Sunday, June 10, 2007

Maine, up to Acadia

June 19, 2007

Not very rested, but again I was in a state where my list was six birds. I had seen many more, but had no records since those two trips to Maine, one to Acadia before I started birding, and the other to Penobscot Bay to visit a friend I'd met birding in the Everglades, were way before I had kept daily counts. I've been using Avisys for about five or six years, and it's changed the way I think about sightings. I'm not entirely sure it's all good changes, I don't always like being so conscious of the numbers and statistics and missing lists. Early in birding, and before I'd become acquainted with listing software, all I'd focused on were new species, lifers, so I only had the sketchiest recall of all the rest. Even the concept of lifer was something I'd learned from a Pete Dunne book. I had just been wandering around the countryside to see what I could find. I had no idea of what was rare or not, nor where to look for things I hadn't seen. No List-serves, nor hotlines, no bird-finding books, no companions. And there was something glorious about finding a new bird, a Mountain Chickadee in the Burros outside Silver City, or a Cinnamon Teal at Bosque del Apache, which was an epiphany. Occasionally I'd meet really good and skilled birders, and I'd learn what I could, but I didn't even know the right questions. My first Sora was in Moab and came after a woman told me what it was when I described the call, and said, "just stand still and wait". I'd never seen a rail.

Once more, I had plotted a lot of sites from the "Birder's Guide to Maine" by Pierson, Pierson, and Vickery. Unfortunately, I had only made it halfway up the coast before the trip started, so the northeastern part of the state was less organized. I headed for the closest unit of Rachel Carson NWR, but it was a small outlier, a tidal drainage on the coast, and not that great with the tide out. It must have turned about that time since things started filling back in for the rest of the morning. The next stop was Mount Agamenticus WMA which was quite good. Nobody there, several stops by the roadside on the way to the top, and then hiking around the grassy area where the old abandoned ski slope had been, and down one of the trails into the woods. Lots of the standard woodland breeders, and even a Great-crested Flycatcher. Spent over a hour there, but really wanted to get to the coast.

Two very good sites came next, one was the headquarters area of Carson NWR, which had good woodland trails down to the tidal marsh, and a loop through the woods. I also was able to get some local and up to date info at the headquarters, particularly about Piping Plovers and Least Terns breeding at Lundholm Farm just a couple of miles away. It's a beautiful old farm that is now an Estuarine Research Center. That turned out to be one of the best sites in Maine. It had a good variety of habitat, and trails through it leading by various routes to the beach. The beach was built up but publicly accessible. Found the plovers, but not the terns, though I did come back a week later and find them as well. The woodland birds were a lot different than the ones at Agamenticus, the woods being more coastal and not as tall not dense, I suppose from being closer to the shoreline weather and salt spray and the soil being sandier.

The next stop was Biddeford Pool, which was Okay, but I think would be better in winter, since it's a shielded area right next to the ocean. I did luck into some Wifi while punching in sightings parked on the side of the road. Some unprotected household network, and many thanks to them for a few days accumulation of email. Then off to Scarborough Marsh and another bit of great luck, actually several. First was the walkway across the marsh, where I learned that it was a Sharp-tailed Sparrow place, but I couldn't find them. So I went back to the little non-descript Audubon building, where I found the most wonderful and knowledgeable woman who pointed me to a place where I could find them both, and had a handout on how to tell the difference. Went there, and there they were, one singing clearly, and the other distinguishable by a different behavior, which I confess I can't recall. Might have been brighter coloring also. Anyway, forgive me and if you go that way, just get the handout. Just beyond that place, which was at the end of a restaurant parking lot, was a road leading to a big tidal channel with lots of anchored sailing etc ships and boats. She said that there were Roseate Terns nesting just offshore there, and they liked to fish the channel. Sure enough, both them and Common Terns, the Roseates clearly showing their coloring.

Another site near there was Two Lights State Park, which juts out into the ocean, and has a hillock right over the beach where it's possible to scan for seabirds. I found both Common Loon and several Northern Gannets but couldn't get any Fulmers. I made another run inland to Saco Heath, which was a wetland that required a long walk through some very nice woods, I seem to recall Hemlock, and which yielded a couple of good warblers including Prairie. I went back to Scarborough Marsh and checked into a campground across the road from them, and got a taste of seaside Maine tourist gouge, thirty some dollars for a "campsite" with no table, no water, and no juice nor any lighting. The other section for "real" campers with huge oil guzzling motor-homes had showers and laundry, so at least there was that. Don't ever go there. However, my aggravation was softened by the 67 species I'd added in Maine in one day.

June 20, 2007

I got out of that place as soon as possible in the morning, but decided to check out the marsh just outside its gates. There was an old section of sidewalk, crumbling, and edged by brush that almost touched in the middle. So I thrashed my way back in there, got some good close looks at Willets, which are abundant in that area, and as I walked back there was a Virginia Rail on the sidewalk that just walked along calmly ten feet in front of me for twenty or thirty feet before ambling into the marsh. Closest ever for that one. My other morning goal was the Kennebunk Plains, a grassland with scattered clusters of small trees. Sparrow heaven, with at least six species including Vesper and Grasshopper, and an Upland Sandpiper as well, ol' button eyes.

From there it was about an hour's drive into Portland to check out the Ferry to Nova Scotia. Turned out you could get a day trip ticket, up and back for about a hundred. The down side was that the new ferry was a hydrofoil, and so fast that the birding was compromised. The old ferry, which had taken nearly three times as long, was perfect for watching seabirds. I mulled it over and got the schedule. Just north of Portland is an Audubon Center, Gilsland Farm. The folks there were really helpful, one printed out some detailed birding information for further up the coast, and I resisted the urge to buy books or maps. I birded around the farm, but was only bale to cover about half of it before the rain started. I'm not fanatic about birding in the rain, especially if there are other things to do, and no super zootie to pursue. So I just started driving.

It rained all day, all the way to Acadia National Park. The good part of my failure to get all the Maine birding sites into the mapping software was that I drove blissfully unaware past lots of promising areas, guilt free. I got into the park late in the day, just beat the welcome center closing, got a knowledgeable ranger there also, and was able to get a plan together with some maps. I drove around and did some minor exploring, and then headed down the west side of the big bay that splits the island partly in half, to Seawall Campground, and got there a little before dark. I was able to make reservations for the Machias Seal Island boat out of Jonesport, and contacted the daughter of a friend who worked at Acadia. We planned to meet up the next day. Still drippy and drizzly.


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