Earth Week in Your Own Backyard

Show big support for little critters by bringing Earth Week to your own backyard! Here are a few tips to support pollinators and other invertebrates, as the sun brings spring into full swing:

  1. Wait to Rake – In early Spring, many ground-nesting bees will use last year’s leaf litter for protection from both late season frost and heavy spring rains. Some chrysalides can overwinter on fallen leaves and dried standing organics. Embrace the mess and wait to clean up old organic materials until nighttime temperatures hover in the 50s.
  2. Help with Habitat – creating microhabitats for pollinators can be as simple as a pile of sticks! Enhancing habitats for pollinators can both create a safe space and continue to attract beneficial insects. Toss together a pile of sticks or rocks, or continue to keep the rake hung up and leave naturally occurring organic debris piles to work their habitat magic.
  3. Nurture a Native Garden – Continue building pollinator habitat and biological diversity at the same time by planting a native garden! Want to up the ante? Include Milkweed varieties in your new native garden for our monarch friends. Short on space? Consider a native “bee lawn” – low growing flowers such as clover and creeping thyme can provide the look of a lawn, and the resources for the pollinators.
  4. No Mow May – This movement has been gaining traction across the country, even in our neck of the woods here in MidCoast Maine! Let’s keep up the momentum and keep our mowers parked for the month of May. This allows lawn flowers, such as dandelions and clovers, to bloom and are some of the earliest resources for pollinators before other flowers bloom.

For additional resources on how you can support pollinators, visit the Xerces Society, USDA NRCS Maine, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Spring Birding Extravaganza 2023 Line-Up!

Joining Forces to Better Serve Our Community

View the recent story in The Times Record here! 

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) and Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) announced today that their organizations are merging, following approval by their Boards and respective memberships!

The two organizations have been partners since the early 2000s, when BTLT was granted a conservation easement at the Cathance River Nature Preserve and CREA was founded to use the newly-established Preserve as a place to educate people about ecology and the natural world. Since then, the organizations have co-managed the trails with the landowner, co-hosted programs and events, and supported each other’s efforts to promote appreciation for the environment. Over the last several years, the organizations began looking for ways to complement one another in more effective ways.

As CREA Board President Ellen Bennett describes, “We started this process thinking about administrative efficiencies, but came to realize we could do more for the community — and do it better — as a single organization. One of our Board members, Dave Keffer, said it so well when he described this union as ‘one plus one equals three.’”  

The merger is expected to create new opportunities for growth. CREA’s educational programs will have the potential to expand beyond the Preserve to new features, habitats, and agricultural assets on BTLT’s expansive property base. 

“Our signature programs at the Preserve and Ecology Center are at full capacity,” explains CREA Executive Director Caroline Eliot. “CREA summer camp is full and has a waitlist of over two hundred. We’re fully booked with school field trips this spring. We’re delighted by the possibility that we can serve more children in the future by expanding to BTLT locations.”

Local and national trends favor unions like this. Many foundations support consolidation of small nonprofits, and experienced leaders and development professionals are in short supply. As Emily Swan, BTLT’s President, explains, “We started by talking about different ways to collaborate, but eventually realized that joining forces to become one organization would provide the greatest benefit, from staffing to delivering services to the community.”

The two organizations co-located their offices in July of 2020. Eliot says occupying adjacent office space facilitated conversation and collaboration during the pandemic. “It made taking this next step very easy.”

All programs associated with the two organizations will continue and CREA will continue to use its name for its signature programs – CREA summer camp and school-based educational programs. “CREA is well-known and respected in the schools and community,” explains BTLT Executive Director Angela Twitchell. “We want to honor its great reputation and history by continuing to use its name.” 

The missions of the two organizations are complementary, evidenced by the fact that all staff will continue in their current roles but with greater potential to grow into new roles and responsibilities in the future. Angela Twitchell will remain BTLT’s Executive Director and Caroline Eliot will assume the role of Deputy Director/Director of Education.

The Boards of both organizations voted unanimously to support the merger in December of 2022. On March 30 of this year, the memberships of both organizations also voted enthusiastically to support the merger.

Twitchell and Eliot emphasize that conservation and education are natural partners. Says Twitchell, “We need to make sure future generations value and protect the places, wildlife, and resources that we love — and that we need to survive.” 

“So, we need to teach youngsters why all those things are important,” adds Eliot. “That starts with tapping into children’s natural curiosity and fascination with bugs, frogs, fish and really all the cool things that exist or happen in nature.”

The merger is expected to take effect in July of 2023 although implementation will be ongoing for the next 6 to 18 months.

View the recent story in The Times Record here! 

Brunswick Climate Action Task Force Seeks Volunteers

The town of Brunswick is actively seeking volunteers for a Climate Action Task Force, helping the Town develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP)! Comprised of residents, community stakeholders, and industry leaders, this group will convene for one year to oversee the development of the CAP, a plan that will utilize information on town-wide greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate change to chart a meaningful, action-oriented strategy in Brunswick’s fight against climate change. 

The Task Force will be composed of a diverse group of community stakeholders and industry leaders, with representation consisting of at least one member from each of the following sectors: 

  • Sustainability & Adaptation | Waste Reduction & Management, Recycling & Composting Climate & Environmental Sciences 
  • Transportation | Transportation (pedestrian, bike, motor, etc.), Carbon Footprint, Emissions, and Pollution 
  • Business | Economic Development, Business & Finance 
  • Planning & Development | Housing, Construction & Building Operations, Sustainable Infrastructure, Community Development & Town Planning 
  • Energy | Electricity, Renewable Energy 
  • Food Systems | Agriculture & Aquaculture 
  • Natural Resources | Marine Resources, Rivers & Coastal Waters 
  • Land Use & Conservation | Land Conservation, Environmental Health and Diversity 

Curious to learn more? Check out the Climate Action Task Force Charge and the Town website for more information.  

The deadline to apply for a seat on the Task Force is April 10th, 2023 by 4:30pm.  

Applications may be filled out online as well as in person in the Town Clerk’s Office. Please direct all related questions to either:

Ashley Charleson, Brunswick’s Environmental Planner | 207-725-6659 |

James Ecker, Chair of Brunswick’s Recycling and Sustainability Committee | 207-417-5216 |  

Winter Wildlife Wonders

Winter is a great time to get out on conserved lands and trails, and our local wildlife couldn’t agree more! BTLT staff recently captured a resident red fox at Androscoggin Woods on a game camera, who is just one of the many creatures that calls this property home.

Red fox don’t hibernate during the winter, which is why it is common to see fox on game cameras such as ours or while they are out hunting. As omnivores, fox may enjoy grasses, berries, and insects in their diet during the warmer months, but thanks to their excellent sense of smell and hearing, red fox are adept wintertime hunters and can hear a mouse squeak from 100 feet away underneath the snow. Red fox are well known for pouncing head first into snow during the wintertime while hunting for small mammals who live between the surface of the ground and the bottom of the snowpack, also known as the subnivean zone. There beneath the snow’s surface are mice, voles, and shrews who build vast networks of tunnels where they can access food found along the ground and enjoy protection from predators and freezing wintertime temperatures. With 6-8 inches of snow, the tunnels of these small mammals remain at around 32 degrees regardless of the outside temperatures. Fox, however, are particularly adept at listening for the inhabitants of the subnivean zone and infiltrating their winter lair. 

Example of red fox track patterns in the snow, courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Not only are foxes busy hunting during the winter, but they also mate between December and February (a period of time marked by what is commonly referred to as a fox “screaming”). Mated foxes raise cubs together in their burrows until they are old enough to go out on their own when they are around 10 months old. In the wild, fox typically only live three years due to predation, disease, and other factors.

Even if you don’t cross paths with a fox, winter is a great time to explore local trails and look for animal tracks in the snow. You’re likely to see signs of deer, squirrels, and other small mammals who are all active during the wintertime, and you might see some fox tracks as well!

(Ignore the dates/times on the game cam photos, something is off with our game camera time settings!)

Recolor the Outdoors with Alex Bailey

Did you know that according to recent National Park Service data, roughly 77% of visitors to national parks are white?

In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting this moving TEDx by Alex Bailey, founder of Black Outside, Inc.

Despite the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, the outdoors remains a non-diverse space. In his TED talk, Alex discusses the numerous benefits to spending time in nature, yet a lack of engagement for many communities of color today, particularly in the Black/African-American community, due to safety, access, relevancy, and representation. Although participation in outdoor activities remains predominantly white, many communities of color have centuries of history in nature, both tragic and triumphant. As painful as these histories have sometimes been, a deeper understanding of these dual truths could be the key to ensuring that the future of the outdoors is not only relevant but representative of the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.

Looking to learn more?

Growing Literacy: Winter Garden Workshops 2023 Line-Up!

Please Renew Your Membership by Dec 31st!

Help us improve access on our trails!

Did you know Maine has 8 Species of Bats?

by Steve Pelletier, semi-retired Wildlife Biologist and Maine Forester, Topsham resident

It’s the last day of Bat Week! Check out how you can take action, have some fun with the kiddos, and read below to learn more about bats in Maine. Scroll to the bottom to check out a video from Maine Fish & Wildlife too!  

Bats – the flitting, shadowy creatures of night skies around the world – have long been associated with nocturnal, unworldly beings and agents of disease, with a sole intent to create terror, tangle hair, and suck blood. Yet when simply left alone, bats are fascinating creatures, harmless and highly beneficial, essential to the health of global ecosystems and the balance of nature by providing vital ecological services in the forms of insect pest consumption, plant pollination, and seed dispersal.

Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight, representing the second largest order of mammal – after rodents – with more than 1,400 species dispersed across tropical and temperate habitats and six continents, absent only from the polar regions and a few isolated islands. Present-day bats have evolved over more than 50 million years and listed in the Order Chiroptera – a Greek name inferring “hand wing” due to the evolutionary modifications of their elongated digits, or fingers. Like our own hand, a bat’s wing is highly manipulative and versatile, allowing it to capture small, flying prey on the wing. Another particularly unique attribute of bats is their use of echolocation to navigate and to locate food and water. Their calls vary by species in duration and structure and reveal much about the ecology and foraging strategy of each species.

Bats are divided into two major groups, with one group, Megachiroptera, primarily feeding on fruit, nectar or pollen. The second group, Microchiroptera, are more familiar to us here in Maine and insectivorous, with some specialized to eat more carnivorous diets, feeding on rodents, other bats, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and even fish… truth be told, only three of the 1,400+ worldwide species are vampire bats that drink blood.

Bats are also recognized for having one of the slowest reproductive rates for animals their size. Most bats in northeastern North America have only one pup a year, and many females do not breed until their second year. While this low reproductive rate is somewhat offset by a long life-span, often over 20 years, bats populations currently face a serious worldwide decline. Some challenges they face are endemic to their order, such as a slow gestation period and diseases like White-nose Syndrome. The primary cause of their decline however, remains directly tied to human activity and involves the ongoing destruction of natural habitats, accelerated climate change, invasive species, and in many regions, stresses such as hunting and persecution for sport and meat. They also suffer from a long-standing proliferation of harmful myths. Without concerted international action, their populations will continue to fall, driving many species to extinction.

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a devastating fungal disease, responsible for the death of millions of bats in North America since first discovered in a single cave in New York in 2006.  It has since spread across the continent, having been confirmed in 38 states and eight Canadian provinces, with evidence the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, present in five additional states. Named for the telltale white fuzzy growth on the nose, ears, and wings of infected bats, WNS repeatedly rouses bats from hibernation, causing them to consume their winter fat stores — which often results in starvation before spring. Numerous hibernacula have been devastated with 90 to 100 percent mortality rates. To date, 12 North American bat species have been confirmed with WNS, including two federally endangered species, the Gray bat and Indiana bat. Three species in particular – Northern long-eared, Little brown, and Tri-colored bats – have been most profoundly affected. The Northern long-eared bat was listed as federally threatened due to the rapid decline of this species from WNS. It continues to cause massive population declines for multiple hibernating bat species – resulting in one of the most significant losses to wildlife in the past century.

Maine has eight species of bats. Five of those – Big brown bat, Little brown bat, Northern long-eared bat, Eastern small-footed bat, and Tri-colored bathibernate during Maine’s winter months. The remaining three species – Eastern red bat, Silver-haired bat, and Hoary bat – are often referred to as tree bats and migrate south for the winter. WNS was first observed in 2010. Since then, populations of all five hibernating species in Maine have been profoundly affected by WNS.

Our own research on the seasonal presence of bats in Maine began in 2004 and involved use of specialized acoustic recording equipment that enabled remote, site-specific, and time-stamped collection of individual bat echolocations on a 24/7 basis. A subsequent analysis of sonograms from the echolocation recordings was then used to identify each call by species. The collection of these data was accomplished by deploying battery operated acoustic detectors in targeted, often remote, habitats across much of the northeast, as well as coastal offshore locations, with each detector unit continuously recording calls over long-term seasonal periods. The date and time of each individual recording was included with the call data, enabling a subsequent analysis that – when viewed in context with multiples of other units deployed in a wide variety of habitats – began to provide a telling tale of the activities of our nocturnal neighbors. Even more telling and powerful was the same analysis and data comparisons when compared with recorded weather variables such as temperature, wind speed/ direction collected at the time of each call. The accumulation of these data ultimately resulted in an assemblage of tens of thousands of individual data points over the course of a single year, enabling a better understanding of activity trends of individual species over the course of a single night, season, or even year.

The recent influence of WNS on Maine bat populations has been sobering. An analysis of species occurrence from 2004 to the present clearly depicts a dramatic population decline of Maine’s non-hibernating species. Where formerly the Little brown bat was the most common bat species across the northeast landscape, it is now virtually absent. At the same time, our data reveal that the formerly common – but by no means dominant – Big brown bat is now a dominant species, despite the fact each occupies a different ecological niche. Whether such a fundamental shift in species composition has been due to the Big brown’s ability to expand into a habitat previously occupied by Little brown bats, or whether it’s because of a loss or shifting of insect prey due to climate change or increased pesticides, remains unknown. As importantly, the ecological effects of such a consequential shift and the almost total loss of one of the most common residents of the nocturnal landscape, has not yet even begun to be understood.

A better understanding and respect of the habits and resource needs of our night time friends will go a long way towards helping to turn around the ongoing population declines. More information regarding the habits and habitats of Maine’s bats, as well as those of species around the world, and how we might best conserve these species, can be found at

You can also check out this great video from Maine Fish & Wildlife:

Photo: Tricolored Bat, J. Scott Altenbach (