The following are observations, thoughts and sightings on the Creek and in the watershed. Please let us know if you've seen birds, fish, other animals or just changes in the creek. (Please be sure to let us know if we can use your name!). We'd love to get reports (and photos!) from all parts of the Spruce Creek watershed.
June 3, 2009 - From John Pearson
You should come and stand on our dock at high tide and be amazed at the staggering abundance of tiny silver fish that are so densely packed as to make impossible to se the bottom through their swirling shoals. Many near the surface glint as they turn and reflect the light from the sky. Last evening when I came home the sky was a clear blue and the sea was flat calm except for the rain splashing on the surface. Except that it was not rain but the eddies made by the little fish. Tonight they are still there but the peace is often shattered by the frenzied jumping of mackerel stepping up the food chain! Congratulations to all who strive to keep Spruce Creek in increasing health.
January 25, 2009 - From Dan Ford
a bald eagle flying down the creek as I crossed the Route 103 bridge towards
Kittery. Also heard that there is a pair that is making a nesting attempt
on a tree behind the Commandants quarters on the Shipyard.
Fox on the Shore of Spruce Creek
October 11, 2008 - From Dick Loehr
I was kayaking on the Spruce Creek estuary this morning, a great blue
heron startled and flew off. I thought I was the culprit, then I saw this
fox in the tall grass at the shoreline.
Seals on Spruce Creek
October 7, 2008 - From Dick Loehr
We went looking for the eagles today but only saw lots of seals instead. One of the seals swam by my kayak, just about 15 feet away, and did not go under water. Here is that photo and also a photo of a small gull (Bonaparte?). There are lots of these type of gulls in the water in the creek now. They don't seem to be bothered much by the kayaks and you can drift within 10 feet of them before they paddle away.
Our "Resident" Bald Eagle(s)
Herons and Eagles and Dirty Runoff
September 9, 2008 - From Gary Sredzienski
Hi Phyllis!! that email I sent was a bit early! Yes..........I see quite a bit [of herons] this year. More young ones this year. There was one large curious individual I swam with for 2 seasons, but not here this year. More young ones though. I am thankful and blessed...... this morning swimming I saw a beautiful bald eagle in a short tree at the intersection of the Shepherd Cove condo cove and the main part of the creek....
It is real cool also seeing seals in the broad part of the creek. they spook me because they appear and just disappear. They were water skiing with a jet ski in Shepherd Cove....yikes!
was still dirty today from the hurricane. I'm embarrassed to tell you
these things, but my body seems to be a barometer for pollutants. last
week had another strange scab on my skin. I have to admit though when
we had that stretch of sunny dry weather........the water was very clear
Where are the herons?
June 11, 2008 - From Gary Sredzienski
you all have a chance to enjoy the creek this summer. after swimming i
thought that i'd share one small sad observation. every year i look so
forward to the return of the family of heron to the upper part of the
creek. they were there earlier this spring, but now there is quite a lot
of water skiing activity in the upper part of spruce creek up in your
neck of the woods Dick ( nearly everyday).........i am sad to say that
i haven't seen them since. There were 3.........have any of you spotted
them this year?
Update (September 2008) - In the past month or so our water monitoring volunteers have spotted 18, 12 and 15 herons while heading up the creek. Hopefully your family are among them!
June 24, 2007 - From Dick Loehr
This afternoon I went kayaking with Janet and Randy, and then back out again with Janet. She suggested we paddle up towards Route 1 and then follow the Spruce Creek estuary north behind the malls.
Ahead of us a dog jumped into the water from the east side, swam across, but could not climb back up the muddy bank as the tide was still low.
Janet insisted we help the dog. I was concerned, but I was also thinking about our local vet who recently had a dog bite his face. We paddled closer and saw the exhausted dog struggling. As we were talking about how to help (paddle float? bracing the kayak?), the dog swam to me and I lifted it in my kayak. Good thing I am still paddling my wide open Loon kayak!!
911 and the Kittery police said they would meet us behind Robert's restaurant.
As the officer was trying to lead "Rusty" (Janet's name for
the dog) up the bank, it slipped out of it's collar and jumped back into
my kayak. I had to get out of the kayak and walk to the patrol car with
Rusty and the officer. Rusty had a rabies tag from New Hampshire, so hopefully
the owners can be located.
New sidewalk! No more scour hole!
November 6, 2006 - Phyllis Ford
The new sidewalk is quite beautiful and check out the lovely bench to sit and enjoy the creek. I've posted some other photos of the sidewalk and guardrails, as well as the recently-fixed scour hole just south of the culvert.
Quite an engineering feat - the Maine DOT created a ramp of rip-rap to access the culvert. The rocks used seem much larger and are doing a good job of dispersing the flow. Very interesting - enjoy the photos.
"An estuary to be preserved..."
October 30, 2006 - From Gary Sredzienski
The more I swim Spruce Creek the more fascinating it becomes. The other day swimming I was followed by a heron all the way up to Route 1. I also am fascinated by the seals who continually check me out. I've been training for a future winter swim to the Isle of Shoals so I have been doing the entire perimeter of Spruce Creek. There is the most beautiful family of 3 great blue heron who live next to Chick Brine Cove across from the Shepherd's Cove condos. They are used to seeing me. It truly is an ornithologist's paradise!
This leads to a question which I know could cause me some trouble here in town. I was quite angered the other day when I was swimming along the shore line several hours after high tide. I couldn't believe how fast a boater was going up and down the creek. On the way back I was waving my arms to him to slow down. He saw me... waved his hands at me as if he were asking what's the big deal... and purposely hit the throttle to make a huge wave at me. I was shocked at the lack of respect. Actually I was quite shocked at many boaters this past summer on their lack of respect for pedestrians in the water... such as kayakers. Which rich wildlife in the creek... is it possible to lobby for a speed limit for Spruce Creek?? I can't help but think of the seals who come into the creek and the habitat for the heron. Most of all I am angered by the lack of respect by boaters. Pretty easy to be a tough guy when you are in a boat and have a huge horse power motor. If this is to be an estuary to be preserved, this issue needs to be addressed. Thanks!
Reply from John McCollett, Kittery Harbor Master: "The state does have a law regarding speed within 250ft. of shore. Headway only,this is called the water saftey zone. Water saftey zone is headway speed only!!!! If posted the wardens will help me inforce it."
Changes in the Creek (since the tidal restriction has been removed)
August 25, 2006 - From Justin Kane, Seminar Coordinator, Kittery Trading Post & KTP X Sports
The changes are subtle but there… One or more blue herons in our little section most days, and some egrets hanging around lately. In the spring I watched the periwinkle population really expand, and over the summer there seem to be lots more mud snails, which is a good thing – detritus cleaners for a healthy estuary. Small bluefish reported on the KTP side of Rt 1, by the way, and if you look at the water temperatures recently, I expect that our oysters may have been spawning, which is excellent. Bluefish are pretty common this time of year, but they're top predators, so where there are bluefish there's baitfish in healthy numbers. Lots of osprey sightings (I found a feather on the KTP lawn!) I'd also note lots and lots of very small barnacles that weren't there last year…
Spruce Creek Birds Comment on the Pollution Survey
August 23, 2006 - From Dick Loehr
message from the birds of Spruce Creek on August 23
The official flounder story
June 25, 2006 - From Tenly Ledgett
Dad and I went on a morning avon ride up the creek from the Smith's dock on Wednesday June 21. On our way back down the creek we took a detour over towards [Goose Point] even though the retreating tide was making the already shallow bottom even more so. I was looking at the clusters of muscles and rocks on the bottom when I saw the large flounder dart along the bottom and quickly away from us into deeper water. It reminded me of the good ole days when Mom and Chad and I would go flounder fishing out by the bridge. Yum Yum!
Horseshoe Crabs in the Creek?
April 11, 2006 - From John McCollett, Kittery Clam Warden & Harbor Master
[What do you know] about the horseshoe crab or lack of since the wide dam was removed? Back in 1958 they used to line the shore. They used to mate and move upstream towards Picott Road and also along Route 1 by the malls. The area just above the KTP docks used to be a beach. Gary Adams and the rest of us Nor Kittery dubs used to swim from there.
from Justin Kane, Seminar Coordinator, Kittery Trading Post
(April 12, 2006):
In the meantime, it's a little early in the season, but certainly for May and June if you have any members who are curious, they could go out during the evening high tides of the full and new moon and look about in the shallows of the creek. Those tides will be April 12 & 27, May 13 & 27, June 11 & 25, and all will fall between 11:30pm and midnight (at Kittery Point). These months will be our best chance to see them if they're here...maybe members can report any sightings, just for fun?
from Phyllis Merikallio (April 14, 2006):
from Justin Kane (May 10, 2006):
The smaller striped bass are in, following the baitfish (alewives and smaller stuff) up into the estuaries. People should be able to see the baitfish jumping towards the heads of the side creeks on the rising tides. If anyone has serviceberry (a great native shrub!) growing in their yard or creek buffer, they should be about ready to bloom: Serviceberry's also called Shadbush, or Shadblow, because when it blooms you know the shad are in the rivers, with the big striped bass right behind them.
I've also had a report of numbers of baby sturgeon taken (and released) as by-catch by an acquaintance dip-netting for elvers - baby eels - two years ago in Spruce Creek. That they were sturgeon was confirmed by a Mass. state biologist working on an eel study at the time. I don't believe anything was documented, however. If there are baby sturgeon here, perhaps there are still a few bigger ones...
More Photos from the Creek Man
April 11, 2006 - From Gary Sredzienski (see below for grid)
I shed an
extra suit today because the water is starting to warm up. Not that warm...
The creek is around 42 degrees. I swam into Gerry's cove today (where
the shepherd hill condo development is). I noticed the water temperature
in that cove was around 10 degrees warmer. As I proceeded to grid I-1,
I noticed fresh water springs (behind the police station) that water was
ice cold!!! It's fascinating to feel 3 different temperature gradients
in a short distance.
from the Creek Man
Observations Since the Tidal Restriction was Removed
Upper Spruce Creek - November 6, 2005 - February 8, 2006
From Marty Rea
Because of warmer than normal winter temperatures and more tidal flow, the creek has had open water at least part of the daylight hours 83 out of hte 96 days. Seven of those days there was no open water and six of those days I was not home to make an observation.
January 25, 2006 - From Charles Ek, Executive Director, Kittery Trading Post Outdoor Academy (read more about KODA)
During the past summer (2005) and into the winter months, I have observed an osprey several times above the Spruce Creek outlet. This has occurred so frequently that I have taken to checking the sky for the bird whenever I'm nearby. From watching the bird's behavior, I think it is probably resident somewhere in the vicinity. I would hazard a guess that it is a hen, judging by its appearance. The most recent sighting was in early January, 2006.
Freshwater Not Saltwater
January 22, 2005 - From Gary Sredzienski
photo of the creek up by route 1. The tiny little finger side creeks
is where i have been finding bottles, but they are also areas where i
have learned a little bit about where sediment is coming in from. Last
week i couldn't get into the small finger creeks because they were frozen
solid, but with the warmth they are once again opened up. What i noticed
is that there are cattails and fresh water running off the ends into the
creek. that's why it freezes because it is mostly fresh water. but when
its warm, you can see all the fresh water pouring in. I have to photograph
that. what is neat is that the bottles that i find up there have no barnacles
on them!!!! the water is not saline enough for barnacles!
Creek Man Angry
December 29, 2005 - From Gary Sredzienski
pretty angry today! I can no longer contain myself and must speak up.
I just got back from my daily swim and I am so tired of swimming over
people's trash! And I am so sick and tired of picking up people's golf
balls from the bottom of spruce and chauncey creeks. didn't know that
creeks are driving ranges. Living next to the water is a privilege, but
doesn't give anyone the right to trash the water ways.
December 31, 2005 from Gary: last week the water was really clearing
up and the visibility was getting outstanding, but the rain made it a
bit cloudy... several thousand antique bottles are no longer on the bottom
of the creek, but in my basement!!!! the more recent bottles i've cleaned
off the bottom and brought to recycling. i've cleaned out all the golf
balls from the bottom too!!! but i'm sure there's more. there are interesting
things i can take pictures of.
Update January 2, 2006: I just came back from Walmart and purchased 2 underwater cameras! I look forward to start taking photos. I may have to wait though. I swam approximately 2.5 miles today and the visibility was poor. We had snow on New Year's eve. I also noticed runoff today coming off the banks because temps were above freezing. BUT!! up in Gerry's cove i found 2 bottles from the 1880s - one from the Auburn Drug and Chemical company. I emailed the Auburn library this evening to find out when the company was in existence. also a cork top type - Chesebrough Mfg. Co..Vaseline. 1880s/90s. Look forward to good conditions to take photos!
TIDAL RESTRICTION: Exposed Oyster Bed Under I-95
November 11, 2005
The Kittery Harbormaster and Clam Warden (John McCollett) has told the Town Manager (Jon Carter) that there is a newly-exposed oyster bed under I-95. Don Card of the Maine Department of Marine Resources has suggested we call a meeting of the demonstration project team (and any interested parties) to consider our options (moving the oysters, replacing the boards, etc.). We will provide details on this meeting as they become available.
Update 11/15/05: According to Dana Morse of Maine Sea Grant and Don Card of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, moving the oysters seems to be the best plan. For now, they should not be in too much danger as the weather is remaining above freezing and, as of last night at least, there were no signs of raccoons or other predators getting the oysters. Don Card has offerred to assist John McCollett in the transfer of these oysters as he has the necessary state permit to do this work.
By the way, these do seem to be the native American osyter. According to Scott Feindel, a shellfish biologist of the Darling Marine Center who examined photos of the oysters, these are likely the "American (Eastern) oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and not a European (Ostrea edulis). The Europeans tend to be more round (pie-plate shaped) and "frilly" (with a shell sort of like a bumpy, corrageted roof) compared to C. virginica. There is a lot of shape variation in both species based on the sort of bottom they are growing on - but again I would say that it is an American oyster."
Update January 2006: Several bucketfuls of the oysters have been moved to a new home elsewhere in the Creek by John McCollett. Thanks, John!
Man Has a New Creek!
TIDAL RESTRICTION: Remaining Rock Obstructions at Picott Road
November 8, 2005 - from Jon Mason
Been watching the Creek - and it's now very clear that you were right in wondering whether it wouldn't be better to remove the two rock obstructions, just above and just below the Picott Road bridge, to allow the Creek - and the "meander" pool - to return to their natural condition. At low tide - as you correctly noticed - those obstructions do indeed keep the pond above the bridge far higher than the Creek level seaward of the restrictions. Which, obviously, means that that impounded water isn't flushing to the natural degree. I'd suggest the rocks be removed.
Note: Paula has asked Jon Kachmar about these two rock obstructions, which seem to have been put there by neighborhood boys to trap eels in order to catch them.
Jon Kachmar has replied on 11/8: I stopped by the Rte. 1 culvert this morning. Everything looks good so far. If there is a known area of rocks in the channel upstream that can be moved without a lot of work, I would suggest doing it. Rocks in the channel can have a significant influence on tidal flow, so your thoughts are probably right on track.
11/9 Note: SCA is exploring removal options for these rocks. The photo below on the left is the view downstream of the culvert, and on the right is the view upstream. If anyone would like to volunteer for this effort, please let us know!
Update January 2006: Thanks soooo much to Gary Sredzienski, our volunteer member and "Creek Man" (perhaps you've seen him swimming Chauncey and now Spruce Creeks every day?). Back on November 25th, Gary moved the rocks to the side of the channel (under the art direction of Ron & Paula Ledgett) and the tidal flushing seems to be extending further up the creek.
TIDAL RESTRICTION: New Mud Flats
November 8, 2005 - from Carolyn Hanson
We drove by the impoundment today at low tide going to and from Shapleigh; once south on Rte 1, then west on Picott, east on Picott, then finally north on I-95. Dramatic difference and I concur that there are mud flats never before seen. In fact a large group of sea gulls was milling around looking dazed, confused, but delighted.
Shipwreck in Spruce Creek
November 8, 2005 - from Gary Sredzienski (aka, "The Creek Man")
I've already swam all of Spruce creek since I moved here [from Chauncey Creek] 2 weeks ago. Swam under Route 1 last week and just found out about the news and the work to remove the dam! I've already found a very old ship wreck in the creek! Will try to get one of those underwater disposable cameras and take pictures. Also found a site with old bottles. I hope no one minds me swimming - I hug the sides and will not be a hassle to boaters. I know this sounds strange, but I just read in the article that the water quality is below standards at Spruce Creek. I have to say - Spruce Creek appears much cleaner than Chauncey Creek!
June 23, 2005 - from Lois M. M. Horton
It must be a fluke or the ecology has gone crazy but a huge piece of Kelp washed into the creek this a.m..
June 4, 2005 - from Lois M. M. Horton
We haven't had perriwinkles clinging to our dock & rocks in this quantity in many, many years. Could signify a + in water quality?
February 3, 2005 - from Carolyn Hanson
We had some volunteers from the Marine Animal Lifeline at my home this week to check on a couple of seals that had gotten side-tracked into our Creek and cove. I believe all turned out well and I'm glad we found your organization and called on you.
15, 2005 - from Mary Craig
If you see or encounter a seal in Spruce Creek - especially if it appears to be sick or stranded - there is an organization to call. Marine Mammal Lifeline has a network of trained volunteers and a 24-hour hotline at (207) 773-7377. The Lifeline volunteers are trained to assess and, if necessary, rescue, treat and rehabilitate at-risk sea mammals. Jennifer Herrick (firstname.lastname@example.org), a Lifeline Animal Care Technician, advises that if you do find a stranded seal (alive or dead) the best thing to do is leave it alone and call the hotline number to report it. Because of the volunteer network, someone from Lifeline will usually be there to assess the animal within 20-25 minutes.
To learn more about Marine Animal Lifeline, to donate or become a trained volunteer, visit their web site at www.strandings.org. You can also e-mail them at email@example.com or write to them at
Why is there a barge with a backhoe in the Creek up by Route 1?
September 27-28, 2004
According to Mike Rogers of the water district, the backhoe that is up there on the barge is there for some planned work by the Maine Department of Transportation. The DOT is going to have a truckload of riprap dumped over the edge from Route 1 (this will be to the downstream side of the road) and then the backhoe-on-a-barge will move the stones into place. This work is needed, he said, as some of the stones have been washed away from the riprap edge. Thanks to those of you who noticed it and wrote in!
Paddling in the upper portions of the Creek
August 18, 2004 - from Phyllis Merikallio
Paula and I a fun little adventure paddling the upper reaches of Spruce Creek. In preparation for the meeting we'll be hosting in October about the potential effects of removing the dam at US Route 1, we got permission from the nice folks at the Trading Post to use their dock and put our kayaks in above Route 1 and headed upstream with the last of the incoming tide. It was kind of like 4-wheeling in a kayak (over rocks, under downed trees, etc. - thank goodnes for the little Otters we were in...). Those upper portions of the creek (at least in full summer wear) do not seem very"encroached upon" by houses or structures and seemed fairly "wild", except for the hum of the traffic which was audible fairly far up the Creek.
The topography is very much like the portion of the Rachel Carson that is out by Cutts Island - skinny winding waterway among high marshes. There was definitely tidal movement all the way up as far as we got, which was about one mile from US Route 1, somewhere just past Wilson Road. There was both fresh and salt water vegetation pretty far along our way, and signs up on the grassy banks/marsh that a higher tide/storm had recently dumped seaweed up on the flat bits. There was one medium-sized hay field that seemed to come close to the marsh's edge and some dump-like materials on someone else's property (old fridge, car parts, etc.). We also crossed under the shiny new CMP power lines crossing, and that didn't seem too disturbed nor disturbing. There were very many birds and minnow-like fish (perhaps Paula can fill in details...) and we only picked up a few plastic bags and containers along the way.
All in all, great afternoon exploring more of this amazing watershed!
Enjoying the Creek
8:30 am July 12, 2004 - from Paula Ledgett
Rowing from Crockett's Brook to the Route 1 bridge and back, the Creek couldn't been more beautiful with sunny skies, slight sw breeze and cool temperatures (around 68 degrees). Four people were dressed in waders and fishing on the Creek's edge on the north side near the Rt. 1 bridge in the grass. Pine pollen slightly dusted the surface and was more in evidence around the edges of the Creek where there was less water motion. There was a solitary rock sitter off Roger's Park enjoying the fine weather and view. Paula
Have you noticed how brown the Creek is lately?
June 7, 2004 - from Paula Ledgett
Supposedly, this is caused by a single cell algae that grows when the water temperature gets to around 50 degrees. The algae feeds on the fertilizers that we all put on our lawns that run off into the Creek when it rains. The more fertilizer, the more algae. When the water temperature warms up the algae dies, sinks to the bottom and decomposes using the dissolved oxygen in the water. Sea life needs dissolved oxygen in order to live. Fish will no longer enter a water body with low levels of dissolved oxygen and the immoble animals such as clams, worms, etc. die.
What can be done? Shrub and tree buffers along the shoreland help to absorb the fertilizers (and pesticides) that we put on our lawns and gardens. Please consider keeping your shoreland buffer healthy in order to protect Spruce Creek.
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