A watery Zip Trip that’s not to be missed

Posted Sept. 03, 2008, at 7:22 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:18 a.m.

Last weekend I finally got a chance to explore a small stream in Mattamiscontis, near Lincoln. I had admired the stream often from a bridge, but I didn’t dare explore it by myself in my tippy little canoe.

Over the years, I had observed two rare reptiles (for this part of Maine) at this bridge — a wood turtle and a northern water snake. That got me interested in the stream.

My brother Zip Kellogg, reknowned for standing up in a canoe, called me and said, “Let’s paddle down the Mattamiscontis. I’ll be in the Bangor area this weekend.”

I was delighted. My son Greg Markowsky went, too, even though he had to get up early! A Zip Trip is not to be missed.

The day was sunny and bright. Cardinal flowers grew all along the steam as we paddled slowly along. Those flowers should be called scarlet tanager flower, so bright was their red. (A cardinal would look dull, if you could induce it to perch next to a scarlet tanager.)

Zip has paddled every little stream in Maine; he knew there were several rocky areas, and one steep drop in this stream. This stream was too small and rocky to include in his canoe guidebooks.

We had lunch at the one steep drop, a small waterfall. We saw all the typical birds of streams — kingfishers giving their rattle-call, spotted sandpipers teetering on the rocks and wood ducks shrieking as they flew away.

As we were paddling along, following the stream’s meanders, a large bird leapt from an overhanging branch and flew slowly downstream. As it flew, I could see its long, yellowish legs.

Its wings, back, neck and head were grayish brown with a few white speckles. It was a young black-crowned night heron.

Apologies for the plethora of “-ish” endings on the adjectives, but this bird’s plumage really was quite nondescript. For a heron, its legs are fairly short, and its neck is thick, too. When it matures, though, it will look quite dapper, dressed in gray, black and white. It will sport a black cap adorned with two long, white plumes. And its eyes will be the color of the cardinal flower.

Black-crowned night heron are uncommon in Maine, and are seldom seen due to their nocturnal habits, as their name indicates.

We didn’t see any rare reptiles that day, but altogether it was a splendid Zip Trip.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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