Now that the days are longer and we’ve seen the last of the winter’s snow, it’s time to look for signs of spring in the woods and fields managed by the Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot Conservation Trust. Hatch Cove Preserve, 36 acres on either side of Route 166 by the British Canal just outside downtown Castine, offers some of the best birding in the area. An open mowed meadow, two freshwater ponds and tidal frontage provide habitats for woodland, meadow and shore birds as well as scenic views. Hatch Cove is breathtaking when the lupines bloom in May. Park your car along Route 166 or Wadsworth Cove Road. While you’re there, walk along Wadsworth Cove Road to Castine’s Backshore Beach. From here you can see across the Penobscot River. Be sure to bring your binoculars as well as your camera.
The 43-acre Greenbie Natural Area on Route 166A, next to the Castine landfill, has a graveled parking area on 166A and a marked trailhead across a mowed field. The well-marked trail takes hikers slightly less than a mile through deep woods with patches of fern and small streams and concludes at a beaver pond where birders can almost always find a variety of ducks and other waterfowl. Bunchberry, a small flowering plant and relative of the dogwood tree, lines the trail in the spring with starry white flowers. Brochure with map available at trailhead.
Weinland Nature Study Area in Penobscot includes a mile-plus loop trail. Located on Gray Ridge Road off Route 175 in South Penobscot, Weinland is a great spot to seek signs of spring. Park in the lot along Gray Ridge Road, and be sure to notice the clump of pink lady slippers near the Trust sign post. These rare flowers of the orchid family grow within an ecology of their own, making it nearly impossible to transplant them. Enjoy them, but leave them there. Along the loop access trail, there are vernal pools in the spring, prime habitat for frogs, salamanders, newts and other amphibians. Turn right on the loop trail to a bridge across the brook. Weinland has a rich variety of ferns as well as poison ivy so sandaled hikers beware. Farther along the trail, a granite outcropping overlooks Wight Pond and Wight Heath. Brochure with map available at trailhead.
In Brooksville, cross the bridge over the reversing falls in the Bagaduce River and turn right off Route 176 onto Young’s Point Road. Take the right fork and park in the Maud and Eugene Snow Natural Area parking area. This 40 acre parcel with over 2,550 feet of shore front on the Bagaduce River provides a double looped trail with generous views of the Bagaduce River and the reversing falls. Signs of spring at Snow include horseshoe crabs mating in the estuary: look for them along the shore. Keep a look out for harbor seal mothers and their pups. Green Ledge, just west of the Snow property, is a major seal pupping ledge. Bald eagles abound on the Bagaduce, with a nesting site nearby. Even more common are ospreys; often the first sign of them is their high-pitched whistle. Brochure with map available at the trailhead.
Turn right onto Route 176 in Brooksville after crossing the Bagaduce Falls Bridge on Route 175/176. Drive about three miles to the intersection that is the center of West Brooksville. Take a sharp right-hand turn onto Ferry Road, and a mile on, take the right fork onto Jones Point Road. The Ferry Landing Natural Area parking post is on the left, marked with a TCT sign. Here you can pick up a brochure with a map. The site of a ferry crossing on the Bagaduce River which ran from the 1790s to 1919 as well as a salt water farm, Ferry Landing includes 23 acres of fields, an old apple orchard, woods with trails and 650 feet on the Bagaduce River. There is terrific canoe and kayak access from the shore with a nice beach for picnics as well as a panoramic view of the town of Castine across the river.
All these properties are either owned or maintained by the Conservation Trust of Brooksville, Castine, and Penobscot. For more information, contact TCT, P.O. Box 421, Castine, Maine 04421.