Tours: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, Birding Ecotours (Worldwide)
2023 Maine – From Mountain Forests to Sparkling Shores
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Strenuous
Group Size Medium Group
Maine (and the northeast region of the United States in general) offers a great mixed bag of birding through its diverse habitats and high latitude location. Many migrant species call this area their home in the summer as they stake out territories and breed. The overlap between the more southern breeders and northern breeders is rarely seen elsewhere, meaning Maine offers a unique chance of some fantastic birding generating some good lists. The habitats on display range from coastal saltwater marshes to sandy-plains grasslands, high altitude mountain tops of the Appalachians, expansive boreal forests, and unique clusters of offshore islands inhabited by puffins and other charismatic wildlife. Each habitat contains its own picturesque beauty along with key bird species to see. This nine-day tour explores the best this region has to offer. On this tour, we focus on Maine, but also foray into New Hampshire and time-permitting into Vermont.
The trip will begin by exploring Scarborough Marsh, a massive saltwater estuary home to a large population of both Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows. From here we will continue along to the Kennebunk Plains and into the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire for our first taste of boreal forest birding. One of the best locations for breeding Bicknell’s Thrush is near the top of Mount Washington (from roadside pull-offs, so no need for a strenuous hike), the highest peak in the northeast (6,200 feet, almost 2,000 meters). We will continue our boreal birding experience scoring a myriad of thrush, warbler, and flycatcher species, all of which will be on their established breeding grounds by June. Black-backed Woodpecker, Canada (Grey) Jay, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Red Crossbill, and other charismatic birds of the taiga forests, are all possibilities. Eventually we will make it back to Maine’s coastline and begin our exploration of the ocean. With two pelagic boat trips planned, we will hopefully experience up-close-and-personal views of Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Murre, Black Guillemot, Arctic Tern and more as we visit the numerous offshore islands. Finally, the trip concludes with a journey through the jaw-droppingly beautiful Acadia National Park, full of scenic viewpoints and great breeding birds.
This New England birding and wildlife holiday might also generate some non-avian finds, such as Ocean Sunfish, Grey Seal, Humpback, Fin and Common Minke Whales, American Beaver, North American Porcupine, American Black Bear and Moose.
Date-wise, this Maine and New Hampshire birdwatching tour is combinable with our Alaska birding tour and extension (and sometimes with other USA birding tours of ours) but if you combine with Alaska you’re in for a long flight across North America – a similar distance to flying from London to Maine.
The boat departure to Machias Seal Island featured on Day 6 of this tour is sometimes replaced with a different pelagic trip to Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge and series of islands are located in more southern waters of Maine and features a restored seabird colony full of Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Arctic and Common Terns. Additionally, this area features the largest colony of Great Cormorants found in Maine. With any luck, there is also the potential for a surprise star bird nicknamed “Troppy”, a Red-billed Tropicbird that has amazingly called these islands home for over 15 summers in a row! We never know until about early to mid May each year if this rather out of place, beautiful tropical seabird returns. Please note that in years we make this itinerary change, we also reverse the order of the itinerary because the alternate boat trip is further south, making logistics work better this way.
We will take a maximum of eight participants. On rare occasion we may extend the maximum to ten participants.
Duration: 9 days
Limit: 4 – 8
Date: 01 June – 09 June 2023
Start: Portland, Maine
End: Portland, Maine
US$3890 per person sharing assuming 4 – 8 participants
Single supplement: US$685
We can run the same trip at a price similar to the larger group price for 2 tour participants, if they rent their own vehicle and pay for fuel – please e-mail [email protected] for details.
- Guiding fees
- Entrance fees
- All transport while on tour
- Domestic and International flights
- Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
- Alcoholic drinks
- Personal insurance
- Laundry Service
Arrival in Portland, Maine
The tour begins in Portland, Maine with arrival at the Portland International Jetport (PWM). From here, we’ll transfer to our hotel and head to dinner to prepare for our upcoming tour as well as get to know each other better. If time and daylight allow, we may head to the coast to get our first breaths of the sea air and hopefully see a few species such as Common Tern and Common Eider.
Overnight: Portland, Maine
Scarborough Marsh and Portland area
This morning we will begin at Maine’s largest saltwater marsh, Scarborough Marsh. This expansive estuary plays host to numerous breeding birds and is one of the best places to see both Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows. The shallow waters and rich habitat also prove to be a haven for wading birds like Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret. After a productive morning of exploring the marsh, we will venture out to a few coastal sites for a chance at some great birds including Roseate Tern and Piping Plover.
Overnight: Portland, Maine
White Mountains National Park
Today we head to into New Hampshire and the White Mountains National Forest, but first, we will plan a stop at the Kennebunk Plains along the way. This huge grassland area will provide us with a great opportunity to see some specials such as Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows, and Upland Sandpiper. Unfortunately, some of these birds have become quite scare and local in the northeast as these sand-plains have greatly dwindled. After a great morning of birding the grasslands, we will head up into the mountains. It is here in the higher altitudes and forests that we will have a chance at boreal species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and even a shot at Spruce Grouse. We’ll finish near the small town of Gorham for the evening and prepare for the next day.
Overnight: Gorham, New Hampshire
Mount Washington and boreal birds
This morning we will begin to properly explore the White Mountains a bit further with a start on the Mount Washington Auto Road. Luckily, this 7.6-mile (12 kilometer) road allows us to gain sufficient altitude with relative ease in hopes of scoring our big target for the day, Bicknell’s Thrush. These sneaky birds typically only nest at high elevations of 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) or higher. Luckily, there are a few pull-offs along the road which allow for searching. In addition to the thrush, we hope to encounter other nice bird species such as Canada Jay, Dark-eyed Junco and the unusual Blackpoll Warbler.
From here, depending on how we’ve faired so far, we may even dip into Vermont for a bit, in hopes of encountering Spruce Grouse and Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill. Plus, it is always fun to tick a few birds for a new state life list. From here we will continue along through the scenic spruce and firs of the boreal forest before eventually settling into Rangeley for the night.
Overnight: Rangeley, Maine
Mountains and back to the coast
Today, our goal is to make it back to the coast of Maine in Machias, but of course there is plenty of birding to do along the way. First up is the Rangeley area, birding along the roadsides of the forest. This is a great area to pick up more superb bird species including Yellow-bellied, Olive-sided and Alder Flycatchers, Boreal Chickadee, Blue-headed Vireo, Veery, Winter Wren and a variety of breeding warblers.
We will then continue our journey towards the ocean in the afternoon, with a stop at Messalonskee Lake en route. This narrow lake hosts both Black Tern and Purple Martin colonies in addition to the other more common lake species like Common Loon and Western Osprey. We’ll make it to our hotel in Machias and get some rest in preparation for our boat trip the following morning.
Overnight: Machias, Maine
Machias Seal Island
We depart Cutler Harbor at 7:00 a.m. and set sail for Machias Seal Island, home to an incredible seabird colony. We should see nesting Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Murre, and Arctic Tern, all at point-blank range. Weather permitting, we will be able to land on the island which makes for great photographic opportunities. Grey Seals are likely at North Rock, while Harbor Seals are common. During the morning boat ride, we will look for pelagic species such as Northern Fulmar, Great Shearwater, and Wilson’s Storm Petrel. After lunch we’ll drive to Quoddy Head State Park that juts out into the Grand Manan Channel, which offers great opportunities for seabirds and shorebirds. Boreal species may include Lincoln’s Sparrow and Palm Warbler. After dinner, we will journey along the coast until we reach Bar Harbor where we will stay for the next two nights.
Overnight: Bar Harbor, Maine
Petit Manan boat trip and Bar Harbor
We’ll have a few hours in the morning to begin our exploration of Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine. Around mid-morning we’ll head for the dock at Bar Harbor and prepare for a half-day boat excursion to visit Petit Manan Island National Wildlife Refuge. This series of many offshore islands plays host to loads of seabirds including Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Common Murre plus the potential for a roaming shearwater or storm petrel. Humpback Whale is likely, with several other species of whales and porpoises also possible. This short boat trip also serves as a great back-up to Machias Seal Island if the weather was poor on the previous day. After arriving back on land, we will continue our birding of Mount Desert Island and its spruce and fir forests hoping for nice birds such as Magnolia, Blackpoll and Cape May Warblers.
Overnight: Bar Harbor, Maine
Acadia National Park and back to Portland
This morning and into the afternoon, we will get a chance to explore and bird the beauty of Acadia National Park. Taking up a large chunk of Mount Desert Island, Acadia has a great vastness and is rich in biodiversity. We should hear the echoing songs of Wood Thrush throughout our visit along with other amazing species like Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbird, Cedar Waxwing, and more. After a great morning and afternoon inside the park, we will do one final scan along the coast for any potential species we are missing, and it is also a great location for Great Cormorant. Finally, we will head back to Portland for our final evening of the trip.
Overnight: Portland, Maine
Departure from Portland
Today concludes what was surely a fantastic tour full of many highlights. If time permits, there may be a chance for a brief morning birding session at Scarborough Marsh or another nearby location before checking out of the hotel and transferring to the Portland airport.
20-26 June 2009
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
1 – Spruce Grouse
2 – Atlantic Puffin
3 – Chestnut-sided Warbler
4 – Common Murre
5 – Red-necked Grebe
6 – Bobolink
7 – Northern Goshawk
8 – Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
9 – Golden-crowned Kinglet
10 – Common Eider
Additional sightings included Gray Seals at Machias Seal Island, Moose tracks in several locations, a very close Porcupine at Schoodic Point, a Gray Fox crossing a blueberry barren, and a Raccoon on rocks offshore from Quoddy Head Light, much too close to the surf. We watched a female Snapping Turtle that appeared to have laid her eggs just before we arrived. A juvenile Hairy Woodpecker with yellow instead of red on top of its head caused us to think about American Three-toed Woodpecker, until we realized that none of the other field marks fit. And we had wonderful views of two beautiful Luna Moths.
Will we do any birding the first day?
Yes! We have birding planned if time allows and everything is on schedule.
**NOTE: Most participants choose to arrive in Bangor on 19 June, the day before the tour begins, and spend the night there. This eliminates almost any possible conflict with a delayed airline flight.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances, it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.
Will I get seasick on the boat?
Most people will not get sick, although you should take precautions if you are prone to motion sickness, as the weather can dictate how rough the ride will be. There are various remedies sold at local pharmacies which can help relieve motion sickness and will make your trip more enjoyable.