Recently we spent some time in Portland, but after an overnight and a morning exploring the area known as Old Port we soon grew weary of our city explorations. Sometimes cities, even small ones, seem overwhelming; the constant motion created a desire to remove ourselves from the rush of city life. By mid-morning we were driving five minutes north in search of Gilsland Farm, the Maine Audubon’s headquarters. We were hoping that the natural setting of a sanctuary, located along the Presumpscot River would provide the tranquility we needed.
It wasn’t long before we were happily exploring the several habitats within the sanctuary. There were meadows, woodlands, tidal flats and a small pond; all providing unique opportunities for observation. As we came around the visitor center, we spotted a woodchuck scurrying towards a garden where he soon disappeared. Later, when we approached the end of our walk, we would discover two sandy burrows, additional entry points to this creature’s home.
We continued down a hill towards a small pond where we paused to listen to the numerous birds flitting about. Listening to the various songs, I thought I should really spend some time learning bird identification techniques. The pond itself was filled with tadpoles, all rather fat as they prepared to change into frogs.
The trails through the meadows and shore line were created by mowing paths along the perimeter of the fields. Benches were placed around the fields, so visitors could spend some time observing the birds flitting about. We watched a Red wing Blackbird moving from tree to tree, fanning his wings to ensure that a potential mate would see the wonderful flash of red feathers. I also spotted a greenish, yellow bird that I believe may have been a female Scarlet Tanager. Pointy winged birds darted across the field. My birding skills are rather poor, so I can only guess that they may have been swifts or swallows.
As we walked along the field, we watched a pair of turkeys perform an interesting dance. The female moved across the meadow, while the male just kept running around her in circles. Perhaps it was some sort of mating dance but she seemed to ignore him as he circled her across the field.
Just before the meadow merged with the woodland trail, I found the ground carpeted with Bluets; the tiny blue-white flowers a great find on this beautiful day. There were a number of exciting discoveries as we walked through the woods. We found a patch of Trout Lilies along the path, the distinctive spotted leaves and yellow petals almost hidden from view. Shortly after this find, I gazed downhill and found patches of Marsh Marigolds blooming in the boggy area below.
The woodland trail soon gave way to another meadow trail loop. Here again, the mowed trail circled the field offering views both across the grassland and the estuary. Finishing up our stroll, we spied a pair of Goldfinches flying off into the woods. We left the farm feeling refreshed from our time spent close to nature.