Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region

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Ecology at Mount Agamenticus

Undeveloped coastal forestThe Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region is a priority for conservation in Southern Maine. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of many land owners, donors, land managers, and local citizens over the last 100 years, this region is the largest expanse of undeveloped coastal forest from Acadia National Park to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The area contains the highest concentration of vernal pools in the state and one of the highest in New England. The density of these pocket wetlands and vernal pools make this region particularly important for amphibians and several rare turtle species including Blandings and spotted turtles which have the healthiest population levels in Maine.

In addition, Mount Agamenticus is located within a unique mixing zone of northern and southern plant species and hosts several natural communities of statewide significance. The undeveloped forest and abundant wetlands create an important region of biodiversity, providing a refuge for many of Maine’s rare plants and animals in an area experiencing heavy development pressures. Moreover, there are five watersheds that originate from the Mount Agamenticus area. Run-off from this mountain eventually ends up in tributaries, and reservoirs. Water from Mount Agamenticus services the drinking water supplies for the towns of York and Kittery.

Ecological Calendar

Turtles in York CountyThe Mount Agamenticus region is bustling with life throughout the year; however, there is no doubt that spring is the busiest time of the year. This is especially true for vernal pools and all of the critters that rely on this important habitat to survive. A vernal pool fills with winter snowmelt and rain to become a prolific breeding ground for many species of amphibians and invertebrates. Spotted salamanders, red spotted newts, wood frogs, and spadefoot toads are a few of the species that converge on the pool to mate and lay eggs. At night the woods surrounding the pools are filled with the choruses of spring peepers and wood frogs calling out from the pools, searching for mates. Their eggs begin to hatch in late spring and early summer.

Please remember to drive carefully on your way to the mountain during the turtle migration from May-June. To learn more about turtles in York County and how to report your sightings, click here for a brochure: Turtles in York .

Another important event that takes place here is the annual hawk migration. The summit of Mount A is a great place to set up a spotting scope and view the raptors passing by on their journey South. The ideal time to witness the spectacle is from late September to mid October when there are Northwest winds and clear skies. Hawks come here to use the coast for guidance and to take advantage of the thermal lift that comes from Mount A.

According to Scott Cronenweth an average of 4,000 birds are seen migrating annually and it is not uncommon to see hundreds in just a few hours. Scott Cronenweth is a writer, naturalist, and birding guide based in Southern Maine. A fanatical hawk watcher, Scott particularly enjoys mentoring fellow birders on raptor identification. You can visit his website at naturalpathwalks.com and find an article on birding at Mt. Agamenticus he wrote for Bird Observer by clicking on the downloads menu.

Although it is possible to see the hawks with the naked eye, using a spotting scope or binoculars can help with separating one species from another. Birds seen at Mount A include: broad-winged, sharp-shinned, red-tailed, Cooper’s, Northern Goshawks, and red-shouldered hawks, as wells as American Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons, merlins, ospreys, bald eagles, and Northern Harriers. (Turkey Vultures do migrate, but not very far South.)

Mount Agamenticus is looking for volunteers to help count hawks and track their migration during the season. If you are interested in helping us become an official hawkwatch site, please contact the Conservation Coordinator.

Dominant Natural Communities

Transitional Hardwood Forest 

Transitional Hardwood Forest Characteristic species include:

  • eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
  • eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
  • sweet birch (Betula lenta)
  • yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
  • beech (Fagus grandifolia)
  • white oak (Quercus alba)
  • northern red oak (Quercus rubra)
  • red maple (Acer rubrum)
  • white ash (Fraxinus americana)
 

Oak-Pine-Hickory Forest Characteristic species include:

  • shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
  • eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)
  • chestnut oak (Quercus montana)
  • white oak (Quercus alba)
Oak-Pine-Hickory Forest

Rare Plant and Animal Species

Mount Agamenticus has one of the highest concentrations of state rare and endangered species and communities in Maine. This represents an area where many species at the southern limit of their range overlap with species at the northern limit of their range. *Note: Rare species and communities are in bold type.

Rare Plants:
Wild leek (Allium triococcum)
White wood aster (Aster divaricatus)
Spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)
Sweet pepper-bush (Clethra alnifolia)
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)
Featherfoil (Hottonia inflata)
Smooth winterberry (Ilex laevigata)
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Alga-like pondweed (Potamogeton confervoides)
Chestnut oak (Quercus montana)
Large beak-rush (Rhyncospora macrostachya)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Swamp saxifrage (Saxifraga pensylvanica)
Columbia water meal (Wolffia columbiana)

Rare Animals/Fish/Insects:
Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
Black racer snake (Coluber constrictor)
Ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus)
Swamp darter (Etheostoma fusiforme)
Banded bog skimmer dragonfly (Williamsonia linteri)

Rare/Exemplary Natural Communities

Vernal PoolVernal Pools
Vernal Pools represent an important wetland type because of their ecological importance as habitat for a number of state rare species. A vernal pool is defined as a “temporary or seasonal body of water that is essential breeding habitat for certain amphibians and invertebrates that does not support fish” (Maine Audubon Society 1996). The Mount Agamenticus area has the highest concentration of vernal pools in New England.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp
Limited to the coastal plain of Southern Maine. Typical species found are Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), red maple (Acer rubrum), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), common winterberry (Ilex verticillata), smooth winterberry and sweet pepperbush.

Oak-Pine Woodland
Found on knolls and hilltops with excessively well-drained soils and bedrock outcrops. Dominant species include northern red oak, black oak (Quercus velutina), and eastern white pine with a herbaceous layer of woodland sedge (Carex lucorum). Shrub species include blueberries (Vaccinium sp.). While common on Mt. A, this community type is uncommon throughout the rest of Maine.

Oak-Hickory Forest
Semi-open to closed canopy forest primarily on south to west facing slopes. Dominant species include white oak,chestnut oak and shagbark hickory. The community often includes understory species, which are common south of Maine, but rare in Maine, such as sassafras and flowering dogwood.

Perched Hemlock-Hardwood Forest
Forms on areas of impermeable bedrock, which traps a pocket of water. Dominant overstory species include black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), red maple and hemlock. Spicebush is a good understory indicator of this community type and another example of a species that is common to the south, but is rare in Maine as it is at the northern limit of its range.

Lacustrine Shallow Bottom Community
Found on sandy or somewhat muddy shallows of lakes and ponds where sunlight allows for growth of aquatic bed vegetation. Dominant species include wild celery (Vallisneria americana) and clasping-leaved pondweed (Potomogeton perfoliatum).

Enriched Northern Hardwood Forest
Occurs on moist nutrient rich soils where sugar maple (Acer saccharinum), basswood (Tilia americana) and white ash make up a large component of the community.

Pitch Pine Saturated Woodland
While pitch pine (Pinus rigida) is typically associated with dry barrens or rock outcrops in Maine, in a few locations it occurs in saturated, acidic peatlands. Other dominant species include black spruce (Picea mariana), tamarack (Larix laricina), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), highbush blueberry, mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata) and rhodora (Rhododendron canadense).

Floating Kettlehole Bog
Kettlehole bogs are glacial features that are much more common northward and are relatively uncommon in York County. The bog at Round Pond contains a few acres of open water surrounded by zones of arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), leatherleaf and black spruce. While not rare, arrow arum is restricted to Southern Maine and is uncommon in peatlands.