Acadia trails reopened after loon, peregrine falcon nesting efforts fail

Posted June 22, 2012, at 8:12 p.m.
Acadia Park officials are currently monitoring three falcon chicks learning to fly in that area.
Acadia National Park
Acadia Park officials are currently monitoring three falcon chicks learning to fly in that area.

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine — Trails and sections of Acadia National Park that had been closed off to the public because of nesting loons and peregrine falcons have been reopened, park officials announced Friday.

The reopened areas include a section of Hadlock Trail and Valley Cove Trail. Closures at Beech Cliff and the Precipice remain active.

To protect a pair of adult loons that had established a nesting territory on Upper Hadlock Pond in May, a 50-foot buffer from the shore inland along the eastern half of the pond had been closed to all visitor and operational activities. The closure included the improved middle section of the Hadlock Trail that closely parallels the eastern shoreline of the pond.

Despite the effort to protect the pair from inadvertent disturbance or harassment, however, the loons failed in their nesting attempt, according to park officials. The closure would have stayed in place until the chicks were old enough to be independent of the nesting site and protective eastern shoreline.

Acadia and Somes-Meynell biologists, technicians and volunteers have been observing the activities of loon pairs on several water bodies in the park and on the island to track their nesting success and better understand the threats facing loons. Nesting success and chick survival for loons on Mount Desert Island has been historically poor, and information about the causes for the poor productivity and nesting failures is needed to implement a long-term management program, according to park officials.

Research has shown that loons are particularly vulnerable to human disturbance during the nesting season. The disturbance can be measured in the expenditure of additional energy by the adults, displaced attention to the eggs or chicks, increased opportunities for predators, and elevated stress levels that are attributed to other health issues.

Peregrine falcons observed defending and engaging in courtship behavior at Valley Cove cliff area in March also have failed in their nesting attempt, park officials reported Friday. The species is listed as an Endangered Species under the Maine Endangered Species Act.

The closure at Valley Cove included the Valley Cove Trail, formerly called the North Section of the Flying Mountain Trail, and the entire cliff area directly west of Valley Cove and below St. Sauveur and Valley Peak. The trail and cliff area that had been closed were opened on June 21 and the closure signs were removed. The cause of the nest failure is not known, but the adults observed in late winter and early spring have clearly left the area, park officials said.

Closures at Beech Cliff and the Precipice remain active to protect nesting activities by falcons there and trail maintenance activities. These areas will remain closed until the nesting attempts have been determined to have failed or fledglings have been determined to not be dependent on the cliff or the adults. Park officials meanwhile continue to monitor three peregrine falcon chicks that are learning to fly at Echo Lake Beach.

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