Top Ten Spots for Spring Birding

East: Weatherbeaten Birding: Downeast Maine

Jutting out into the violence of the North Atlantic, the Maine Coast is a place of abrupt transitions and extremes. The sandy beaches that extend north to Portland rapidly give way to increasingly ragged, rocky, and storm-swept shores the farther east you go; in the same way, sugar maples and birches give way to dense spruce-fir boreal forests atop the headlands overlooking the sea. Take this collision of habitat with the chaos-inducing effects of North Atlantic weather and you've got a region with exceptional birding possibilities.

While Downeast Maine is near the northern limits of the breeding range of many warblers and other songbirds, it's also on the fringes of the turf of boreal species such as gray jays, spruce grouse, and Lincoln's sparrow, as well as birds of the northern oceans like puffins, razorbill auks, murres, common and king eider, and other sea ducks. With the Atlantic's turbulent weather often blowing birds completely off their migratory pathways, you never know what accidentals—a ruff? Barrow's goldeneye? Great gray owl?—you'll find when birding the coast and islands of Downeast Maine. Late spring can be especially productive from Bailey and Monhegan Islands—both storied traps for migrant passerines—all the way to the Lubec Flats near Eastport, where swarms of shorebirds stop to feed when the tides recede. All in all, a late-spring road trip up the Maine Coast is one of the more exciting and enjoyable birding trips there is.

Just the Facts

Birding Hot Spots: In addition to the sites mentioned above, check out Acadia National Park, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, Route 191, Quoddy Head State Park, and the legendary Machias Seal Island.

More Downeast Outdoors: Acadia National Park is the gem of the Northeast coast, a great place for biking, hiking, and many other outdoor pursuits. And perhaps the most alluring adventure of the Maine Coast is to kayak the Downeast Coast.


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