Halloween Weekend in Mass, Maine and CT

The gorgeous Maine coast in the vicinity of Lubec

First off, let me apologize for the long gap in between this and my last post. While I have definitely been birding, the time to post just hasn’t been there between school (+ homework!), hospital visits and getting out every weekend to bird. I really want to keep this blog up, but think, for a while at least, the posts will remain a lot shorter and focus on the birds themselves rather than the story.

This past weekend, I spent some time birding the Maine and Massachusetts coasts, mainly in search of specific targets rather than for general birding in those terrific places. My target birds included Spruce Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Tufted Duck and Townsend’s Solitaire. I ended up going 2 for 4, but you’ll have to read on to see which ones I saw.

In short, the nor’easter that brought October snow and left thousands without power leading to school and business closures severely changed our plans. Instead of driving and staying over in Cape Cod Friday night as originally planned, we found ourselves making our way up to Maine, trying to make our way as far into the massive state (at least by New England standards) as possible.

After a night in Augusta, we finished our drive to early on the morning of the twenty-ninth, arriving in Lubec around 8:30 am. Reaching the Boot Head preserve, we immediately got to the task of trying to find Spruce Grouse, a frustrating miss on a trip to Maine a few years ago. Birdwise the preserve was pretty dead (as can be expected at this time of year) but our highlights included a nice group of 4 Boreal Chickadees, 2 Hermit Thrushes, a Red-breasted Nuthatch and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets. However, there was no doubt who the star of the show was. On our third attempt of walking the best stretch of the trail we flushed a male Spruce Grouse, who landed in a nearby fir before flying right at us and landing at our feet. The bird went on to provide drop-dead views for over fifteen minutes. Perhaps the photos prove this point…. 🙂

After a successful stop in Lubec, we made our way to Millinocket, Maine in search of an American Three-toed Woodpecker that had been seen right outside Baxter State Park two days before. After finally finding the stand of black spruce, we were unable to come up with the Am Three-toed and decided to leave before darkness fell on this very wilderness area. Consellation prizes included a calling Northern Saw-Whet Owl, an adult Ruffed Grouse that provided awesome views as well as our SECOND Spruce Grouse of the day, feeding on grit on that roadside.

Ruffed Grouse; unfortunately I had my 18-135mm lens on at the time, resulting in this heavily cropped image

We awoke on the thirtieth to a heavy snowfall over Bangor. The nor’easter had reached Maine. Departing early, our first stops were the goose fields in the vicinity of Cumberland. Although we struck out on Greater White-fronted, we were able to nail the dark-morph juvenile Snow Goose, a plumage of which I have never seen in this species.

Making good use of the expression "digging in!"

Afterwords, our journey took us to Dyer Point in the scenic town of Cape Elizabeth. Our seawatching vigil produced a number of highlights included Black Guillemot, Dovekie, a subadult Pomarine Jaeger that landed right in front of us, a slew of Black-legged Kittiwakes and Northern Gannets, all three scoter species and a 1st cycle Kumlien’s Iceland Gull.

Moving along, we made a quick visit to Plum Island, part of Parker River NWR in Newburyport, MA. Although we dipped on our main targets (Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur), we had a great time nevertheless. Highlights included two Northern Harriers, all three scoter species and some very cooperative Sanderlings and Dunlins as well as Black-bellied, American Golden and Semipalmated Plovers.


Our last stop of the day was Manchester Reservoir at dusk. Although far out in the center of the reservoir, the Tufted Duck was very obvious amongst the nearby Lesser Scaup and nice scope views of the birds preening and preparing to roost were enjoyed.

A poor record shot; Tufted Duck at the far left

By the morning of the thirty-first, the nor’easter had subsided and New England was left to clean up after the storm. Our day started at the Morris Island Causeway in Chatham, Mass looking for a previously reported Townsend’s Solitaire with Dave Hursh. Although we never found the solitaire, we still enjoyed a few laughs as well as three warbler species (Pine, Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped) and three raptors (Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harrier) as well as a Lincoln’s Sparrow and a number of shorebirds (including Semipalmated Plover) in the adjacent marsh. We later had a heard-only Orange-crowned Warbler on Chatham Bars Rd, ending the Cape Cod portion of the weekend.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Northern Harrier

Bidding Dave farewell, we made our way back to CT, making our last stop of the weekend in the MacKenzie reservoir area and this time, after a bit of searching, were able to even the score with Greater White-fronted Goose, ending an awesome trip.

GWF Goose

To conclude, for me, this trip was a great success. As others have experienced on birding trips, my iPhone definitely saved me here, being invaluable when the trip looked all but snowed-in at the beginning.


This entry was posted in Cape Cod Birding, Elsewhere Birding, Rarities. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Halloween Weekend in Mass, Maine and CT

  1. You weren’t kidding when you said you had gotten good shots of the Spruce Grouse…. 🙂


  2. James Purcell says:

    Wow Alex, I’m impressed with the Spruce Grouse shots! Some amazing photos of such a beautiful bird. By the way, you neglected to mention you saw a Pomarine Jaeger! That’s pretty awesome too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s