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Greg Miller's Big Year Tour Series

MAINE: Birding the Mountains & Coast

Maine-1D2_0633

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2019 :: June 2 - June 8
2020 :: May 31 - June 6
2021 :: June 6 - June 12

TRIP LEADERS

TOUR COST

From: $1,950 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Bangor, Maine. (BGR)

GROUP SIZE

3 - 7 Participants

AVAILABILITY

2019 Tour is FULL

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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TESTIMONIALS

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Highlights of MAINE: Birding the Mountains & Coast

  • Beautiful coastline and boreal forest
  • Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, & other seabirds
  • Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, and Bicknell’s Thrush

Description of MAINE: Birding the Mountains & Coast

On this tour we will travel to the rocky beaches, saltmarshes, and grasslands of southwestern Maine, visit the White Mountains in New Hampshire, see some of what Vermonters call “The Northern Kingdom”, and bird the corners of Maine from the far Northwest to the extreme Southeast. A boat trip dedicated to visiting (and hopefully landing on) an active Atlantic Puffin colony kicks off this busy week of prime New England birding! We’ll get to a chance to eat lobster rolls, lobster bisque, and cooked lobster. And there will be opportunity for all things blueberry—like muffins, scones, pancakes, and pie.

Everywhere you look in Maine, the landscapes are quaint and beautiful. We’ll see lighthouses on rugged, rocky shores, dense spruce forests, and dark bogs. We might even see a Moose! The lush northern forests are packed with breeding songbirds, and the birdlife will be diverse throughout the tour. Classic New England specialties will be search for on this tour, including Common Eider, Black Guillemot, all three scoters (Black, White-winged, and Surf), Piping Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Arctic and Roseate Tern, Yellow-bellied, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Black-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, Canada Jay, and Black-backed Woodpecker. A visit to the subalpine zone of Mount Washington will allow us easy access to the very range-restricted Bicknell’s Thrush. Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Common Murre, and Atlantic Puffin are common on our boat trip! The northwoods provide home to an amazing diversity of eastern warblers, and 27 species are possible including Mourning and Canada. We will visit and have dinner at an organic dairy that provides nesting habitat for Alder Flycatchers, Bobolink, and Common Nighthawk. This is an adventurous trip to some remote habitats with tremendous scenery and fabulous birds. You’ll want to come back and spend more time, but this tour should whet your appetite!

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Itinerary

Length of Tour

7-Days/6-Nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Bangor Int Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR). Night at Bluebird Motel, Machias.

Day 2 – Puffin trip with Bold Coast Charter Co. out of Cutler, birding the coast to Mount Desert Island. Night in Augusta at Quality Inn & Suites Evergreen Hotel.

Day 3 – Fort Popham Beach SP, Tidewater Farm, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Crescent Beach SP, Scarborough Marsh. Night in Portland at Ramada Plaza Portland.

Day 4 – Pine Point Beach, Kennebunk Plains, Brownfield Bog, Mount Washington. Night at the The Glen House in Glen House, NH.

Day 5 – Mount Washington, Moose Bog. Night in Eustis at the Spillover Motel.

Day 6 – Boy Scout Rd, Messalonskee Lake, The Milkhouse Farmstore. Night in Bangor at Four Points by Sheraton Bangor Airport.

Day 7 – Morning birding in Bangor. Departures from Bangor Int Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR)

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival at Bangor Int Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR). Night at Bluebird Motel, Machias.

Arrival at Bangor International Airport in Bangor, ME. Afternoon birding as we make our way towards the coast. Introductions and orientation at dinner. Night at the Bluebird Motel in Machias.

Day 2 – Puffin trip with Bold Coast Charter Co. out of Cutler, birding the coast to Mount Desert Island. Night in Augusta at Quality Inn & Suites Evergreen Hotel.

We are kicking off this tour with a boat trip to Machias Seal Island with the Bold Coast Charter Company. At 7am we will set out on the massive Gulf of Maine, a 36,000 square mile region that provided the former haunts to the now-extinct Sea Mink and Great Auk. Today the Gulf of Maine is alive and well, with a prosperous fishing community and rare animals like the Northern Right Whale and the charismatic Atlantic Puffin still call the deep underwater canyons and rocky islands their home. And puffins are what this whole boat trip is about! Machias Seal Island is a tiny, 20-acre island that is host to the largest breeding colony of Atlantic Puffins in the United States…or it is Canada? Exact ownership over the island is still disputed but the Canadian Coast Guard currently staffs the lighthouse…

During the hour long commute, there is a possibility of seeing several pelagic species like Manx Shearwater, Parasitic Jaeger, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, and Red-necked Phalarope so keep your eyes pealed! Various gulls, terns, scoters, and Black Guillemot will be common along the way. As we approach the island, we may encounter Northern Gannet and Great Cormorant. If weather conditions permit, a small dingy will be sent out for us and as a group we will be ferried to the island. After hopping onto a small dock we will be led to a blind among the raucous birds. The blinds are 3ft by 7th in size and once inside, we will suddenly be within arms-reach of Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, and Common and Arctic Terns! Thousands of birds nest on the island, including 2,000 pairs of puffins, and by hiding in the blinds we can peacefully watch their interactions up-close without any disturbances. If weather doesn’t allow access onto the island, we will still be able to board the dingy and motor around the waters in close proximity to the birds. If you have never done this boat trip it is quite the experience, and something every birder and nature lover has got to do at least once in their life!

We’ll return to the mainland in the afternoon and drive out to West Quoddy Head State Park. This is the easternmost point in the United States and has one of most iconic lighthouses. For the birder, this location is most likely to have lingering Great Cormorants which spend the entire winter here and occasionally younger birds linger into the early summer. We’ll spend the rest of the afternoon birding our way down the coast, finishing up with sunset atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Night in Augusta – the state capitol of Maine.

Day 3 – Fort Popham Beach SP, Tidewater Farm, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Crescent Beach SP, Scarborough Marsh. Night in Portland at Ramada Plaza Portland.

Historic Fort Popham Beach State Park is first on our birding agenda today, and we will likely have nice opportunities to study the differences in Harbor and Gray Seals here. Common Eiders and other ducks are often swimming and feeding nearby, often under the watchful eyes of various Bald Eagles. From there we will travel down to the Presumpscot Rivermouth where one or two vagrant Little Egret have spent the summer for many years. Little Egret are the European equivalent to our Snowy Egret, and are very similar in appearance – close study of the head plumes are required. Snowy has a short, fluffy crest while Little Egrets have two long, whip-like plumes. Classic species like Osprey, Yellow Warbler, Willow Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Veery, and Wild Turkey may also be seen in the area.

After a quick stop at Crescent Beach State Park to scan the ocean, we will spend the remainder of the day at Scarborough Marsh. This vast saltmarsh habitat may just be the best place to find both Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows together. Those species will be our top priorities, but we also have to watch out for tricky hybrids. Least Tern can be seen here in addition to Tricolored Heron and Glossy Ibis. Scarborough Marsh can sometimes be a back-up spot for Little Egret, and in 2018 we saw a hybrid Tricolored Heron x Snowy/Little Egret here! American Black Ducks are common in the marsh channels, and Clapper Rails may start calling as the sun sinks below the horizon. Night in the hip city of Portland!

Day 4 – Pine Point Beach, Kennebunk Plains, Brownfield Bog, Mount Washington. Night at the The Glen House in Glen House, NH.

Today we will travel from the sandy beaches of southern Maine to the 6,288ft peak of Mount Washington…the tallest mountain in the northeast. An early start is required, and our first stop will be to Pine Point Beach. A short walk towards the jetty should allow close views of Piping Plover and a very nice sampling of terns. If conditions allow we will study the differences in Common, Arctic, Roseate, and Least Terns! Red-throated Loon and lingering seaducks, like Long-tailed Duck, are possible here.

Our next stop will be the blueberry barrens and grasslands at Kennebunk Plains. Our targets in this rare habitat include Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink. Some rare plants, like Northern Blazing Star, are found nowhere else. The plains are a great location for Grasshopper, Savannah, and Vesper Sparrows in addition to Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher – all of which we are unlikely to encounter anywhere else during the tour. Clay-colored Sparrow is also possible. Sometimes a pair of American Kestrel can be found staking out a nice snag to nest in.

Any birder would be filled with eager anticipation as we begin our journey north through the forests near the Canadian border. Our next birding locale just happens to be a good ol’ northwoods bog. From Kennebunk Plains we have a winding hour and 30 minutes drive up to Brownfield Bog, located at the southeast edge of the White Mountains. Wilson’s Snipe and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breed here! Many of us only get to see these birds in winter or migration. Both cuckoos (Yellow-billed and Black-billed) are here, too. And 8 species of flycatchers have been reported in June. This habitat also provides our first opportunities to look for northern birds like Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Philadelphia Vireo. Various warbler species will be common, and hopefully singing their little heart’s out.

Our journey north continues through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We will be spending the rest of the day on the road up to Mount Washington. As we climb in elevation, you will see how the habitat changes from birch and maple deciduous forest, to spruce and hemlock coniferous forest, then stunted spruces, and finally the rocky and barren alpine zone. Mount Washington is famous for its extreme weather with sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, and intense snow and ice throughout the winter, and it rarely reaches above 60F in the summer. It’s always windy. Our primary target here is to see Bicknell’s Thrush in the stunted spruces near the summit. These thrushes are one of America’s most range-restricted and localized birds. They have only recently been considered a distinct species from Gray-cheeked Thrush, and current research actually points towards them being more similar to Veery. There are only a few, scattered high-altitude locations in the northeast that offer the specialized habitat the thrushes require, and Mount Washington is perhaps the easiest and most beautiful location to try for them. Other birds to keep in mind include Boreal Chickadee, American Pipit, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and crossbills. Night in Glen House.

Day 5 – Mount Washington, Moose Bog. Night in Eustis at the Spillover Motel.

We will be up early to visit Mount Washington once again. This gives us another shot at Bicknell’s Thrush, and we spend more concerted effort on Boreal Chickadee and other northern specialties. As we climb through different habitat zones, listen as the changes in the warbler communities are perfectly in sync. Snowshoe Hare and North American Porcupine are possible along the road.

Up next we are headed for another bog, in Vermont! This area of northern Vermont is affectionately known to locals as the ‘Northern Kingdom’. I like that title, and the forested mountains and ridges certainly frame the area like massive castle walls. This is a remote area with fantastic habitat and equally fantastic birding possibilities. Ruffed Grouse are rare here. The colorful, secretive Spruce Grouse is more probable here than Ruffed Grouse. It is a nemesis species for many birders. Even where this bird is common, it can be very easy to miss. A visit to Moose Bog should offer us the best shot at finding grouse though, and this should be our best shot at a number of harder-to-find goodies including Black-backed Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Alder Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Canada Warbler, and Winter Wren are all to be searched for too. Stonking male Magnolia and Blackburnian Warblers will be singing from the treetops! Swainson’s and Hermit Thrush nest here, and Red Crossbills could be heard overhead. Rusty Blackbird breed in the alder-lined creeks. This beautiful little spot can be hard to leave… but we can at least dedicate a few hours exploring.

As the sun sets, we will listen for Sora and Common Loons calling from the edge of a huge lake. Moose are possible along the forest roads. Night in Eustis.

Day 6 – Boy Scout Rd, Messalonskee Lake, The Milkhouse Farmstore. Night in Bangor at Four Points by Sheraton Bangor Airport.

An early-morning visit to Boy Scout Road near the Kennebago River will be our last chance at Boreal Chickadee and Canada Jay. Although this is just as far north as Moose Bog, the habitat is slightly drier and the predominant grouse will be Ruffed Grouse. Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and both kinglets should be common. We will say our goodbyes to the northwoords, and begin heading back ‘down east’. Sit back and relax as we travel through beautiful forests and rolling farmland. Broad-winged Hawks may be perched along the roadside, and we could spot a Moose if we are lucky.

Next up will be a large marsh along the shores of Messalonskee Lake which contains Maine’s only breeding colony of Black Terns. Other marshbirds like American Bittern and Virginia Rail may be seen or more likely heard, and we have seen Sandhill Crane here before. Bank Swallow and Purple Martin are likely to be flying overhead. For the remainder of the day, we will visit the quintessential Maine farmstead – the Milkhouse Farmstore in Monmouth. This certified organic dairy farm and creamery is run by a conservation-minded family that utilizes unconventional methods for blending natural habitats with pasturelands. Alder Flycatcher, Bobolink, and Broad-winged Hawks are abundant in this area and nest on the farm. We will spend our last evening in Maine having a cookout on the farm, and if we’re lucky a Common Nighthawk might fly over. Night in Bangor.

Day 7 – Morning birding in Bangor. Departures from Bangor Int Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR)

Alas! The final day of our Maine birding adventure is here already. Departures are from Bangor International Airport (BGR) in Bangor, Maine but we can do some morning birding if time allows. This will offer another shot for Virginia Rail, Fish Crow, and Indigo Bunting.

Cost Details

Cost

Cost is $1,950 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Bangor, Maine. (Airport code BGR).
This trip ends in same as arrival city (Airport code BGR).

Cost Includes

Cost includes airport transfers, all ground transportation, accomodations, entrance fees and services of your professional leader(s).

Cost does not Include

All meals, flights to/from destination city, trip insurance, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of participants registered, the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $300 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

Accommodations

Three nights accommodations in standard motels, all ensuite and comfortable. Wherever possible, we support local establishments that implement eco-friendly practices.

Activity Level

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Most walking will be short hikes on mostly flat terrain. Our boat trip includes landing on a rocky island (if weather conditions allow) so climbing between a small boat and a wooden dock would be required (with help of course!).

Additional Information

Recommended Field Guide

Sibley Birds East  (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)
by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds is also available as an App

 

Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock

by Stephen Kress and Derrick Jackson

Non-smoking Tour

Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

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