This is the second largest saltmarsh complex in the state. It has been designated by the Maine Natural Areas Program as an ?exemplary natural community? and supports a large array of rare plants and animals. The marsh system has numerous tidal creeks, pools, and pannes and a mixture of high and low marsh habitats. The marsh system is extensive, and is crossed by several roads.

Ornithological Summary

A complete assessment of the birds using the saltmarsh is exceedingly difficult. The topography of the marsh, specifically its deep tidal creeks, ensures that counts from the road underestimate a large number of birds. Tidal cycles also influence survey counts. However, there are several areas where a great diversity of avian life can be viewed. The marsh has large numbers of sharp-tailed sparrows, egrets, herons, Willets, and shorebirds. It also supports a colony of marsh-nesting Common Terns. Wintering Black Ducks and Canada Geese use the marshes extensively and Northern Harriers are common during migration. Rarities (recently American Avocets) are frequently reported here.

Conservation Issues

Over 500 units of seasonal housing were built on U.S. Route 1 in Wells in 2005 alone. These large developments and increasing impervious surface will likely increase the freshwater and pollutant discharge to the marsh. An increase in commercial kayaking tours has brought people into areas of the marsh that were largely inaccessible before. Sea level rise and tidal restrictions also threaten the health of the marsh. Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows sampled from this area had elevated blood mercury levels. Some areas of the marsh have human alterations (roads, ditches, berms, etc.) that have changed the hydrology. Both native genotype and non-native genotype Phragmites are documented in the system. The non-native Phragmites may threaten the health of the ecosystem. Resident Canada Geese appear to be increasing and could degrade the quality of habitat if numbers become excessive. An updated comprehensive bird survey of this area is needed.

Ownership

Much of the saltmarsh habitat is owned and managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge). Ownership of the surrounding uplands is a mixture of mostly private, but some federal properties. Refuge lands are generally closed to public entry to protect wildlife from undue disturbance. There are many roads that cross this area and birding from the side of the road can be quite good. Please consult the Refuge Manager for current regulations at (207) 646-9226 or stop by the refuge headquarters and visitor center at 321 Port Road in Wells.

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