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Archive for July, 2009

Acadia National Park has experienced increases in visitation over the past decade, accommodating nearly three million visitors annually. Increasing use of the park can result in significant social and resource impacts. Too many visitors can degrade fragile natural and cultural resources and crowding can degrade the quality of visitor experience; however, little is known about the degree to which visitors are sensitive to the ecological and social impacts of park use and how important these impacts are in defining the quality of the visitor experience.

Visitors walk along the loop path on the Cadillac Mountain summit. Here, visitors can enjoy panaramic views of the park and the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman's Bay (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer).

Visitors walk along the loop path on the Cadillac Mountain summit. Here, visitors can enjoy panaramic views of the park and the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman's Bay (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer).

At 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic coast. The impressive granite summit, rounded by glacial movements during the last ice age, is easily accessed by a winding, scenic road or hiking trails. Visitors flock to Cadillac Mountain for its stunning views, challenging hikes, and sub-alpine scenery; however, increasing visitor impacts threaten natural resources, visitor safety, and the quality of recreational experiences. Understanding visitor perceptions of the social and environmental impacts of increasing visitor use will help Acadia NP manage, protect, and preserve the important cultural, recreational, and ecological attributes of Cadillac Mountain. (more…)

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Fourteen great ponds (lakes greater than 10 acres) and 10 smaller ponds cover just over 7% of the Park’s area (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

Fourteen great ponds (lakes greater than 10 acres) and 10 smaller ponds cover just over 7% of the Park’s area (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

Lakes, colloquially called “ponds”, dominate the landscape at Acadia National Park. Since the Park’s inception, a variety of unrelated projects have provided some data on the water quality of these lakes. This information was integrated in the recently published Assessment of Natural Resource Conditions. In 2006, the Northeast Temperate Network (NETN) established a long-term lake monitoring protocol at Acadia NP. The 2006 through 2008 monitoring years were a transitional period, during which new sampling protocols were implemented, evaluated, and modified to address issues encountered during seasonal lake monitoring. While there is not yet enough data to do long-term assessments of whether lake conditions are improving, stable, or degrading, the data collected provides baseline information on the current status of Acadia NP’s lakes. This information will help park resource managers identify potential pollution sources, assess human-induced changes and threats, and track water quality trends. (more…)

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The last View of the season from Jenna Dodge:

Peregrine falcon soaring (USFWS photo).

Peregrine falcon soaring (USFWS photo).

The start of August marks that time of year when we prepare to say farewell to all our young peregrines around Mount Desert Island as they commence their exodus southward. Along the way, they will join many other raptor species in the sky with the hopes of travelling far away from their breeding and natal grounds to warmer climates for the winter season. The wandering falcon is synonymous with a peregrine; due to the nature of their long-distance migrations, they have been marked with this special epitaph and certainly live up to it. In late summer and early autumn, this species can travel as far south as Central or South America in a relatively short time period and will retrace their journey back to breeding grounds the following spring. There are two main factors that help them achieve this amazing feat: weather and evolutionary adaptations. (more…)

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It was a rare day Saturday, if one is to judge by the trends in Maine’s weather patterns this summer. The sun, miraculously, came out and warmed our saturated state. It was a memorable day for anyone living in this climate the last couple of months, but it was also a memorable day for Acadia National Park.

The new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, paid a visit to the park, meeting with Acadia NP staff and talking to Maine Senator Susan Collins about the funds allocated for the maintenance and future of the park by President Barack Obama’s economic recovery package.

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, new money for the park under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes:

* $170,000 to replace safety and informational signs

* $2.2 million to resurface roads and parking lots

* $844,000 to repair culverts and headwalls

* $268,000 to remove unneeded buildings

* $4.4 million to rehabilitate roads and parking areas at the Schoodic Education and Research Center

(Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

(Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

A small crowd gathered on the Village Green in Bar Harbor around noon on Saturday to hear Salazar and Collins speak about how these funds will affect the future of Acadia NP.

It was Salazar’s first visit to Acadia NP, and the park seems to have left an impression. He described it as “one of the awesome crown jewels of our national park system.”

The practical benefits of a national park such as Acadia were also noted by Salazar. “It really is an economic engine, and that is one of the key ways that we ought to be looking at our landscapes of America: our national parks and our wildlife refuges and so many of our other historic sites, such as the national monuments,” he explained.

Senator Collins praised the secretary’s commitment to national parks and lauded the people who work so hard to keep them at the highest possible standard. She was very pleased with the funds being designated for the benefit of Acadia NP. “This is a great example of the state of Maine and the people of our country directly benefitting from the stimulus bill. It’s going to create jobs, improve the park experience, and leave lasting, needed assets at the national park that we all love,” she stated.

From left: Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia NP, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

From left: Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia NP, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. (Acadia Partners/S. Delheimer)

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American Oystercatcher Chicks, P. Dolan 7/09

American Oystercatcher Chicks, P. Dolan 7/09

We used our last regularly scheduled field day on 7/15 to check up on islands with nesting American Oystercatchers (AMOY).  We conducted boat-based surveys of Rainsford, Sheep, the Hingham Harbor Islands, Calf, and Lovells.  Although we aren’t able to track the fate of all nests, here is what we know about nesting AMOY in 2009:

Calf Island – possibly 2 pairs, one nest had 2 large chicks when last seen on 6/10

Outer Brewster – likely one nesting pair, no evidence of success based on repeat boat surveys

Middle Brewster – one nesting pair with 3 hatched chicks on  5/20, no evidence of fledging success based on repeat boat surveys

Great Brewster – 2 territorial pairs on 6/3, no productivity information

Little Brewster – possibly one pair, not confirmed

Lovells – feeding birds only

Gallops – feeding birds only

Thompson – likely only feeding birds, no evidence of nesting

Snake – 5 pairs, 2 pairs with 1 large chick each on 6/17; other pairs appear to have been unsuccessful

Sheep – 2 nesting pairs on 6/4, one pair still present on 7/15, no sign of chicks

Rainsford – 1 pair with one fully fledged chick on 7/6

Langlee – one nesting pair on 6/4, no evidence of success based on repeat boat surveys

Grape – feeding birds only

Hangman – feeding birds only

Sarah, Ragged, Spectacle, Little Calf, Green, Shag Rocks, Button, Bumpkin, Georges – notta

On 7/14, Pat took the picture above of 2 fledged AMOY chicks on the spit between Squantum and Thompson Island.  Thompson Island is well watched, and no nests were confirmed there, so it seems likely that these may be chicks from Rainsford or elsewhere nearby.

We had no Least Terns nesting on Harbor Islands again this season, and the only confirmed Common Terns were on the platform off of Spinnaker Island (though there may be some late nesters on Snake).

Stay tuned in coming weeks for a full field summary from the 2009 season!

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Jenna Dodge reflects on this season of peregrine falcon monitoring:

The peregrine falcon season is starting to wind down as the young falcons’ hunting skills increase and they spend less time at the cliff. I would like to take the time to reflect on the months our young and adult falcons spent living on the Precipice and Beech Cliffs and provide exciting updates about peregrines in Maine.

In the entire state of Maine for the 2009 season, there were a total of about 24 active peregrine territories. Fifteen of those were successful with young; including Acadia, there are 37 new young peregrine falcons in the state. This is an exciting statistic because in order for peregrines to be removed from Maine’s state endangered species list, they must first produce viable young from at least 15 separate territories for five consecutive years. This year will mark the initial year, and hopefully the following four years will prove that our peregrines are securely restored in the state after their population dwindled in the mid-20th century due the pesticide DDT.

On a more local level, many park biologists and falcon enthusiasts were delightfully surprised when a new peregrine territory was discovered on an island in Frenchman Bay. Prior to this year there have only been four occupied territories on Mount Desert Island because the number of nesting falcons is limited by the availability of their natural habitat for nesting—sheer rock cliffs. This year three young fledged from this new territory, which might prove to be a perpetual site for breeding falcons to return to. In Acadia, there were two female and two male falcons born at Beech Cliffs (above Echo Lake) and one male and one female born at the Precipice. The young have developed quickly at both sites and seem to be maturing into deft birds of prey as their hunting instincts kick in. All of the young on Mount Desert Island will only be here for a couple of weeks longer and will eventually join other raptors as they travel southward to find a place to winter.

A Peregrine falcon in flight (NPS photo).

A Peregrine falcon in flight (NPS photo).

While they are still gracing the cliffs and us with their presence, please join us down at the Precipice trailhead 9 to noon daily (weather permitting) to marvel at the sight of our resident peregrine falcons. Keep in mind that the Precipice Trail and a portion of the Champlain East Face Trail are closed until August to insure the safety of the falcons and their young.

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Our friends over at Cape Cod National Seashore (CACO) are excited to share the latest edition of The Cape Codcast, a special audio series exploring science at the park.  Put together by CACO science communication technician Scott Buchanan, the podcast talks with plant ecologist Dr. Steve Smith about the restoration of East Harbor, a former salt marsh being restored by the reintroduction of salt water from Cape Cod Bay.  For more on the importance of salt marshes, check out the recent Field Notes post and video about marsh coring with Dr. Ben Tanner at Acadia National Park.

To listen to the podcast, follow this link and look for the podcast under the “Audio Media” heading: The Cape Codcast– Restoration of East Harbor

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