NOBLEBORO, Maine — Every May alewives return by the thousands to Damariscotta Mills, where the lucky ones will climb a fish ladder that leads from Great Salt Bay to their freshwater spawning grounds in Damariscotta Lake.
As for the unlucky ones, some will be harvested by lobstermen who use them for bait. Others end up in a smokehouse, destined for human consumption. But most will be taken by the birds.
Ospreys and eagles put on the best show, hovering overhead before plunging into the shallow water next to the parking lot. Cormorants attack underwater, often causing a frenzy of fish to explode out of the water. Across the way, herons stalk silently from the shore’s edge.
Not all the birds are interested in fish. Yellow warblers and Baltimore orioles flit about in the bushes next to the stream. There have been reports of bluebirds and redstarts, too.
The most numerous birds, however, are the raucous gulls. The fishermen slam boards and fire blanks to scare them off — even though the birds always return a minute later. On Thursday morning a woman accused the feeding gulls of mass slaughter. And the local homeowners probably don’t appreciate the mess they leave on their roofs.
It seems nobody likes the gulls — except the nature photographers.
The 5th annual Fish Ladder Restoration Festival will be held Memorial Day weekend. For information, visit www.damariscottamills.org.