Showing posts with label Penobscot River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penobscot River. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Preserving a Legacy: Protecting One Bat at a Time

Working in a in a public office building in Bangor, Maine, I hear a lot of things.  When I overheard a kind-hearted colleague worrying about what was going to happen to a bat that was clinging to a wall in the back stairwell, my ears perked up. She had called several agencies she thought would care, but they never returned her calls and nobody ever showed up to assist the bat. I knew immediately the bat was certainly in a place where the poor thing would either be trapped without adequate food or water once it came out of hibernation in the spring or would be exterminated by people who  misunderstood its critical role in our ecosystem that relies so heavily on the benefits bats provides.
The bat was trapped in a public building...what to do?

Legacy, Brown Bat ©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved
The bat is rescued and ready
 for transport to Misfits Rebab in Auburn,

Anyone who really knows me, knows that since childhood I have involved myself with wildlife rescues. I am a tree-hugging advocate for organic crops and nature in its wild and natural state. I believe all things on earth are provided to support other things in a never-ending cycle of life that spins evenly in a perfect circle. I also believe when you remove anything from the natural order of things, things get out of balance and life on earth starts to warble out of balance.  History repeatedly  tells us about mistakes we, as humans, have made by not focusing on nature, yet somehow our culture has gotten in the way of actually noticing those facts for the most part. Much of the world’s population, is, as I am, busy with everything else going on in an environment where new funky shoes, a better smart phone, and a political scandal seem important. A little bat’s plight and the impact this one creature has on the environment can easily go unnoticed in our busy day-to-day lives. I had to care.
Legacy the Brown Bat ©Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved
Legacy the bat,  is in good hands for the
winter and will return to the great Maine
outdoors to carry on nature's legacy
in the spring.

I’d never rescued a bat before, how hard could it be? An Internet search led me to a wonderful site,, that told me just about everything I never knew about bats. It can actually put you in touch with the name and number for an expert on the subject anywhere in the world. I was impressed! I was also talking to my contact in Auburn, Maine within minutes learning how to go about a rescue and how to care for the bat until I could transport it to her about a hundred miles away.

With the assistance of three more co-workers, the rescue took place successfully and the bat was delivered in good health to Misfits Rehab in Auburn. It will spend the remainder of the winter with eleven other bats who have also ended up in the shelter for one reason or another this season and be cared for by a trained and licensed bat care expert.  We have named him Legacy.

Very special and interesting things I’ve learned from the little brown bat named Legacy:

·         First of all he is not a rodent and is not even related to rodents. He is scientifically classified as Chiroptera, a Greek word which means hand-wing.  Bats are grouped with primates and lemurs in a grand order called Archonta.

·         Legacy is a male large brown bat, the most common bat to this area. As small as Legacy is, he is the largest bat species in Maine. Maine also has a little brown bat and a rare long-haired bat.

·         Even though he is common, his species is threatened by a disease called White Nosed Syndrome (WNS) which is proving to be devastating to the bat populations in Maine and elsewhere. If you see a bat with white on its face of wingtips, please report it. There is no cure, yet, but it will help experts track and learn about the disease. Legacy does not suffer from WNS.

·         Legacy is an insect eater. Insect-eating bats are equipped with a unique built in sonar system, echolocation, that’s thousands of times more efficient than any sonar system built by humans. Bats use it for navigating at record speeds through total darkness.  If it seems a bat is swooping at your hair, it is really after a mosquito that is preparing to bite you.

·         Legacy will be inoculated while he is in rehab. Bats do not carry rabies, however, they are capable of catching the disease just like any mammal is.

·         This bat will most likely migrate back to Bangor when it released in the spring to do its part in catching about 1,200 mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects per hour when feeding at night around the Kenduskeag Stream, Penobscot River, and, if you are a lucky Bangor resident, in your back yard.

·         Bats are extremely clean creatures and devote a lot of time grooming their fur, very much like a cat does.

·         Half of the bats in the United States are listed as rare, threatened or endangered. It is usually illegal to exterminate a bat.

·         I never dreamed I could, but I fell in love with a bat. I’m so glad I could help him out.

Blae and I hope you have taken a little time out of your busy day to read this and learn a bit about bats and what they mean to our planet.  If you see a bat trapped in a building, or orphaned, you can find helpful information, just like I did, on

If you wish to read about Legacy's rescue, it is documented on

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2014 All Rights Reserved 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fright at the Fort is a True Halloween Thriller

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Fort Knox in Prospect from the Bucksport, Maine

Not many people in America enjoy such a grand fortification as a community focal point as the residents of Bucksport, Maine. Their view of Fort Knox in Prospect is a scene to behold. The fort, named after Major General Henry Knox, America's first Secretary of War, was established in 1844 in preparation of a British battle on the Penobscot River, which never materialized. It now stands proudly as Maine’s most visited historic sight. 

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Three Witches - Photo by Kate England
 Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
As serene as it looks most of the year, during October, Fort Knox becomes perhaps the largest spook house in the state of Maine, maybe even on the entire East Coast. Who knows? What I do know is, it’s a somewhat spooky, giant window into the past. You can look beyond its granite and brick construction and into the very spirits of those who once lived in its dark and chilly confines. Many visitors have claimed to have seen and heard remnants of another era who are still clinging to the fortification to this very day in their afterlives. Don’t just take my word for it, do an Internet search. You’ll discover plenty of reports of pretty believable evidence from paranormal experts of ghostly footsteps and spectral apparitions of the soldiers who were once encamped there.

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Photo Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
If you’ve never done so, imagine visiting Fort Knox for a planned haunted event. I’m sure hair will rise up on the back of many necks there this year, as it executes its 13th annual Fright at the Fort event. Friends of Fort Knox, the non-profit, historic preservation organization that oversees and plans fort activities, reported 9,200 people attended their 2011 Fright at the Fort and, since they’ve doubled their efforts, expect an even larger crowd this season. When you add to those previously mentioned spirits, still clinging to the fortification in their afterlives, some concocted—yet thoroughly convincing—demons, ghouls, zombies and witches, you can’t help but have a frightfully perfect Halloween thriller. Exactly what Friends of Fort Knox strives for!

Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Waldo - Photo by Jamie Pellerin
Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox 
The four opportunities to experience Fright at the Fort this year are on October 19, 20, 26 and 27, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m.  Plan to arrive before 8:30 p.m. to allow enough time to be properly frightened.

Other upcoming October 2012 events at Fort Knox are ghost tours scheduled on October 6 and 13, and a special Belfast Maskers theatrical production—a positively terrifying retelling of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde—dramatically staged on the fort’s parade grounds October 12 and 13.
©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All RightsReserved
Ghost hunting can be fun at Fort Knox any time of year.

Photo Courtesy of Friends of Fort Knox
Click picture to view larger poster.

For more information about Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine, visit and for advance event tickets, call 207-469-6553.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE,
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine

Friday, May 4, 2012

Winterport, Maine: A Place for All Seasons

©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Antiques at The Old Commercial House, Winterport, Maine

Incorporated in 1860, Winterport was named for its port on the Penobscot River mariners could keep open in the dead of winter for the shipping industry, a lifeline for the Bangor region at the time. Nineteenth century charm is still visible today in the historic homes that once belonged to the sea captains who lived there back them. The town’s Main Street shares Route 1A which connects US Route 1 in Stockton Springs to Bangor. Unless you live in Winterport, you might travel through it without stopping. But, if you do have an opportunity to stop in Winterport, you will find it has quite a bit to offer, from its scenic and active waterfront to its local Maine businesses, each offering something unique and special. Blae and I have three favorite destinations in Winterport we’d like to share with you now.

The Winterport Winery

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedSample some local flavor and color at The Winterport Winery, owned by Michael and Joan Anderson. What started with a winemaking kit gifted to them one Christmas has turned into a year-round business involving their whole family. Since they opened the winery in 2001 where their award winning fruit wines are fermented and aged under the careful supervision of Michael Anderson, who claims title of head winemaker, they’ve continued to expand. Besides the tasting room, The Anderson Gallery at the winery features a tasteful variety of artistic expressions and is another reason to stop by to say hello to the Andersons. That’s not all, but we’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.

Old Winterport Commercial House

Hosts Ray and Ann Ronco operate a charming Bed and Breakfast in the town’s old commercial house. They offer hospitality and comfort at a reasonable price with the added attraction of an antique shop where a person can be kept busy nosing around for hours on end. Their reservation calendar for the 2012 summer season is filling up fast, so don’t delay if you’d like to book a stay. Remember, it’s a great place to visit during leaf peeping time in the autumn, as well. Whether you stay overnight or just drop by their shop during the day, the building alone is worth stopping to admire and makes a beautiful backdrop for taking photos

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedSilver Willow Gallery

You can’t stop in Winterport without checking out Silver Willow Gallery. You can learn to craft, as well as shop for handcrafted Maine Made gifts, at this artisan run business at 115 Main Street, cozily tucked in between the town’s pizza shop and dog grooming salon, and just across from the Old Winterport Commercial House. Silver Willow Gallery is a perfect example of what Maine’s local businesses can offer in the way of quality goods. Their wide selection of items on display come 
exclusively from the labors of Maine artists, writers, potters, jewelry makers, knitters, felters, soap makers, wood crafters and other artisans. Many fine pieces at Silver Willow Gallery are one-of-a-kind items, creating a shopping experience you will not have anywhere else.  You can follow the  Silver Willow Gallery Blog to keep abreast of Maine Arts and Crafts news and events  around the state.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Unique Handcrafted Jewelry at Silver Willow Gallery
© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
You never know what you might find at Silver Willow Gallery

Click the links below to learn more about Winterport, Maine:

The Winterport Winery
The Old Winterport Commercial House
Silver Willow Gallery
Winterport, Maine, USA

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Place of the Rocks

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart all Rights Reserved
Penobscot means "the place of the white shining rocks".

I can't tell you how many times I have passed by this place in the course of a routine day. It's the "place of the white shining rocks" situated conveniently by the on and off ramps of  I-395 on South Main Street in Brewer, Maine. At first glance, it seems like there are simply three huge rocks strategically placed in a rest area. A second glance will bring the realization there’s artwork carved on the front of the tallest center rock. But, as with most things, you really do have to take a minute to stop in order to appreciate everything you will never see just driving by. 

©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

A sign by the rocks, I had never read before, told me the story of why “the place of the rocks” exists. While discovering the artwork cleverly crafted on the other sides of the rocks not visible from the road, I also walked on bricks manufactured in Brewer a long time ago and artfully laid between the rocks in a pattern representing continuity. Since my husband’s grandfather, Bruce VanWart, had worked in a Brewer brickyard, I was touching a bit of family history at “the place of the rocks” as well. An old Bangor Daily News clipping (below) of an article by Lawrence Carroll Allin, published on October 21, 1987, tells the Brewer brick story extremely well. The reason we have the article today is because my mother-in-law spied Bruce VanWart in the1939 photo that accompanied it and she passed it on to my husband with an arrow pointing out his grandfather, a man he’d never met.

All in all, I decided this little rest area is a beautiful place on the Penobscot River bank to stop, whether you're traveling though the area or a local, like me, taking a moment to embrace the local scenery. I'm sure I'll stop here again to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the river and the pictorial story sculpted in the monumental Maine bluestone rocks of it's natural resources and haunting image of Penobscot Indian Princess Molly, all created by Carole Hanson and Andreas Von Huene to commemorate Brewer's Centennial in 1989.  

Beyond all else, it's simply a nice place to walk a dog and imagine what the river was like when the bricks, that lay there now, were made.

Nosing Around Maine  © Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There's More to Discover in Bangor, Maine

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
Construction cranes dwarf
Bangor's Paul Bunyan statue.
Seems people have been discovering Bangor, Maine ever since the Portuguese mariner, Estavan Gomez, a captain in Magellan’s round-the-world fleet, sailed the La Anunciada up the Penobscot River in search of the legendary Northwest Passage to the Orient in 1525 under commission of King Charles V of Spain. French explorer Samuel de Champlain was also documented to discover the area in 1604. However, the city wasn’t officially incorporated until 1791 at which time it was named after an Irish Hymn, “Bangor”, by a pastor from Boston named Seth Noble. A healthy fishing and fur trade drew the earliest settlers to the area. Then Maine’s vast forests brought wealth beyond compare to the region making Bangor the lumber capital of the world and one of the busiest ports on the East Coast by the 1850s. Shipbuilding and shipping commerce thrived until the twentieth century when pulp and paper industries took their place. Since then, Bangor’s central location has grown into a social and economic center for the state and offers the region a wide selection of retail and service businesses, education and employment opportunities.

Recent development of Bangor’s waterfront along the Penobscot River has not only enhanced its beauty, its brought entertainment and cultural growth to the city in the form of the an annual Folk Festival, Waterfront Concerts, Hollywood Casino and Raceway, plus revitalization of it’s historic Opera House which houses the Penobscot Theatre Company. There are also a growing number of museums and galleries in the area, including Maine Discovery Children’s Museum and Cole’s Transportation Museum. Its history is very rich, especially in Bass Park, the home of the Bangor State Fair, one of the oldest in the country, and a raceway that’s featured harness racing since 1893.
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012

Yes, there is definitely a lot to discover in and about Bangor, Maine. That’s the reason why a construction site on Main Street stretches all the way from Dutton Street to the corner of Buck Street and is changing the view of the entrance to historic Bass Park once again. Major changes to this block in my lifetime have included the 1955 opening of the now soon-to-be-demolished, v-roofed Bangor Auditorium. It was constructed behind an older auditorium, which preceded it, and was the second largest event center in New England at that time. The old structure was eventually torn down in 1967 leaving a nice park area behind the location where Bangor’s famous Paul Bunyan statue came to reside in 1959. The 31-foot, fiberglass and metal woodsman, which Bangor claims as its mythical son, was a gift to the city on its 125th anniversary and has a time capsule enclosed in its pedestal that's slated to be opened in 2084. Do not think I'll live to see that, but I have witnessed Paul, the statue, in an oversized Shriner fez to promote a convention and a bandanna for a Willie Nelson concert in July 1986 (which I have fond behind-the-scenes memories of ). The Paul Bunyan statue has even been part of the Stephen King novel, It, and, I dare say, is possibly photographed more than Stephen King or his Bangor Italianate style mansion with its surrounding unique, but fitting, bat and spider motif wrought-iron fencing.

In recent years, Hollywood Slots, newly renamed Hollywood Casino, has taken up residence across from the Bass Park entrance, where older hotels and businesses once stood, and from its parking garage you can easily view construction of the brand new Bangor Event Center, which will replace the oddly shaped, v-roofed auditorium that stands like a shadow behind it. This new structure is reclaiming space where the original auditorium once stood and is scheduled to open in July 2013.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012
As I mentioned earlier, I have fond memories of the Bangor Auditorium. It’s where I first saw a circus, interviewed Ted Nugent without any film in my camera, listened to a Willie Nelson concert through a headset with his lighting director, and attended a grandson’s high school graduation. Now, I’m getting itchy to see what exciting memories this new arena might bring to the city of Bangor, and of course, me.

Click these links if you are interested in progress on the new Bangor Event Center, or visiting Bangor, Maine.

Photographs and "Nosing Around Maine" Blog Posts © 2012 Gail J. VanWart
All Rights Reserved