Birding Down East
Welcome to Downeast Maine! Visiting eastern Maine and Campobello Island, New Brunswick,
is a voyage back in time, both culturally and ornithologically.
People still live off the land and sea as did their fathers, grandfathers, and
great-grandfathers. Lobster fishing, weir fishing for herring, purse seining,
commercial claming, worming, wood cutting, dragging for invertebrates,
and most recently, aquaculture, drive the local economy.
Humans and wildlife struggle side by side, sometimes directly competing for the
same limited resources.
The eastern Maine region is noted for it's diversity and abundance of
wood warblers (23 species), flycatchers (9), sparrows (9), and
finches and grosbeaks (9). Migratory shorebird abundance and diversity is among
the highest along the eastern U.S. coast. During the fall migration, some of the
northeast's highest numbers occur for Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover,
Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel, White-rumped Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper (common in winter
with a few individuals summering on headlands and offshore islands), and
Upland Sandpiper (a common breeder in commercial blueberry barrens,
their preferred habitat).
Surprising, wildlife and natural resource-dependent jobs are somewhat compatible.
This balance, however, is in question in light of recent explained and unexplained
population declines, or in some cases population crashes, in groundfish,
migratory shorebirds, Atlantic salmon, and commercial clams.
These declines have occurred during the last couple of decades.
Because of their initially high abundance, shorebird declines have gone
almost unseen by regulatory agencies.
Shrub and grassland nesting species have, likewise, declined significantly.
The birds, habitats and ecosystems in east coastal Maine are a southern extension
of more northern boreal forests and bogs. Songbird and seabird diversity is very high
and includes boreal specialties such as Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and
Lincoln's Sparrow, and seabird specialties such as Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill,
and Common Murre.
Ecologically interesting and regionally unique habitats and ecosystems in eastern
Maine include boreal bogs accessible by boardwalks, lichen-clad boreal forests,
accessible seabird nesting islands, extensive intertidal flats, and
large marine upwelling and convergence areas populated by mixed feeding groups of
seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and krill.
Eastern Maine contains many good birding areas that are managed by
conservation organizations and state and federal agencies.
Several excellent birding sites are described below.