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Spring Run: Fish Migration Programs

Due to popular demand we have two fish migration programs this spring:

Saturday May 27th @10am
Mill Brook Preserve, Westbrook

Join us to learn about and see alewives migrating up the Mill Brook in their annual journey from the ocean to Highland Lake. This two hour event will be led by a local alewife expert. The event is free, but space is limited.

Saturday June 3rd @10am
Mill Brook Preserve, Westbrook

Join us to learn about and see alewives migrating up the Mill Brook in their annual journey from the ocean to Highland Lake. This two hour event will be led by alewife experts Dr. Karen Wilson and Dr. Theo Willis from the University of Southern Maine Environmental Science and Policy Department.

Volunteer Opportunity: Water Quality Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring Volunteers Neededmatt-water-testing

Volunteers collect water samples to help us keep the waters in our region clean. Your efforts will build on over 20 years of work by the Presumpscot River Watch (now a program of our land trust) collecting data on dissolved oxygen and bacteria throughout the Presumpscot River Watershed. These are all key indicators of the health of aquatic ecosystems for both animals and humans.
The sampling season begins with a training led by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Saturday, May 6th hosted by our partners the University of Southern Maine Environmental Science and Policy Department at the Gorham campus.

There are then 10 sampling days, every other Saturday starting in late May. Each sampling day will generally go from 7:30 – 10:30 am. We ask that volunteers be available for at least half of the sampling days, listed below:
– Sat, May 20, Sat, June 3, Sat, June 17, Sat, July 1, Sat, July 15, Sat, July 29, Sat, Aug 12, Sat, Aug 26, Sat, Sep 9, Sat, Sep 23. Here is a map of the 2017 sample sites and their shorthand names.

The 2017 volunteer season has begun. If you are interested in volunteering in 2018 please check back in spring of 2018. If you have additional questions or would like more information, please contact Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator Toby Jacobs at

2017 Fish Migration Count – Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteers are needed to help steward and monitor the alewife migration from Casco Bay up the Presumpscot River, through Mill Brook, and into Highland Lake. The alewife reproduce in Highland Lake and then migrate back out to the ocean. This is the largest and most productive alewife run in Casco Bay.

WHEN: Volunteers are needed to count the spring fish migration, which is typically May to mid-June. Count slots are 30-minutes long during 4 designated time slots each day. Great bird and other wildlife activity can be seen while counting.

WHERE: Westbrook at the Highland/Mill Brook Dam.

HOW: Visually count fish, a short training will be provided.

WHO: The USM Environmental Science and Policy Department is coordinating the project and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust is a partner. To volunteer contact


It is a simple and exciting way to volunteer while getting outside and enjoying the local environment.

This May will be the fourth season the USM Environmental Science and Policy Department is coordinating the counting of the alewife (also called river herring) from Casco Bay to reach their spawning habitat at Highland Lake.

Alewife live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater systems and are an important secondary consumer in the Gulf of Maine contributing to the local economy and biodiversity along the Maine coast.

Volunteer fish counts are important for the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to help estimate the total population.

Quick Facts
Requirements Visual counting of river herring
Time commitment 4 count slots per day from 7-10:00am, 10-1:00pm, 1-4:00pm and 4-7:00pm. Count any 30-minutes during each slot.
Number of Counts 4 counts per day for about 30 days (about 120 total)
Program Time span Early May to mid-June (actual fish migration dates can vary)
Location Highland Lake Dam, Highland Lake, Duck Pond Road, Westbrook, Maine
Sign-up Contact for more information.
Click here to sign up for a volunteer shift.

See Handbook below with more information



Highland Lake Fish Monitoring Volunteer Handbook 

Park your vehicle along the side of Duck Pond Road, Westbrook, Maine (photo above). Watch for passing traffic while getting out of your car and crossing the street.

parking for fish counting

Walk to the site by crossing the bridge, then toward the brown house, and then to the left by walking up the forest stands edge.  Please see the next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting

Follow the forest stands edge until you see yellow cones that are marking the mini wooden bridge. The mini wooden bridge has some flex to it so please be careful and respectful for your own safety. Please see next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting 2

Continue along the red arrow until you see the red and black sign. Please see the next photograph and description.

walk in to fish counting 3

Stop just before the red and black danger sign and look to the right, you’ll see an aluminum boat upside down. Underneath the boat you will see a blue-lidded clear tub with some paperwork in it. Go up to the boat and pull out the tub from beneath the boat. Please see next photograph and description.

fish counting supplies

Walk up to the box and slide it from underneath the boat, open it and you will see a stack of papers. There are 3 different documents you will find: 1) the directions to follow while monitoring alewife 2) the master time and data log sheet 3) the personal daily data log sheet. Clip the documents to the clipboard. There should also be a clicker counter in the tub as well. If there is no clicker please use a tallying system until a clicker is available.  Next, bring these items to the alewife monitoring site that is marked by the tip of the red arrow on the next photograph.

fish counting documents 1

Above you can see the site where you count alewife that have reached the top of the fish ladder and are likely going to enter Highland Lake. At the site you will need to have the 3 pages and clipboard earlier mentioned.

fish counting spot

The pictures of migrating alewife shown below are to help familiarize you with what you might see at the monitoring site.

fish counting fish at dam 1

fish counting fish at dam 2


End of Winter Stargazing

Saturday March 18th
Pringle Wildlife Preserve, Windham

Join us at the Pringle Wildlife Preserve to see the stars and learn about constellations, astronomy, and celestial navigation as well as community issues like light pollution. The Observation Deck at Pringle is a great viewing platform and is guaranteed to keep our feet dry whatever the March weather decides to do.

Three Boys and a Brook

The Hatt Parcel Story – Mill Brook Preserve, Westbrook

Three Boys and a Brook is a new video produced for Presumpscot Regional Land Trust by Galen Koch in which three members of the Land Trust reflect on their association in the 1940s and 1950s with what is now a portion of the Mill Brook Preserve. In this pictorial introduction to the thirty acres Ralph Hatt donated in 2016, Ralph expresses why he worked through the trust to assure enduring public enjoyment on his land.


Family Learn to Snowshoe with WinterKids

family-snowshoeing-2016-smaller-imageSaturday February 11th at 10am
Hawkes Preserve, Gorham

Join us for a family-friendly Snowshoe Nature Walk at our Hawkes Preserve. This program will be a fun introduction to snowshoeing with games and forest exploration. Snowshoes will be provided for all who attend. Snowshoeing recommended for kids three years old and older. The program will be led by Marion Doyle of WinterKids. The event is free, but space is limited, RSVP is required, click here to RSVP.

Full Moon Snowshoe

full-moon-snowshoeSaturday, January 14, 2017
Randall Orchards, Standish

Join us for a nearly full moon snowshoe at Randall Orchards – the farm we helped protect as farmland forever.  We will meet at the farm at sunset and head out to explore the 500-acres of conserved orchard and forest while watching the moon rise. The snowshoe will be about one mile and the program will last two hours. After the walk, we will be serving hot cider from apples grown and pressed on-site at the orchard. This event is now full. If you missed signing up this year, please join us next year for this annual event.

Trail Grand Opening

mill-brook-grand-openingTRAIL GRAND OPENING
Saturday December 10, 2016
Mill Brook Preserve, Westbrook

Join us for the official grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Mill Brook Preserve three-mile trail system. The event will begin at 1pm with a ribbon cutting led by Colleen Hilton, outgoing Mayor of Westbrook, Mike Sanphy, incoming Mayor of Westbrook and Mike Parker, land trust board member. Following the ribbon cutting, Toby Jacobs, will lead a 1.5 hour guided walk along the newest and most rugged section of trail in the most remote area of the preserve. As the trail creator, Toby will share stories of building the trail plus history and wildlife unique to Mill Brook. We hope you can come celebrate and join us for the first official walk on the new trail system that over 70 volunteers helped to build. Trail maps will be available at the event.