Friday, July 7, 2017

Maine Independence Day Birding Trip 2017

This year, the Independence Day fell on a Tuesday so we had four days to go somewhere exciting to bird. As you already know, I am terrified of flying and can only justify air travel if we had at least a week so our destination again had to be someplace within a driving distance. Well the first place came to our minds was the lovely state of Maine to see Atlantic Puffins and other sea birds so off we went!

JUNE 30, 2017

We left Brooklyn around 4pm to drive to the town of Billerica in Massachusetts to spend the night. Billerica should be about the half-way point between NYC and Bar Harbor, Maine. Surprisingly, traffic wasn't too bad getting out of the city. After some four-plus hours of uneventful drive, we got to our hotel and were in bed before 10pm to prepare for another long drive tomorrow.

JULY 1, 2017

We left the hotel before 7am to get to our first destination in Maine, Dead River Trail in Great Pond Mountain Wildlands. The area was beautiful though we certainly encountered many more ticks crawling on our pants than birds. For whatever reason, this year had been particularly bad with ticks everywhere we had visited. We saw three warbler species that were most commonly seen for the rest of the trip: BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLERs, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERs, and COMMON YELLOWTHROATs.

We were back on road en route to our final destination, Mount Desert Island (more popularly known as the island where Bar Harbor is located). As soon as we got to MDI, we had to try Maine lobster at one of many roadside lobster shacks. We stopped at Gateway Lunt's Lobster Pound and alas we liked their scallops better than lobsters.

JULY 2, 2017

We were excited to bird the famed Acadia National Park today. We had a nice breakfast at charming 2 Cats Restaurant in Bar Harbor before heading to the trails in the Wild Gardens of Acadia and Sieur de Monts Spring where we saw SONG SPARROWs, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLERs, GRAY CATBIRDs, COMMON YELLOWTHROATs, CEDAR WAXWINGs, OVENBIRDs, RED-EYED VIREOs, HERMIT THRUSHes, and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEEs.

We then went to the Valley Cove Trail for more birding. This trail did not have ticks but had a gazillion mosquitos that were constantly biting us through our clothes. Oh how much I hate them! Luckily, the trail was quite birdy and we got to see nice birds like BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERs and WINTER WRENs as well as our usual songbird sightings.

Our final stop of the day was Pretty Marsh Picnic Area. The area was fairly quiet but we got to see GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETs, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHes, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEEs, HERMIT THRUSHes and RED-EYED VIREOs.

We ended our wonderful birding day playing tennis at beautiful Mount Desert Island High School.

JULY 3, 2017

Today had to be the most anticipated day of the trip. Originally, we were planning to take the boat tour that would take us to one of the puffin islands and we would be allowed to stay on the island (under very limited capacity as not to disturb wildlife) but the tour was fully booked in January for the entire year so we chose the Bar Harbor Puffin and Whale Watch boat tour instead. Before the tour, we stopped by Seawall and saw nice flocks of AMERICAN BLACK DUCKs, BLACK SCOTERs and COMMON EIDERs. Also seen are two beautiful BLACK GUILLEMOTs, our lone lifer of the trip. Our boat was going to visit Petit Manan Island where Atlantic Puffins nest. We were a little nervous about the trip as we read about rough seas in some birder's blog but we had been on a few pelagic boat trips and none had been that bad. One of the reasons we picked the Bar Harbor tour company was that they operated the biggest boat which, we thought, would be more stable in rough water. As we boarded the boat, the first things I noticed were those 'motion sickness bags' placed everywhere and the particular pungent smell we were all too familiar with inside the cabin. Hmmm, so we decided to stay outside for better viewing and also as a precaution against sea sickness.

A little after 8:40am, our boat left the dock and from the get-go, the boat went violently up and down riding the waves. It literally felt like we were on a small roller-coaster. Both of us are very susceptible to motion sickness so we were pretty nervous at that point. We, of course, medicated ourselves heavily with motion sickness drugs and somehow made it to Petit Manan Island where puffins and other wonderful seabirds nest. Only researchers with permits are allowed to land the island so our boat circled around the island for about 30 minutes and it was just fantastic to see those beautiful alcids up close. We saw ATLANTIC PUFFINs, COMMON MURREs, RAZORBILLs, COMMON TERNs, ARCTIC TERNs, LAUGHING GULLs, GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULLs, NORTHERN GANNETs and COMMON EIDERs.

Sadly, our boat had to leave the island to search for whales. It's always nice to see whales but our main focus was to see sea birds so we were not too excited to roam around the vast sea especially in this rough water condition. After another half an hour or so of searching, we were not feeling too great (neither were most of the fellow passengers). We were literally frozen standing on the deck the whole time but didn't want to go inside the cabin where more and more passengers were getting sick. Ship crew was busy running around cleaning up after the sick passengers. I medicated myself to a point where I fell asleep on the boat (thankfully although I do not recommend this tactic to anyone). When I woke up, the ship was heading back to the dock. I heard an announcement that our tickets were valid for the next 3 years in any of their tours because we did not see any whales (yes the tour came with whale-sighting-guarantee). Well, I couldn't say if I would ever want to try the tour again although seeing those amazing seabirds made it worthwhile.

We then drove to Otter Creek to look for more BLACK GUILLEMOTs and there they were. We could really appreciate having our feet on the ground while watching birds.

We then drove to check out Seal Cove where we saw a darling female COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and an AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.

As usual, we planned to end this action-packed day playing tennis. However, before playing, we realized that the high school was quite a birding hot spot so we decided to spend some time exploring their nature trail. There, we saw a funky haired female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, adorable WOOD DUCK family, a bunch of AMERICAN BLACK DUCKs and the usual SONG SPARROWs.

JULY 4, 2017

We had a final few hours to bird the truly amazing Acadia National Park before our long drive back to Brooklyn so we decided to bird the Ship Harbor trail. It was a beautiful trail leading to the harbor and we saw some nice birds such as NORHTERN PARULAs, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLERs, DARK-EYED JUNCOs, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETs, COMMON EIDERs, and BLACK GUILLEMOTs.

Of course, the worst part of the trip always is going back. We were expecting massive traffic especially around New York City due to the Independence Day Fireworks on the East River. To our surprise, we did not hit any traffic driving home.