If you've seen a five-lined skink in Vermont, consider yourself lucky. Though much more common in warmer climates, in New England, these elusive reptiles are only found in small, specialized habitats of Vermont and Connecticut. Though they come out during the daytime hours, they are one of nature's most seldom seen reptiles here in the north. The five-lined skink is a smooth shiny lizard about five to eight inches long, with rows of tiny scales around the center of their body. Their name comes from the five yellow-toned stripes running from their nose down through their tail. Another interesting marking found on juvenile skinks is their bright blue tails. And they're fast — hence the nickname "blue-tailed swift." Over time those tails turn gray and their pattern becomes less conspicuous. Being conspicuous is not in the lizard's nature. Five-Lined SkinkThey prefer steep rocky areas with patchy tree and shrub cover, rotten logs and leaf litter. They're very fast and are quick to run for cover when a predator is near. They also have an interesting defense mechanism: If caught, they can shed their tail which has the unique ability to squirm on it's own, diverting the attention of the predator and allowing the lizard to beat a hasty retreat. Vermont is the extent of the skink's northern range and so far their populations have only been recorded in the town of West Haven. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, the land that supports Vermont's only skink population is protected from development. In this segment we head out with a Nature Conservancy volunteer to attempt to find and videotape the elusive five-lined skink in its Vermont habitat.
Dragon boats are born from legend. The legend is of Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who after being banished from his country and hearing his homeland was invaded, threw himself in a river and drowned. It is said the River Dragon shared his sorrow and flew to a quiet place with him. Over two thousand years have passed since then, but the legend of Qu Yuan lives on today with the help of Dragon Boat festivals held around the world in his honor. One of the highlights of these festivals are the Dragon Boat races. A dragon boat is a slender watercraft about 40 feet long and designed to be paddled by a team of 20 people sitting side by side. A dragon figurehead adorns the bow of the boat. Also in the bow sits a drummer, who beats an even tempo to help keep the paddlers in unison. In the stern of the boat sits a steer person, who controls the direction of the craft with a 9-foot oar, but also gives various commands to the crew. The drummer and steer person are in charge in this sport. At a festival, multiple dragon boats compete in heats to determine a winner. Fifty thousand people participate in this sport worldwide and all ages, genders and ability levels are welcome. All you need for the sport is a paddle, a lifejacket, stamina and the ability to work in a team. No special skills are required. Dragonheart Vermont The sport has also become a way for cancer survivors and those battling the disease to band together to raise public awareness. There are over 50 teams comprised of breast cancer survivors throughout the United States and Canada. Dragonheart Vermont is one such organization. Host Marianne Eaton joins the Dragonheart Vermont team as they take part in the annual Pawtucket Rhode Island Dragon Boat competition.
When you first see an Adirondack guideboat, your eyes might trick you into thinking it's a big, wide canoe with extra-long paddles. While it is a double-ended rowing boat, the similarities end there. Adirondack guideboats were the creation of 19th-century guides in the Adirondack lake region who needed a watercraft that could hold passengers, all their camping and hunting gear, a dog and maybe the bounties of their hunting and fishing endeavors. Because the water was not always easily accessible back then, the boat had to be light enough to portage from lake to lake, meaning the guide had to be able to carry the craft on his back, sometimes for long distances. The boats had to not only be light, they had to be adaptable to changing conditions in the wild including waves, wind and rough landing areas. Standard rowboats were not suited to this travel task and the Adirondack guideboat was born, being refined over many years by the guides themselves, which produced a watercraft of remarkable stability, maneuverability and light weight. These boats became the choice of guides throughout the Adirondack lake region. By the latter part of the 19th century, when visitors from cities such as Boston and New York were drawn from the Adirondacks to the Catskills, these North Country watercraft were no longer in high demand. But thanks to its durable design, which makes it easy to row and big enough to carry lots of gear, the guideboats remained a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts, often being passed down through generations. Today, early guideboats are sought-after museum pieces and a whole new generation has discovered the advantages of these graceful craft. Steve Kaulback can be credited with assisting the return of interest in Adirondack guideboats. Coming from a fine arts background, he became interested in the aesthetics of the boat. "And then I got in one for the first time," he says, "and [I] realized that the adage 'form follows function' is just so true ... not only was it a beautiful boat, but it was one of the finest performing boats I had ever been in." His interest led him to create Adirondack Guideboat Inc. in Charlotte, Vermont. Steve not only builds both wooden and fiberglass Adirondack guideboats but also offers a kit to anyone interested in building their own cedar model. In this segment, host Marianne Eaton takes to the water in an Adirondack, and joins Steve Kaulback in the shop at Adirondack Guideboat to lend a hand in building one of these amazing, historical boats.
The Rapid River in Western Maine is 3.2 miles long. Forming an outlet of the Rangeley chain of lakes, it begins at Lower Richardson. From Middle Dam to Lake Umbagog, it drops about 180 feet, making it one of the fastest falling rivers east of the Mississippi. It flows constantly, and with the help of the cool, oxygen-filled water released by Middle Dam, it creates the perfect habitat for trout — big trout. Three- to six-pound native brook trout can be found on the Rapid River along with landlocked salmon that were introduced in the late 19th century. It's a difficult river to get to, but for New Englanders used to pulling in ten-inch "brookies," the Rapid presents a rare opportunity to catch the trophy-sized fish of their dreams. From opening day in May until the end of the season in September, Aldro French of Rapid River Fly-Fishing guides trips on the river. The trout fishing on the Rapid is legendary and, being a guide, French is always asked the same questions: "What's the best week in May? What's the best week in June? What's the best week in July?" According to French, "It's the best week when you hit it and … you're in hog heaven when you hit it because you can catch 40 or 50 fish and half of them would be big fish." French lives and works out of his summer home, Forest Lodge, located near the Lower Dam. It's one of two sporting camps on the Rapid River and is the former home of Louise Dickinson Rich. It was there that the Maine author wrote her bestseller We Took to the Woods in 1942. In this segment, host Lawrence Pyne joins Aldro French on the Rapid River in search of trophy brook trout.
Trout and salmon have traditionally been No. 1 in the hearts of Vermont anglers. But over the past several decades, more and more fishermen have begun to appreciate the state's outstanding bass fisheries. In fact, largemouth bass are now second only to brook trout in popularity among Vermont anglers, with smallmouth bass not far behind. And among visiting fishermen, bass are now No. 1. As interest in bass fishing has steadily grown in Vermont, so too have concerns about maintaining a healthy fishery. As part of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Deptartment’s bass management program, biologists annually survey select lakes throughout the state. The surveys are designed to monitor the health and size of their bass populations, and to allow fisheries managers to respond to any changes in this increasingly popular
Bird Mountain WMA straddles the towns of Castleton, Ira and Poultney. It gets its name from the prominent 2,216-foot outcrop on the northeastern edge of the property locally known as Birdseye Mtn. It was purchased in 1976 shortly after the banning of DDT, a chemical pesticide that led to the demise of the state's peregrine falcon population. Common wildlife species include deer, wild turkeys, gray squirrels, rabbits, ruffed grouse and woodcock, along with numerous songbirds.
For many outdoorsmen, spring in Vermont is like Christmas morning for a 5-year-old kid. You anticipate it for months, and when it finally arrives you want to jump right in with both feet. And there's a lot to enjoy. The spring woods have much to offer and the fishing is the best of the year. For at least one Vermonter, the perfect spring day is a morning spent picking morel mushrooms followed by an afternoon of casting to native brook trout. Morel pickers can be as secretive about their spots as upland bird hunters are about their favorite woodcock covers. So it was a real treat when my good friend Leighton Wass invited us to share with him a perfect spring day.
The word kayak means "hunter's boat." Developed by people in Arctic locations, it was a necessary tool for survival. It was agile, had lots of storage capacity for food and supplies and was built to withstand difficult and dangerous conditions. Its basic design has remained the same for thousands of years, but its principle use today has shifted to recreation rather than survival. Whether it's a thrilling whitewater run or the contemplative paddle of a sea kayak, it's a water experience unlike any other. And its popularity is growing. Sea kayaks are long, slender boats built for lakes, quieter rivers and ocean water. Many sea kayaks have plenty of storage space, which makes them a good choice for a paddling/camping trip. Sea kayaking can take you places other boats can't go. Paddling is a quiet, meditative experience for many that gets you close to nature. You sit low in the boat. You actually feel part of the water instead of just being on top of it. It's a sport that requires instruction, safety equipment and knowledge of changing water and weather conditions. But for those willing to put in the time to learn the proper paddling techniques and survival skills, a sea kayak trip can be an unforgettable experience. For a landlocked state like Vermont, lakes and rivers are the only option for sea kayaks. But a short trip to Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts can give the paddler an opportunity to experience a coastal sea kayaking adventure. This is a different experience than paddling out on a body of water such as Lake Champlain. On the ocean, the weather and water can change very quickly; the ocean can get nastier a lot faster than a lake and you have to be on guard more. Even though the sky can be clear and nice, the water in the ocean can be rough. You need a better skill set to go coastal sea kayaking. And you need a guide or a very experienced person to take you there. Tom Bergh has kayaked for nearly twenty years and opened Maine Island Kayak Company in 1986. The company offers classes and kayak tours around the world. Tom got taken with sea kayaking because of the sea kayak's extreme seaworthiness and its ability to land anywhere. "You have such a little imprint, both on the shores where you're landing, the communities you're moving through, and the wildlife you're experiencing," he says. Host Marianne Eaton joins Tom Bergh of Maine Island Kayak Company for a sea kayak adventure off the coast of Maine.
Wild animals and birds are injured in Vermont on almost a daily basis. Whether they are hit by cars, injured by pets or intentionally wounded by humans, they often will die without immediate care. But there is hope for wildlife from a network of rehabilitators. Licensed by the state and supported by veterinarians, who donate their time, these individuals have devoted themselves to caring for injured creatures with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild. Helena Nordstrom is a wildlife rehabilitator. She says that there is a lot to working with wild animals. "You have to know something about ecology, natural history, veterinary medicine. You have to have common sense. You have to be compassionate, but not overly sentimental when you take in animals. And you have to have a strong sense of ethics, too." Animals released back into the wild must be able to hunt for themselves. They must be physically well enough to survive the elements. And most critical of all, they must be afraid of humans. To find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you, call your town clerk, local veterinarian or nearest State Police barracks. We visit Helena and look in on a current squirrel rehab project. We then head to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Woodstock, where Mike Pratt heads up avian rehabilitation efforts for such birds as herons, hawks and owls.
The Clyde River flows for 34 miles northwest from Island Pond, winding through Charleston, Salem and Derby before finally emptying into Lake Memphremagog near Newport. In the early 20th century the river attracted anglers from around the country, drawn to the population of land-locked salmon that would travel upstream to spawn. Trophy trout weighing upwards of ten pounds were pulled from the Clyde, making it one of the premier fishing spots in the northeast. But in 1957, the salmon run came to an end with the construction of a diversion dam, known as the Newport No.11 Dam. The dam was responsible for blocking the salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, and drying out stretches of the lower river, causing eggs to die. The self-sustaining fishery was virtually destroyed. In the 1980s a group of passionate anglers began a seven-year battle to remove the dam and restore the habitat. They organized the Northeast Kingdom Trout Unlimited chapter, and with help from the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and the Clyde River Committee, they began their David and Goliath battle to shut down the dam as its license renewal date loomed. Nature unexpectedly provided a little help on May 1, 1994 when the Clyde overflowed part of the dam, destroying it. Eventually they won their battle and the dam was destroyed in 1996. Soon afterward the salmon began spawning upstream. Today, in addition to natural reproduction, approximately 30,000 salmon smolts are stocked in the Clyde each spring and fish are now monitored to determine their health. Host Lawrence Pyne joins an old friend for a little fall fly-fishing on the Clyde for salmon. And we join a biologist electro-fishing to examine the health of salmon populations on the lower section of the river.