Bird communities in the Saco River tidal marshes

Laurel Hill Cemetary marsh on the Saco River, flooded at high tide. Photo by Chloe Crettien.

Birding on the Saco River with Sarah Cowles, summer 2013.  Photo by Chloe Crettien.

Birding on the Saco River with Sarah Cowles, summer 2013. Photo by Chloe Crettien.

In 2009, Dr. Pam Morgan (wetland plants), Department of Environmental Studies, asked me to join her and Dr. Chris Feurt’s (river stakeholder engagement) project exploring marsh health along the lower stretch of the Saco River.  My role is to evaluate bird diversity and abundance in 16 tidal marshes ranging from tidal fresh water to nearly all sea water.  Along with a student crew (2 each summer), we conduct point counts at one high and one low tide each month from May to September.  This work has revealed that these small marshes have a surprisingly high value for birds; in 2010-12, we identified 126 species, including 19 species of species concern two state-listed endangered species.  Data collection will continue for three more seasons, potentially including nocturnal surveys.  Along with the broader research team–including Dr. James Sulikowski (river fish), Dr. Stephan Zeeman (water quality), Dr. Anna Bass (macroinvertebrates), Drs. Michelle Steen-Adams and Mark Adams (historical changes in landcover), Dr. Michael Daley (economic value of the marshes/river), and scientists from the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve(marsh fish)–we will model how these data represent to current and future conditions of the marshes.

In the Christopher's Warf marsh with Shane Murphy (Environmental Science 15'), summer 2013. Photo by Chloe Crettien.

Saco River marsh map created by Cory French

Saco River marsh map created by Cory French