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Our Projects > Studies and Information About York's Rivers, Maine > Wildlife Habitat & Species


Although a fair amount of habitat information has been collected by both state and federal agencies, much of this information is not published in a formal report particular to the York River watershed.  Some study has been at a broader scale, and may or may not include in-the-field study -- using instead satellite imagery or aerial photography to make informed guesses about actual habitat.  Other studies have been very specific to species, such as turtle surveys by the Maine Endangered Species Group.

To the extent that these data exist largely in computer databases, rather than a written report, it might be desirable to overlay the data, by combining it in one GIS database or by using printed maps and tracing paper.

Specific Studies

H1. Important Fish & Wildlife Habitats for Southern Maine. GIS CD - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 1998 release.

This computer database compiles U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service habitat analyses for southern coastal Maine, from Kittery to Cape Elizabeth. It identifies habitat for 43 species, all of which are federal "trust" species, and which are further distinguished by being rare or threatened at the federal or state level (or in neighboring states). The CD includes some ready-made maps of priority areas for southern Maine as a region. It also includes the raw data, so that you can create your own maps/searches.

This information is different than some other habitat information; habitat was identified not so much by field observations, as by remote sensing (computer modeling of satellite data) and by applying models to information about topography, soils, etc. Accordingly, the CD data should be field-checked when making management decisions at a parcel or local level!

The CD is useable on a home or office PC running Windows 95 or NT. The CD includes a copy of ArcExplorer -- a free, simplified version of the Graphic Information System (GIS) software.

Contact: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. Arnold Banner. 207-781-8364. A local resource for help using the CD is the Coastal Mosaics Project, 207-646-1555 x119.

Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (IF&W) also has a GIS database, concentrating on game species: deer wintering areas, waterfowl areas, some endangered species information, and plant information from the Natural Areas Program. The game species information is probably more complete than the non-game/endangered information.

There is also a question of updating: a1998 paper report included a swamp darter (Maine's only threatened fish) in Boulter Pond. However, the IF&W database did not include this information (as of late 1999). Also, the Swamp Darter is now officially classified as threatened, but was listed in the database as "proposed." This anecdote may provoke questions about how frequently updates make it into the database.

In the York River Watershed:
  • Maine Endangered Species: Blanding's Turtle, Eastern Box Turtle, Northern Black Racer.
  • Maine Threatened Species: Spotted Turtle, Harlequin Duck, Swamp Darter (fish).
  • Maine Species of Special Concern: Ribbon Snake, Wood Turtle.
Links: Contacts: Map was produced by Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Region A, Grey, Sandy Eldridge. 207-657-2345.  For Swamp Darter information, contact Jim Pellerin (same office and number).

H3. Aerial Bird Surveys. U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. 1998, 1999.

Through the end of 1999, U.S. Fish & Wildlife completed 4 aerial surveys over coastal refuges: Rachel Carson, Great Bay and Parker River. The survey is done like this: a small airplane flies over the refuge, and the biologist speaks into a tape recorder describing what birds are seen. The plane also has a GPS unit, so spatial data is recorded as well. The survey concentrated on waterfowl, and did not attempt to count wading shorebirds or other species.

The data is available on tape, but has not yet been put into a report or computer database.  Surveys were done in Fall 1998, Jan.1999, Mar. 1999, and Sept/Oct. 1999. The eventual plan is to do all months.

Contact: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Graham Taylor, 207-646-9226.

H4. Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  National Audubon Society, Volunteer Effort. 1969-ongoing.

The York County Audubon Society has been doing a volunteer bird count for the past 30 years.  This is part of the national Christmas bird count.  The volunteer count lists birds species seen in a 15-mile radius circle, within 2 weeks of Christmas.  The "code" for the York County circle is MEYC.

Much of this data is not more specific as to location than the 15 mile circle.  Circle-wide data since 1982 is available on-line, and links are provided below.   In the past few years, there is data for specific "sectors" of the circle; this is available in the paper reports.

Since this data is collected in the winter, it will have a bias for species that winter in the area.  A short list of those includes: bald eagles, buffleheads, red-breasted mergansers, black ducks, old squaws, red-throated and common loons.

Links:  National Audubon Society coordinates the count each year, and Bird Count data is available on-line through Cornell University (for York, data is available since 1981).  USGS has also developed a bird-count database, and includes an aggregate species list for the York County circle.

Contact:  Steve Pollock (a volunteer coordinator of the count)  207-780-5353, Pollock@usm.maine.edu

H5. Salt Marsh Birds.  Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. 1997-99.

The Partners in Flight Program of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) has conducted a study of salt marsh birds, including Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed sparrows, which uses salt marsh habitat almost exclusively.  These birds are not listed as endangered or threatened, but are considered a conservation priority in the northeast (according to the 1999 Wildlife Division Research & Management Report, 1999 (see below, H6)) .

The tidal freshwater wetlands at the upstream edge of the saltmarsh likely form habitat for rails and bitterns -- which are on the "special concerns" list.  However, IF&W has not done habitat surveys specifically for these species in the York River tidal fresh wetlands.  

Contact:  Tom Hodgman, IF&W Endangered Program, 207-941-4466.

H6.  Wildlife Division Research & Management Report, Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. 1999.

This summary report for the entire state includes sections species that are of particular relevance to York, both game and non-game: wild turkeys (being reintroduced), waterfowl, salt marsh birds including the sharp-tailed sparrow, Blanding's and spotted turtles, and the swamp darter fish.

Contact:  Mark Stadler, Director of Wildlife Division, Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.  207-287-8000.

H7.  Maine Damselfly and Dragonfly Survey, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Endangered Species Group.  1999-ongoing.

A volunteer-based survey of damselflies and dragonflies is being conducted by the Maine Endangered Species Group.  The first year of data was collected in 1999. Although the York River itself has not been found to support rare dragonflies, nearby boggy vernal pools have been found to support the ringed boghaunter. Dragonflies are likely to breed in faster-flowing, more highly oxygenated waters than the meandering freshwater portions of York River; a survey of the faster-flowing northern streams might yield different results.

The program already has over 100 volunteers, and may not have enough training slots left for more.  Volunteers who are dedicated to doing the survey could however contact Phillip deMaynadier to find out volunteer possibilities.  Since the volunteers are able to sample anywhere within the state, there is no guarantee that the York River areas will be covered, unless a few volunteers make it a priority area.

Contact:  Phillip deMaynadier, Endangered Species Group, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  207-941-4239.

H8.  Rookery Pond - Heron Data.  Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.  1996 and earlier.

Field data and reports on the Great Blue Heron rookery at Rookery Pond in Eliot.

H9.  Wildlife and Wetland Resources in Eliot, Maine.

H10.  Flora of York Pond, based on 3 field trips.  1989.


H11.  Intensive Biosurvey, Habitat Assessment.  Environmental Protection Agency.

This volunteer-based method for riparian habitat assessment has been developed nationally, and published by the Environmental Protection Agency.  It is a variation on a basic "stream walk" or "shoreline survey" that places special emphasis on habitat considerations, especially for the stream corridor and aquatic habitat.  It includes directions and a datasheet.

The entire document is available on-line, including survey forms; only the habitat chapters have been provided with the hard copy reports.

Links:  Look at Chapter 4 in particular, of the Volunteer Stream Monitoring Manual.

H12.  Locating and Documenting Vernal Pools.  Maine Audubon Society. 1999.

A guide to finding potential vernal pools, looking for indicator species (such as salamanders and fairy shrimp), and documenting the existence of the indicator species.  Vernal pools in the York River area provide habitat to threatened/endangered species; many of them in the Mount Agamenticus area have already been identified by the Natural Areas Program and Nature Conservancy.

Links:  Vernal pool study is frequently used by school groups; see the extensive curriculum developed by the Vernal Pool Association at Reading High School in Massachusetts.


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