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Gilsland Farm Audobon Center

Welcome to Gilsland Farm Audubon Center!
(Falmouth, ME)  

Being new to Portland, it became clear to me that I needed to familiarize myself with the area I would be living in. Thus I thought it would be interesting to find out more about a wetland in the Greater Portland area.  I chose a wetland in Falmouth at Gilsland Farm. The wetland encompasses 65 acres, and Gilsland Farm has a gamut of wildlife activities to partake in. The 16.5 acre area that will be focused on in this analysis has a landscape that includes Estuarine and Palustrine systems.

Wetland Characteristics

A portion of the wetland area of study at Gilsland Farm partly consists of outwash plains soil. Outwash plains tend to be relatively flat and contain layers of sand and other fine sediments. Peat soil, also found in this wetland, arises when organic matter accumulates in wetland conditions. Muck, another organic soil type, is also present on the Gilsland Farm wetland. Due to the fact that some of the organic material is broken down by organic microorganisms, muck soils arise and primarily consist of humus. Also included in the wetland is another hydric soil known as fine loamy sand. In order for the soil to be classified as this particular type of sand it must contain 50% or more fine sand, less than 50% very fine sand, and less than 25% can be considered medium course and very coarse sand. Silt loam, also found at Gilsland Farm is composed primarily of silt particles and easily breaks in the hands when handled after it has been dried.

Having both Estuarine and Palustrine systems present in this wetland, there are variable hydrologic factors present. In the Estuarine areas, a range of fresh-brackish-marine water chemistry accompanies frequent tidal cycles. Due to Maine’s intertidal subsystem tending to have more periods of low water levels rather than constant fluctuations between high and low cycles, salt and brackish marshes and intertidal mudflats tend to arise.

As a wetland belonging to the intertidal subsystem, the Gilsland Farm wetland experiences frequent flooding in the tidal marsh area abutting the water. Conversely, the more deciduous areas including the silt loam soil as well as the fine sandy loam, just beyond th
e tidal marsh, did not experience flooding at all.

Both the sandy loam and tidal marsh areas experienced frequent ponding. When examining hydrology, the impact of flooding or ponding can be associated with surface water qualities. In the silt loam soil, it was determined that the soil has a sluggish rate of infiltration when damp.
Thus, in turn, it can be concluded that at high rates of water movement into the soil, the ground will impede expeditious infiltration. The tidal marsh soil has an even slower infiltration rate. The soil is rather shallow, and therefore has high runoff potential.


The predominant vegetation of the tidal marsh was Phragmites and Prairie Cordgrass. Additionally, the beadlike Sensitive Fern was present in moderate abundance. The Common Reed and Dogwood were also present in high and sporadic abundance, respectively. In the forested region of the Gilsland Farm wetland, both Red Oak and White Oak prevailed. Peat moss was also highly abundant.  Additionally, the beadlike Sensitive Fern was present in moderate abundance.                      

                                        Table of observed vegetation:




Common Reed

Phragmites australis


Highly abundant

White Oak

Quercus alba

Highly abundant in forested area



Low abundance; erratic

Prairie Cordgrass

Spartina pectinata

Highly abundant

Peat Moss



Highly abundant in forested area

Red Oak


Quercus rubra

Highly abundant in forested area

Sensitive Fern

Onoclea sensibilis

Moderate abundance

White Pine

Pinus strobus

Moderate abundance


Gilsland Farm has been around for over 30 years, and the natural habitat has been in existence for thousands of years. The Maine Audubon Society has maintained and evolved the protection of the area for over a century.  Gilsland Farm is home to Meadowlarks, Bobolinks, Red-Tailed Hawks, thrushes, finches and Canada Geese to name a few.  Along the shoreline flocks of shorebirds frequent the tidal flats.  Deer, weasels and Red Fox also call Gilsland Farm home.  Amphibians including frogs can be found at the wetland.

Visiting the Wetland

The Gilsland Farm wetland area is accessible to the public during open business hours which are Monday through Saturday from 9am– 5pm as well as 12pm-4pm on weekends and holidays. Gilsland Farm is owned by the Maine Audubon Society. As a highly respected site in which people can experience multiple environmental learning opportunities, Gilsland Farm has the ability to continue to educate the masses for many years to come. The habitat serves as a refuge for wildlife and a center for scientific research. As previously mentioned, the entire wildlife area encompasses 65 acres and houses an eco-friendly environmental center in which scientists can gather and tabulate data, and the public can visit and obtain valuable ecological conservation information. 

If one was to leave from the Maine Historical Society in downtown Portland, they would head southwest on Congress Street and then make a right onto Washington Avenue. Then, one would take the ramp to get onto 295 North, and continue until reaching exit 9. After exiting, merge onto U.S. 1 North, then take a left onto Gilsland Farm Road. Once on Glisland Farm Road, take the second left in order to stay on Gilsland Farm Road, and then arrive at the final destination of the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center.


 Wetland information and photos by Lauren Lindsay, Biology Department

Lauren Lindsay,
Apr 26, 2012, 8:13 PM
Lauren Lindsay,
Apr 26, 2012, 8:29 PM