Along the Natchez Trace

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Some of this... A little of that....

As usual we hit the ground running again this year.  We arrived Thursday afternoon and it didn't take long to get back into our routine.  This is our 8th summer to volunteer here at Aroostook NWR...  not consecutively, but off and on over the years.  When we started out volunteering we planned to go to a place only once.  There are just so many places to see and one never knows how long they will be able to travel.  I read somewhere that some people only go to a place once so that others have the opportunity to volunteer there.  Well, this place is fairly remote, and until just last year most of the needs have been demolishing old buildings and doing clean-up work.   Not many folks even inquired about volunteering here.

Young moose in the marsh....

There are a couple of local volunteers who keep the visitor center open 3 days a week and the Friends Group members work most of the events.  When I say "most"...  there are military reunions during the summer, and in the past, a fishing derby for kids in June.  Last year the Northern Maine Birding group had their annual festival here which brought a few hundred folks to the refuge.  That festival is being held here again this year on June 6.

Pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at feeder

Twice there have been other volunteers living here besides us.  There are 2 RV sites right next to the shop, one is home to a refuge owned camper where bio-techs or other personnel stay during their work here.  The other is available for volunteers with their own housing.

Spectrum of colors...  Goldfinch and Purple Finch at feeder....

There are a lot of things for a volunteer to consider when choosing to come here.  There aren't any poisonous snakes, but there are bugs....  mosquitoes, black flies, no see'ums, moose flies and the list goes on.  It seems that there's always at least one variety of insect that dominates the air every day.  They sting, bite and some even draw blood.  
It's 10 miles to the grocery store and even the USA Today isn't delivered until the next day.  The main industry is potato farming.  There are a couple of festivals during the summer and there will be a Fourth of July Parade in town.  It's a quiet life.

Tree Swallow....

They like the bar that holds the feeders to use as a roosting spot.
Bill put up 2 nesting boxes on the old maintenance shop (where we're parked) and both boxes have a lot of activity.

Another shot of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)

Whether working as a couple or being solo, each person is asked to work 32 hours a week.  Since the refuge is understaffed (a real understatement as there is only one employee), duties can vary.  My main jobs here are trail maintenance, mowing, and working the Visitor Center at least one day a week.  But working with invasive species, painting, and giving tours are a few of the "other duties as needed" things I do.  

Although I didn't get a view of his backside, there are lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers flitting around in the trees.

Bill is certified to operate all the different kinds of equipment that they have here.  He's at home on a backhoe or excavator or loading and driving a huge dump truck.  He's equally at home using a shovel or rake....  or even a push broom to sweep out the shop.
We have never felt like we are keeping someone else from volunteering here.  Believe me, if you're willing to work, there is work to be done.  Some of the work is kind of tedious...  like pulling knapweed, an invasive species.  But there is plenty of time to pursue one's own interests.  

I finally saw some Red-breasted merganzers!

My own interests are birding, wildlife and photography.  What better opportunity would I have?  I keep a camera and my binoculars with me all the time - at the end of the summer, when it's time for us to head south, I leave a CD with my photos with the refuge manager for their use.

Momma Bear and her Twin Cubs....

It's raining this morning...  and the electricity went off around 4:30 am, (our WiFi and my laptop are on battery right now)....  It's cold and dreary, but you can believe I'll find something useful to do as soon as I post this.

That's All For Today!


  1. Oh my, I LOVE this post. You saw many and varied birds and animals. Love those bear cubs (from a distance). LOL

  2. Gotta love all your bird pics, thanks for sharing.

  3. Nice description of your life there. I'm really enjoying my first FWS stint without any nasty bugs (so far).

  4. I save your posts until I am home from work, so I can take time to savor every photo. How purple that purple finch is! Mine our more subdued. Can't hold back a goldfinch, however. That's their color.

  5. Love your photos. We had a rose-breasted grosbeak here the other day -- first one I'd seen in ages. Today what I'm seeing the most are the hummingbirds battling for spots at the feeders.