Difficulty: Easy. The Davidson Nature Preserve has a small network of wide trails that travel over relatively flat terrain. The surface of the trails vary from cut grass to forest floor. Altogether, the trail network is less than a mile in length.
How to get there: From Route 201 in Vassalboro, turn east onto Bog Road and drive approximately 2.2 miles to the intersection with Taber Hill Road. Turn left (north) onto Taber Hill Road and drive approximately 1 mile to the trail parking area on your left, just before Hussey Hill Road. The parking area is marked with a sign and a kiosk with a registration box.
Information: The 97-acre Davidson Nature Preserve was donated to the Kennebec Land Trust by Elizabeth Davidson in 2005 and is open for the public to access year round. In the preserve, visitors will find winding paths that visit blueberry fields, forests and wetlands.
Throughout the small trail network, the Kennebec Land Trust maintains three fields: West Field, Taber Hill Field and Family Field. These fields, home to many ground-nesting birds, would soon revert to forests if they weren’t mowed.
More than 70 species of birds have been identified on the land, including great blue herons, which have built a rookery in a fen on the property. The rookery — large stick nests constructed high in dead trees — can be viewed from the edge of the fen, at the far end of the trail network, past the West Field. April through June, visitors to this viewing area should approach the fen quietly in small groups so not to disturb mating or nesting herons.
Other birds that have been seen in the fen are American bitterns, marsh wrens, American black ducks and rusty blackbirds, according to KLT.
For the protection of the many birds found on the preserve, dogs are not permitted on the property.
The trail network begins at the parking area, just past the kiosk with a sign-in box. An easy 0.5-mile mowed path leads from the kiosk through forests and two blueberry fields (Taber Hill Field and West Field) to the edge of a fen.
Along the way are two short side loops. The first (on your right), the Family Field Trail, leads through Family Field. And the second (on your left) is the Tanager Loop, which is marked with blue blazes and leads through the forest to an old farm stone wall. Along this trail, watch out for a few piles of old bottles and metal odds and ends.
In the summer, area residents and summer visitors gather in the fields to pick a native lowbush blueberries.
Birds observed in the fields are field sparrows, brown thrasers, eastern towhees, bobolinks and American woodcocks, according to KLT. For more information about the wildlife, plant life and other natural features of the land, download the preserve brochure at www.tklt.org/davidson.
To date, the Kennebec Land Trust has conserved more than 4,800 acres of land, on which it maintains 36 miles of trails for the public to enjoy. For information about the land trust and to purchase a trail guide, visit www.tklt.org. The trail guide can also be purchased at the land trust office at 331 Main Street in Winthrop.
Personal note: I messed up a bit while researching this hike. I was so excited about the new Kennebec Land Trust trail guide that, while flipping through its pages, I got mixed up. Thinking the Davidson Nature Preserve was open to dogs, I took my dog, Oreo, on the trails. It was only after the hike that I re-read the guide and realized I’d broken the rules.
So, I had to edit Oreo out of the resulting hiking video. I didn’t want to confuse viewers. Dogs are prohibited from the preserve year round.
I visited the preserve in late October, when many of the birds living in the fields, forest and fen during the summer had already departed south for the winter. Nevertheless, I saw a group of mockingbirds flitting about the trees, as well as a blue jay and a couple of black-capped chickadees, which remain in Maine year round.
The many different plants of the fields and forest made for a colorful late fall landscape. The oak trees were still shedding their burnt orange leaves. Patches of yellow and red foliage stood out in the overgrown fields. And the tall evergreens, as always, added a deep, rich green to the scene. It truly was a beautiful place for one of my last snow-free hikes of the year.
About Aislinn Sarnacki
Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.