There are more chances for success while wildlife and bird watching if you are well prepared. It can be as simple as grabbing a pair of binoculars and heading out to the woods. For the die-hard wildlife watchers, connect with a Registered Maine Guide who knows the terrain, the habitat, and the habits of the local critters.
spotting a moose
An excellent time to spot moose is at dawn and dusk from mid-May through July. This is when they come down from higher elevations to feed on tender shoots. Because Moose are browsers rather than grazers, they obtain most of their food from aquatic and marsh plants such as horsetails and pondweed. Moose also eat grass, lichen, plants growing on the forest floor, peeled-off bark, and leaves.
But, there is nothing quite like spotting a bull moose with a fully formed rack. Thus, because their antlers have grown in by September, the prime time to spot a full rack is during the fall breeding season. It is a real treat because, not much later in the season, they will shed their antlers. Hikers lucky enough to find deer or moose antlers (called sheds) should consider this a rare find.
Because of their massive size, moose find it easier to move about in open areas, making it fairly easy to spot one, if you are in the right place at the right time. They can often be seen licking up salt along logging roads, diving for dinner in wet boggy areas, hanging out in gravel pits, and clip-clopping down trails or occasionally through town.
Those looking for moose will have better luck in the more rural parts of the region. As a rule of thumb, the further north you go, the better. The area around Jackman is prime moose spotting country, including anywhere along Route 201 from The Forks to the Canadian Border and on Route 15 to Rockwood.
A word of caution
It goes without saying that you should have your camera ready. If you are in your car, stay in the car. Give them all the room they need. If you have never seen one of these large members of the deer family up close, you cannot imagine how big an animal it is. Mature bulls can weigh over 1,000 pounds and are about 7 feet tall at the shoulders. If you see that flashing moose sign on the highway, stay alert! And remember, a moose is a wild animal that deserves our respect.
Spotting other animals
With thousands of acres of forested land, Maine’s Kennebec Valley is home to dozens of species of animals ranging from white-tailed deer to black bear, Canada lynx, bobcat, and fox. Our lakes and ponds boast numerous amphibian species such as the American Bullfrog, Snapping turtle, and Spotted Salamander. All this makes the region ideal for more than just simple wildlife and bird watching.
Birding in the Kennebec Valley
The region has long been a haven for birds and birders as well. With 275 identified species, our waterways, bogs, farmland, and forested mountains make for excellent bird watching.
Augusta’s Viles Arboretum is a treasure, with 165 documented species. Other popular in-town locations include the waterfront in Gardiner, the Kennebec River Rail Trail, and the Hallowell waterfront. Around Waterville, check out Fort Halifax Park in Winslow and the campus of Colby College. Just north of Fairfield, the Shawmut Dam is a birding hot spot. As is the entire area of Belgrade, from the hills in the north to the bog and stream at Messalonskee Lake’s southern end. Further north, be sure to visit the Appalachian Trail’s intersection with the south end of Flagstaff Lake.
Visitors familiar with the wail of the Common Loon from across a lake will tell you there is nothing quite like it. Loons are beloved and protected here in Maine’s Kennebec Valley. Awkward on land, they come ashore only for mating and nesting. The female usually lays two eggs in May or June, and both parents incubate them for about four weeks until they hatch. Take care to never disturb a nesting pair.