Birding on Mount Desert Island, Maine
If you are looking for an excellent Maine vacation experience and a place to see and hear birds with local experts, there is no better place to find them than on Mount Desert Island, Maine during the Acadia Birding Festival.
Mount Desert Island is the home of Acadia National Park which protects an amazing number of habitat types. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in and around the park and it is our goal to make sure that you have an opportunity to see many of these birding hotspots throughout the park. From the sub-alpine mountaintop of Cadillac to the shores of the Gulf of Maine, you will experience the park from local expert’s eyes and ears. Home to Boreal Chickadees, 9 species of Flycatchers, Winter Wrens, Merlin’s, Sparrows, Swallows, and Warblers, as well as the Purple Finch, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and Common Yellowthroat. Grassland nesting species, such as Bobolinks, Lincoln's, Nelson's, Savannah, Song, and White-throated Sparrows on migration.
Mount Desert Island lies in Hancock County, Maine. If you stretched the coastline, it contains over 1000 plus miles, or 1/3 of the total coastline of Maine. There are several lifetimes worth of birding experiences here. To the north of Mount Desert Island is the Gouldsboro Hills State Park, a wilderness area where one will want to be prepared with water and food as well as warm clothing. At the base of Schoodic Mountain, the sentinel of Donnell Pond, there is the possibility of Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay and Crossbills. This is an excellent place to visit and worth anytime you spend there. The views of Mount Desert Island from across Frenchman Bay are spectacular and that alone is worth the time.
Our Island community is surrounded by saltwater in the middle of this amazingly productive Gulf of Maine bioregion. If you are a novice or an expert birder there are a plethora of birding possibilities to take advantage of during our Festival weekend in June. It is our hope that the Acadia Birding Festival will help you in your quest to understand more clearly the bird world and find answers to details of calls, habitat and ecology of these amazing migratory creatures. This year's festival takes place during the end of the migratory period and the very beginning of the breeding season so there should be some excellent opportunities to work on mating and territorial calls . This allows you an opportunity to spend many hours listening to the unique calls of territorial birds and witness unique details of the breeding season.
Mount Desert Island, Maine has been referred to by Roger Tory Peterson(1976) as the "Warbler capital of the United States" and suggested that on Mount Desert Island the "birding here is a totally different challenge" because "it is necessary to be a bird listener as well as a bird watcher". Mr. Peterson's words are the essence of what the Acadia Birding Festival is all about. Over the last 10 years our experts have attempted to make sure that though our festival we teach you how to listen to each member of the symphony of birds. A list of species can be found at the top of this page.
The northern Wood Warblers and Flycatchers take a lifetime to master because their repertoire of calls is one of the most diverse, yet, each species calls are unique only to them. Once you spend enough time with these hard to find birds you too will understand their language and be able to find them, even on Mount Desert Island. Our Island is essentially split in two distinct birding areas separated by Somes Sound: Southwestern Mount Desert or the “quiteside” where Boreal species can be found in lands that have been unchanged since the last glacial period, like the sphagnum bogs of the Great Heath. On occasion it is possible to find Willow Flycatchers on the far western side of Mount Desert Island. On northeastern Mount Desert Island, more southern bird species can be found because of a devastating forest fire in 1947 which burned over 17,000 acres of maturing spruce-fir forest. Today these eastern deciduous forests are excellent places to find many of our breeding Wood Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers and Black-backed Woodpeckers.
On the Whale Watch and Puffin Cruise aboard the “Friendship V”, offered throughout the weekend to festival participants, you will have an opportunity to add many pelagic birds to your Life List. Atlantic Puffin, Razorbills, Black Guillemots and Common Murre are routinely seen on Petit Manan Island along with Laughing and Great Black-backed Gulls, Arctic, Common and Roseate Terns. Petit Manan Island is one of only 5 Islands in the Gulf of Maine where the Atlantic Puffin nests, due partly to the increase in predator species like Great Black-backed Gulls. Petit Manan is managed by the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge and contains 47 offshore islands and three coastal parcels, totaling more than 7,400 acres. The complex spans more than 150 miles of Maine coastline and includes five national wildlife refuges — Petit Manan, Seal Island , Franklin Island, Cross Island, and Pond Island. While the Fish and Wildlife Service focuses on restoring and maintaining populations of nesting seabirds to the refuge's islands, many other bird species find habitat on refuge lands. American Woodcock, Bald Eagles, numerous Warblers on migration and other Songbirds, Shorebirds and Waterfowl can be found within the Refuge. I have found that this is one place where you can see and hear the famous American Woodcock mating flight.
After spending time with the Alcids, The Friendship 5 fly’s like a bird to the habitat of the Cetacean Whales. Foraging among the seabirds, you will begin to see Humpback, Fin, Minke and possibly Right Whales 25 or more miles at sea. Typically, when you find whales you find pelagic birds feeding on the same food, fish, Copepods and Krill. These include Northern Gannets, Fulmars, Greater, Sooty and Manx Shearwaters as well as Leach's and Wilson's Storm Petrels. The boat trip lasts about 4 hours and it is good to dress for winter, as the Gulf of Maine waters are still cold in June and the boat moves along at a good speed. Photos by Becky Marvil and Michael Good