Step Into Their Stories...
A Blossoming Naturalist Flowers
By Greg Shute, Director of North Woods and Coastal Properties
Observing the natural world has always been at the heart of the Chewonki experience, and I find great satisfaction in passing this vital skill to the next generation at Chewonki’s Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Camp, where I am based each summer. So, it was truly exciting when Lulu, a young adventurer visiting with her family this August, flipped the script by making a completely unexpected aquatic observation that surprised even this Debsconeag old-timer.
It was a beautiful morning with temperatures pushing 80F. The lake was glass save for a single loon’s long wake. I hear the kak, kak, kak of Peregrine Falcon chicks nesting on nearby cliffs and chickadees, nuthatches, and kinglets amongst the hemlock branches. Guests arise, adding their voices and laughter to the morning’s cacophony–I love seeing visitors sink into the natural rhythm of this magical place.
Lulu and her family joined me for an impromptu nature walk to a nearby cove. I shared my knowledge along the way, identifying insectivorous Pitcher Plants and Sundews, teaching them the difference between Wild Sarsaparilla and Poison Ivy, and inviting them to taste the walnut-flavored seeds of Spotted Jewelweed. I learned all this from my naturalist mentors, and I was pleased to offer my young guests this wisdom in turn. Later, I was more pleased still to hear Lulu and her sister, Ruby, replicate the full nature walk for other family members, not missing a step or species.
Then, looking into Debsconeag Lake’s crystal clear water, Lulu pointed to something we hadn’t seen on our earlier nature walk and, frankly, I’d never expected to see at Debsconeag at all. A small, slowly undulating freshwater jellyfish smaller than a dime. These curious animals are native to China’s Yangtze River. How on earth did they arrive at landlocked Debsconeag Lake?
Later I learned these jellyfish have been observed in the United States since 1908 and were first observed in Maine in 1963. Still, it’s thought their presence was limited to Kennebec and Androscoggin Counties – clearly not so! They’re living amongst us in Maine’s North Woods, too (and thankfully, have no adverse effects on the lake’s ecosystem).
I continued to observe the freshwater jellyfish into October, sharing the unusual phenomenon with many other guests. Each time, I told the story of my young friend, Lulu, who reminded me that natural knowledge can be passed up, too.