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, long files can take a half minute or so to download.
It is a cool summer day with intermittent showers. You have your slicker with you. You are going to do the trail by yourself, today, you and your dog. You run through the check. Slicker. Bug repellent. Radio. Cane. Dog. Self. Yup, all assembled, so off you go.
There is somebody (long)(WK) who is glad of the cool, rainy weather. Toads and other frogs don’t sing much except at night, but sometimes a cool, moist day will bring them out.
Evidently, frogs aren’t the only ones singing today. A bird or two also plan to have their say. This one is a cardinal. Pleasant birds. And here is another familiar old friend. The chickadee. Maine’s state bird. Also that of Massachusetts, but we won’t talk about that.
Yes, lots of birds today. Back in the direction of the nature center you hear a familiar sound. A crow. And cicada (DVG).
Overhead, you hear a familiar twittering. Tree swallows hunting insects. Good hunting, guys. That one sounds a little different.(DVG) Must be a barn swallow. Well, the more insect eaters the better.
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. Its sharp ‘peek'(long)(DVG) sound identifies it as a hairy. And that (DVG) must be the bird drumming. The downy drums faster; the other woodpeckers slower or more irregularly.
The trail begins to descend. Finally. You must be heading down to the low-lying areas.
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.
The trail levels out. You must be down. Your cane encounters branches and you feel along one. Ah-ha! Oval, finely toothed leaves. You feel more and find a lingering tiny cone from last year. Must be an alder. You’re definately in the marsh area now. And, yes, a common resident of marshy and shrubby tunes up. A yellow warbler.
This is the end of the short loop. Wait! What is that?(long)(WK) Wood frogs. A bit late, but there they are..
Well. You can head on back to the lobby, 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
You’ve decided to continue with the Mountains to Marsh Trail. You know you are near the beaver pond. Was that the splash of a beaver tail on water (DVG), warning, perhaps, of your presence? And what was that other sound? It was like a sort of shriek. Could it have been a weasel? You’ve never heard one, but you know that both species of weasel in our area give that sort of sound when agitated or when seizing prey. Sounded eerie. They generally hunt at night, but if they’re hungry, guess they’d hunt on dim days like this, too. You give a bit of shrug and move on.
A bird. A very expected one. This little character is announcing his territory in the marsh vegetation. Have a listen. Yup, a song sparrow. You feel a drop of rain, and hurry your steps.
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. The ground is quite wet. 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.
Just as you make the turn to head across the bench and back to the center, you hear behind you a frog of some sort (long)(WK). Sounds like one of the gray treefrogs. You have no idea which. And the guide in the museum says not to worry about it – unless you happen to be a gray treefrog yourself. Which you are pretty sure you are not.
Almost back to the center, you hear another bird. Common here. The mockingbird supposedly repeats each phrase of its song three times or more, while relatives like brown thrasher and catbird repeat them once or twice only. At least one insect isn’t bothered by the weather (DVG). Or maybe he’s trying to fill up before it gets worse.
Well, it has been fun, but you are back at the trail head. You find the various pointers and check them for directions. A pleasant day, even with the drop or two of rain. Oops! (DVG) That sounds like we may get more than a drop or two. Better head inside.