Mountains to Marsh Trail -- Spring

Welcome to the Mountains to Marsh trail.  This trail takes you from upland areas of the Penquis
Virtual Nature Center to the lowlands.  Just follow along and carry out any instructions you may get.  Try to
decide what you are hearing, smelling, touching, or feeling before going on to get the answer.
If you want to test yourself, or play a game with yourself or someone else, keep track of your
right answers. Ready to start?  Remember, files marked long can take a half minute or so to download.

It is a cool day in the overlap (that only sometimes occurs) between mud season and leaf-out. Cool
is a relative term.  Two months ago this would have been a heat wave.  A month from now it would
be considered downright chilly.

It is rare you can be alone these days.  There was a time when that was
a great joy to you, experiencing solitude in the outdoors, but now it is difficult to find a 
time and a place to do so.  Today you have talked your ride into letting you do the trail by
yourself to savor that experience.  You give your radio a little pat.  It is security without encumbrance.
Your cane picks out the guide rope along the trail, you grab the rope, and you are off.

Remains of last years leaves rustle under your feet.  Your feet also catch some sort of small object in
the trail.

You pick it up and find that it is a branch of some sort. It has
short, firm, thin leaves as long as the last joint of your first finger growing from the sides of the twig.  
So it must be either a hemlock or a fir.  Oh, yes.  Aren't hemlock needles softer and a bit shorter
than this?  

It must be a balsam fir, the only fir in our region.  If you could find the tree, you know you'd
feel resin pockets in the bark, another characterist of this species.

You walk on.  Here is a familiar call.  Click to take a good listen

Now that is an easy one, Maine's state bird, the black capped chicakdee.  The
dee-dee-dee call that gives him his name is an alarm call.  It is roughtly equivalent to asking
you just what you think you are doing invading his territory.  

Another noise stops you.  Back in the direction of the nature center you hear a familiar sound.
Today is your day for easy calls on the birds.  This one everyone knows.  You
listen for a moment. 

The crow is one of the most familiar of birds.  You might expect to hear an equally familiar
relative of the crow today, too.  And no sooner said than  here it is.

The bluejay's call is interpreted variously as 'thief, thief, thief' or 'jay, jay, jay'.  Of course
the jay's calls are as varied as the interpretations.  The birds often imitate red shouldered
hawks to drive other birds away from feeders.  The bell sound this one was giving is actually
sort of musical.  Well, sort of.

Overhead, you hear one of the truly evocative sounds of nature. (DVG)  Migrating
Canada geese, heading home to their breeding grounds in the arctic.  Some races of Canada goose
don't migrate.  But those overhead are doing so.

Off in the distance comes a rapid series of notes.  Listen.  It must be
a flicker.  These are the only woodpecker that often feeds on the ground, eating ants.  So is it
really an ant-pecker? You puff a bit over the a rise and hear a relative of 
the flicker. (long)(DVG)  Must be a hairy woodpecker.

The trail begins to descend. Finally.  You must be heading down to the low-lying areas. 
Another bird (DVG) sings.  Sounds like he is sort of running out of
breath by the end of the song.  A yellow-rumped warbler.  Didn't they used to call them myrtle

You sweep your cane back and forth overhead and beside the trail and encounter branches.  Squarish
needles growing out singly from the branch, about as long as the last joint on a person's finger.
You crush one, but get no smell.  A red spruce.  And onward.

Now you find the bugs.  How exciting!  And you find something that eats 
them. (long)(MIST)
'Thanks, phoebe,' you call.  The pheobe just says, 'phoe-bee, phoe-blee'.

The trail levels out.  You must be down.  Your cane encounters branches and you feel along one.  Ah-ha!
Here are some tiny cones on a leafless shrub.  Must be an alder.  You're definately in the
marsh area now.  And, yes, a bird of marshy shrubs tunes up.  A yellow
warbler.  A little early, but not too much so.  Overhead another bug-eater
makes its welcome presence known.  Tree swallow.

This is the end of the short loop.  Wait! What is that?(long) (WK)  
Wood frogs!
You don't hear them as much during the day as at night, but here they are. 
Well. You can head on back to the lobby where it is warm and you can brag a bit, or you can go back to the trail heads. Or you can continue on with this trail. What do you wish to do?

You've decided to continue with the Mountains to Marsh Trail. You know you are near the beaver 
pond.  Spring activity should have started up. Was that the splash
of a beaver tail on water, warning, perhaps, of your presence? 
 A bird.  A very expected one.  This little character is establishing a territory in
 the marsh vegetation.  Have a listen.
Yup, a song sparrow.  

You walk on past the area.  A tree arrests your cane and your attention.  It is obviously an
evergreen.  It has short, rounded needles growing singly along the branch.  A spruce.  And this is a wet area.
  Which makes the tree a black spruce.

It is up the hill a ways beyond you, but here comes a friendly sound.
A red-breasted nuthatch.  Conifers there, though you believe there are mainly hardwoods around
you, lowland hardwoods.  And you're right.  That song will be heard only
from deciduous forests.  It is a red-eyed vireo.  And from a slightly drier region in the
undergrowth, a loud tea-cher with the accent on the second syllable announces the ovenbird.  They
are called that because their nest resembles an ancient clay oven. Someobdy
else has returned to the area.  A scarlet tanager.

Just as you make the turn to head across the bench and back to the center, you hear behind
you another sound of spring (long)(WK).  The spring peeper.

The trail is rising again.  Was it really a good idea
to carry on when the last part will be uphill?  Oh, well, you're almost back to the trail head.  Not much bird activity right now, it
seems.  Another bird.  This is one you wish you could see.  The northern
cardinal male is a beautiful red color with a crest and a black mask.  But the song is wonderful,

Well, it has been fun, but you are back at the trail head.  You find the various pointers and
 check them for directions.  It has definately been fun.

dividing line

Created Feb 8, 2003