May is one of my favorite times of year. The entire landscape is changing dramatically every day. First is a faint blush of green here and there when the poplar trees become impatient. Not long after, the rest of the landscape follows suit. It doesnít seem possible that there are so many shades of soft pastel green and in no time at all they become hard and bright shades. ďIreland has got nuthiní on usĒ.
We had a reunion in May with one of our guests we havenít seen for years. John Elliot brought his friend April Lawrence for some fly casting. My plan was to fish the Dead River, but the Flagstaff Dam was releasing big flows for rafters, so we went pond fishing instead. John was a regular guest biking and skiing back in the 90s but had never fly fished. April had some experience as a fly fisher but had not fished for a few years. We were fortunate to find some fish on both days out, and on the last afternoon they caught a number of nice Brook Trout on dry flies. We even brought one back for breakfast, and needless to say, it was delicious.
Spring birding is one of my favorite activities, and we had two great birding weekends in May. Ron Joseph displayed his amazing ability to hear and identify every bird out there and entertain us at the same time. We were lucky to have George and Linda Smith join us again. Linda is a serious birder with a practiced eye focused on the quarry, while George is more interested in whether or not there are any trout in whatever water we are near. They both have some great experiences to share with the group and George gives us such nice write ups after the trip. He focuses particular attention on Patís cooking. When you get right down to it, it is Pat and her kitchen that makes Claybrook Lodge the place our guests return to year after year.
Our second birding weekend included Memorial Day and the weather was so good we decided to paddle on Gilman Pond. Ron was excited about this weekend because it included a special guest. Arthur Borror was Ronís professor at UNH when Ron was a struggling young student. Ron told us he was discouraged and not doing well at school. In fact, he was on academic probation and thinking about dropping out. Professor Borror recognized Ronís distress and offered wise council that renewed Ronís confidence and we are the beneficiaries. Ron had not seen Professor Borror since the early 70s so it was a great reunion. We all enjoyed his wry humor and expertise as a naturalist.
In recent years my daughter Kate and her partner Peter Elias have been joining our birding groups. I am in awe of how quickly they have become skilled birders. Kate has the best eye for finding a reclusive warbler and Peter has developed an ear for a variety of calls. Ron says they will be our future replacements but I think they have far surpassed my skills already.
While Ron was birding the Gilman Pond Road and the Cold Spring Ranch, I went to the boat launch to carry canoes to the shore and get them ready. There was a family camping there and they had a Pit Bull that was lying quietly in the sun off leash. The dog gave me a look when I carried the first canoe past him and with my history with loose dogs, I was on alert. I saw the owner nearby and went to introduce myself. As I reached to shake hands, the dog came from behind him in an aggressive way. The owner assured me that he wouldnít bite people but did not like other dogs. I told him that I had bad luck with dogs that didnít bite people, but he didnít put the dog on a leash. On the last carry, the dog suddenly came running. He didnít bark or growl any warning; instead, he jumped up and bit my chest almost at the shoulder. In a split second, buttons were popping everywhere, and my shirt was completely ripped off. With that, the dog went back and laid down. I was lucky that his teeth just grazed me; I got two big welts but he didnít break the skin. If he had gotten a good hold, I suspect it would have taken a lot of stitches to repair the damage. The owner was shocked and embarrassed and wracked with guilt. I mentioned that we had a leash law just for these situations, and since no one got hurt it was a good learning opportunity. I was thankful that it happened before our guests all arrived. With a large group of strange people arriving there could have been tragic results.
Gabe and Molly Clark own the Cold Spring Ranch and we have been impressed with all that they have accomplished. They raise grass-fed beef on one of the most beautiful farms in Maine. The work it takes to run their farm is above and beyond what most of us consider to be a normal work schedule. In spite of that, they are always welcoming, and this year they took time with their beautiful little girls to join us birding swallows around the barn yard. Their farm is the only place I have been where you can observe all five Maine swallow species in one place. It is also the best place to find grass land species with their extensive open fields. They have been acquiring and clearing additional lands, that were once part of the original ranch. Gabe is just finishing clearing and seeding a huge stretch of old field, grown back to woodland. Now it is a lush green grass land with a stunning view of the Highland Mountains. It is worth a drive out Gilman Pond Road just to see it.
I spent a day fishing the Dead River with a long-time friend near the end of May. Paul and Peggy Stanilonis from Vermont spent a couple of nights with us. They are both naturalists and Paul is one of the best woodsmen I have known. We didnít get a single offer from a fish, but it is always a pleasure for me to spend some time with Paul and Peggy.
The warm spring days of May are over, and now we get gardening and black flies of June. This is a good time to get in touch with us about Moose Rut weekend in October. We will be calling moose on the weekend of October 6-8 and we hope you will join us.
Greg and Pat