Maine's MidCoast & Islands Birding Trail
1. Maquoit Bay
Maquoit Bay attracts shorebirds and waterfowls in migration. Dabbling ducks take over as the tide rises, while diving ducks may be found in the deeper channels, at any tide. Check for wading birds in summer.
Proceed south on Maine Street 0.2 miles past the intersection with Pleasant Hill Road to where Maine Street splits into Merepoint Road and Maquoit Road. Bear right at the split and follow Maquoit Road 1.9 miles to a small dirt parking lot at Wharton Point. which overlooks the bay at a good vantage point.
2. The Coastal Studies Center
The Coastal Studies Center is run by Bowdoin College and is located on a peninsula of Orrs Island, south of Brunswick. Walking trails roam through 116 acres of forests and fields, including several trails that offer extensive ocean views. In May, there is often opportunity to enjoy an influx of summer warblers before the wintering sea ducks have departed northward. June and July are promising for many of Maine's summer songbirds.
From Brunswick, take Route 123 (Harpswell Road) south 6.1 miles, turn left onto Mountain Road, proceed 2.7 miles and turn right onto Route 24 (Harpswell Island Road). Proceed another 2.6 miles and turn right on Bayview Road. The entrance is 0.8 miles from the intersection and the parking lot is another 0.2 miles. From Cook's Corner on Route 1, Take Route 24 for 11.25 miles all the way to the right on Bayview Road.
3. Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary
Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary has a mile of trails through open meadows and mixed woodland along a peninsula in the New Meadows River. Common songbirds are plentiful. The cove can be good for Common Eiders with young in early summer and Snowy Egrets in late summer. At low tide, check mud flats for shorebirds.
Take the New Meadows exit off Route 1 and turn left onto New Meadows Road, which turns into Foster Point Road after the stop sign. The sanctuary is 4 miles from Route 1 and 3 miles from the beginning of Foster Point Road.
4. Thorne Head Preserve
Thorne Head Preserve, under the protection of Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, is rich in common warblers and vireos. Blackburnian Warblers are noteworthy. The paths are easy, providing level walking under a canopy of mature trees.
From downtown Bath, follow High Street north 2 miles to the end.
5. Popham Beach State Park
Popham Beach State Park is extraordinary year-round. In winter, expect Common and Red-throated Loons, eiders, scoters, grebes, mergansers, Buffleheads, and Long-tailed Ducks. Horned Larks and Snow Buntings may forage on the beach. Also look for Northern Shrikes and crossbills. In summer, Piping Plovers and Least Terns sometimes breed. Common, Arctic, and Roseate Terns forage offshore. The salt marsh is habitat for Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets. American Bitterns, Green Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons; and Great Egrets turn up regularly. Saltmarsh and Nelson's Sharptailed Sparrows are possible. Sandpipers and plovers stop during migration. Before leaving the area, continue on route 209 to the end. Fort Popham has guarded the entrance to the Kennebec River since the U.S. Civil War and provides another sheltered spot to scan for long-tailed Ducks, Buffleheads, goldeneyes, and terns.
From Bath, proceed on Route 209 toward Phippsburg. At 11 miles, turn left and continue following Route 209 to the park entrance at 15 miles.
6. Reid State Park
Reid State Park provides outstanding birding in all seasons. it is ideal for wintering scoters, mergansers, grebes, Long-tailed Ducks, and Black Guillemots. King Eiders have turned up among the rafts of Common Eiders. Purple Sandpipers are common on the rocks at both ends of the beach. Exercise caution when Piping Plovers and Least Terns are nesting in summer.
From Woolwich (on the east side of the Kennebec River from Bath) take Route 127 south through Arrowic and Georgetown 10.7 miles to the right turn toward the park. Follow the gate.
7. Lobster Cove Meadow
Lobster Cove Meadow in Boothbay is the most productive of several properties owned by the Boothbay Region Land Trust. The combination of ATV trails and footpaths winds through a mature softwood forest of white pine and spruce, following the slope downward through an open grassy meadow dotted with ancient apple trees, until reaching an extensive marsh. Twenty one warbler species have been observed on the property. Green Herons, Least Bitterns, Virginia Rails, and Soras have been found in the marsh.
From the intersection of Route 27 and 96 in Boothbay Harbor, take Route 96 for 0.4 miles. Turn right onto Eastern Avenue for 0.1 miles. Look for a small parking lot on the left at the trail entrance. The trail begins to the left of a private residence.
8. Pemaquid Point
Pemaquid Point extends well into the Atlantic Ocean. From the lighthouse, Common Eider and Black Guillemots are usually observable. Common Loons, scoters, and Red-necked and Horned Grebes are regular in winter, and a King Eider is possible. In summer, shearwaters sometimes approach land. In migration season, this is an ideal place to observe Northern Gannets. Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers are seen annually. Check both the fields and surrounding trees for unusual migrants, especially in autumn.
From Route 1, there are two roads that lead to Pemaquid Point. From the south, the more direct choice is Route 129 from Damariscotta, bearing right onto Route 130 through Bristol, on through New Harbor and on to Pemaquid. From this direction, it is just shy of 12 miles to Pemaquid from Route 1A. From the north, take Route 32 south from Waldoboro. At the end of 19.7 miles, it will intersect with Route 130 in New Harbor, and the total distance to Pemaquid will be 22.6 miles.
9. Eastern Egg Rock
Eastern Egg Rock is an 11-acre island located six miles from New Harbor. Common, Arctic, and Roseate Tern colonies are also established on the island and it one of the most reliable places to see Roseate Terns in Maine. The Island is visited every day during puffin season by The Hardy Boat, which is docked at New Harbor. See www.hardyboat.com or call 1-800-2-PUFFIN. Cap'n Fish circles the island three times a week from Boothbay Harbor. See www.mainewhales.com or call 800-633-0860. The Monhegan Boat Line is Port Clyde cisits the island five times during the puffin season, mid-June through August. See www.monheaganboat.com/puffin.html or call 207-372-8848
10. Monhegan Island
Monhegan Island is a famous migrant trap and the birds often descend into the village itself. Though the island is only one square mile in size, 17 miles of interwoven trails crisscross it. Northern Gannets, and perhaps Parasitic or Pomarine Jaegers, are seen from the cliffs. Breeding Common Eiders and Black Guillemots surround the island. Peak birding occurs during the last three weeks of may and from late August through early October. A morning might turn up 20 different species of warblers. Blackpolls are summer breeders. Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins, and Peregrine Falcons follow coastal migration routes and often get caught out on the island. Three boats provide ferry service to the island. The Monhegan Boat Line (www.monheganboat.com) departs from Port Clyde and provides three daily trips in summer, two in spring and fall, and three trips a week in winter. Call 207-372-8848. Hardy Boat Cruises (www.hardyboat.com) provides two daily trips in summer and one daily trip in spring, departing from New Habor. Call 800-278-3346. The Balmy Days II (www.balmydayscruises.com) makes daily round trips from Boothbay Harbor and also offers additional half-hour cruise around the island in the afternoon. Call 800-298-2284. All three boats pass close enough to nesting islands to assure sightings of terns. Wilson's Storm-Petrel move into the waters in June, while Great and Sooty Shearwaters are sometimes seen.
11. Great Salt Bay Farm
Great Salt Bay Farm, owned by the Damariscotta River Association, sits atop 115 acres of former farmland overlooking the Damariscotta River. A restored marsh is breeding habitat for American Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers, while other waterfowl are present in migration. Green Herons, and American Bitterns are common and readily observable. Virginia Rails and Marsh Wrens may be heard at any time through the summer. Ospreys and Bald Eagles are common sights over the nearby river.
Great Salt Bay Farm is located on Belvedere Road off Route 1 (the blinking yellow light about 1 mile north of the Damariscotta exit.).
12. Weskeag Marsh
Weskeag Marsh in South Thomaston is one of Maine's best birding marshes. The state manages 537 of these acres as the R. Waldo Tyler Wildlife Management Area. Weskeag Marsh is noted for waders, waterfowl, and shorebirds. It is the northernmost site where the breeding ranges of Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows overlap, though the former is seen more often. A general view of the marsh can be enjoyed from the small parking area where Buttermilk Lane crosses the Weskeag flowage. Avoid tramping into the wetland areas. It is usually possible to locate the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows where the stream crosses under the main road. Good Views can also be had from adjacent slopes of the hay field and the Maine Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is currently forging plans for better access.
From Route 1 in Thomaston, Turn onto Buttermilk Road and in 0.8 miles look for the parking turn at the marsh.
13. Beech Hill Preserve
Beech Hill Preserve is a 295-acre property of the Coastal Mountain Land Trust. It conserves the only bald hilltop in the area, including an old stone building at the summit that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The preferred trail begins in mature woods among the Hermit Thrushes and Ovenbirds, later traversing a large area of regenerating forest that provide habitat for many Eastern Towhees, Catbirds, and Song Sparrows. Field and Savannah Sparrows are known nesters in the grassland near the summit. Yellow, Chestnut-sided, and Prairie Warbler sightings are possible. Snowy and Short-eared Owls have been noted around the summit in the off-season. Snow buntings are possible from early autumn through winter.
From southbound on Route 1, pass Route 90 in West Rockport and turn right just beyond Fresh Off The Farm onto Rockville Street. Turn right again, following Rockville Street .05 miles to the trailhead parking lot. From northbound on Route 1, turn left onto South Street and follow 1.3 miles to Rockville Street. Turn right onto Rockville Street and look for the parking lot ahead.
14. Camden Hills State Park
CamdenHills State Park provides over 25 miles of trail across a series of peaks, marching through mixed forest. Views of Penobscot Bay are stunning. Maine's common bird species are found throughout the park. The summits of Mt Megunticook and Mt. Battie are fruitful during hawk migration.
The entrance is prominently marked on Route 1 of Camden
15. The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance
The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance is a relatively new land trust that offers hiking trails through mixed forest habitat in Montville. The forest is such an equal mix of hard and softwood trees that species common to both forest types are often found here.
All trails are on Halldale Road. The main trail enters the woods just before a pond, located 0.5 miles west of the intersection with Route 220 (South Mountain Valley Road). Park on the shoulder. The trail loops around the pond, and a more distant marsh, returning to Halldale road 0.25 miles west of the entrance.
16. Belfast Harbor
Belfast Harbor is productive year-round but particularly in the winter, when it is one of the prime spots to look for Iceland and Glaucous gulls and Barrow's Goldeneyes. Scan from the harbor pier itself and the footbridge off Water Street.
Route 1 skirts Belfast Harbor. From the south, exit onto Northport Avenue and follow into town where it becomes High Street. In the center of town, turn right onto Main Street, and the Town Pier is at the bottom of the street. From the north, exit onto Route 137 after crossing the Passagassawaukeag Bridge, turn left onto High Street, and left again onto Main Street, following to the end.
17. Sears Island
Sears Island is a good spot for strolling and birding. A paved road runs up the spine of the island, but there are also several paths that are the remnants of the old farm roads that once crisscrossed the island. A variety of warblers and sparrows are common in summer. Also check for gulls, sea ducks, and shorebirds along the causeway to the island.
From Route 1, turn onto Sears Island Road 2 miles north of Searsport. Follow a short distance to the gate.
18. Fort Point State Park
Fort Point State Park marks the site of a colonial fort guarding the Penobscot River. It sits in a spruce-fir forest that encourages songbird variety, which can be enjoyed by walking the mile-long entrance road. The park itself overlooks the bay, which is a good spot to look for loons, sea ducks, and eagles. The pier on the north edge of the park is a good place to look for Ruddy Ducks in the off-season. The gate is closed in winter, but visitors may park and walk from the entrance.
From Route 1 in Stockton Springs, follow the signs 3.1 miles to the park, along Cape Jellison Road, bearing left at the split.