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MOUNT DESERT REGION

Pierson, Elizabeth Down East Books ePub

The narrow coastal corridor bounded on the west by Penobscot Bay and on the east by Frenchman Bay is one of Maine’s smallest yet most distinctive natural areas: the Mount Desert region. Even in a state that has long been famous for its beautiful and varied landscapes, this area is exceptional. Here you will find a unique mix of mountains, sea, and domed granitic islands—a combination that occurs nowhere else along the Maine coast. The islands are larger and more numerous than farther south, the bays are broader, and the water is colder (which means you will encounter more fog). Almost everywhere you look is evidence of glacial scouring, from kettle-hole ponds to U-shaped valleys and huge erratic boulders. The topography—unusually hilly for the Maine coast—includes Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet the highest point on the eastern United States seaboard.

Not surprisingly, the birding in this region is also remarkably varied. Of the nearly 420 species of birds that have been recorded in Maine, at least 320 have been seen just on Mount Desert Island. Highlights include boreal landbirds and an excellent variety of waterbirds year-round, nesting Peregrine Falcons and at least 21 species of nesting warblers, good numbers of migrant landbirds in spring and fall, the highest concentration of wintering Harlequin Ducks in eastern North America, and the opportunity to do some true pelagic birding (primarily between mid-June and late September). The region is also of interest as a contact zone for many northern and southern bird species.

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CENTRAL MAINE

Pierson, Elizabeth Down East Books ePub

The area we refer to as central Maine includes Penobscot County and much of Piscataquis County. This is a rugged and beautiful portion of Maine, traversed by the Penobscot River and characterized by numerous lakes and ponds, mature hardwoods and often impenetrable spruce-fir woods, and several mountains. The focal point of the area is Baxter State Park, a 200,000-acre wilderness that is widely recognized as one of the most spectacular natural areas in the eastern United States. Included within the park are 46 peaks and ridges and the highest point in Maine—5,267-foot-high Katahdin. Bangor and, to its north, Orono are the only sizable population centers. Much of this part of Maine consists of privately owned (but usually publicly accessible) pulp and paper-company land.

Birders, particularly those who relish the idea of access to some true wilderness, will find much to draw them to central Maine. The highlight is the breeding season, especially June and early July, when you can find a rich assortment of boreal nesters. Spruce Grouse, Three-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers (both rare), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Bicknell’s (formerly Gray-cheeked) Thrush, Philadelphia Vireo, 22 species of warblers, Lincoln’s and Fox sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, and Pine Siskin all breed throughout this area. Additionally, on the Tableland in Baxter State Park you can find one of New England’s most restricted breeding species—American Pipit, which nests at only one other site in the eastern United States. Spring and fall migration bring a good variety of waterfowl to central Maine as well as many landbirds, and winter brings the chance of finding specialties such as Barrow’s Goldeneyes (regular in small numbers on the Penobscot River between Bangor and Orono) and northern owls and finches.

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SOUTHERN MAINE

Pierson, Elizabeth Down East Books ePub

The area we refer to as southern Maine stretches from Kittery north to Portland and west to the New Hampshire border. Few other regions in Maine include as great a variety of landscapes and habitats as this region does. The shoreline varies from barrier beaches and salt marshes to rocky coves and headlands and generally is low-lying, gently sloping, and at least by Maine standards, relatively straight. Inland the topography is low and flat, with 692-foot Mt. Agamenticus being the highest point of land. Distinctive habitats in the region include the southern deciduous forests of the Berwick-Eliot-York area (where several tree and shrub species reach the northern extremes of their ranges), the 1,000-plus-acre Saco Heath in Saco, and the extensive grasslands of the Kennebunk Plains in Kennebunk.

Whatever the season, you can find some excellent birding in southern Maine. Some of the sites we mention—such as the Kennebunk Plains, where you can find nesting Grasshopper Sparrows and Upland Sandpipers, or the Cliff House in Ogunquit, where you can find wintering Harlequin Ducks—offer unusual birding opportunities during a specific season. Far more sites, however, offer interesting possibilities at any time of year. Seasonal highlights include an excellent variety of migrating hawks, shorebirds, and landbirds (particularly warblers), winter waterbirds, and breeding wading birds and landbirds. Among Maine’s unusual or locally distributed breeding species that occur in this region are Piping Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Roseate and Least terns, Horned Lark, Blue-winged, Prairie, and Palm warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Vesper, Grasshopper, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed, and Seaside sparrows (see Appendix B for information on the taxonomic split of the two salt-marsh sparrows).

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WESTERN MOUNTAINS & LAKES REGION

Pierson, Elizabeth Down East Books ePub

Maine’s western mountains and lakes region extends from the Kennebec River on the east to the New Hampshire border on the west and from Oxford County north into southern Somerset County. This is a distinctive and delightful area, where the pine-oak forests of southern Maine blend into mixed hardwood and spruce-fir forests and where the low hills and many lakes and ponds of the Kennebec Valley gradually give way to the steeper and more rugged contours of the western mountains. The last include the Katahdin group and the Boundary, White, and Longfellow mountains.

Birders who have not explored this region may be surprised to discover how much good birding it has to offer. The highlight is the breeding season, when you can find a good cross section of wetland-associated breeders in the lowlands and boreal breeders at higher elevations. And oftentimes the lowland and high-elevation sites are not all that far apart. You can also find many of Maine’s more unusual or locally distributed breeding species here, including Least Bittern, Common Moorhen, Black Tern, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Yellow-throated Vireo. Fall migration brings waterfowl and even, at some sites, shorebirds. Winter birding is usually far less interesting, but depending on the cone crop and other whims of nature, you can get excellent flights of Bohemian Waxwings, Northern Shrikes, Red and White-winged crossbills, and Pine and Evening grosbeaks.

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APPENDIX A Checklist of Maine Birds

Pierson, Elizabeth Down East Books ePub

By Peter D. Vickery, Jody Despres, and Jan Erik Pierson

This checklist portrays our understanding of the status, distribution, and seasonal abundance of Maine’s birds. A total of 419 species of birds and one additional form, “Thayer’s” Gull, have been recorded in Maine as of October 1995, excluding the extinct Labrador Duck, Great Auk, and Passenger Pigeon. No fewer than 27 species and that one form (listed below) have been added to the state list since 1978. Of these, four had occurred in Maine before but were not then recognized as full species (marked with an asterisk below). A specimen of Eurasian Siskin, collected at Kittery in 1962, had previously gone unlisted as a possible escape from captivity. Eurasian Siskins are now considered vagrants from Eurasia. In addition, two reports of Sprague’s Pipit, although not thought to have been American Pipit, are now treated as Pipit sp., due to possible confusion with other species.

Additions to the Maine state list since 1978 include the following:

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