Discoveries in Schoodic, Acadia National Park

by Sydney Kahl / Feb 16, 2013 /

On our first day at Acadia National Park, we got a good look at a baby red fox running in and out of thick vegetation, as if it was playing hide and seek with us. We were staying at the Schoodic Education Research Center, a short trek away, and from then on we looked for the baby fox each day. One morning we found gull feathers and a segment of spine, the length of one’s forearm, just outside of what was probably the fox’s den. Red foxes are hunters who will feed on small animals, but they also eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, worms, and apparently even birds.  Maybe the dead gull was too tame, looking for food handouts from the human visitors. I would have liked to have seen a fox catching a gull.

 

Schoodic Head in Acadia National Park

 Schoodic Head in Acadia National Park

 

I was with a field science class on Schoodic Point, where Mainers go to watch big storm waves, and groups like ours check out the basalt dikes - the black bands of rock that finger into the red granite. The basalt dikes are a softer rock and erode more easily than the surrounding harder granite, creating chasms. At just the right tide, water rushes into these channels and creates a booming noise as the water pressure forces air out of, in some cases, hidden, cave like pockets. 

 

There were many attractions on Schoodic Point - the wildlife, the geology, and even the ecology.  The high point, of Schoodic Peninsula, is Scoodic Head, at 440 feet, (134 meters), which our group climbed. We looked across at glacially carved peaks on Mt. Desert Island, the main part of Acadia National Park. The drive between the two separated sections is about 45 miles. The remote Schoodic Peninsula receives many fewer visitors. 

 

An outstanding ecological feature which exists on both Schoodic Head and Schoodic Point - where we saw the fox - is the presence of jack pine. As we hiked down from the summit of Schoodic Head, we passed through an open stand of stunted looking, crooked trees on the rocky, windy slope. Jack pines are distinct because their cones curve forward along the branch.  Some stay on the tree so long they become old and gray and covered with lichen. The upper cones on mature trees need the heat of fire to open up and release their seeds. It  turns out “jack pine woodlands” are considered rare in Maine; only a handful of stands exist statewide - one on Schoodic Head and one on Schoodic Point. I also learned the jack pine is one of the rarest trees in New Hampshire, my home state. They can only be seen on a few ridge tops in the White Mountains, including along the popular Welch-Dickey Trail near Waterville Valley.

 

 

In addition to learning about jack pine, our field class engaged in techniques to study salt marshes and the rocky intertidal coastlines. While out on Schoodic Point, for the first time, I observed barnacles in a tidepool feeding. I learned they are animals, and instead of crawling after food, they glue themselves to rocks and stick out limbs to capture food. They look like they are waving their hands, but they are in a sense eating with their feet. They are suspension feeders, and draw invisible floating food particles into their shell for consumption. 

 

The best tidepool was “Anemone Cave” on Mt. Desert Island. This slippery-floored cave is accessible at lower tides. You won’t find this cave marked on maps, as the location was removed - too many visitors meant the organisms almost all disappeared or were destroyed. Our group observed lots of very small anemones. They look like flowers, but like barnacles, they are animals. They wait for food to pass by and then they snag it with stinging tentacles. With the anemones are sponges, still another stationary animal that looks like a plant. They, too, extract invisible food particles from the water which they move through their openings, although no motion is detected.

 

Away from the coast, another plant which I was surprised to see in my trek on Mt. Desert Island was the lady slipper flower, an orchid. I saw half a dozen on the hike up Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Atlantic seaboard, at 1,529 feet. I know this plant as we have numerous lady slippers growing around our camp in Maine, in a shady forested area. I didn’t expect to see the flowers on a mountain. I had heard these flowers were hard to transplant, but I didn’t know exactly why until I researched more and learned the flowers need a beneficial fungus, known as mycorrhizae, to exist in the soil. This fungus enables the plants to obtain nutrients which are needed for the young seeds to grow. I wonder about the science process that led to this discovery.

 

I’ve visited Acadia National Park and even the Schoodic Peninsula numerous times before, but this time I made some new discoveries. 

 

 

 

 

Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

Photo courtesy and copyright Sydney Kahl

 

 

References:

http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/focusarea/schoodic_peninsula_focus_a...

http://nhdfl.org/events-tours-and-programs/visit-nh-biodiversity/welch-d...

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/red-fox/

http://www.nps.gov/acad/parkmgmt/upload/schoodic_gmpa.pdf

http://frenchhillpond.org/Acadia/Schoodic%20Peninsular.htm

http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/about/cypripedium.htm

http://www.acadia.ws/cadillac-mountain.htm