Meadow and Marsh at the Wells Reserve

Hundreds of species of birds have been identified at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. During my visit in early September, I wondered which ones I could tick off.

I had been to the Wells Reserve once before in late May, en route to my sister’s graduation in upstate New York. Though I didn’t have much time to meander through the seven miles of trails, I discovered a plethora of neotropical songbirds that had descended to breed. Their meadow is specifically managed for songbirds (and is not mowed from May through August), and there I spotted my very first Bobolink.

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In September, I found myself on the other side of migration as species returned to their wintering grounds. The meadow glowed the bright yellow of turning milkweed leaves and goldenrod blossoms, but the only birds present were sparrows.

I  made my way quickly through the low trees and bushes adjacent to the field, maniacally slapping at the hordes of mosquitoes that threatened to suck my bare legs dry. They magically thinned within the red maple wetland bordering the marsh, and I sighed with relief.

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Bird song echoed through the red maple tree canopy. Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, and Gray Catbirds created the dominant cacophony, but a possible Eastern Towhee sounded once or twice. Though I could hear the birds, they remained hidden in the ferns, undergrowth, and leaf-covered branches.

The boardwalk within the wetland took me to the marsh, opening up onto a wooden overlook and interpretive signs. In the distance, a strip of beach met the crashing waves of a busy ocean; in the foreground, a Great Blue Heron waded through the waving grasses and shallow, saltwater pools.

After my walk, I rested in an Adirondack chair placed on the visitor center’s wide lawn. I wanted to take notes on my trip to the reserve, but instead I quickly became distracted by the tall tree casting welcome shade my notebook. A White-breasted Nuthatch crept up the trunk, while Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Bluebirds flitted from the branches to the grass and then back again, foraging.

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No matter where you go, you’ll see birds at Wells Reserve!

Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.