Spring birding in Maine is phenomenal.  Many birds like warblers and flycatchers return to Maine from more southerly wintering areas to nest.  Other birds like most sandpipers and plovers are passage migrants; we get to enjoy them briefly as they migrate through Maine to more northerly breeding grounds.

Birding festivals have become popular in North America over the past decade.  These festivals are scheduled to maximize the diversity of birds present or to enjoy an ornithological spectacle like the staging of Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska.

This year, I am aware of three birding festivals in our state scheduled for this spring.  The first, Feathers over Freeport, is scheduled for April 28 and 29.  This festival is advertised as a bird watching weekend for all ages.  Bird walks for experienced birders, for beginners and for children will be offered.  A workshop on bird feeding is planned.  You can hone your skills in hawk identification and then put them to good use by participating in the Bradbury Mountain Hawk Watch.

Presentations with live hawks and owls will be popular as well as an evening talk on April 28 on Project Puffin by Sue Schubel.  The Saturday activities will take place at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal and the Sunday activities will occur at Wolfe Neck State Park in Freeport.

You can find the complete schedule at http://maine.gov/doc/parks/feathersoverfreeport.shtml

The eighth annual Downeast Birding Festival will be held over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28).  This festival is centered around Cobscook Bay, taking advantage of the great birding at West Quoddy Head State Park, Shackford Head State Park, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Campobello Island and a number of conservation properties in the region like the Boot Cove Reserve in Lubec.  Trips are planned to Machias Seal Island to see Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills and Common Murres.

Several talks and workshops are planned.  I’ve been a regular participant in this festival and will lead a field trip and give a talk this spring.  To see the full schedule and find details on registration, visit http://www.downeastbirdfest.org/

The diversity of birds in the Cobscook Bay is amazing. The cumulative species list of birds seen on the seven festivals to date is an eye-popping 221 species.  The Cobscook Bay area is a great place to see boreal species like Spruce Grouse, Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers.  The peak of shorebird migration will be past but one can still expect a nice diversity of plovers and sandpipers.

The Acadia Bird Festival will occur between May 31 and June 3 on Mt. Desert Island.  The list of trip leaders is impressive in number and in expertise.  A participant can be exposed to all of the many birding habitats on Mt. Desert Island.  A seabird trip is scheduled for June 2 to see pelagic species like Great Shearwater and Pomarine Jaeger.  The cruise will stop at Petit Manan Island where nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Arctic Terns, Common Terns and Roseate Terns will be easy to see and photograph.

Two birding celebrities from New Jersey, Kevin Karlson and Pete Dunne, will give evening talks.  Karlson will give a talk entitled Visions: Birds and Nature.  Karlson’s photographic skills will be on display with the images he will show.  Dunne will give a talk on the life, accomplishments and lasting impacts of Roger Tory Peterson. Both will serve as guides on the seabird trip.

The variety of field trips and workshops is impressive.  Marshall Iliff from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology will give a workshop on using eBird to record your bird sightings and keep track of your life lists while contributing at the same time to our knowledge of the distribution and abundance of birds.  Activities are on a pay-as-you-go basis.

[Originally published on April 1, 2012]