I write this in mid-April, a time when the bays and harbors are coming alive once more. For those of you new to the area, Harpswell reaches into Casco Bay with its 216 miles of shoreline, creating harbors and coves from Harpswell Neck to Cundy’s Harbor. We have commercial wharves scattered along our shorefront.
In the bay, the water temperature has risen from 40 degrees to 44 degrees in the last 20 days. Too cold for swimming, but the annual warming has begun. With the warmer air and waters, those on the water have reported the return of great blue heron and osprey. In the marshes, the spring peepers are growing in numbers and volume.
On the water, as lobstering gears up, other species being landed are haddock, pollock, flounder, and crabs. Did you know that late spring is when crabs molt, resulting in softer shells? This is important for those of us who pick our own.
As the waters continue their annual warming, paddlers have started heading out (wetsuits highly recommended). My ocean paddler friends have reported seeing trailing arbutus on the rocky coast, along with rogue crocus and forsythia. Other sights reported include clammers with their sleds and rakes, and minnows appearing in the shallows.
Harpswell has more than 40 licensed clammers. If your home is on a tidal flat, do you provide a right of way for these clammers? These diggers bring in both our traditional soft-shell clams and quahog clams. The thicker-shelled mollusks are better adapted to our warmer and more acidic waters and the assault on their shells by green crabs. These mud flats provide more than $400,000 annually to our local economy. Having grown up with a right of way agreement, I have loved finding a bag of clams or sea lavender left at my back door.
As we return to the water, I hope you will notice the changing waterfront, both natural and manmade. I hope you will take this season to learn more about the commercial wharves, how to take care of our waters and, most of all, how to enjoy the arrival of a new season here in Harpswell.