading

7 peregrine falcon chicks fledge at Acadia National Park

UPDATE 8/6/15: Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and Valley Cove Trails reopened.

UPDATE 7/31/15: Statistics provided by the park state that in 2014, there were 9 peregrine falcon chicks hatched at Acadia including 1 chick at Jordan Cliffs, 2 at Ironbound Island, 4 at the Precipice and 2 at Valley Cove.

A biologist at Acadia National Park said he is pleased that 7 peregrine falcon chicks fledged at the park this year and that popular hiking trails in the nesting areas should reopen around the first week of August.

peregrine falcon chick

Park wildlife biologist, Bruce Connery, holds a peregrine chick that was lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding, in this file photo. (NPS photo)

Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia, said the Precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain is now home to three fledged peregrine falcon chicks; the Jordan Cliffs, two; and Valley Cove cliffs above Somes Sound, also two.

The Precipice Trail, the Jordan Cliffs Trail, part of the Orange & Black Path and the Valley Cove Trail, which were closed early this spring to protect the peregrine falcon chicks, should all open in early August as is usual each year following the falcon nesting season, he said.

The park has not officially announced the date for reopening the trails and still needs to check some trail sections for safety reasons for hikers, he said.

“We are still watching chicks,” he added. “They are getting to be pretty good fliers but they still have a ways to go. They still all come back to the cliff every night. They are dependent on it. They seem to still be pretty much in a group dynamic. They go off for a little bit, but an hour later they will be back perched within 20 to 50 feet from each other. That cliff is still important to them.”

peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon on the cliffs of Champlain Mountain this spring, with the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park closed until early August. (NPS photo from Acadia National Park Facebook page)

He said the number of fledged chicks is around average for the park.

“It is right in the middle,” he said. “It’s pretty much what we should hope for and expect.”

Unlike last year, Connery said, no peregrine falcon chicks were likely born this year on Ironbound Island, which is located in the park’s legislative area and is protected with a park conservation easement.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “Some people said they saw them but we never saw them. We were only out four times. If you pick the wrong day, you could be off. I don’t know. It seems odd we would not have seen them if they had chicks but it is possible.”

Also, there were no peregrine falcon chicks on the Beech Cliffs above Echo Lake, a fifth location where falcons have nested in the past.

According to Erickson Smith, biological science technician at the park, there were 9 peregrine falcon chicks hatched at Acadia in 2014 including 1 chick at Jordan Cliffs, 2 at Ironbound Island, 4 at the Precipice and 2 at Valley Cove.
Continue reading

New way to track sightings of wildlife in Acadia National Park

If you’ve ever taken photos of wildlife in Acadia National Park – whether of turkeys, a barred owl, a butterfly, a porcupine or a snapping turtle – and wanted to share it with the world, not just with family and friends, there’s a new online citizen science project to allow you to do just that.

wild turkeys

When we saw this flock of wild turkeys near Acadia National Park’s Sieur de Monts entrance, we had to stop and take a photo. We just uploaded this photo to (C) MDIBL, Anecdata and contributors

“Wildlife Sightings in Acadia National Park” is the name of the project, which we here at Acadia on My Mind just created on, the online citizen science portal by the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory’s Community Environmental Health Lab.

While there have been ways to upload sightings in Acadia of birds like Snowy owls, to the online database eBird, we haven’t found a way to keep track of other Acadia wildlife sightings. That’s why we decided to start this wildlife sightings project. Continue reading

Of snapping turtles, citizen science and Acadia National Park

UPDATED 7/11/2015: Added map from 2005 National Park Service report showing 29 sites where snapping turtles were found in Acadia and excerpts from conclusion, along with link to full report. And also created a new Anecdata project, Wildlife Sightings in Acadia National Park.

Perhaps you’ve seen a snapping turtle on the trails of Acadia National Park or along the roads of Mount Desert Island this time of year, and wondered if it was a female looking for soft sand or gravel to lay her eggs.

snapping turtle and anecdata

Baby snapping turtle seen while we were hiking near Hadlock Brook in July 2014, uploaded to Anecdata. © MDIBL, Anecdata and contributors

Or maybe you’ve seen a snapper sunning itself on a rock, or a baby turtle making its way toward water, and wondered if such sightings are common.

Now there’s a citizen science database with a snapping turtle project to satisfy your curiosity, as well as to allow you to upload photos and document observations of the reptiles, or of any other aspect of the natural world on Mount Desert Island and beyond., developed by MDI Biological Laboratory’s Community Environmental Health Lab (CEHL), allows crowd-sourcing of data to better create a picture of the changing environment, whether it involves eelgrass, wastewater outfall, the MDI coastline or snapping turtles.

“What I like most about citizen science is that it fundamentally shifts the balance of information, and therefore the balance of power in the favor of ordinary people – in this period of climate change, I think this is extremely important,” said Duncan Bailey, lead developer of Anecdata, which is so new, it is still being beta tested.

snapping turtle

Don’t get too close to this snapping turtle, seen by the side of the road in Brooksville, ME, in May by Anecdata user Acadia. © MDIBL, Anecdata and contributors

So far, the snapping turtle project has 8 contributors with 9 photos, including 2 that we at Acadia on My Mind recently uploaded, of a snapper sunning itself on a rock off the shores of Lower Hadlock Pond, and of a baby turtle near Hadlock Brook.

The project isn’t limited to Mount Desert Island, although Anecdata is based there. One spectacular close-up photo of a snapper by the side of the road was taken in May in Brooksville, ME, by a citizen scientist going by the screen name Acadia. The project lead, going by the screen name NUMAHA, said he came up with the idea because “I wanted to find out where the snapping turtles in Maine are because I think more of them are being killed.”
Continue reading

No GPS-tracked Snowy Owl to fly over Acadia this season

Despite multiple attempts and close calls since February, Maine wildlife researchers have been unable to capture and outfit a Snowy Owl with a GPS transmitter. The possibility of tracking one of these majestic raptors of the Arctic flying over Acadia National Park will have to wait.

snowy owl on cadillac mountain

Flight of the Snowy Owl over Cadillac Mountain, no GPS transmitter tracking available. (Photo courtesy of Michael Good and Down East Nature Tours)

“No, we did not have any luck before the winter window ‘closed’ on 3/15,” said Lauren Gilpatrick, permit and band manager for the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) in Portland, in an e-mail. “We are waiting until next winter to try again.”

Gilpatrick, along with BRI colleague Chris Desorbo and USDA Wildlife Services’ John Wood, have been stalking airports in Portland and Brunswick, hoping to relocate a Snowy Owl out of harm’s way, while also outfitting it with a GPS transmitter as part of Project SNOWstorm, a national volunteer research effort to better understand these mysterious denizens normally of the Arctic tundra. Their efforts are detailed in Project SNOWstorm’s blog.

“These owls are very intelligent, powerful, and absolutely gorgeous. It has been an honor to spend so much time watching them,” Gilpatrick said in an e-mail. Younger owls may linger into May in Maine, but the adult owls tend to head north by early March, and would have provided the most valuable data for better understanding their wintering habits, Gilpatrick said.

snowy owls in acadia national park

Snowy Owl spotted on Sargent Mountain, no GPS transmitter tracking available. (Photo courtesy of Rich MacDonald and The Natural History Center)

Beginning with the 2013-2014 winter, Snowies have migrated into the United States in such record numbers – a result of a population explosion up north with plentiful lemmings, a favorite food – it prompted the founding of Project SNOWstorm. Nationwide, more than 30 owls have been outfitted with transmitters since then, providing insights into the bird’s winter ecology, according to the project’s Web site.

March 27 was the last day to donate to Project SNOWstorm’s Indiegogo campaign, to fund more GPS/GSM transmitters and other aspects of the research.

Although there are no plans to capture and tag a Snowy Owl in Acadia National Park, according to researchers, it’s possible that any owl that may be captured next winter at Portland, Brunswick or any other Maine airport, outfitted with a GPS transmitter and relocated, could very well fly over the park.

But even without GPS data for a Snowy Owl in Maine yet, it’s evident that Acadia National Park is a hospitable environment for the birds. A record number of Snowy Owl sightings, 17, have been reported so far this season to the online eBird database this winter, with Sargent and Cadillac among the hot spots.

Continue reading

Hope springs eternal for springtime in Acadia National Park

UPDATE 3/20/18: Visitor center hours and seasonal opening dates updated throughout.

Deep snow may still cover parts of Acadia National Park, but surely it can’t be long before birdsong fills the air, flowers and trees bud and the park rouses from its wintry slumber.

Jesup Path in acadia national park

Apple blossoms frame a view of Champlain Mountain along Jesup Path in springtime.

Acadia in springtime is an uncrowded paradise, perfect for hikers, birders, plant aficionados, bicyclists, runners, photographers, or anyone who enjoys the outdoors and magnificent scenery without the summer and fall foliage season throngs.

Maybe you can’t get into the water at Sand Beach – but who can even in summer? – or dine alfresco in Bar Harbor or at the Jordan Pond House. Maybe you can’t hop on the Island Explorer bus shuttle over to Northeast Harbor and anywhere else on Mount Desert Island, or around Schoodic Peninsula. And maybe you can’t take the Isle au Haut mail boat directly to Duck Harbor.

Sand Beach in Acadia National Park in spring

Sand Beach in spring shows the effects of winter storms, with the rocks to eventually be covered by sand again. (NPS photo)

But what you get instead during this season of rebirth: Roads less traveled, so you can more safely run and bike around the Park Loop Road – and maybe even up the 3.5-mile Cadillac Summit Road if you’re in great shape; plenty of parking at trailheads or carriage road parking lots; and as much solitude and communing with nature as you would like, whether you hike, bike or run, or watch for flora and fauna.

Here’s a guide to springtime in Acadia, including basics about visiting the park and activities to explore, to help you plan your trip. Continue reading

Could Snowy Owl named Orion fly over Acadia National Park?

UPDATE 3/11/15: Added below are details of new Snowy Owl children’s book as perk in Project  SNOWstorm fundraiser, and of Orion the Hunter constellation that Orion the Snowy Owl is named for.

In this banner year of Snowy Owls, Maine wildlife researchers are stalking Portland and Brunswick airports, trying to capture and tag with a GPS transmitter one of these mysterious raptors, which seem as at home on the Arctic tundra, as on airport runways or the open summits of Acadia National Park.

This Snowy – to be the first in Maine to get a transmitter through Project SNOWstorm, a nationwide scientific effort – will be named Orion, in honor of the P-3 Orion planes that used to fly out of the former Naval Air Station in Brunswick, and the constellation Orion the Hunter, said Lauren Gilpatrick, permit and band manager for the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland.

snowy owl on cadillac mountain

If this Snowy Owl, pictured in flight over Cadillac Mountain, wings it over to a Maine airport, could this be Orion? (Photo courtesy of Michael J. Good and Down East Nature Tours)

“It’s quite possible,” said Gilpatrick in an e-mail, that this Snowy “could make its way to Acadia. Some birds appear to prefer coastal habitats during the winter.”

Satellite tracking of these enigmatic raptors to better understand them began with the tagging of 22 birds from Massachusetts to Minnesota last winter, after an explosion of Snowy Owls – known as an irruption – brought thousands of them south, the most in nearly a century.

This winter, in a surprise to researchers, has turned out to be nearly as active with Snowies. To take advantage of this extra opportunity, Project SNOWstorm, a nonprofit volunteer collaboration formed just last year, is trying to raise $15,000 by March 27 through an Indiegogo campaign, to help cover 15 to 20 more solar-powered GPS transmitters, including the one to track Orion in Maine.

With about 3 weeks to go in the 2-month fundraiser as of the writing of this post, the campaign is about $2,000 short of its target. The Indiegogo campaign video, below, features amazing footage of Snowy Owls, and explains the need for more research.

Continue reading

Flight of the Snowy Owl over Acadia National Park

This time of year on the wintry mountaintops of Acadia National Park, the serious birders come to scan the landscape for the Snowy Owl, normally a raptor of the Arctic tundra.

snowy owls in acadia national park

Michael J. Good calls this his favorite photo of a Snowy Owl he saw on Sargent Mountain in December. (Photo courtesy Michael J. Good and Down East Nature Tours)

They may sit and observe a Snowy Owl for more than an hour at a time, as Michael J. Good did, watching the same owl on different days in November, on Cadillac and Sargent Mountains. “There is nothing quite like spending time with this charismatic bird from the North,” Good wrote, in sharing a favorite Snowy Owl photo with us.

Or they may post photos from their field trips on Facebook, as Rich MacDonald did, not only of the two Snowy Owls he saw the same day in December on Sargent, but also of owl pellet degrading after the rains from a day earlier. “Snowy Owls are back!” his Facebook page proclaims.

snowy owls in acadia national park

This was one of two Snowy Owls that Rich MacDonald spotted the same day on Sargent Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Rich MacDonald and The Natural History Center)

MacDonald, a naturalist and field biologist, is co-owner of The Natural History Center with his wife Natalie, while Good, a Registered Maine Guide, is owner of Down East Nature Tours. Both Bar Harbor businesses lead tours year-round in Acadia, and around the globe.

Acadia National Park – well-known for peregrine falcons, the annual HawkWatch and the Acadia Birding Festival – may also rightly lay claim to being a spectacular place to catch the flight of the Snowy Owl.

Even before the 2013-2014 headlines about the sudden upsurge of Snowy Owls migrating to the US – known as an irruption – Acadia has been an occasional winter home for Snowies. Continue reading

Hearing the call of wild turkeys in Acadia National Park

For visitors to Acadia National Park who’ve experienced the wonder of seeing wild turkeys along the Park Loop Road, carriage roads or hiking trails, the bird is more than what’s for Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, some people are so thrilled to see turkeys in and around Acadia that they post photos, videos and statistics on the Internet, whether the birds are spotted after a hike, during an RV vacation, on a nature tour or by the side of the road.

tom turkey struts like peacock

Male wild turkey struts like a peacock and wiggles the wattle under its beak to attract hens (Photo courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife)

Even Michael J. Good, a Registered Maine Guide in Bar Harbor who takes people on birding adventures through his company Down East Nature Tours, gets excited by turkey sightings.

“If I see wild turkey I always STOP and let my clients experience the birds,” Good says in an e-mail, in response to an interview request. “If males are gobbling, I always answer back so we can hear their fascinating call. I always count them when I see them.”

During the first 9 months of this year, 60 wild turkeys were counted by Down East Nature Tours, according to the company’s Facebook page. Scores of other turkeys were counted on Mount Desert Island over the same time period, bringing the 2014 total through September to more than 110 as entered into the eBird database, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

There’s something about turkeys that makes people go wild for them in and around Acadia. Continue reading

Hawk Watch inspires, changes lives at Acadia National Park

From high atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, volunteers and scientists are marking a big milestone this year at perhaps one of the best spots to watch migrating hawks, falcons and other raptors in North America.

The annual Hawk Watch program on the mountain peak is marking 20 years of operation at the Maine national park.

Angi King Johnston, science associate at the Schoodic Institute, leads hawk watch at Acadia National Park

Angi King-Johnston, science associate at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, peers through binoculars over Frenchman Bay during Hawk Watch on Cadillac Mountain.

Located off the Cadillac North Ridge Trail close to the 1,530-foot summit, the viewing area is free to everyone and open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, weather permitting, until Oct. 31.

As the raptors soar over Frenchman Bay, amateur bird watchers or just regular people help spot the birds and specialists identify or confirm the species.

Angi King-Johnston, science associate at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park and count compiler for the program, said Hawk Watch shows the beauty of citizens taking part in a science project.

“It’s the brilliance of Hawk Watch,” she said, standing over Frenchman Bay one day at the end of September. “I could not do my job without all the extra help.”

Hawk Watch recently became a collaborative effort between the park’s interpretive division and the institute’s bird ecology program. Continue reading

Dogs have best friend in Acadia National Park

When Nicole Ramos hikes in Acadia National Park, she is elated she can bring Lucy, her Jack Russell Terrier.

Nicole Ramos likes to hike in Acadia with her Jack Russell Terrier

Nicole Ramos hikes in Acadia National Park with Lucy, her Jack Russell Terrier.

Otherwise, she is unsure of what she would do. “I’d probably be disappointed and maybe have to go somewhere else,” said Ramos, 35, of Camden, Me., while starting a hike with Lucy along the Asticou & Jordan Pond Path in Acadia.

Of the 59 national parks, Acadia is in the minority in keeping dogs and owners together on hiking trails. In fact, Acadia is among only a few national parks – Shenandoah in Virginia is another – that allow dogs and other pets on trails, as long as they are leashed, according to the National Park Service.

When they plan a trip to Acadia, dog owners are generally happy to discover that they don’t need to leave their pets at home or place them in a kennel if they want to hike.

Todd Long and his two dogs in Acadia National Park.

Todd Long is shown walking on Cadillac Mountain with his two Jack Russell Terriers, Chelsea and Daisy. Long and his dogs visited Acadia National Park for the first time.

“I couldn’t put them in a kennel,” said Todd Long, a water well service contractor from Brevard, N.C., who was walking on the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail with Chelsea and Daisy, his two Jack Russell Terriers, during his first-ever visit to Acadia.

“They are too spoiled. They are used to being with me,” said Long.

(See Acadia on My Mind’s new page for Top 5 hikes for dogs)

Continue reading

Of puffins, wilderness and Acadia National Park

See Sept. 3 legislative update at bottom of post

Here is the original story:

People love puffins so much that visitors to Acadia National Park often ask rangers where they can see them, even though the seabirds with the colorful beaks are too far offshore to be visible.

It seems Atlantic puffins are to Maine what polar bears are to Alaska.

Atlantic puffins are listed as threatened in Maine

Atlantic puffins are listed as threatened in Maine. (US Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Yet despite the public interest in puffins, and with Sept. 3 marking the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a bill to extend wilderness protection to some of Maine’s puffin islands has languished in Congress for years.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act on Sept. 3, 1964, the United States became the first country in the world to define and protect wilderness. Among the wilderness definitions embodied in the act: “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

In Maine, from Acadia National Park to the North Woods, from Kittery to Caribou, and even along the so-called 100-Mile Wilderness of the Appalachian Trail, there’s very little federally designated wilderness, a fraction of 1 percent.

Since 2005, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed that 13 Maine coastal islands, some near Acadia, become part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the strongest form of federal protection. This would better preserve some puffin habitat, but Congress has yet to act. Continue reading

Peregrine falcons cap great year at Acadia National Park

A biologist with Acadia National Park said it was “a great year” for nesting peregrine falcons at the park.

peregrine falcon chick

Park wildlife biologist, Bruce Connery, holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. Acadia National Park photo and caption.

Bruce Connery said peregrine falcons raised chicks that fledged at four sites including Jordan Cliffs, the precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain, Valley Cove cliffs above Somes Sound and privately-owned Ironbound Island in Frenchman Bay, an island where the park holds a conservation easement.

“It’s great to have that kind of recruitment into the overall Maine population,” Connery said. “We had a great year. We have to be thankful for that.”

Connery attributed the success to a spring with low amounts of rain or snow. Damp or wet springs can be a problem for the eggs of birds that nest early including falcons and eagles, he said.

It might be the first time that particular combination of four sites was home to peregrine fledglings, he added.

“It seems to vary year by year,” he said. Continue reading

Acadia National Park proposes to keep Isle au Haut primitive

UPDATED 12/13/14: Final management plan released, see link at bottom of story.

Acadia National Park in July released a 30-page draft report that shows the reasons Isle au Haut is such a special place and spells out efforts to keep it that way.

The National Park Service’s draft “Visitor Use Management Plan” for Isle au Haut recommends only a minor increase in the longtime daily cap on the number of visitors to the island, the first such increase in more than 30 years.

Eben's Head is a spectacular rocky promontory on Isle au Haut

Eben’s Head, a rocky promontory, can easily be climbed and is great for watching a sunset on Isle au Haut.

The draft, which will be discussed at an Aug. 5 public hearing, includes a plethora of other important, but so far little-noticed, points:

— Shush! Stay quiet about this island 6,500-acre paradise, half of which is owned and managed by the park service. In order to protect the island from too much use, the draft says the park service will continue a so-called “non-promotion” policy for Isle au Haut. Tourists on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula, the two other sections of the Maine national park, generally will not get information about Isle au Haut unless they ask. Continue reading