Monday, June 17, 2019

Fish Wrangling - I’m Not Kidding

Our little fry have grown enough to be transferred to the large outdoor tanks.  A lot of math is involved determining how many fish it takes to make a pound.

A certain weight of fish is taken from each of the 52 indoor tanks and transferred to either a 20’ or 30’ tank outside.  The large 30’ tanks receive 40,000 fish!

Our job was to help wrangle all the little fish with our little nets and get them into a bucket for weighing.

Two buckets on the scale.

When the tanks start getting low on fish, they get harder and harder to catch.

Round ‘em up!

At one point we had 6 people working on each tank!

Can you guess how many fish in a bucket?

The small buckets are transferred to the large tub to be transferred to the outside tanks.

Move ‘em out!

They will get used to all the extra space soon and will spread out.

Black areas are Atlantic Salmon.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dead Space

Last year we helped clean out an old wood pellet storage room. If you've seen a wood pellet stove for home use, you know that the pellets are sold in 50 pound bags that are easy to handle. But for an operation the size of a fish hatchery, things were done on a much larger scale!

Wood pellets were used for heating the hatchery building back during the energy crisis of the 1970's. They were delivered by a tanker truck and transferred into a large steel silo outside of the hatchery.  From that silo they were fed by auger into this large inside storage room.  From the storage room they were fed into the hatchery boiler system to heat the buildings and the water used in the hatchery. 

Pellet fuel hasn’t been used at the hatchery for many years but the large storage room was still full of old pellets. The only way to get them out was to break open a cinder block wall and use a tractor to scoop out the old pellets. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the thousands of pounds of pellets still in the room.

I helped vacuum and sweep the remaining pellets from the floor and the dust that clung to the walls.

Mark and the head of maintenance (Craig) took turns using a gasoline powered concrete saw to finish taking out the front wall.

The concrete saw is lying in the bottom of the lift.

The person using the saw would be lifted up then slowly lowered as the saw cut down the wall.

A sledge hammer came in handy!

After the wall was cut out we spent a lot of time cleaning out all the concrete blocks, dust, and debris.

When we came back this year it was nice to see all our hard work being put to good use.  It's a great area to keep all the mowing equipment in one place.

Look how nice and straight that side wall is!

The old pellet area is now being used to store mowers, snow blowers, and other equipment that always seemed to be in the way out in the main shop. It is great to see this previously "dead" space back in use.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Holbrook Island Sanctuary

Although we spent 4 1/2 months here last year, we are finding new places to visit this summer. We learned about a nearby state park called the Holbrook Island Sanctuary and decided to give it a look.

In 1971 Anita Harris, a long-time area resident, donated 1,230 acres to the State of Maine in order "to preserve for the future a piece of the unspoiled Maine that I used to know." In keeping with her vision the Sanctuary will not be altered with modern park facilities and is essentially a network of old roads, paths, and trails.

Penobscot Bay

The park includes shoreline on Penobscot Bay and Smith Cove which eventually open into the Atlantic Ocean.  The tides here are significant, running about ten feet from high tide to low twice each day.

This dock gives an idea of how much the tides change the water level. They hadn't installed it yet this year, but a hinged ramp is attached to a floating platform that allows access to the water as it rises and falls. 

There are a number of trails in the park, and we hiked two of them. Along the way the spring migrants were singing and trying to attract mates. 

Yellow Warbler

This Yellow Warbler male was looking mighty fine with his red pinstripes. 

Magnolia Warbler

A Magnolia Warbler was singing his best song in the hopes of attracting a mate. 

Red-eyed Vireos are not as colorful as Warblers, but their incessant "Here I am...Where are you..." song was everywhere in the forest.

Red-eyed Vireo

Maine forests are cool, and green, and covered with moss. Unfortunately there are also plenty of Black Flies this time of year, but we've got some pretty good insect repellent and haven't been bothered too badly. 

As we left the park we saw that the lobster fishermen were preparing for another season. This place had hundreds of lobster pots stacked up and ready to go. 

Our final bird of the trip was an adult Bald Eagle flying over the road. What a nice way to end a day of exploration.

Bald Eagle

Monday, June 3, 2019

Hiking Trails at the Hatchery

One of our jobs last year was to blow the leaves and debris from the 2 1/2 mile hiking trail.  It was very late in the summer before we got to them.  The trail hadn’t been cleared in over five years and was a mess and very hard to follow.

This year we decided to take the blower out as soon as we got here.  Since it’s only been about 8 months since we cleared the trail last year, we didn’t think it would be too bad.

Boy were we wrong!

There were a few trees down on the trail.  Most of them Mark was able to move but a few of them will have to be cut with a chain saw. 

The trail is hard to follow.  There are a few green arrow markers (more are needed).

We had walked the trail a few times last year so Mark didn’t have too much trouble finding the right route.  I followed behind with loppers cutting back tree limbs that were over the trail.

The trail looks great!  

We will probably clear it a couple more times this year just to keep on top of the mess.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Plan B - Bangor City Forest

We planned to visit the Orono Bog Boardwalk, which is a walk that we enjoyed in 2011 and again last year. But we arrived to find that it had not yet opened!  It turns out that the boardwalk has to be repaired each year to deal with the impacts of winter, and they didn't quite have it finished yet. We've since learned that it opened just 2 days after our visit!

So Plan B was the adjacent Bangor City Forest. This 650 acre tract of forest has around ten miles of hiking trails, and is a popular spot for walker, joggers, and birders!  It is still early spring here in Maine, with many of the trees just now starting to bud out. The ground is wet and boggy in many areas.

Skunk Cabbage

We had seen the massive green leaves in the past, but had never seen the maroon flowers so predominantly. It turns out the flowers emerge first in the Spring, with the leaves emerging later. Skunk Cabbage is named for the unpleasant smell of the flowers which attracts pollinators like flies. The leaves also give off the smell when damaged, which is thought to prevent mammals from feeding on them.

We didn't see a ton of birds, but we did see several species of warblers. The warblers spent their winter in Mexico and Central America and are now returning to their breeding grounds in North America. Some of the birds we saw will breed in Maine, while others will continue north into Canada and the Arctic. 

Blackburnian Warbler male

Our very first warble was a male Blackburnian Warbler. They have the nickname of "Firethroat" as their throats can get very red in breeding plumage. We later saw a female, who like most birds is not as brightly colored as the male. 

Blackburnian Warbler female

The most common bird was the Black-throated Green Warbler. The males have a striking black and yellow pattern. The females have a similar pattern that is not as intense. 

Black-throated Green Warbler male

Black-throated Green Warbler female

We got to watch some of the birds searching for insects to eat. You never know where you might find a delicious bug!

Many of the male birds were singing to establish breeding territories and attract mates. This Common Yellowthroat was singing his little heart out!

Common Yellowthroat male

We also saw several aptly named Black-and-white Warblers. What they lack in color they make up for in pattern.

Black-and-white Warbler male

Black-and-white Warbler female

We'll keep a lookout for more birds as Spring progresses here in Maine. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Our First Couple of Weeks

Our first two weeks were just as much fun as we expected.  All the staff at the hatchery are very nice and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.

Our tiny little fish from the beginning of last year are now the future brood and have grown from 3/4 of an inch when we arrived last year to about 8 inches today.

It's hard to tell but these fish are about 8 inches long.

These are the new batch of fry that are the result of last Fall's spawning:

Hundreds of tiny little Atlantic Salmon.

Our first job every work day is to help feed the fish.  We are in charge of feeding the future brood and brood.  The brood fish are 3 and 4 year-olds.  They are separated into two raceways.  This coming Fall all of the 4 year-olds will be spawned and released into the Penobscot River and the mature 3 year-olds will also be spawned and released.  The immature 3 year-olds will be the mature 4 year-olds next year.

The 3 and 4 year old salmon are separated into two raceways.

We’ve started cleaning the outside feeders.  It will be a few weeks before they are needed but it’s nice to get them clean and ready to go.

We clean the old food from last year out of the feeder.  I scrape down the inside top part of the feeder then Mark scrapes the bottom.  Then he gets inside the pool and opens up the opening where the food comes out while I use a very long pole from the inside to push the old food out.  The old food is caught in a bucket and discarded.

The large gray box (upper left) is the feeder.

We’ve also started cleaning the outside tanks.  These are very large tanks.  There are two sizes, 20 foot diameter and 30 foot diameter.  We’re cleaning the 30 foot tanks.

Mark power washing the walls

Teri scrubbing/power washing the floors.

This machine turned out to be too hard for me to handle so
we switched jobs and I clean the walls and Mark cleans the floor

Washing everything down the drain.

All clean.

It’s nice to come back to the same place and know what to expect.  I don’t know if we will have any new projects this year but we already have plenty to keep us busy.

We work 3 8-hour days a week which gives us plenty of free days to explore and have fun.

Stay tuned - It’s going to be a fun summer! 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Bar Harbor, Maine

Our first outing was a trip to Bar Harbor.  We pulled over at several places along the way to enjoy the beautiful views.

Our first stop was Cadillac Mountain.

View from Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is 1,530 feet high.  It’s the highest mountain on the Eastern Seaboard of the US and the only mountain in Acadia National Park with a motor vehicle road to the top.

Between October 7 and March 6, the summit is the first place in the US to see the sunrise.

Our next stop was Sand Beach where there is a 12-foot variance between high and low tide.

Sand Beach is one of the few cold-water, shell-based sand beaches in the world.  Sand beaches are uncommon in Maine because cold water traps gases that dissolve seashells.

Bar Harbor is definitely a tourist town!

The town encompasses the entire northern and northeastern section of Mount Desert Island.  It’s the third largest island in the continental United States.  It was originally settled in 1763.

We were very lucky that there were no cruise ships docking today!  The cruise schedule for this year shows that between April 28 and November 7, 177 ships will be docking in Bar Harbor carrying 275,200 passengers!

We spent a little time walking around and I bought a cute little magnet.  This is a beautiful area but we will avoid it once the summer tourist season starts after July 4th.