Cobscook Bay Wildlife Management Area, Washington County, Maine

About Cobscook Bay WMA

Cobscook Bay Wildlife Management Area consists of 10 separate parcels of land along Cobscook Bay in Washington County, in eastern Maine near the Bay of Fundy. Nearly 2,000 acres are protected here, including tidal shoreline, freshwater wetlands, and upland. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) administers the area. Upland habitats include a mix of woods and old farmland that was abandoned around the 1950s. Aspen, alder, birch, and other short-lived, light-loving trees and shrubs have invaded the fields, and many of the former farms’ apple trees remain. MDIFW maintains the old roads and lanes to provide access for management activities, and hiking trails pass through the area.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Woodcock use many parts of the management area for courtship, nesting, brood rearing, and feeding; birds that breed farther north, in northern Maine and Canada, stop here to rest and feed during their spring and fall migrations. Two units are being actively managed for woodcock: the Dennison Point Unit and the Morong Cove Unit. Both project sites are relatively small, but they provide good habitat while demonstrating management practices that benefit woodcock. Both areas are fairly close to public roads; after walking past locked gates, visitors can inspect the projects.

Dennison Point Unit

This unit totals 128 acres, of which 12.5 will be managed for woodcock. Alder, aspen, and birch cloak much of the area. In 1998, land managers cleared about 5 acres of old fields and fertilized and reseeded them. The fields, mowed every other year, offer singing and breeding habitat to woodcock, as do the grass-covered roads. Mixed in with the roads and fields are stands of alders that have grown past maturity. Using an excavator with a “brontosaurus” attachment, managers cut parallel strips about 80 feet wide into the alder areas.

Image of alders growing in newly restored woodcock habitat

New dense growth of alders on the Dennison Point Unit.

Altogether, 6.3 acres had been treated by late 2008, or about half of the area that will be transformed through tree and shrub removal. In 2012 another 25 percent of the area will be cut, and in 2017 the rest of the alder strips will be cut. Cutting will continue into the future to provide a mix of different age classes of regrowing trees and shrubs. The intermingled strips will yield excellent feeding and brood-rearing cover for woodcock.

Morong Cove Unit

Of the unit’s total of 528 acres, 6 will be managed to demonstrate habitat improvement practices for woodcock. Before cutting began, the area was overgrown with shade-intolerant hardwoods, mainly aspen and birch about 20 feet tall, with a few spruce and fir trees mixed in. Nearby lie old fields and regrowing stands of dense saplings, used by woodcock for feeding and resting. Cutting operations in the Morong Cove Unit will create nesting and brood-rearing cover close to both the feeding areas and courtship clearings on the WMA and on adjoining private land.

About 5.2 acres of aspen and birch are being logged off in two separate blocks of 2.5 and 2.7 acres. In 2017 another 4 acres will be cut, for a total project area approaching 10 acres and providing stands of regenerating trees of different ages and stem densities.

Funding and Partners

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

The Dennison Point Unit is east of the town of Whiting. It can be reached via Dennison Point Road, which leads north from Maine Route 189. The Morong Cove Unit is also north of Route 189 and is accessible from Crow’s Neck Road. To visit the projects, contact biologists working in Region C of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, P.O. Box 220, Jonesboro ME 04648, phone 207-434-5927.