DOWN-EAST MAINE & ACADIA: A BIRDER'S PARADISE, WITH GABRIEL WILLOW

Trip Itinerary

****Please Note All specific outings as part of the festivals (eg days 3-5 & 8) Need to be confirmed, as these outings & activities may have changed****

 

Day One: Friday

Arrive at the Bangor International Airport (or by bus or car if you prefer).  After meeting the other participants and Gabriel, we’ll hop in the van and head to the nearby Orono Bog  Boardwalk to stretch our legs and look for our first sightings of boreal specialties and fascinating carnivorous plants in this unique peat bog habitat.  Nesting specialties include Palm Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow.   Then we’ll drive to beautiful Machias, Maine, about two hours to the Northeast and check into the Machias Motor Inn before having dinner at Helen’s Restaurant, home to delicious seafood and nationally famous pies!

 

Day Two: Saturday

After an early breakfast at Helen’s, we head further “downeast” towards Canada, to the bucolic fishing village of Lubec, the eastern-most town in the US.  There, we’ll check into the  Inn on the Wharf, an inn overlooking the harbor, built in a converted 100-year-old sardine cannery, and above a still-active wharf where lobstermen unload their catch.  There we will fall asleep to the sounds of the sea and wake up to the tranquility of a day beside the bay while a variety of coastal birds and playful seals swim nearby.  We’ll have an early supper and then join the Downeast Bird Festival from 6 pm 10 pm at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge for an exciting Evening Hike in search of Owls, Rails, Wrens, Nighthawks, Woodcock, and Whip-poor-wills.

 

Day Three: Sunday

We will join the Downeast Bird Festival and expert Maine birder & guide Bob Duchesne (author of the Maine Birding Trail Guide) for a van outing around the beautiful Trescott region in search of local boreal specialties such as Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Lincoln’s Sparrows, and more.  Then we’ll join other bird festival participants for dinner and entertainment, followed by an optional evening van excursion to Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in search of nocturnal species, including the amazing mating display of the American Woodcock, an upland shorebird related to the snipe that has an incredible aerial display on Spring evenings in the Northeast.

 

Days Four: Monday

7 am — Noon: Blueberry Barrens and Addison Marsh with biologist Chris Bartlett.  We will explore the wild blueberry barrens of Washington County in search of nesting Upland Sandpipers, Vesper Sparrows, and other open-country specialties.  These large, sandy plains were created by retreating glaciers and are ideal for cultivating lowbush blueberries, a major agricultural crop in this part of the state.  We’ll be on the lookout for additional species that prefer these open and dramatic landscapes including Palm Warbler, Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, and Northern Harrier, to name a few. 

While we’re in the area, we’ll swing by Addison Marsh to look for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl such as Black-bellied Plover, Red Knot, and Green-winged Teal.  This large salt marsh attracts a variety of waders and dabblers, and offers good viewing opportunities from dry ground.

Monday afternoon we will explore the legendary Lubec mud-flats, home to huge flocks of migrating shorebirds such as Red Knot, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and more.

 

Day Five: Tuesday

We will take a special chartered boat trip far offshore, to Machias Seal Island, home to Maine's famed Atlantic Puffins, the largest nesting population in the Lower 48.  Every birder should visit Machias Seal Island at least once!  This is one of the very few breeding colonies where visitors are allowed to land on the island and get close to the birds.

We will, weather permitting, have the unique opportunity to land on the island, and join scientists who study these incredible birds in blinds to get unparalleled views of puffins cavorting and feeding their young.  Also present are breeding populations of Razorbills and Murres, the rare Roseate Tern, as well as Common and Arctic Tern and several species of gulls. If the weather is uncooperative, we will circle the island and get wonderful views of these charming and colorful seabirds.   The boat ride out and back will also afford us the opportunity to spot pelagic species such as gannets, phalaropes, kittiwakes, shearwaters, storm-petrels, and fulmars, as well as porpoises, seals, and whales.

Tuesday Afternoon, if we’re not too tired from our boat trip we will visit stunning Quoddy Head, the eastern-most point in the USA and home to Quoddy Head Lighthouse Museum, stunning trails, and a bog boardwalk.

 

Day Six: Wednesday

Wednesday, after a leisurely breakfast at the Inn On The Wharf, we will pack up and head to Bar Harbor and legendary Acadia National Park.  We will check into the Acacia Inn Bed & Breakfast in downtown Bar Harbor, and then have the afternoon free to explore this scenic seaside town and enjoy dinner at one of its many fine taverns or restaurants.  A recommended activity is a visit to the Wendell Gilley Bird Art Museum in Southwest Harbor.

 

Day Seven: Thursday

If everyone is up for a very early morning (4AM), we can catch the first rays of the sun from Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast of the US, and the first place to see the sunrise in the country!  Then we will return to our B&B for their famous full breakfast (and maybe a nap!).  We will then go to the delightful waterfront village of Northeast Harbor to join the Acadia Bird Festival and explore the famous Asticou Azalea Gardens, which in addition to being in full bloom this time of year, are home to many migratory warblers and other songbirds.  Thursday evening we will join the Acadia Birding Festival for appetizers, drinks, and a keynote talk from Bill Thompson III, Editor and Publisher of Birdwatcher’s Digest.

 

Day Eight: Friday

Friday we will have a busy and exciting day: we will take a ferry across from Bar Harbor to Schoodic Peninsula, a rugged and beautiful spit of land with primeval spruce-fir forests and rocky headlands.  There we will join Seth Benz, former Director of the National Audubon Society Camp at Hog Island, for a special look at the bird-banding station at the Schoodic Bird Ecology Lab. Nestled near the southernmost end of Schoodic Peninsula, the Lab is well-situated to provide easy access to a variety of habitats, including alder thickets, beaver-altered birch swales, small ponds, a salt marsh, intertidal areas, world-class rocky shores, and an extensive coniferous forest. This morning field trip will feature a visit to an active bird-banding site, where we will be able to observe and assist scientists and they catch and band songbirds.  Good numbers of migrant land birds can be expected (around the banding station) and a wide variety of water birds are found all along the scenic auto loop. Breeding Pine Siskins and both species of Crossbills have been numerous in previous years.   Friday afternoon, upon returning to Bar Harbor by boat, we will go Canoeing in Northeast Creek and Fresh MeadowNortheast Creek estuary is the largest freshwater outflow off the Mount Desert Range flowing north. Known locally as "Fresh Meadow", this tidal bog ecosystem has raised portions and tidal creeks which can be explored at our leisure while paddling these quiet waters. This trip will allow us an opportunity to become familiar with a variety of marsh species such as Yellow Warbler, and Alder and Great-crested Flycatchers. There is extensive edge habitat throughout the three-mile paddle with diverse wetlands offering opportunities to observe American and Least Bittern, Marsh Wrens, and Nelson’s, Song, and Savannah Sparrows. Peregrine Falcon stealthily forage on migratory birds while Northern Harriers nesting in the upper reaches can be regularly seen gliding over the sedge marsh meadow seeking tidal mammals. Freshwater and tidal waterfowl utilize the variety of salinities found in this watershed, including Red-breasted and Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, and Bufflehead. Great Blue Heron, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Belted Kingfisher all search for feasts of fish and small invertebrates in the creek.  For the last 20 years, Bald Eagles have nested at the mouth of this great estuary, which provides a year-round source of prey.

Finally, Friday evening we will once again enjoy cocktails and appetizers and a keynote talk with Marshall Iliff, Director of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project, about Bird Migration: patterns, strategies, & changes as revealed by eBird.  Then we will return to Bar Harbor for dinner.

 

Day Nine: Saturday

The tour concludes this morning in Bar Harbor with breakfast and one final outing (time permitting) to beautiful Acadia National Park, after which we will return to Bangor to catch our flights (or buses) back to NYC.

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