Sunkhaze Meadows: Bugspray, Boots, and Binoculars

Sunkhaze Meadows NWR is a 2014 Maine Natural Heritage Hike. For more information, visit my Natural Heritage Hikes page.

On Friday, I began the trip that I had been waiting for all summer: Aroostook County, northernmost in Maine.

On my way there, I stopped at Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Reserve just outside of Orono, where I found the wildlife right away. Or rather, it found me.

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As an ecologist, and as someone who lives in Maine, I’m embarrassed that failed to predict an abundance of mosquitoes in a windless boreal forest on a peninsula surrounded by standing water. Indeed, Sunkhaze gets the award for most mosquitoes I have ever seen in Maine (or in my life), beating the Grassy Pond Trail in Baxter State Bark by orders of magnitude. Truly a thing to behold.

And I’m pretty sure I’m the only person to have beheld it, as I saw not another sign of people for my entire 4+ hours on the Carter Meadow Road Loop Trail. But this trail was not without its spoils, as it also holds the record for most chanterelle mushrooms I have ever seen in one place! Easily hundreds, with one specimen that was at least five inches in diameter.

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A viewing platform at the top of the loop trail offers a breeze (thank god) and a lovely view of Sunkhaze Meadows’ enormous unpatterned fen ecosystem, breeding grounds for such rare birds as the Yellow Rail, the Sedge Wren, and the Least Bittern. Ebirders have logged hundreds of species there already this year! One highlight is known Bald Eagle nesting site – a cluster of white pines visible to the southwest.

Speaking of raptors, one of them (perhaps) left me this bizarre murder mystery in a spruce/fir forest beneath towering pines:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d love to pin this on a killer… thoughts?

In summary, I leave you with one piece of advice: bring boots, binos, and bugspray. Real. Bugspray. And gloves and a mosquito net. I’m not kidding, and neither are the mosquitoes.

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