Maine Spring Live

by Seth Davis

On Saturday the 27th, MYBC was lucky to be offered to represent our club at the Maine Spring LIVE event at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. Marion spent a lot of time and effort to set up our booth which turned out really great! We had a lot of interested people stop by to see what the club has to offer and we were happy to be given this opportunity to promote MYBC. The young birders had a lot of opportunities to go on bird walks, see live animal shows, and interact with other nature-focused organizations around Maine.

As much as we would love to talk about club promotion, the more important question is, how were the birds!?! Right off the bat we were given the pleasure of seeing a Pileated Woodpecker working a tree not too far from our booth! It was a very patient bird that let a lot of us get within great photo distance (see below). Right then we knew it was going to be a good day. Admittedly, it was difficult to keep track of birds because the club was pretty split up throughout the day, with members going on bird walks or to the shows, however our booth was right next to a set of feeders which provided some excellent opportunities to see who was coming in! From our nice comfy chair we had a lot of the regular visitors, Black-capped Chickadee, Chipping Sparrows, Downy/Hairy Woodpeckers etc. We also got some great views of a Pine Warbler and Brown-headed Cowbird that would stop by pretty regularly. Out on the walks we saw a lot of great birds like an American Kestrel, extremely close views of Wild Turkey and multiple Song Sparrows. The cherry on the ice cream was definitely a great view of a LITTLE EGRET!!! This is an exceptionally rare bird for the U.S. but Maine has been lucky enough to host it (quite possibly a pair) for the past 4-5 years with it always returning to Gilsland Farm! This eurasian visitor was ID’ed for the first time this year on Saturday and it was awesome that we got to see it!

After the walks and as the event began to die out, Seth and River got the opportunity to go down to the “vaults” of Maine Audubon to look at specimens and try to learn a little more about how Maine Audubon operates. It was a fun experience! All-in-all this event was really fun and we look forward to being a part of it next year!

Sketching, Pizza and Woodcock Walk

by Marion Sprague

On Saturday, March 30, six young birders joined MYBC in the search for returning American Woodcocks. We headed to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust at dusk.   As we were getting our gear out of the cars an American Woodcock buzzed over us just above our heads. We could the distinctive nasal “peent” coming from multiple woodcocks nearby. We were very fortunate to have Bud Danis, who heads the KCT Trail Steward Program, join us for the walk and guide us to a prime viewing spot.

Within minutes, we heard one take off nearby.  The field at Kennebunkport Conservation Trust is situated ideally facing the western sky. This is great for watching woodcocks in flights as the light of the setting sun gives perfect backlighting to watch their elaborate sky dance.  We were able to watch the first few flights in their entirety from takeoff through ascent to landing. We strained our eyes to keep up with the long circular ascent of the woodcock and listened for the twittering high above our heads as the woodcock reached its apex and descended.  While he danced high above, we took this chance to approach his display turf by quickly jogging our way closer.  Standing still just behind a cluster of apple trees, we held our breaths in the hope that he would land back on his favorite patch of field again.

The woodcock did not disappoint.  He descended, loudly chirping, and landed about 20 feet in front of us!  We spotlighted him, and everyone got great looks through the scope and binoculars at the plump, peenting bird.  A few even managed to get photos of the well camouflaged bird.  We were very fortunate that he landed close enough that we could hear the little hiccup woodcocks make just after he peented.  

Prior to our woodcock outing, we enjoyed a pizza dinner and a wonderful sketching workshop taught by Michael Boardman of Coyote Graphics.  Michael started the workshop with a quick demonstration of how to capture gesture and field marks when sketching a bird quickly in the wild. Luckily, our models were staying put. Michael brought in three bird mounts for us to practice sketching—a Bufflehead, a Black-bellied Plover and of course our target bird the American Woodcock. Michael also gave a brief demo on watercolor and how to mix three basic colors to get almost any color you need to paint wildlife.  We had a lot of fun and discovered many of the group had artistic abilities!

Perhaps the highlight of the evening came at the very end as we were walking to meet everyone’s parents. Ian thought he heard the twittering of a woodcock in flight and called for everyone to stop. Sure enough, a lone American Woodcock had landed 10 feet in front of us at the base of a large tree on the UNE Campus.  Nice spotting, Ian!

We will post details about the April outing shortly. Stay tuned. Until then, happy birding!


by Seth Davis

“We saw every owl…” is what we wanted to say after our long early-morning outing. Unfortunately, it turns out that these elusive raptors are in fact, very elusive. We were a trio for this trip (not unexpected for our early morning adventures) and we traveled all over Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough to some known owling hotspots. Our hope was that we would at the very least hear some owls as February is the beginning of their breeding season, but no such luck. Some in the party were pretty convinced they heard a Great Horned Owl near Ram Island, however it was considered a “Dirty Bird” (a term meaning that only some of a birding party saw/ID’d a bird and not everyone) thus we didn’t count it.

All was not lost however! We did see some great birds as it started to get light out. Most notably we saw 3 Red-tailed Hawks and 1 Rough-legged Hawk near the Spurwink River Crossing. There were also hundreds of Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Canada Geese among others.

The lack of sleep did not alter our determination, we will continue to seek out these amazing birds! Our next trip will be in late March so keep your eyes open for the announcement!


By Marion Sprague

On January 26, the MYBC set out with 5 young birders for our seabirding outing. We started the morning at East Point Sanctuary in Biddeford. We walked along the trail next to the golf course keeping our eyes out for geese, hawks and birds in the thickets. We saw a few cooperative Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Norther Cardinals. We continued our walk out to the point hoping to see a Snowy Owl, but had no such luck.  We did, however, see the MYBC mascot a Black Guillemot decked out in its winter plumage.

We then treaded very carefully across the snow covered trails to the pines. It started out very quiet, but a mob of American Crows soon drew our attention. Seth ventured in to see if he could spot what they were mobbing. Something large and light colored flew out of one of the trees, but we didn’t get a clear enough look to identify it.  View the full checklist here:

After that excitement we headed to Cape Elizabeth and visited some of its well-known birding spots. We stopped briefly along Rt. 77 to view a Red-tailed Hawk sitting conspicuously on the telephone wires overlooking the marsh.

Driving into the parking lot at Kettle Cove, a Sharp-Shinned Hawk flew up and over the hood of our cars in pursuit of a flock of Rock Pigeons feeding at a neighborhood feeder. There was already a large groups of birders at Kettle Cove that turned out to be the Merry Meeting Audubon group who was incidentally on an outing as well. We picked up our first sparrows of the day, a very agitated Song Sparrow scolded us from the thickets near the bridge and an American Tree Sparrow was foraging along the edges of the parking lot. Check out our full Kettle Cove checklist here:

Our next stop was Dyer Point. We picked up Harlequin Ducks, Razorbills, Red-Necked Grebe and Purple Sandpipers. The highlight came just as we were going to head over to Two Lights to see if we could find the King-Eider, spotted earlier by the Merry Meeting Audubon birders. We met a woman from Avian Haven who had just released a Thick-Billed Murre. Of course, we ran back out to the point to see it. We got some great looks of it stretching it wings and diving among the surf. See our full checklist here:

After the official outing had wrapped up a small group of us lingered behind and went over to Two Lights State Park to see if we could spot the King Eider, sadly the King was nowhere to be found. We instead enjoyed a few more Harlequin Ducks and Red-Necked Grebes before calling it a day.

We also want to give a huge thank you to the anonymous donor who provided a Swarovski scope and tripod to MYBC. We will put it to great use!! You can see Garrett below using it to scan for snowies at East Point Sanctuary.

Keep your eyes peeled for the February trip posting coming shortly!


MYBC set out on Dec. 29th to partake in our own Christmas Bird Count section for the Biddeford/Kennebunk CBC! Though it was a slow birding day in general we had a great time and several young birders made the long-haul staying out birding from 3 am all the way to the final compilation which took place at 5 pm. Special guest Nathan Hall lead the team and took us by several awesome locations in the Biddeford/Saco area.

Owling was largely unsuccessful unfortunately. Probably the most exciting thing was having a run-in with local police who thought we were up to no good… Once we explained the history of the CBC and how MYBC was out looking for owls in the early hours of the day, they understood and let us go on our way. Do note it is important to follow all local rules and regulations including “when” you can go to certain locales.

Once it became light out, we stopped off by Rt. 9 in Saco and we were greeted with a quick rain shower and scenic rainbow view along with some cool birds (Northern Pintail, Yellow-rumped Warbler, among others).

We made our way down to the beach nearby to pick up some sea birds. We were pretty successful with highlights including several Razorbills, a couple Northern Gannets. Moving down the road we hit Old Orchard Beach and found a huge flock of 150-200 gulls. Trying to see if we could spot an unusual gull (white-winged) among them we crept closer, but sadly we didn’t have any luck.

Later in the day, we decided to go back and hit up some of the spots where we went owling to see if daylight would result in more birds. One of the neatest locations we went to was Saco Heath. While wonderful habitat, birding was incredibly slow (we weren’t the only ones with a slow day). The young birders made the lack of birds fun however, by engaging in a winnerless competition to see who could name the most birds :)

Finally we stopped at a small apple orchard in Saco and picked up a few necessary birds (Hairy and Downy Woodpecker etc.) and got some really close views of some vocal Common Ravens going through the neighborhood. We attempted a last-ditch effort to see the Barrows Golden eye at the mill, but apparently it was hanging out up river.

Several young birders attended the compilation and were active participants in the count process. This gave a great opportunity to see the process as well as appreciate the significance of this country’s longest running citizen science project. In total (now that the official results are in) there were 81 different species seen on the count day across 8 teams. Everyone logged close to 300 miles of travel both by car and foot! So though it may have not been the “birdiest” day, MYBC had a lot of fun and can’t wait to participate next year!

Fort Foster

by Marion Sprague

On Saturday November 17th, seven Maine Young Birders joined us at Fort Foster where our goal was to see some lingering passerines and our returning winter visitors. Before we even officially started our walk we were greeted by a Red-tailed Hawk that alighted in a tree just over the parking area.

We started our day along the road leading to the observation tower. As we walked through the marsh we saw a fantastic variety of sparrows including multiple Fox and Swamp Sparrows. These were not to be outdone by the White-throated, Savannah and Song Sparrows. Perhaps our best view was of one immature White-crowned Sparrow that seemed undeterred by our presence as it foraged along the path.

We continued our walk along the shore trials along Rocky and Windersurfer’s Beaches. Highlights included 1 Winter Wren flitting along the trees in the marsh, over 45 American Robins flying overhead in large groups, and 1 American Pipit seen by two members of the group. We tried to relocate the bird later in the day without success.

We picked up a great sample of Maine’s woodpeckers with 4 species including multiple Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. On the walk back to the car for mid-morning snack break we saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker flying back and forth among the trees. Back at the car we could hear the tapping of what seemed to be a large woodpecker. We were thrilled when a Pileated Woodpecker poked its head out briefly.

After our break we ventured out to the pier, where despite some unfriendly winds we picked up 2 Red-necked Grebes, a few Purple Sandpipers and a mix of scoters, gulls, and ducks.

As with any trip we are happy to take a minute to pause for things other than birds. We had quite a mammal show including a red fox sunning itself on a log, a delightful red squirrel eating berries along the shore trial and a white-tailed deer that crossed the road only 15 feet from the group.

We had a total of 51 species to round out our day! We did manage to see a few late migrants including 1 Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and 1 Blackpoll Warbler. You can see our full list of birds here:

Stay tuned for our December trip announcement coming shortly. Happy birding!

Mt. Agamenticus Pt. II

by Seth Davis

Five of Maine’s elite young birders ventured to Mt. Agamenticus last Saturday in an effort to do some hawk watching and catch some of the late fall migrants. We were greeted at the top by Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows, two Common Ravens, and an excellent view of a Red-tailed Hawk searching for a meal remaining almost motionless in the sky with the wind! We started out by birding the trails on the east side of the mountain. Hermit Thrushes seemed to be the dominant species having seen at least a dozen of them rooting on the ground, but we found patches of mixed-flocks of Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice (Titmouses? Still not sure on that one!) and Ruby-crowned/Golden-crowned Kinglets among others.

On our way back up (having only gotten a little lost) we came across a nice warbler flock. They were primarily Yellow-rumped Warblers, but among them was a late Black-throated Green Warbler, which sadly only a couple of us got a view of.

When back at the top, we decided to test our skills at hawk watching from the viewing platform. Due to the fairly strong westerly winds, hawks were not too prevalent, though we did pick up some distant Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures. While the majority of us were focused miles away, Weston was keenly aware of what was going on under our noses and amazingly spotted a Baltimore Oriole that landed right in front of us! Due to the lack of excitement of distant hawks, and the renewed excitement from Weston’s excellent spotting we moved our efforts to the immediate area and sure enough we spotted goldfinches, and Eastern Phoebe, Gray Catbird, and a Blackpoll Warbler!

We then walked down the mounting (Seth drove because he’s lazy) and on the way down the group saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Ian got a brief glimpse of a Ruffed Grouse flushing into the trees!

At the base, we made our yearly visit to Center for Wildlife to look at all the ambassador birds and wildlife there. It was exciting to get to see these birds up close and learn more about all the good that the center does for the animals in the area. We picked up a few additional “wild” species while there brining our final species count to 27, which is very decent for mid-October! The full eBird checklist can be seen here.

We had a blast, and can’t wait until next year to get to do it all over again! Our next trip will be in mid-November so be on the lookout for our trip announcement ~2 weeks prior to the event.


By Marion Sprague

On September 22, four young birders met us before dawn to begin our shorebirding adventure. As they say, they early bird gets the worm. Or in this case, the early birder gets the birds! Thank you to all the parents who got up early!

Just at the sun was rising we started our morning at Hills Beach. We arrived about 2 hours after low-tide hoping to catch some of the early morning birds searching for breakfast.  We walked the beach and the causeway to Basket Island. Highlights included lots of Black-bellied Plovers (100+), Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, 2 Long-billed Dowitchers and a single Bonaparte’s Gull nestled among the other gulls. While we got very excited over a single White-rumped Sandpiper, the bird of the day was spotted by Weston Barker when he noticed a shorebird tucked in among the other sandpipers that was bigger and showed off yellow legs.  At first sight, we all thought it was a Least Sandpiper, but after examining many photos and consulting an expert we determined we had a Pectoral Sandpiper! Full checklist for Hill Beach can be found here:

Next we headed to South Point Sanctuary, where the shorebirds did not disappoint. We scanned the beach and found a large mixed flocked of shorebirds comprised of Sanderlings, Sempipalmated Sandpipers, Semiplamated Plovers, Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, and Great Black-backed Gulls. A group of Northern Gannets put on a great show diving offshore. Isla Tucker spotted our only Ruddy Turnstone of the day and  Ian Doherty spotted our only Spotted Sandpiper.  The highlight for many was the spectacular aerobatics of the Peregrine Falcon that sped through the scattering flocks.  Full checklist of Southpoint Sanctuary can be found here:

We wrapped things up with a short stop at Biddeford Pool to scan for shorebirds in the marsh.  We picked up a single Northern Pintail dabbling with a few American Black Ducks and one Greater Yellowlegs. Full checklist of Biddeford Pool can be found here:

We had a fantastic trip and are looking forward to some Hawk Watching at Mt. Agameticus in October. Outing details will be sent out about 2 weeks prior to the outing.

Cathance River Preserve

By Seth Davis

Special guest guide John Berry led four young birders around the Cathance River Preserve on Saturday, August 18th.  Good thing young birders are hardy because it was a difficult 5-hour outing with extreme humidity and some rain.  MYBC persevered despite the conditions and some cases of improperly fitting boots.  We managed to tally 24 different species which is surprisingly good for mid-August when birds are still hunkering after the breeding season.  

Some of the highlights included a very curious Common Yellowthroat that was "pished" out of the underbrush, an amazing midday Osprey flyover that Ilsa spotted, and a curious study of some Broad-winged Hawks that were heard but not seen, thus beginning a debate if it could have been one of the numerous Blue Jays that may have been imitating it (we concluded it was too good of a BWHA call to be an imitation).

Though difficult to see with all the new growth that has come in this year, we did catch a small flurry of warbler activity, noting a Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, and a Pine Warbler among the mixed flock.  Any day becomes a good day with warblers!

You can see our full eBird checklist here.  

We want to give a special thank you to John Berry who took a large chunk of time off on Saturday to lead us around and show us this fantastic birding location. 

Our next outing will be in mid-September and the plan is to catch some of the shorebirds migrating around Hills Beach and Biddeford Pool.  Keep an eye out for our trip announcement approximately 2 weeks prior to the event! 

Sunset Puffin Cruise

By Marion Sprague

On Saturday, July 14th, four of our young birders and their families set out on the Maine Audubon Puffin Cruise into Muscongus Bay to Eastern Egg Rock.  The island is home to the world's first restored seabird colony. The restoration of Eastern Egg Rock has been replicated worldwide to help endangered and threated seabirds.  On the ride out to the island, Captain Al gave a brief overview of the history of puffins and what makes this tiny, 7-acre island so important for in their continued breeding success.  Last year there were over 175 breeding pairs of Atlantic Puffins on the island.

Eastern Egg Rock is known as the most easily-accessible Maine island for observing nesting Atlantic Puffins.  As we approached the island, we were greeted by one of the researchers waving from atop their cabin. From mid-May to mid-August, 4-5 people live on the island to monitor the nesting colonies of the birds.

One of our young birders was the first to spot a puffin sitting on the water! Everyone jumped into action to see the football sized bird. The group was treated to many more spectacular sightings including several rafts of puffins floating very close to the bow of the boat.

Laughing Gulls, Black Guillemots (the MYBC mascot!) and Common Terns were plentiful, and we saw a single Roseate Tern sitting on a rock.  Other highlights were the island roost covered in Double-crested Cormorants, a  female Common Eider with a brood of chicks, and the raucous calls of the Laughing Gulls as they flew around the island. While birds were our focus, we also took some time to appreciate sighting of Harbor Porpoises and Harbor Seals!  On the return trip Captain Al took the group by Franklin Light to view the 3rd oldest lighthouse in Maine.

MYBC wants to give a huge thank you to Maine Audubon for sponsoring this trip for the young birders and club coordinators.  Also thanks to naturalist Doug Hitchcox for sharing his expertise with the young birders and parents!  We appreciated his excellent leadership on this trip.

Photos by Marion Sprague