Maine Bird Tour – II
This column is the second in a series of three giving the highlights of a week-long birding tour I led for a group of Maryland birders in June.
On our third day, we left Sanford and headed toward Booth Bay Harbor. We stopped along the way at Maine Audubon in Falmouth where a Willow Flycatcher had been reported. We were able to hear the Willow Flycatcher but it bashfully never gave us a good look.
We made a quick side trip to the Wild Bird Center in Yarmouth to look for the Carolina Wren that had been sighted there. The wren scolded us from the dense shrubbery but like the Willow Flycatcher never gave us a chance to see it.
Booth Bay Harbor was our next stop where we had reservations on a whale-watching cruise. Our goal, of course, was to see some pelagic birds. We had good success in that regard on a wonderfully calm day. We saw at least 30 Greater Shearwaters, ten Sooty Shearwaters, one Northern Fulmar and the occasional Wilson’s Storm-Petrel whizzing by the boat. Northern Gannets, mostly young birds, were abundant. The six finback whales and a Minke whale we saw weren’t too bad, either!
Our last stop of the day was the Salt Bay Heritage Farm in Damariscotta. This delightful area has acres and acres of tall grass, criss-crossed by a number of walking paths. The fields were alive with Bobolinks. A pond with cattails ringing it sits in the middle of the property. A small observation deck permits close observation of the marsh/pond birds. We had Virginia Rails and Soras both calling to us as well as Marsh Wrens. A delightful way to end a day of birding.
After spending the night in Waterville, we left early in the morning for the Sidney Bog along the Middle Road in Sidney. We birded from the road rather than going onto the bog. We had the species one expects in the moat-like habitat ringing a bog: Nashville Warbler, Canada Warbler and Northern Waterthrush. On the bog, we could hear Hermit Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and American Goldfinch.
Our next stop was the southwest portion of Messalonskee Lake in Belgrade. Scanning over the marsh from a small parking lot on Depot Street near Hammond’s Lumber, Al Haury found our target bird, Sandhill Crane, in less than a minute. Up to four cranes have been seen at this site.
A visit to the boat landing just a bit south on Route 27 rewarded us with great looks at Black Terns. This area hosts the largest of only a few colonies of this striking bird in the state. Other birds included Pied-billed Grebe, Wood Duck, Ring-necked Duck and Swamp Sparrow.
Highlights of a walk through the Perkins Arboretum at Colby College were a Barred Owl and a Red-shouldered Hawk.
We rose quite early the next morning and drove to Long Falls Dam Road along the east side of Flagstaff Lake. This road provides easy access to boreal forest habitat. Intermittent rain throughout the morning reduced the frequency of bird song but we nevertheless managed a nice list. Swainson’s Thrushes were abundant along with Alder Flycatchers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Magnolia Warblers and Dark-eyed Juncos. We had nice looks at Black-throated Blue Warblers and heard a distant Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in one of the bogs along the road. Common Ravens flew overhead, uttering an amazing variety of vocalizations. Despite a fine cone crop, no crossbills were nesting in the area this year. No luck with Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadees or Gray Jays this time.
The rain held off long enough for a picnic lunch and we began our trek eastward toward Washington County. We stopped on the way at the Orono Boardwalk (http://www.oronobogwalk.org/), in search of two local specialties, Palm Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow. If you haven’t birded this wonderful site, you should make an effort to do so. The mile-long boardwalk is wheel-chair accessible. The boardwalk takes you through forested wetlands and then completes a circuit through a portion of the Orono Bog. We had no problem getting great looks at our two target birds from the boardwalk. Other birds there were Common Ravens, Common Yellowthroats, Song Sparrows and Purple Finches.
Just as we reached our van, the skies opened up. We drove through the rain to the Lubec area in downeast Maine where we spent the next three days.