The most easterly of PRWF’s Project Areas is Mason Bay, which straddles the Jonesboro/Jonesport town line just east of Addison and at the head of Englishman Bay. Mason Bay is 1½ miles long and ½ mile wide. Nearly the entire bay drains at low tide, exposing roughly 500 acres of mudflats. The four streams that feed into the upper part of the bay, Southwest Creek, Mansfield Creek and both branches of White Creek, all have extensive salt marsh systems.
Mason Bay and its surrounding uplands provide exceptional habitat for migratory and wintering waterfowl, migratory shorebirds, bald eagles, woodcock and sea-run brook trout. Mason Bay is a popular spot for birdwatchers who have documented at least 16 species of shorebirds and 17 species of waterfowl using the area. Occasionally, birders have been treated to the rare sight of a Peregrine Falcon stooping on teal or plovers.
The habitat for over-wintering black ducks is particularly impressive. Because Mason Bay’s mudflats are open to the east they benefit from both wind-driven and tidal flushing and they rarely freeze over. Black ducks can feed here even in bitter cold winter weather. The gravel bars, high bluffs and tall trees break the wind and waves in the upper bay offering welcome shelter in coastal storms. In addition, several of the bay’s spring-fed brooks never freeze, providing the ducks with reliable year-round sources of fresh water.
Shorebirds staging for their long trans-oceanic migrations are especially dependent on places like Mason Bay, where feeding areas are in close proximity to undisturbed roosting sites.
PRWF’s Pleasant Bay, Crowley Island/Indian River and Mason Bay Project Areas are close together by avian standards and support some of the same populations of shorebirds and waterfowl. A few minutes flight allows flocks to congregate in one area or the other as feeding conditions, wind and weather or ice coverage dictate.
Currently the shores of Mason Bay are largely undisturbed. However, there are a number of threats to the area’s fragile environment. When the next wave of residential development breaks on the Downeast Coast, scenic waterfront properties in places like Mason Bay will again be in great demand. Because the lands surrounding the bay are predominantly glacial deposits, gravel mining and expanded commercial blueberry farming also pose threats.
Over the last four years PRWF has acquired 14 properties in Mason Bay and has combined them into the Mason Bay Conservation Area (MBCA). PRWF now protects over 800 acres on the bay, comprising 581 acres of uplands and 236 acres of wetlands. The properties have over 5.0 miles of frontage on the north shore of Mason Bay, on Southwest Creek and along both sides of White Creek at the head of the bay.
PRWF has been very fortunate to be able to consolidate such a large block of undeveloped land into a nearly contiguous whole. More different species, and more of any given species, will be protected in an integrated project than in the same amount of acreage broken into smaller lots. The MBCA’s long, continuous stretches of protected shorefront provide a haven for shorebirds and waterfowl that have difficulty living in close proximity to people. In the fall shorebirds can feed and put on weight for their migrations and during the winter waterfowl can feed and rest without being disturbed.
This project represents a significant new public resource complementing nearby Roque Bluffs State Park. Visitors to the MBCA can park in the two parking areas shown on the map and can access bird watching sites on both sides of the bay by the existing roads. Though there are no improved trails visitors can park just off Route 187 at the northern end of the conservation area and explore on old gravel logging roads, or they can park at the next area to the south and wander through the meadow to the shore.
PRWF has required a lot of help to put together the Mason Bay Conservation Area and funding to purchase these properties has come from many different sources. Bargain sale gifts from conservation–minded landowners played a vital role while major cash funding came from the Land for Maine’s Future Program as well as several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants. PRWF also received non-governmental grants from the William P. Wharton Trust, the Bonnell Cove Foundation and the Open Space Conservancy grant supported by the Doris Duke Foundation. Additional financial and technical support has been provided by our Heads of the Estuaries Partnership members – Downeast Coastal Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and USFWS – Gulf of Maine Coastal Program.
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