Maine weekend

Sandra and I went to Maine August 4th-7th for a bit of a long weekend, we went mainly looking for dragonflies and to do a Whale watch. Our last visit a couple of years ago was a bit disappointing as the Nancy of a boat Captain refused to sail because of a Hurricane or something. This time we were based in Boothbay Harbour and what a nice place it is. Touristy, yes, but not overly so. We stayed just out of town at a reasonable little hotel and flitted here and there in search of our quarry. Bird migration was slow but Monarchs were moving and darners were swarming.

On our first full day we went out to Popham Beach state park. As usual there was no protection for the birds and grunts were all over the shorebird roost, how difficult would it be to restrict access at all times and just have a designated viewing area? To make matters worse the sea mist kept reducing visibility to 50m at times so we could hear lots but see squat. Eventually, as the tide rose, we found the local speciality, seeing two Piping Plovers standing out like little ghosts in the drab light. The shorebird flock reached four figures, mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers but a few Short-billed Dowitchers and Willets in there too, lots of flight views!.

On day two we spent four hours aboard the Harbour Princess. We went out 15 miles until the first Fin Whale broke the surface to ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the majority. We concentrated more on the shorebirds, Fin Whales are something we have seen lots of times but the seabirds not so. Great Shearwaters were common as were Wilson’s Storm-Petrels but there were no terns and none of the hoped for skuas and jaegers. We did get one Leach’s Storm-Petrel early on but out of camera range. While the boat was Whale bothering we had a Cory’s Shearwater come through, photo below, we also saw a couple of Manx Shearwaters but no Sooty Shearwaters. Once these boats get a few views of Whales they head back, usually via a seal colony and so it was. On one of the rocks a Great Cormorant and a Double-crested Cormorant were nicely juxtaposed, see the photos below.

Our last day was spent at Scarborough Marsh well west of Boothbay. We were looking for the marsh sparrows which we’d not been able to find at Popham. Nelson’s Sparrow turned out to be fairly common and one Saltmarsh Sparrow put in a brief appearance. Scarborough Marsh is vast and the bisecting track is used as a cycle path, jogging track etc, but with no formal birding places just view from the track and be prepared to jump out of the way. We nearly made it to the large lagoon along the track but time was running out so we scanned from distance. Lots of Snowy Egrets and Glossy Ibis, two Little Blue Herons and a few Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons. We had eight hours to go to get home so we left, another 150m and we could have scanned the lagoon properly and maybe found the Little Egret seen there the next day!

I added four species to my N. American list including one lifer, the Saltmarsh Sparrow. Talking to a guy doing a sparrow census he reckons that hybridization occurs between Saltmarsh and Nelson’s so perhaps the split was a bit premature. Nice to add Roseate Tern, Leach’s Storm-Petrel and Cory’s Shearwater to the list though, 560 now. Below are a few shots.

A montage of lousy Wilson’s Storm-Petrel shots. For those who think that the foot projection beyond the tail is 100% sure fire ID, check out the bottom two photos.

A nice Laughing Gull in Boothbay Harbour. Interestingly, a local (Quebec) report of a Laughing Gull is being hotly debated because it looks partly like a Franklin’s Gull. I remember a mystery bird competition in British Birds years ago where the conclusion was that some Laughing-Franklin’s Gulls could not be called with confidence. This bird is spot on for Laughing though.

The Cory’s Shearwater taken during a five foot swell while being serenaded by a boffing, tattoo covered munter. All excuses that I have never used for a lousy photo before.

Great Shearwater montage. Click on the picture for a bigger image.

You looking at me? A well hard Great Cormorant giving a Double-crested Cormorant the stare.

The Great Cormorant flew, one lucky shot, a good ‘spot the difference’ photo.

Northern Eiders in eclipse plumage looking lousy.

Warning seagulls will steal your food said the sign, no kidding and when they are as big as this American Herring Gull, who will argue?

The dragonfly stuff is on the Quebec odes page, or at least will be when done.




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