Greg Miller Big Year Tour Series

MAINE: Mountains & Coast

Spruce Grouse in Vermont, photo by Alex Lamoreaux

TOUR FOCUS
BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2022 :: June 5 - June 11
2023 :: June 4 - June 10

TOUR COST

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

GROUP SIZE

3 - 7 Participants

AVAILABILITY

2022: 1 space available
2023: 7 spaces available

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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Highlights of MAINE: Mountains & Coast

  • Beautiful coastline & boreal forests
  • Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, & other seabirds up-close!
  • Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, and Bicknell’s Thrush
  • 20+ warbler species and other eastern songbirds
  • Grand loop of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire!

Description of MAINE: Mountains & Coast

This grand tour will take us from the rocky beaches, saltmarshes, and grasslands of coastal Maine; to the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire in search of Bicknell’s Thrush; and then to explore what Vermonters call “The Northern Kingdom”. To kick off this busy week of New England birding, we will enjoy a morning boat trip out on the Gulf of Maine to visit an active Atlantic Puffin and Razorbill colony! We’ll have 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, 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 or two! The lush northern forests are packed with breeding songbirds, and the birdlife will be diverse throughout this tour. Classic New England specialties that we’ll search for including Common Eider, Black Guillemot, American Black Duck, all three scoters, Piping Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Arctic and Roseate Terns, and forest songbirds like Olive-sided Flycatcher, Black-billed Cuckoo, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Canada Jay, and the elusive Black-backed Woodpecker! Tough-to-find Boreal Chickadee and Spruce Grouse are top targets during our time in the dense, damp boreal forests of northern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. A visit to the subalpine zone of Mount Washington will allow us easy access to the very range-restricted Bicknell’s Thrush. North Atlantic seabirds like Northern Gannet, Razorbill, Common Murre, and Atlantic Puffin are expected on our boat trip! The range-restricted Great Cormorant is possible too. The Northwoods provide a home to an amazing diversity of eastern warblers, and over 20 species of warbler are possible including Mourning and Canada. We will also tour a conservation-minded organic dairy farm that provides nesting habitat for Alder Flycatchers, Bobolink, and Common Nighthawks!

This is an adventurous trip to some remote habitats. We will see tremendous scenery and fabulous birds. You’ll want to come back and spend more time, but this tour should whet your appetite! NEW for 2021 we also have a 3-day extension that targets the returning vagrant Red-billed Tropicbird on Seal Island which also offers guests another opportunity to see puffins!

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Length of Tour

7-Days/6-Nights

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrivals at Bangor Int. Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR). Birding in Bangor and Mount Desert Island. Night in Bar Harbor.

Day 2 – Puffin trip to Petit Manan Island. Birding hotspots en route to Augusta. Night in Augusta.

Day 3 – Harrison Avenue Nature Trail, Tidewater Farm, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, lunch in Portland, Crescent Beach SP, Scarborough Marsh. Night in Portland. Optional night-birding excursion.

Day 4 – Capisic Pond, Kennebunk Plains, Brownfield Bog. Night in Jackson, NH.

Day 5 – Mount Washington, Pondicherry NWR. Night in Lancaster. Optional night-birding excursion.

Day 6 – Moose Bog, Moose Alley, Boy Scout Rd, Messalonskee Lake. Night in Bangor.

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

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrivals at Bangor Int. Airport in Bangor, ME (BGR). Birding in Bangor and Mount Desert Island. Night in Bar Harbor.

Arrivals at Bangor International Airport in Bangor, ME. Afternoon birding at Essex Woods and multiple locations around Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. We encourage *early arrivals* or to arrive the day prior in order to maximize our time in the field on the first day! Introductions and orientation at dinner. Night in Bar Harbor.

Day 2 – Puffin trip to Petit Manan Island. Birding hotspots en route to Augusta. Night in Augusta.

We are kicking off this tour with a boat trip to the seabird colony on Petit Manan Island. In the early morning 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 remains a healthy ecosystem, with a prosperous fishing community and rare animals like Northern Right Whale and the charismatic Atlantic Puffin continuing to call the deep underwater canyons and rocky islands their home. In fact, the puffins are what this whole boat trip is about! Petit Manan Island is a tiny, 10-acre rock that is host to one of the largest breeding colonies of Atlantic Puffins in the United States.

During the hour long commute, there is a possibility of seeing several rare 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. Close views of the island and surrounding waters should produce excellent views of Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, and both Common and Arctic Terns! Keep your eyes peeled for other rare seabirds! One year we spotted a South Polar Skua!

We will celebrate the puffins over lunch in Bar Harbor and from there we’ll make our way south toward Augusta. We will likely make birding stops at Sears Island and visit a farm 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 even nest on the farm. Night in Augusta – the state capitol of Maine.

Day 3 – Harrison Avenue Nature Trail, Tidewater Farm, Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, lunch in Portland, Crescent Beach SP, Scarborough Marsh. Night in Portland. Optional night-birding excursion.

Harrison Avenue Nature Trail will be a quick warm-up birding stop first thing this morning where we can walk along the river looking for migrant songbirds. From there we will travel down to the Presumpscot Bay just north of Portland, where one or more rare Little Egrets have returned for many years. Little Egret are the European equivalent to our Snowy Egret, and are very similar in appearance but a close study of their head plumes and facial skin color is required to confirm the ID. Snowy has a short, fluffy crest while Little Egrets have two long, whip-like plumes. Other destinations will include Tidewater Farm and Gilsland Farm Audubon Center. Classic species like Osprey, Yellow Warbler, Willow Flycatcher, Veery, and Wild Turkey may also be seen in the area. Portland is also the northernmost range of a few songbirds including Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Wren. Lunch will be in downtown Portland!

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 be the best place on the East Coast to find both Nelson’s Sparrow and Saltmarsh Sparrow together…. and without getting covered in mud! Those two sparrows will be our top priorities, but beware of tricky hybrids! Least Tern can be seen here in addition to ‘Eastern’ Willet, Tricolored Heron, and Glossy Ibis. Scarborough Marsh can sometimes be a back-up spot for finding Little Egret, and in 2018 we saw a hybrid Tricolored Heron x Snowy/Little Egret here! The declining American Black Ducks can be seen in the marsh channels. We will end the day birding at Pine Point Beach, where closer views of many tern species are possible along with the chance for lingering waterfowl. Night in the hip city of Portland! After dinner we will have an optional excursion for nocturnal birds like Eastern Whip-poor-will and American Woodcock.

Day 4 – Capisic Pond, Kennebunk Plains, Brownfield Bog. Night in Jackson, NH.

Today we will travel from the seaside beaches of southern Maine to Mount Washington; the tallest mountain in the northeast! An early start is required for everything we have planned for today , and our first stop will be to Capisic Pond track down a few migrant songbirds plus the possibility for Black-crowned Night-Heron.

A visit to the blueberry barrens and sandhill grasslands around Kennebunk Plains will target Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink. This rare, remnant habitat is home to some equally rare plants, like Northern Blazing Star, which 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 rare but also possible. Sometimes a pair of American Kestrel can be found staking out a nice snag to nest in. Prairie Warblers breed in the short pines and brush in this area.

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. Wood Duck and Black-billed Cuckoo are possible here. A whopping 8 species of flycatchers have been reported in June at this location. This habitat provides our first opportunities to look for northern birds like Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and both Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos. 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. Night in Jackson.

Day 5 – Mount Washington, Pondicherry NWR. Night in Lancaster. Optional night-birding excursion.

We will be up early to visit Mount Washington! As we climb in elevation heading toward the 6,288ft summit, you will see how the habitat changes from birch and maple deciduous forest, to spruce and hemlock coniferous forest, then to 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 here and sometimes quite foggy.

Our primary target on Mount Washington is the rare, endemic Bicknell’s Thrush which can be found 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 toward them being more genetically similar to Veery. There are only a few, scattered high-altitude locations in the northeast that offer the specialized habitat these thrushes require, and Mount Washington is perhaps the easiest and most beautiful location to try for them. Other birds we will be looking for include Boreal Chickadee, American Pipit, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackpoll Warbler, and White-winged Crossbill. Snowshoe Hare and North American Porcupine are possible along the road. Fog can often obscure views, but whatever the weather conditions may be – it’s always beautiful and special up there at the top!

We will spend the afternoon birding around nearby Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge and other hotspots in search of Black-backed Woodpecker and various boreal songbirds including multiple species of warbler. Ruffed Grouse is also possible in this area. Night in Lancaster. After dinner we will have another optional excursion for night-birding, targeting Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Day 6 – Moose Bog, Moose Alley, Boy Scout Rd, Messalonskee Lake. Night in Bangor.

This area of northern Vermont is affectionately known to locals as the ‘Northern Kingdom’. 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 but the colorful, secretive Spruce Grouse lurks these dark, damp forests. Even where this bird is expected, it can be very easy to miss. A visit to Moose Bog should should hopefully produce a Spruce Grouse sighting though, and this should also be our best shot at a number of harder-to-find boreal goodies including Black-backed Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Alder Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Canada Warbler, and Winter Wren will be searched for too. Stunning male Magnolia Warblers and Blackburnian Warblers may be singing from the treetops! Swainson’s Thrush and Hermit Thrush nest here, and Red Crossbill flocks may be heard flying overhead. Threatened and declining populations of Rusty Blackbirds 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 it!

After a coffee and snack break, we will set off along Moose Alley, traveling a scenic highway through the northern forests of New Hampshire and Maine. As the name implies, this is our best chance at spotting a Moose and will also allow more opportunities to search for Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Snowshoe Hare. Boy Scout Road near the Kennebago River often produces close encounters with Canada Jays and is a great road for finding various warblers. Although this area is just as far north as Moose Bog, the habitat is slightly drier and the predominant grouse here will be Ruffed Grouse. Purple Finch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Golden-crowned Kinglet and Ruby-crowned Kinglet should both be common. We will say our goodbyes to the northwoods, 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.

Our final destinations for the day including a brief visit to a Purple Martin colony and then exploring the large marshes along the shores of Messalonskee Lake. This area contains Maine’s only breeding colony of Black Terns. Other marsh birds here may include American Bittern and Virginia Rail, and we’ve had good luck finding Sandhill Crane here before. Night in Bangor.

Day 7 – Morning birding in Bangor as time allows. 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 around Bangor if time allows. Consider joining us for the Red-billed Tropicbird extension!

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.

Six night’s accommodations in standard motels, all ensuite and comfortable. Wherever possible, we support local establishments that implement eco-friendly practices. Full-size, luxury SUVs will be used for this tour.

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!).

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

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.

Location Map