Welcome to the Penquis Virtual Nature Center, an online nature center devoted to the study and enjoyment of nature using non-visual means. You are in the lobby of the center. You can go:

This is the first of a series of online nature centers designed to be enjoyed without the use of sight. There will be some visual material presented from time to time, but it will not be essential to use of the site.

The Penquis Nature Center is in central Maine, north of Bangor and near the line dividing Penobscot and Piscastaquis Counties, and contains a representation of the plants and animals found in that region.

You are now in the lobby of the nature center. While here you can sign the guestbook. Using the guestbook, you can ask qestions, make comments, and meet other people with similar interests. Please if you have trouble with the guest book. From the lobby you may go to the museum where you can study or review the natural history of the region, including descriptions of the plants and animals likely to be detected by non-visual means. Or you can go to the nature trails; we hope to keep opening new ones from time to time.

Much of the wildlife, such as small rodents and shrews, are not likely to be detected by any means, so these are mentioned only in passing. Birds and trees are the most noticeable parts of the ecosystem at all seasons and are therefore stressed. Most birds can be distinguished by sound, at least during spring and summer, and some are vocal all year long. Experienced bird watchers use sound as their primary cue in bird identification. The National Breeding Bird Survey instructs observers to stop at the specified location and spend a certain amount of time listing all birds seen and heard. It is the experience of most that the majority of birds recorded are heard rather than seen. For this reason it is important to learn the songs of any birds in the region of interest. Therefore, this center can also be useful to sighted persons as well as to the visually impaired.

Most species of trees within any given region can be identified by touch, smell, and location. Some are very difficult to identify to species in this manner, but they are also difficult to identify using visual cues. Experienced foresters often have trouble making some of the finer distinctions. So if you can’t tell if the tree in your yard is a red spruce or a black spruce, don’t worry about it. It might also start arguments among the experts.

In all the identification questions, don’t worry about making mistakes. The CEO of NHEST has been studying trees for 30 years and teaching and writing about them for almost as long and has taught courses in bird identification and still makes mistakes — lots of them. Have fun and let us know what more we can provide.

We have laid out the center generally so that you can use a menu option to return to the place you just were. Exceptions are links to the basic NHEST site and to other web resources. After accessing these, you will have to use the back function on your browser or reader to return to where you left from. Within the center, arrows with a text alternative are used for movements from one basic area to another, including movement to a nature trail. They are also used to indicate returns to the major portions of the center, so if you get lost in the center itself, search on the word ‘pointer’. We have tried to reserve that for the direction indicators.

We hope that the various parts of the center will be easy for you to access. If they are not,


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NHEST would like to thank the Thomas Maren Foundation for the support that made this nature center possible.

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Created Feb 8, 2003