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 Three Pines Santuary

Here at Three Pines Bird Sanctuary, we are protecting an important wetland habitat for Neotropical migrants such as Canada Warblers and Northern Waterthrush as well as Wood Thrush and American Woodcock. Our unique and ecologically important forested wetlands are home to all of these species and I welcome you to explore this and other habitats on Mount Desert Island with me.
Review of Michael Good and Three Pines Bird Sanctuary, promoting the Warbler and Wildflowers Festival in May.
by Laurie Schreiber Bar Harbor Times April 2004

BAR HARBOR - Five-year-old Graham Good is a curly-headed ball of energy who takes your hand and leads you around the back of his house at Three Pines Bird Sanctuary in Town Hill to see his aquarium, which has little clumps of salamander eggs due to hatch any moment. It's just a short skip past a scrap of lawn and down an ungroomed slope to reach a vast stretch of woods that, contrary to the landscaping instincts of most homeowners who must rake and thin and plant, stands largely undisturbed - scrubby and shrubby and muddy and twiggy.

A bit of a way in, Graham and his dad have dug a hole into the soil and fitted his plastic pool for the use of the frog and salamander hatchlings because, as the young man says, the amphibians will need it more than he and his little sister. Here and there, like gnomic mysteries, stand short stacks of balanced rocks on the ground and hang rusted metal artifacts from tree branches.

Eventually, after showing off a sizeable tarp-and-post fort and a crooked stick cool for bushwhacking, Graham will lead you back to the house, where his father's office is tucked into the basement with a picture window that overlooks the woods and every surface overflowing with nature guides, posters, antlers, feathers, preserved reptiles and, oh yes, a 1995 Stephen Stills concert ticket. "Daddy, I saw a dragonfly," Graham reports to his father, who is cataloguing slides he took from a recent trip to Cuba as part of his documentation of Neotropical birds that migrate thousands of miles every year between North and South America. It seems that Michael Good's interests are rubbing off on his son, although Graham's exploration of nature sometimes involves more of a twig-thwacking than a study of twig and lichen relationships.

In the meantime, Michael Good is something of a curly-headed kid himself when he sees a Broad-wing Hawk or hears a bird's mating call. "Oooh, there's an ovenbird calling 'teacher, teacher, teacher,'" Mr. Good says as soon as he steps outside. He soon hears another joyous call. "There's a purple finch right there," he says, cocking an ear. "That's a happy bird, totally pumped up on testosterone."

Mr. Good is a biologist and naturalist with more than 25 years experience studying birds. Ten years ago, he started up Down East Nature Tours - which forms the acronym DENT on his license plate and was comically validated during last winter's blow down when his car was dented by a fallen tree. Customized tours explore nature through biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, or just gentle scenic viewing. The property he and his wife Lori Corbani own and maintain as a wildlife sanctuary makes a good starting point for some of the tours. Birds always make their way into his talks.

Six years ago, he founded the Warblers and Wildflowers Festival, which takes place once again next week, May 25-30. The festival brings together people for a variety of events that allows them to experience nature in some of the most unique places on Mount Desert Island and introduces them to the complex environmental issues regarding poor development and land use, and the impact they have on bird populations. Maine, he says, is part of the "Northern Rainforest" with an abundance of food and shelter; it is an annual destination for Neotropical migrants and the breeding grounds for millions of birds. Habitat fragmentation, he says, is probably the major cause of declining numbers of warblers and other species.

This year's program is based on getting participants into many different types of habitats and offering an in-depth view of the complexity of ecosystems making up MDI and Maine. Last year, hundreds of species of plants, animals, birds and insects were sighted, including 118 bird species of birds and 19 species of warblers such as the Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Canada and Tennessee and the "incomparable" scarlet tanager. "The wood warblers are among the most colorful and popular of American birds," he says.

Originally from eastern Pennsylvania, Mr. Good grew up on a farm; his ornithology started with chickens and progressed to hunting pheasant and rough grouse. But hunting also meant just being outdoors, observing nature. His favorite bird as a child was the northern flicker. "It's been part of my life since I was a kid," he says. "I can still remember hearing it calling in the springtime. The sparrow hawk or Kestrel, was also one of the first birds that I knew. I have always known these guys" In college, he learned to connect his innate birding instincts with ecology. "I always wanted to take that to the public," he says.

He lived in Europe for many years, ostensibly to do graduate work in The Netherlands, but mostly "birding my brains out" and listing birds that travel the African migratory pathway. Subsequent travels took him to Cuba, Ecuador Alaska and Australia. Ecuador is a winter destination for the Canada warbler, fore which Michael has a particular passion. Cuba is important as an 800-mile-long land mass on migration routes that span the Americas. He has vacationed on MDI since he was a teen, and when his wife got a position at Jackson Lab, they decided to settle here. They bought their 12 acres a decade ago with the idea of creating a sanctuary that would be both a place to study the ways of wildlife and an opportunity to guide others along an evolving network of trails.

The property encompasses a variety of habitats - cedar bogs, upland forest, wetland - that make for a study at once localized, intricate, and intimately connected to a far flung web of life. In Mr. Good's view, a nice little woods, left largely untouched, is a story in itself constantly told through characters that take the shape of birds and squirrels and bugs and mud and spruce trees and standing water and any myriad of things most of us admire merely for a bit of beauty and exercise on a quick hike. But this pocket of the world is also an element in a larger tale about global ecology and the interdependence of all living things.

And birds, travelers over half the globe according to innate laws and despite human defilement of their environment, are perhaps one of the most potent symbols of these interconnections and the need for a protected environment. A sample of his style can be experienced walking along the sanctuary's nearly two miles of trail. "I try to leave things alone and understand who lives there," he says. There's sphagnum moss and cinnamon fern. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers have been around forever. One wet area cleared a bit to see what grows features horsetails, where warblers and barred owls are commonly sighted. Lichen and moss "communities" grow on trees and the forest floor and are attractive forage for birds such as yellow warblers. An alder swale - a shrubby wetland - are common nesting spots for Canada warblers. Spruce knocked down in a single day's mighty winds last winter lie along the forest floor, giant root balls weirdly upended.

These become part of nature's story, an opportunity to talk about the wind coming off the ocean, the shape of the land that funnels it into tremendous speeds, the force of the pummeling that was clocked that night at 80 miles per hour. He hears a whistling call in the sky and looks up to identify a Broad-winged hawk. A Red-breasted Nuthatch flits through the branches of a red spruce. Oh, wait, there are two hawks, and there's a third being mobbed by a crow, the birds all performing aerobatics above the towering canopies of balsam fir and white cedar.

Mr. Good sees the doings of nature as a multi-faceted tale, and he's eager to articulate it as it's happening. It's important to tell these stories, he says, to help people understand the environment and the need to keep it safe. Birds illustrate this need, he says. Although most smaller birds don't get out of their first year, those which reach adulthood can live for up to a decade. "But their lives are very difficult," he says. "They're migrating thousands of miles. The Canada warbler travels 3,000 miles to Ecuador, and along the way encounters billions of square feet of glass and millions of miles of telephone wires, and they get blown off-course, and we complicate their lives by removing their habitat. So it's amazing they even get here.

" The American people seem to have lost touch with the land, he says. "If we alter and pollute our watersheds and fill in our unique wetlands, no matter how small, we will greatly diminish the chances for many of the warblers species and other birds which depend on them for their homes," he writes. "Our alder swales, forested bogs, marshes and vernal pools are critical habitat for many Neotropical migrants because these are the mirror image of their tropical wintering grounds. Once wetlands are destroyed, the lifeline is cut, leading to a loss of biodiversity. Instead of looking for sound long-term ecological solutions that are in tune with the Earth, we typically skirt the issues and in many cases create long-term ecological disasters terminating the lives of multiple species of birds, amphibians, insects and plants and destroy our air and water quality." The Warblers and Wildflowers Festival is a way both to educate people about these problems and celebrate nature.

"Ten years ago, I wanted to do something like this," he says. "It took me years to get through to people that this is good for the community and good for the world, and it has an economic value, too," he says. It seems as though many of the island's nature specialists agreed with the concept; offerings from Acadia National Park, most of the boating companies and other guides have been in place since the first festival six years ago. An additional offering this year are sunset cruises on the schooner Rachel B. Jackson. "We're all doing ecotourism," he says. "The basic concept is that nature comes in many different forms, and because we're an Island, we have many different habitat types around us to understand.

The public is invited to opening night at the Mira Monte Inn in Bar Harbor, May 25 at 7 p.m. The gala event will include many local artists inspired by MDI and Gulf of Maine nature. Several local artists will display work at Window Panes Furniture Store on Cottage Street, including featured MDI High School artist Josh Volk and Islesford artist Ricky Alley, both recently recognized for their detailed paintings of ducks. Their work, writes Mr. Good, follows a long tradition inspired by John James Audubon (1785-1851), who painted hundreds of bird's species collected as part of his North America explorations. "Art has played a significant role in educating the public about the birds of the world," Mr. Good says. "With the advent of the modern bird guides this tradition of drawing and painting birds was perfected by ornithologists like Roger Tory Peterson and today by David Sibley with his exquisitely illustrated Guide to the Birds of North America."

For more information or to pick up an events booklet, contact the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 288-5103,

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 Last updated on 27 April 2020