This column was first June 17, 2006

Woah! Whaaat was that bright light in the sky we saw a couple of times this week?

I had a pleasant Monday evening paddle at Pushaw Lake. After work I headed out for a rendezvous with friends at Moose Island. Robert Causey and Karen Francoeur had launched earlier — Robert in the recently refitted and dog-friendly Old Town Scout (a.k.a. QEII), Francoeur in one of her many kayaks.

A rare calm and sunny evening proved rewarding. Before I’d cleared the cove at Gould Landing I was met head-on by an incoming beaver pushing a stick or reed. In my many outings here I’d never seen a beaver in this cove – loons and muskrats, but not a beaver. I chuckled as it lost tolerance and slipped beneath the surface.

Usually I see the industrious critter (or his cousin) about a mile away on the south side of Moose Island where it has a grandiose lodge. One evening we played hide-and-seek for about 10 minutes – me in my kayak, beaver in his natural state.

Soon after rounding Hemlock Point and pointing my bow to the east I could make out the bright, red spot that was the Scout near the beach on Moose Island about three-quarters of a mile away. And by squinting I could make out the hunter-orange life vest on one of Robert’s two canine charges. Behind the island an eagle was flying north.

The calm waters reflected lush greens of the island’s trees and the brilliant whites of towering cumulus clouds. As I neared the westernmost point of the island, a patch of white atop a tall, white pine at water’s edge caught my eye. Lowering my skeg so as to keep the kayak tracking toward the tree, I retrieved my camera from its waterproof box on deck and snapped a few shots of the eagle. Then, because I felt I’d drifted too close, I backed up so I wouldn’t disturb the beautiful adult – I think it was the one we have dubbed “Eddie,” but it’s anybody’s guess.

After backing away slowly and quietly I went for one more picture and that was all it took for my yellow-beaked friend to take wing. (We met again later as our trio of boats skirted another smaller island).

It never ceases to amaze me that on such a heavily developed lake I regularly see these eagles. They seem to thrive despite constant boat traffic. Perhaps the surrounding marshes and wetlands provide an ample diet of fish, waterfowl, rabbits, snakes, turtles and such. Whatever he’s eating, Eddie appears to be in great shape, and the youngster I saw flying behind Moose Island was pretty big, too.

And Pushaw’s loon population seems to be doing well, too. On recent evening paddles I heard numerous pairs vocalizing, and a colleague who lives near Luckey Landing told me it’s a nightly chorus. I hope the recent rise in water levels from all the rain hasn’t drowned out loon nests.

Ducks, geese and gulls are also in good supply from my observations. On my sunset visits I’m always seeing an incoming flight of honking geese. And on my way home past the shallows at the southern end I’m always serenaded by a rousing frog chorus accentuated by the bass croaking of the bullfrogs.

Student trail workers

The trails at Acadia National Park will get some restoration work thanks to student conservation crews, the National Park Foundation and Nature Valley Granola Bars.

According to a press release, the National Park Foundation and Nature Valley Granola Bars will be supporting high school students from across the country to work on trail restoration at Acadia National Park this summer.

The project is one of five taking place as part of the 2006 Save the Trails program of the National Park Foundation, which helps restore trails across the National Park System in partnership with the National Park Service and the Student Conservation Association.

“Acadia’s trails complement the park’s natural splendor and allow our visitors to experience the uniqueness of our park,” said Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia National Park. “We appreciate this collaborative support from the National Park Foundation, Nature Valley and SCA because it will allow us to rehabilitate several trails that might otherwise be forgotten or delayed to a later year. The program will also provide a wonderful learning experience for the students. They will be among the few visitors to Acadia to experience its three predominant and distinct management areas: Schoodic, Mount Desert Island and Isle au Haut,” the press release said.

Conservation crews will work to alleviate drainage problems and construct boardwalks over environmentally sensitive areas on the Sundew Trail on Schoodic Peninsula, replace trail makers on Parkman Mountain and Bald Peak Trails, and remove years of accumulated marine debris along three trails (Cliff, Goat, Western Head) on Isle au Haut.

The conservation crews, selected by SCA, consist of six high school interns and two young adult leaders. Funded by Nature Valley, the Save the Trails program is in its second year of a three-year commitment to the Foundation.

This summer Nature Valley and the National Park Foundation will fund SCA conservation crews in five National Parks including Death Valley National Monument, Grand Teton National Park, Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and Shenandoah National Park. Projects include intensive backcountry trail work as well as general maintenance on more populated front country and urban trails.

If you want to help in your own way, you can contribute to the cause by looking for specially marked packages of Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars and Sweet and Salty Nut Granola Bars. Within specially marked packages, each granola bar contains a code that when entered at www.naturevalley.com/nationaparks, Nature Valley will make an additional contribution to the Save the Trails program.

Recreational boat checks

A team of Qualified Vessel Examiners from Penobscot Bay Sail and Power Squadron will be at the Ellsworth Public Landing to give a free check of recreational vessels to ensure that all are in compliance with federal, state, and local requirements.

The examiners will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 25. A Vessel Safety Check is a courtesy examination of your boat to verify the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.

The Vessel Examiner is a trained specialist and member of the United States Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. They will also make recommendations and discuss safety issues that will help make you a safer boater. I’m told these free safety checks are open to all boaters, be they power boaters, sail boaters, canoeists, kayakers or operators of Personal Water Craft.

For more information or to sign up for a free, confidential Vessel Safety Check, call Kathleen or John Mastbeth at 359-8015. Appointments are recommended but not necessary.

Jeff Strout’s column is published each Saturdays.