For birdwatchers, experts and amateurs alike, winter can be one of the more challenging times of the year in Maine for that special outdoor activity. But that doesn’t detour those who relish birding year round. As much as it may seem to the contrary, winter can provide opportunities for those who enjoy compiling a birding “life list” or who simply love the sight of a bird in flight.
“The best place to bird watch in winter is in your own backyard, if you have a bird feeder,” explained biologist at Loon Echo Land Trust, Paul Miller. “Although uncommon, some unexpected birds can be found soaring above the frozen landscape. Pine Grosbeaks and Redpolls have been seen feeding during some of the coldest times of the year.”
However, if cabin fever sets in and one feels the need to explore, Miller stated that the second best place is near water such as the causeway in Naples. “Here, you will get to see some unusual and rare ducks this time of year.” Miller added.
Casco and the Sebago Lake State Park, with its abundant lakeshore and rivers, is an excellent location as there is no shortage of waterfowl. A birder might even catch a glimpse of a yellow-throated vireo near the woodland areas.
The southern part of the state offers a variety of vast birding spots and should not be ignored.
With the ocean only 30 miles to the east of Windham and Raymond, one can take an afternoon drive to observe salt water birds who do not usually visit the coastline in winter.
The Back Cove in Portland is a location one should not overlook. With the easily accessible three mile trail that wraps around the bay, one may identify a few Red-breasted Mergansers and a Bufflehead or two. Loons have even been spotted in the midst of a very cold day.
If a snowy owl has not made your birder’s list yet, drive 30 minutes south of Portland to Biddeford Pool. The abundance of snowy owls you will catch site of there, will increase the possibility to help you complete your birding inventory.
While you are in the area, take the opportunity to travel to Kennebunk Plains. The Audubon Society states one might very well see vesper sparrows, upland sandpipers, horned larks and prairie warblers.
Although it may be an effort for some to get out in the cold weather with the ground covered in over a foot of snow, it can be worth the challenge to catch a glimpse of our feathered friends who stay or visit this time of year. If at all possible, don’t let the Maine winter stop the bird lover in you from doing what you enjoy most - bird watching in Maine.
For more information, check out the Maine Audubon’s Maine birding guide at: www.maineaudubon.org/birding/maine-birding-guide-birding-by-region/