Welcome to the Beaver Pond Trail. This trail takes you through low-lying boggy areas to the beaver pond and back. 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, long files may take half a minute or so to load.
The bugs are already at you as you start the trail. You hope that insect repellent really works. Black flies and mosquitos are the drawback to spring, and this trail takes you by still water where mosquitos breed and running water where black flies breed. And you’ll probably get your feet muddy, even though mud season is just past and the warm days are bringing out the first leaves. This low lying area has some mud most of the year. But the warmth, and the fragrance of blooming flowers, and the sounds of awakening are plenty of compensation.
You have decided to walk the trail alone, relishing the opportunity. You give your radio a little pat. It is security without encumbrance. Your cane picks out the guide rope along the trail, and you are off. You really need the walk today. Things have been piling up recently, bills, doctor visits, reports at work, the sump pump – lots of things.
You are hardly underway when the first bird announces his presence. (long)(MIST) Hi, phoebe. Have a bug. Take several. All you can eat. And have lots of little ones. Love those insect-eating birds. And another passes overhead. Tree swallows nest in hollows in trees or in nest boxes put up by people. You know the center has put up some cyber-boxes for the convenience of the cyber-swallows. Maybe they’ll raise big families, too and eat up all the cyber-bugs. Right. Bugs breed much faster than birds. There’s the tree swallow again. Wait! (DVG) Is that a tree swallow, or a barn swallow? Sounds a bit different, so it may be the barn swallow. It flies over again, and you’re sure (DVG). Definately a barn swallow.
You run your cane along outside the guide rope to see what you can find. Something low to the ground. You reach out to check it out – ouch! Some of last years raspberry canes. You continue on sucking your pricked thumb. Sucking you thumb. You could get a lot of teasing for that.
You feel the hard-to-define changes as you enter the woods. Just as you do, another bird sounds off. Well, what walk in the Maine woods would be complete without a chickadee? It is our state bird, after all.
You carry on, the path tending downward. The bad part of that is that it means you will have to walk upward at the end of the trail when you are more tired.
The feel along the sides of the trail tells you that you have entered a region of dense growth. Must be the marsh. You reach out to find a plant sample and encounter a branch bare except for some small, hard cones. Ahha! Alder. You are in the marshy area. It is no surprise to find another plant in the mix. It has buds pressed to the stem and with no obvious separations that you can feel in the bud’s covering. Probably a willow. What species? Well, er, ah. A loud, whistling snort from ahead tells you a deer has detected your presence and is not pleased about it. Too bad, deer.
You know you are next to the beaver pond when you hear a loud splat (DVG) on the water as a beaver spots you and warns the others of an intruder. During the months when the water is free of ice, the beavers keep busy repairing dams and lodges and cutting food to store underwater for next winter. They work like, well, like beavers.
But there is somebody here besides the beavers. A bird. This little character is also busy building a home in the marsh vegetation and trying to attract a mate. 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 your feet are a bit moist. Which makes the tree a black spruce.
From nearby you hear another sound. It is a short, dry ‘pick’ call. Now what… Oh, yes, a woodpecker. Must be a downy. The hairy has a louder, sharper call. They are sort of hard to tell apart, but then they are hard to tell apart for the sighted. The only notable differences are that the downies are lots smaller, obvious when they’re seen together, not so obvious when you see only one bird, and have shorter beaks.
Another sound stops you. From the woods nearby comes a familiar sound. It’s nice to have an easy identification after the tough woodpecker call. This one everyone knows. You listen for a moment.
Wow! It sounds like everything in the world started calling. There is a harsh, angry-sounding squawk (DVG). Sounds like a great blue heron, probably taking off. Then another waterbird sounds off. Ah, mallards. A family group, by the sound. The quacking sound is the hens; the high-pitched cheeping is the drakes. And what’s that? (long) (WK) A bullfrog. If the heron is gone, it is safe for a frog to attract attention to itself.
That was pretty exciting, but now you come to a choice point. This is the end of the short loop of the Beaver Pond Trail. 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?
- Continue with the rest of the trail or you can
- Return to the trailhead, or you can head back to
- the lobby
A familiar sound of the marsh lets you know you’ve made the right choice, wet feet or no. A red-winged blackbird sounds almost musical after the silent winter. The next bird would sound musical anytime. ‘Sweet-sweet-I’m so sweet’ is how some people render this one. You remember that the guide in the museum claims the bird is really saying, ‘I’m the biggest, toughest yellow warbler in the world, and the rest of you better stay out of my territory. Except for you ladies, of course.’
Here is another tree next to the trail. It has bark that shreds in long vertical strings. The branches have leaves pressed flat against them. Northern white-cedar, of course, another of the swamp and bog trees of the area.
The trail is bending round the lake. Your feet are a bit damp when you find a tree branch beside the trail. It has needles growing singly from it, somewhat rounded or squarish in cross-section. Piece of cake. Spruce, and since your feet are wet, it’s a black spruce. The spruce is forgotten as you hear another frog (long) (WK). This one is a pickerel frog,if you remember rightly from the guide in the museum.
From the woods above you hear what the guide in the museum described as, “a series of 5 or more rather faint, flute-like phrases which spiral upward”. Which makes it a Swainson’s thrush.
Your path swings again so you are headed back toward the center. There is a somewhat drier area of brush near the wood’s edge, your cane tells you. And you hear a brush bird common thoughout North America. It is olive on top, yellow below, and has a black mask, all duller in the females, you know. A yellowthroat. Almost immediately you hear another brush bird. A chipping sparrow.
Almost back to the center, you stop to grin at a familiar, cheery sound. The song is energetic. The small robin flock that winters around the area, contrary to the popular belief that they all fly south, is now setting up territories. And one of the red finches. Now, which one would that be. Near the center at this season, it is most likely a house finch. You know there has been a disease affecting these birds, and you wonder if it has run its course. Whoa, and another from back (long)(MIST) in the deciduous woods. It sounds like the robin has a sore throat. And then comes that squeaky chip, like a rusty hinge. Definately a rose-breasted grosbeak.
Well, here’s the trailhead. You are a bit winded, but definately refreshed and ready to take on the problems of the day.
image: Bryan Alexander