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Habitat Winter 2021/22

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HABITAT Winter 2021 22 Where do Maine birds go in the winter INSIDE News and Notes Snowbirds Following our Winged Friends in Winter Featured Events Naturalist s HQ 1

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and NEWS NOTES Conservation The Latest on Offshore Wind in the Gulf of Maine Every Beach Matters 2021 was yet another record breaking year for Piping Plovers in Maine An incredible 125 pairs nested on Maine beaches and fledged 213 chicks both numbers easily surpassing 2020 s record 98 pairs fledging 199 chicks The productivity of 1 7 chicks fledged per pair surpasses recovery goals These incredible numbers are thanks to the hard work of countless biologists landowners volunteers town employees and beach goers The development of floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine is poised to play a critical role in increasing Maine s clean energy supply and combating climate change Maine Audubon supports the development of offshore wind and is committed to ensuring that impacts to wildlife are properly studied monitored and avoided Maine Audubon staff are in regular contact with coalitions including local state and federal partners the fishing industry wildlife partners renewable energy companies and others to ensure that offshore wind proceeds in the safest possible manner At present there are two offshore wind projects progressing in the Gulf of Maine The Gulf of Maine Floating Offshore Wind Research Array is a planned turbine test site in federal waters nearly 30 miles off the coast The state of Maine has submitted an application to lease a 15 square mile area where 12 or fewer turbines would be deployed This comes after spending more than a year working collaboratively with stakeholders including Maine Audubon to identify an area that minimized conflicts with existing ocean resources Once a lease is secured the state believes it would take at the earliest five years for turbines to be operational New England Aqua Ventus I is a demonstration project featuring a single floating turbine in state waters several miles off the coast of Monhegan Island that will feature technology designed by and developed in partnership with the University of Maine This project is 2 Photo courtesy of University of Maine Advocacy A prototype scale model designed deployed and tested by UMaine in 2013 off the coast of Castine moving forward with regulatory review at the local state and federal levels The University of Maine is a worldwide leader in floating offshore wind aiming to be deployed in 2024 the turbine will be the first commercial scale floating offshore wind turbine in the nation There are many steps to take before floating offshore wind can become a significant source of clean energy in the Gulf of Maine and Maine Audubon is committed to advocating on behalf of wildlife at every step along the way Staff biologist Sarah Haggerty sits on the Environment and Wildlife Working Group to advise the creation of the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap an effort led by the Governor s Energy Office to support the growing offshore wind sector while ensuring compatibility with our Maine coastal heritage and minimizing the impacts on fisheries and the environment We plan to use our growing expertise in this area to educate the public about the issues and opportunities for floating offshore wind Our northern beaches in Phippsburg and Georgetown were exceptionally successful with the 29 pairs on these beaches fledging 67 chicks to flying The resulting 2 31 productivity is well beyond our recovery goal of 1 5 chicks fledged per pair On the other hand some beaches fared poorly At the Saco Bay beaches the average productivity was a grim 786 chicks fledged per pair It all goes to show that any site can be a plover factory or it can fail completely Beaches can be hit hard by predators storms or other issues at any time making it essential that we properly manage and monitor as many potential plover beaches as we can Giving Towns the Tools They Need Maine Audubon released its innovative Renewable Energy Siting Tool in September The Tool is a GIS map that allows municipalities developers landowners and other users to view natural resources renewable energy potential and other layers in Maine towns to help identify low conflict areas best suited for renewable energy development The Tool was well received by the media and by the Maine Municipal Association which hosted an informational webinar for Maine towns to introduce the Tool in October Explore the Renewable Energy Siting Tool for yourself at maineaudubon org renewable energy siting Volunteers We couldn t do this without you How volunteers contributed to our conservation efforts this past summer 1 350 VOLUNTEERS counted loons on 160 VOLUNTEERS 50 VOLUNTEERS 300 LAKES helped us monitor for nesting Piping Plovers on BEACHES 30 A total of 6 helped sample aquatic insects in STREAMS 34 VOLUNTEERS 8 listened to bird songs from different sites in FORESTS 4 6 000 HOURS of volunteer time a value of approximately 153 000 3

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and NEWS NOTES Sanctuaries Education Partnering with State Department of Education on Climate Education Throughout the pandemic and continuing this fall Maine Audubon educators have worked with teams of educators and experts across the state to develop new curricula and resources The Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education or MOOSE is an online library of standards based learning modules intended to provide teachers and students access to high quality asynchronous learning The Maine Department of Education has taken the lead from the Governor s ambitious innovation and climate agendas and climate education and STEM have been central to our contributions to ADVERTISEMENT 4 MOOSE Educator Linda Woodard worked on a Climate Change module which leads students through questions like What is climate change and How does climate change affect Maine and the world as well as a module called Water and My World which leads students to explore their relationship with water at the individual community and world levels Learn more at maine gov doe moose Cooperative Extension Collaboration Our partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension has deepened greatly over the past year through two collaborations The Maine Master Gardener Volunteer MGV training aims to educate and engage horticulture volunteers to serve the community in educational and food security efforts Prompted by COVID 19 the long standing training now has an online format and Maine Audubon Education Director Eric Topper and Staff Naturalist Doug Hitchcox have been instrumental in helping to develop content focused on native plants and ecology Eric and Doug s contributions to the MGV training curriculum have empowered volunteers to realize the important role they play in the local ecosystem and how they can become stewards in their own community says Pamela Hargest UMaine Extension Horticulture Professional Additionally in a new partnership with the UMaine Extension s Maine Home Garden Newsletter Doug profiles a backyard bird of the month UMaine Extension Horticulturist Kate Garland reports Doug s articles have been a big hit with our readers and help build awareness of the link between our landscapes and the treasured birds we so appreciate FMI extension umaine edu gardening Autumn Equinox at the Audubon The smiles on attendees faces said it all This year marked the fourth Autumn Equinox at Photo David Stultz Structure Media the Audubon a community fundraising event created and hosted by Portside Real East Group on behalf of Maine Audubon Ushering in the fall season in September more than 400 people gathered at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth to hear live music have delicious food from a host of food trucks and craft beers from local breweries play games take part in a silent auction and visit with friends and colleagues The event Portside s biggest fundraiser to date raised more than 22 000 for Maine Audubon s programs including increased efforts to reach a broad diverse and traditionally underserved population through environmental education efforts and activities Tremendous thanks to all involved including the many sponsors vendors organizers musicians educators and participants 2021 Plant Sale BY THE NUMBERS Maine Native Plants Sold 5488 More than 520 customers placed 840 orders Buyers from Maine as well as 12 other states Total Sales 80 000 Top selling plants Swamp Milkweed 270 New England Aster 186 Black eyed Susan 180 See you in the spring Building a New Outdoor Classroom at Fields Pond Last spring Maine Audubon approached the construction engineering technology CET program at the University of Maine at Orono about designing and constructing a new outdoor pavilion at Fields Pond Audubon Center Our beloved fabric shelter had served us well for decades and COVID has taught us all about how important sheltered outdoor spaces can be for communities needing space to convene learn or celebrate We made our pitch amongst several other deserving construction projects the students agreed to take on the project and the class is now working to erect the shelter over this school year The CET program is a blend of civil engineering technology and construction business management The program gives students a practice oriented education that leads to careers in the construction industry We re very happy to have the UMaine students at Fields Pond and look forward to having a new outdoor classroom space available by next summer 5

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Following our winged friends in winter A flock of 116 Piping Plovers and other shorebirds fly over the ocean in the Berry Islands Bahamas Photo by Camilla Cerea Audubon Audubon 66 Common Green Darner Bobolink Piping Plover Common Loon Saltmarsh Sparrow Eastern Red Bat Wood Duck My mom is a snowbird Every year she heads south to Arizona for a few months in the winter to escape the snowy icy northern clime She enjoys the long warm sunny days the plentiful fresh local fruits and vegetables and the ease with which she can walk swim and garden If you live in Maine you probably know some snowbirds too But did you know snowbird was originally a nickname for the Dark eyed Junco and in the 1920s was used to describe seasonal workers who moved from the north to the south for the winter months while Dictionary com defines snowbird as any of various birds that winter in a cold snowy climate especially the Dark eyed Junco and the Snow Bunting Just like human snowbirds many of our birds head south for the winter They breed here in Maine or pass through Maine on their Map illustration Ethan Roos SNOWBIRDS By Sally Stockwell Blackpoll Warbler way to breed even farther north then head to warmer climes for many of the same reasons it takes less energy to stay warm the days are longer and there is ample food of all kinds Even some bats and insects migrate south for the winter such as the Eastern Red Bat Monarch Butterfly and darner dragonflies yes dragonflies who knew Then there are the true snowbirds that visit us each winter coming south from the Canadian taiga and tundra Let s take a closer look at a few of these winged critters and follow them on their amazing journeys Where do they go What do they do when they re gone Come with me on an armchair travelogue from the warm confines of your winter home Let s start at the northern tip of Maine and work our way south 7

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In the winter they can be found in forest edges and second growth forests below 10 000 feet and during migration they stop in mature evergreen and deciduous forests Habitat loss is shrinking their wintering grounds and Eastern Red Bat logging and other extractive industries plus climate change threaten their boreal breeding grounds That s why Maine Audubon is working with forest landowners foresters and loggers to improve breeding habitat for Blackpolls and other forest birds of conservation concern through our Forestry for Maine Birds program Five of Maine s bats hibernate in large groups in caves However tree bats or those that roost hanging underneath leaves and nest singly or in small groups in tree cavities or under the bark of trees do not hibernate in caves for the winter but migrate to southern parts of the U S and then hibernate hiding in hollow trees or under leaf litter There are three tree bats in Maine Hoary Bat Silver haired Bat and Eastern Red Bat Eastern Red Bats mate during the fall migration and females give birth the following spring Little is known of their actual migratory pathway or final wintering range 8 Blackpoll Warbler Photo Dave Yates Photo USFWS Northeast Region FORESTS Most Blackpolls migrate south to the coast of Maine or Maritimes before jumping off and flying nonstop more than 1800 miles to overwinter in either the Caribbean or northern South America east of the Andes The trip takes them about 88 hours so they need to double their weight before heading south Imagine all the energy needed to make that flight STREAMS WETLANDS Blackpoll Warblers breed in wet black spruce and tamarack forests that stretch from northern Maine across Canada and up to Alaska I first met Blackpoll Warblers when I was conducting breeding bird surveys in peatlands of Maine They liked the black spruce forests with wet feet that formed a ring around bogs and I loved listening to their wispy song and trying to find them grazing on insects on the spindly branches of the trees Their coloring matches the trunks of the stunted spruce so they are very hard to find Forests cover more than 95 of the state but tucked among those forests are many streams wetlands ponds and lakes so let s take a look at some of the migratory species that breed in those habitats What could be more thrilling than to see a Wood Duck swimming and flying along the course of a river These birds favor streams swamps marshes beaver ponds and floodplain forests with ample vegetation along the shore for finding food and hiding from predators and adjacent to upland forests for nesting Contrary to popular notions they do not nest only in Wood Duck boxes but in natural cavities in larger older trees sometimes more than a mile away from water Wood Ducks in Maine and Canada migrate to the southern U S or Mexico for the winter but in other parts of the U S where the water doesn t freeze they can be found year round Moving to saltwater one of the hidden gems that makes its home in salt marshes along Maine s coast is the Saltmarsh Sparrow a cryptic bird that nests in the high marsh grass and is accustomed to being occasionally flooded by high tides When that happens the young climb up on the tall grasses around their nest and take refuge until the tide subsides Lately with sea level rise that trick doesn t always work so Maine Audubon is working with biologists who are experimenting with building floating nest platforms Saltmarsh Sparrows migrate south along the Atlantic coast stopping in salt marshes along the way with some wintering in Florida or the Gulf Coast By now most everyone has heard about the amazing migratory journeys of the Monarch Butterfly but did you know that some dragonflies also have a multi generational migratory lifestyle A recent study documented the Common Green Darner migration which involves at least three generations that travel 400 miles from their southern to northern ranges and back each year The young spend most of their time in the water as dragonfly nymphs and only a short time flying around as adults when we are most likely to see them Saltmarsh Sparrow rner reen Da nG Commo u sh Fectea Photo Jo m o c u ea ct joshfe 99

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Bobolink Grasslands and beaches though they are not extensive in Maine are of particular interest to us Most of our grassland birds have shown dramatic declines in recent decades and the only shorebird that nests on our beaches is endangered Helping these species during breeding and migration is an important conservation goal for Maine Audubon and many other organizations Like other grassland birds those that used to nest in the tallgrass and mixed grass prairies of the central and western U S and Canada Bobolinks now nest in large fields meadows and hayfields across the northern U S including in Maine They have a bubbly song that rises with them above the field grass and they feed on seeds insects and spiders After breeding they move to marshes to molt before flying in groups across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico making a long stopover in Venezuela then settling in south of the equator in Bolivia Paraguay and Argentina for the winter an annual round trip of more than 12 000 miles 10 Common Loon Many shorebirds such as the Semipalmated Sandpiper migrate through Maine on their way to nesting areas in the Arctic and wintering areas in the Caribbean and Central Dark eyed Junco and South America but there s only one that nests on the beaches of southern Maine the Piping Plover Piping Plovers make a scrape in the sand for a nest typically lay four eggs and usher their chicks around the beach searching for insects and other invertebrates in the seaweed rack and mudflats In late summer they depart But to where We are still learning more every year about Piping Plover migration and wintering habitat Many of them winter on remote sandy cays that are expansive and difficult to access In 2012 about ten percent of all the Atlantic Coast population of plovers was observed at Joulter Cays in the Bahamas a new discovery Now through an intensive collaborative conservation effort the area is on its way to becoming a National Park partially due to these recent discoveries Nesting Maine plovers have also been found wintering in South Carolina and Georgia Piping Plover Online Extra For an expanded version of this article with more species visit maineaudubon org snowbirds Photo Doug Hitchcox BEACHES True GRASSLANDS Photo USFWS Northeast Region LAKES When most Mainers think of loons they think of haunting wails and young chicks riding on parents backs on our freshwater lakes and ponds during the warmer breeding months But did you know that these same loons normally winter in ocean waters off the Atlantic coast They actually spend more of their life on the ocean than on freshwater In the frosty months you ll often find Common Loons socializing in groups and eating seafood meals including crabs flounder and herring Because our lakes freeze Common Loons normally migrate in late fall to salty waters including coastal bays and coves sometimes even frequenting areas up to 60 miles offshore in New England s coastal waters Some of Maine s breeding loons do travel farther south however to wintering sites in New Jersey Maryland and beyond Wherever they travel most will return to the same four to eight square miles of ocean every winter Snow Bunting SNOWBIRDSS The true snowbirds birds that move south into Maine from northern Canada to spend their winter with us are some of my favorite birds as they love northern winters as much as I do Snow Buntings Snowy Owls and more visit us each winter from the Canadian taiga and tundra I ve seen Snow Buntings whizzing by in the wind on the top of Katahdin and foraging in the snowy hayfields near my home in southern Maine and I always stop to marvel at their small size but tough nature They remind me of the many wonders and challenges of traveling in the high Canadian Arctic where they breed making a nest in rock crevices lined with moss grass fur and feathers to keep the young warm They feed on grass and flower seeds insects and spiders Other snowbirds include Lapland Longspurs Dark eyed Juncos Common Redpolls and Bohemian Waxwings Often these birds travel in flocks searching for food and avoiding predators by sticking together These are the birds you should be looking for this winter at your feeder or when you are out walking skiing or snowshoeing They will keep you company bundled up against the cold ready to embrace all of winter s glory Sally Stockwell is Director of Conservation at Maine Audubon 11

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Info and Registration maineaudubon org events Featured Events Registration is required for all programs unless otherwise stated In person events are subject to change based on current pandemic considerations Falmouth Gilsland Farm Audubon Center Double Discount Days at the Nature Store December 4 5 10 am 4 pm Drawing Nature February 12 February 26 March 12 March 26 Four individual field journal nature sketching classes with Michael Boardman In person program Winter Wildlife Mingle with the Center for Wildlife Thursday February 17 7 pm Maine Audubon members receive 20 off No registration required A 21 live wildlife in person program with beverages provided Marsh Ecology with Field Naturalist Madeleine Ferguson Tuesday December 7 6 7 pm An in person indoor program Winter Carnival Saturday February 19 10 am 2 pm Beginner Bird Walks January 8 February 12 9 11 am Greater Portland area Our annual outdoor celebration of winter weather and wildlife Event is made possible by L L Bean No pre registration required Read Ramble Wednesdays January 12 February 23 10 10 30 am or 11 11 30 am Grades 1 5 February Vacation Winter Explorations February 22 25 10 11 30 am Outdoor storytime for children ages 2 5 Explorations focused on winter wildlife with a new theme each day All children must be accompanied by an adult Holden Fields Pond Audubon Center Double Discount Day at the Nature Store Saturday December 11 10 am 4 pm in Maine 12 Online via Zoom Winter Fun Day Saturday February 5 11 am 2 pm Maine Audubon members will receive 20 off all day No registration required No registration required Winter Walk Wildlife Adaptations Saturday December 11 10 am 12 pm Who Goes There Outdoor Tracking Walk Saturday February 12 9 11 am Night Tree Story Walk December 1 January 3 Moonlight Snowshoe Hike Friday February 18 6 30 pm No registration required Read Ramble Wednesdays January 12 February 23 10 10 30 am or 11 11 30 am Outdoor storytime for children ages 2 5 Winterland Create a Beautiful Garden for Every Season Wednesday January 12 7 pm Cathy Rees cofounder of Native Gardens of Blue Hill in Maine will describe how to craft a rich and compelling all season garden Online via Zoom Moonlight Snowshoe Hike Monday January 17 6 pm Grades 1 5 February Vacation Winter Explorations February 22 25 10 11 30 am Explorations focused on winter wildlife with a new theme each day All children must be accompanied by an adult In January check our website for updates on full day school vacation camps Around the State Chapters Merrymeeting merrymeeting maineaudubon org Field Trip Waterfowl Walk Saturday December 4 8 30 11 30 am Location Giant Stairs Bailey Island Mid Coast midcoast maineaudubon org In January check our website for updates on full day school vacation camps Bringing Nature Home Motus in Maine Research and Education Thursday January 27 7 pm The Real James Bond Thursday December 16 7 pm Online via Zoom Flora for Fauna with botanist and in person Maine Guide Arthur Haines Thursday January 20 7 pm Gilsland Farm In person lecture Winter Pruning Workshop with Wild Seed Project Saturday January 22 1 pm February 26 1 pm Gilsland Farm In person outdoor program Winter Seed Sowing Workshops Winter Seed Sowing Workshops Wednesday December 15 Saturday January 15 9 11 30 am Gilsland Farm In person program Saturday December 18 Thursday January 13 10 am 12 30 pm Fields Pond In person program Penobscot Valley pvc maineaudubon org Wild Turkey Ecology Friday February 4 7 pm Online via Zoom 13

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The Naturalist s Naturalist HQ Winter Almanac Doug Hitchcox Staff Naturalist DECEMBER 6 As winter comes the dominant plant in the salt marsh The Times They are a Changin As a birder it is hard for me to think of winter and not think about the Christmas Bird Counts CBC This long running effort to count all the birds within a predetermined area each year on a single day gives us an amazing set of data to use when looking for changes in the populations of our birds The 2020 21 CBCs gave us some remarkable new data points One major trend is the northward march of species in response to climate change and Maine is geographically positioned to be on the front lines There are a number of species whose ranges barely reached New England a few decades ago that are now becoming abundant in the state Look back a few centuries and that number is even higher Carolina Wrens are one of my favorite species to track Looking at a fourth edition Peterson Field Guide to Birds which came out in 1980 and advertises its new 390 color maps that now show up todate summer and winter ranges these wrens are shown as year round residents extending north into eastern Massachusetts They would occasionally make it to Maine and even be seen during CBCs but it wasn t until the mid 90s that they really became regulars 14 The trusty Peterson guide includes an excerpt that nicely summarizes the Carolina Wren s movement into Maine Fluctuating in north cut back by severe winters We saw a steady increase especially along southern and coastal sections with reports of record highs with more than 50 in the early 2010s Then record setting low temperatures in the winter of 2014 15 cut them back Carolina Wren numbers dropped Carolina Wren Photo Charles Warren to the 10s and 20s for the next few years until warmer winters allowed them to continue their northward march And boy have they marched Last winter 108 wrens were counted in Maine nearly doubling the previous high Skeptics I m using actual numbers of individuals because that is easier for us to understand but this is not biased by the number of observers yes there are more people birding or their effort we can normalize these numbers by looking at birds per party hour and trust me the trend is still there Eastern Bluebirds are another favorite Their winter range from that 1980s guide nearly matches the aforementioned wren but the bluebird s shift northward has been even more dramatic From single digit counts in the 90s the number of individual bluebirds in Maine on Smooth Cordgrass Spartina alterniflora goes dormant waiting until spring to grow again 10 Mammal activity should still be high While tempera tures remain manageable animals continue to forage to prepare for the possibility of a long and cold winter Eastern Bluebird CBCs cracked 100 by 2012 climbed into the 400s just a few years later and took a remarkable jump last year with 903 Eastern Bluebirds counted And yes using birds per party hour shows a nearly identical exponential increase over this period Many of these changes are being documented thanks to the power of large numbers of observers reporting what they are seeing over broad areas over long time frames These surveys have value because of their longevity So as we head into the winter season I hope you see value in contributing sightings to efforts like the Christmas Bird Counts maineaudubon org birding or the Maine Bird Atlas maine gov birdatlas 18 Witness the last Full Moon of 2021 Native American tribes often referred to this winter lunar cycle as the Cold Moon because at this time of year cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark JANUARY 3 Best viewing of the annual Quadrantids Meteor Show er will be at a dark location sometime after midnight between January 1 and January 5 7 Wood Frogs are known to produce a natural antifreeze yet they also become frozen solid an adaptation that allows them to survive cold weather 22 Local year round birds should be apparent at this time Expect visits at your feeders from Northern Cardinals White breasted Nuthatches Black capped Chickadees and goldfinches to name a few FEBRUARY 14 Red foxes will celebrate Valentine s Day with the begin ning of their courtship period At this time mates pair up so it is not unusual to see two sets of fox tracks together 24 Waterfowl and wading birds in particular haunt the winter salt marsh foraging and grazing searching for any invertebrate prey that may be hibernating 28 Stirrings of Groundhogs and early arriving American Woodcock are expected by the end of the month 15

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Give the gift of a Maine Audubon membership maineaudubon org gift Shop at our Nature Stores A Maine Audubon membership is the perfect gift for friends family coworkers or anyone who loves nature and wildlife See website for 2021 gift giving deadlines We re more than just bird feeders seed and suet Holiday gift items include sustainable home goods products by local artists and crafts people Gilsland Farm honey bird friendly coffee toys and more naturestore maineaudubon org Make a year end donation We appreciate and use every gift we receive to help conserve Maine s wildlife and habitat by engaging people in education conservation and action maineaudubon org donate Penmor Indicia 20 Gilsland Farm Road Falmouth ME 04105 Celebrate the season with wildlife and habitat in mind PCW or FSC logo Maine Audubon for the Holidays Habitat Volume 37 Issue 4 The journal of Maine Audubon ISSN 0739 2052 is published quarterly habitat maineaudubon org Visit Maine Audubon s Centers and Sanctuaries which are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk Borestone Elliotsville Magazine Staff Melissa Kim Editor Nick Lund Assistant Editor Jenn Schmitt Events Editor Brandi Sladek Designer Layout Editor Staff Directors Andy Beahm Executive Director Peter Baecher Properties Eliza Donoghue Advocacy Melissa Kim Communications Kate Lewis Development Erin MacGregor Forbes Finance Sally Stockwell Conservation Eric Topper Education Officers Board of Trustees David Littell Chair John R Dolloff Vice Chair Alyssa Hemingway Treasurer Sean Trahan Secretary Fields Pond Holden Josephine Newman Georgetown Maine Audubon Headquarters 20 Gilsland Farm Road Falmouth ME 04105 207 781 2330 maineaudubon org 16 Hamilton West Bath Mast Landing Freeport Gilsland Farm Falmouth Scarborough Marsh Scarborough East Point Biddeford Pool Cover photo Piping Plover Joulter Cays Bahamas Photo by Camilla Cerea Audubon Audubon

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