Friday 1 December 2023

New England - May 2023 - Day 2 - Maine

I was up six and out the door within 30 minutes, pretty quick for me - long gone are the days when I could roll out of bed and be out in under 10. There are a few signs of age these days, including glasses, but I find the most annoying one to be needing a minimum of 45 minutes in the morning and woe betide should I try and hurry that....

I think it was for this reason that I spent the first few minutes outside my lovely private-host accomodation. I was in rural Maine, a land of beautiful old clapboard houses and towering trees. The crazy rain had passed and on a still but slightly misty morning I concentrated on the garden, and was pleased to very quickly come across Eastern Bluebird and Indigo Bunting, as well as list stalwarts like American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. It was a good start, and after a quick return to the house I drove up to Damariscotta to bird the Coastal Rivers Nature Centre. 

It was pretty damp underfoot, and required some long jumping of sorts to get around standing water, but the loop around the pond and wet meadow was very productive with more Bluebird, loads of Bobolink, Eastern Kingbird and various Warblers. Virginia Rail and Sora were actually pretty easy in the reedy margins and wet grass alongside. 

After a quick stop back at the house to eat some home-made banana bread and meet my lovely host for the first time (I do have a tendency to both arrive and leave in the dark!) I carried on to New Harbour where my boat trip departed from. Immediate bad news when I was told it was cancelled due to high swell. Oh dear. I could apparently rebook at any time in the next year. How about the day after tomorrow, I could probably make that work? Fine, but rather than a whole day on Monhegan it would just be an hour long Puffin cruise. Bummer, especially as I booked my accomodation in order to be close to the harbour for the morning departure. This left me rather at a loose end as I had been supposed to spend until 3pm on the island but I surmised I could probably see at least some of the species I was looking for exactly where I was, including the seabirds from the shore. This came good immediately with some Eider Duck just up the road, a long-awaited ABA tick, and shortly thereafter both Black Guillemot and Black Scoter. You can probably see where I am headed with this - all USA ticks but all seen previously in the UK, including the Scoter. This is where listing gets a little silly but I don't care. In fact I love it.

I went down to the end of the peninsula to find it totally fogged out, the sea invisible, so I returned to where the fog stopped and birded various sites for a couple of hours - lots of Wild Turkey, quite a few Osprey, Surf Scoter, R-B Merganser and some Arctic Terns - yet another ABA tick. At Waldoboro Town Landing I added Black Duck and Greater Yellowlegs

By now it was about 1pm and local knowledge suggested the fog would be all but gone. So it was, and scoping from Pemaquid Lighthouse picked up a dense flock of at least 100 Black Scoter, four more Tystie, three Bald Eagle and most unexpectedly two Puffins really close in. Given that these were my major reason for having booked an expensive boat trip I wasn't really sure how I felt about them, but there they were!

It was time to head south, as ever I was behind schedule. First stop Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve and I immediately wished I had been there earlier in the day. A wonderful woodland bursting with species, too many perhaps to mention here, but highlights included Purple Finch, Pine Warbler, Brown Creeper, trumpeting Red-breasted Nuthatches and two Chestnut-sided Warblers. Full list here

Biddeford pool was my final stop of the day, beyond Portland and nearly to the New Hampshire State line. There were various targets here, some of which I'd now already seen, but I added White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, a friendly Great Northern Diver, Willet, Piping Plover and Grey Plover sorry I mean Black-Bellied Plover. As ever the clock was ticking though, and I had a date at dusk at the Kennebunk Plains about half an hour away. This was a known site for Upland Sandpiper and Eastern Whip-poor-will, and research had suggested that the latter started vocalising within a very precise window each evening. The weather was perfect as I stopped the car in a huge clearing along a gravel track, and sure enough at 20:17 I heard the first bird. It was difficult to say how many there were but I am certain that there were at least three and likely four. Before it got totally dark I also managed to see Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Pine and Prairie Warbler, as well as three roding American Woodcock which took the trip list after two days to just over 100. 

Kennebunk Plains

My stop for the night was just above Massachusets in the small town of Hampton. Too small, it was impossible to find anywhere open that served food - beer yes, food no -  and as I was fed up with driving I just went to bed hungry. If you've ever met me you'll know I would likely make it through the night. Still, it had been a good day, one with six new American birds, four of which you could easily see on any given day in the Scotland. Nice.

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