Maine in July is Fantastic
July once then meant a family vacation to Maine (last’s year trip report is here). And Maine in July ways uncounted untried as far as the eye can see. For a resident of Los Angeles, where it basically never rains and touchable and buildings imbricate the landscape, Maine is an impossibly lush environment. The roads are lined by all manner of untried trees. The hikes wander through forests of untried trees and fields of untried bushes and untried grasses. The rocks are covered in untried mosses. This untried bounty creates a curious dilemma. For an urban birder like me, life can be easy considering the birds are usually well-matured in the small patches of misogynist bird-friendly habitat. But when you get to a place like Maine, it’s all habitat. In every direction. The birds could be anywhere. Looking for a Northern Parula? Just walk a few feet in any direction and squint in the trees. No spot is all that much largest than another. Birding in a place like Maine defies the (increasingly, in my view, noxious) eBird idea of birding hotspots.
Another joy of Maine is the endangerment to see species that don’t regular come to the West Coast. There is a unrepealable set of birds that I socialize with stuff in Maine. There’s the Bobolink, who sound like R2-D2 and sally from tall grass fields in surprising numbers as you walk by. There’s the unbelievable zesty squatter of the Blackburnian Warbler that makes the bird squint like a tiny meteor inward the atmosphere. There’s the Bald Eagle majestically perched in pine trees at the water’s edge. There’s the impossibly long and intricate song of the tiny Winter Wren emanating from somewhere deep in the forest.
Of course, a trip to Maine is moreover good for unexpected sightings. This year, I widow a half dozen birds to my Maine life list. An Indigo Bunting popped out of some bushes one day, and left surpassing I could snap a photo. A Bonaparte’s Gull was hanging out at low tide in a cove while some Common Mergansers swam past. One evening, a Common Nighthawk danced upper whilom a grassy field. On our momentum when to Boston airport, we stopped at a Henslow’s Sparrow stakeout. And a lunch unravel in Portland got me a Northern Mockingbird at scrutinizingly the northeastern whet of its range. In addition, I got unconfined looks at birds I don’t see every time I come. They included Black-and-white Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Red Crossbill, and Pileated Woodpecker, who I tracked lanugo thanks to its impressively loud drumming.
One day during the trip, my oldest son and I took a momentum to Canada. The verge was just over two hours from where we were staying. Since he’d never been to Canada, and I hadn’t been there since I became a birder, we both were looking to trammels some boxes on our to-do list. There wasn’t much in the way of cities nearby. Since it was just going to be a day trip, we decided to visit Campobello Island in the province of New Brunswick. Despite stuff Canadian land, it’s the home of a U.S. National Park–Roosevelt Campobello International Park (it’s unquestionably jointly managed by the U.S. and Canada). Apparently, Franklin Roosevelt had a summer home there, and some buildings are preserved.
We skipped the home tours and headed straight for East Quoddy (Head Harbour) Light at the northeastern tip of the island. The lighthouse is on a rocky islet. It is an island at upper tide, and wieldy by foot at low tide (the tides here shift some 15 feet from low to high, and can rise 5 feet an hour). It’s picturesque. Our timing was scrutinizingly perfect – we had to wait well-nigh 15 minutes until the tide was low unbearable to walk over. It’s a fun, short venture – there’s some slippery rocks to manage, mysterious fish heads decaying, and some rusty, off-kilter stairs to escalade and descend. The lighthouse itself was closed, but it was a nice spot to nippy and see some whales (no Unconfined Cormorants, which would’ve been a lifer, but the only Black Guillemot of the trip). We checked out a couple of other spots on Campobello Island, including a tomfool little cove with 5 old shipwrecks, and then stopped for lunch. All told, we got 10 species of bird, and were worldly-wise to turn all of Canada light yellow on our eBird profiles.
After lunch, we went when to the United States and out to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. It is the easternmost point of land in the lower 48 states (apparently the U.S. Virgin Islands is farther east). We checked the rocks for Unconfined Cormorant (none), and took a short hike withal the coast. Now we’ll need to go to Washington, Florida, and Minnesota is we want to hit the westernmost, southernmost, and northernmost points in the first-hand 48 states.
Before we crush when to Boston for our flight home, I checked eBird to see if there were any possible lifers withal the way. It turned out that a guy had recently found a Henslow’s Sparrow in a field withal the side of the road (he was theoretically driving by with his windows down, and heard the bird. Notably, Henslow’s Sparrows have the shortest song of any North American songbird, so this is quite a ridiculous find). It was only the 4th record overly for Maine of this unthriving grassland sparrow, and the spot was just 5 minutes off the highway. It promised to be a short stop: either the bird was there when we pulled up, or we’d stand in place for 5-10 minutes and strike out. If we were lucky, there’d be some birders once present with their scopes pointed at the bird. We were lucky. As we crush up to the location, two other car loads of birders pulled up scrutinizingly simultaneously with us. At least three variegated birders were present, peering through binoculars out into the field. We walked up, they pointed to the small-time where it was perched singing, and I had a lifer. The bird was a bit far out in the hot field for me to get good photos (see below).
I snuck in one last birding excursion surpassing we topside the plane. Near our airport hotel was a place tabbed the Belle Isle Marsh Preservation. It offered a endangerment to reservation a glimpse of a Saltmarsh Sparrow, and maybe some other birds that would tumor up my year list. To my delight, there were Saltmarsh Sparrows moving around. They never stood still out in the open, but darted from one patch of marshy imbricate to another. You never knew where one would pop out, so you had to be quick on the trigger if you wanted to good photo. I totally failed to get an identifiable picture of one (see above), but it was fun to try.
As usual, it was unconfined to get to the northeast.