Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Alewives Come Back to Damariscotta

fish ladder damariscotta
The sluice for diverting the fish

I've been hearing about the alewives running for a few years now. Never knowing exactly when this took place, I've kind of blown it off every year. This year, with grandson raring to go, off we went to Damariscotta Mills to find the fish.

A) This has to be one of the easiest places to find! B) Wow! C) I'm ready to go back for the festival (happens in May each year)!

The 'fish ladder' is comprised of many small pools climbing from Salt Bay to Damariscotta Lake. (See below for a link to the Damariscotta Mills alewives website.)

What was so amazing about the day were the birds. Basically, not knowing where to go, we followed the sounds of the gulls shrieking in the distance. There we saw this small grouping guarding one of the weirs. Every once in awhile, a gull would dip its head into the water and come up with an alewife which it promptly wiggled around until it could swallow it whole! We're talking a fish that's about 6-8" long!

osprey eagles
Waiting for lunch to swim by

Most people who have been to any beach community are pretty inured to the gulls. They're everywhere...every lobster shack & McDonald's parking lot has them. No beach blanket outing is complete without gulls swooping in to steal whatever is left unguarded.

What was amazing about this location were the osprey. There weren't that many of them, but they are precise fishers. Sitting on the branch of a dead tree, an osprey would wait, wait, wait, and then swoop in and grab an alewife from the waters and take off with it clutched in its talons. It was a beautiful sight to see.

We watched for awhile and then headed across the road to see if we could find anything in the bay. Just standing there looking at the ducks, I was suddenly ducking as a fish flew through the air and landed 5 feet away on the shore! Looking up, wondering where the fish came from, I saw a bald eagle overhead being chased by the gulls. A bald eagle. Wow! Better still, a bald eagle that threw a fish at me!

The eagle circled for a little bit and then alit on a high branch of a white pine. We watched for awhile but it started to rain pretty heavily at that point so we headed for the car.

damariscotta alewives
In one of the resting ponds on the ladder

The above is a shot of one of the pools. All of the darker coloration to the left is the school of fish we saw in that pool! Individual fish are visible if you look closely.

A definite recommendation if you are here in May-June. The Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder organization keeps the website up to date with sightings and big schools. Check out all the slideshows from previous festivals and the building of the fish ladder. Directions for how to get there are on the home page.

After checking out the fish and the birds, head over to Damariscotta for oysters at King Eiders. Or, one of our favorites The Newcastle Publick House in Newcastle.

The 'people ladder' to walk around the lower pools. (The far walkway is private property.)

damariscotta, maine
Private walkway

Damariscotta Mills is about a 45 minute drive from White Cedar Inn. Straight north on Rt 1 to Newcastle, then Rt 215 to the fish ladder.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

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