View over Monhegan Harbor to Manana Island Photo: John Murdock
The coast of Maine is one of those treasures—beautiful, of course, and rugged, yet also accessible. Our short tour will visit two of our favorite places, Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, and Monhegan Island. Mount Desert is well known for Acadia National Park, which occupies most of it, but also for the generations of influential summer residents who have been captivated by the island’s beauty and active lifestyle. We’ll spend our time seeing the sights, all of which are good for birds, and take a boat trip into the Gulf of Maine to look for seabirds and whales. Monhegan Island is a treasure. Small, isolated, and quite far offshore, it concentrates landbird migrants, attracts off-course vagrants, and provides some of the most pleasant birdwatching anywhere. There are very few motor vehicles, and footpaths lead out in many directions through spruce forests and small clearings to high rocky headlands and tiny coves. Fall is probably the best birdwatching time at Monhegan, as nocturnal migrants drift offshore on northwest winds and find refuge on the island, sometimes in large numbers.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Portland, Maine. Night in Portland.
Day 2: We’ll spend the morning in the Scarborough Marsh and Biddeford Pool areas, fine places to view migrants and residents alike. Both Saltmarsh and Nelson’s Sparrows could still be in residence along with a selection of migrant shorebirds. If there has been a good nocturnal migration, the woods and thickets of Biddeford Pool could be full of birds, possibly including Philadelphia Vireo and a dozen or more warbler species or we may begin by witnessing the “Morning Flight” phenomena. After lunch, we’ll commence the three-hour drive north and east to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. This is often a good night to have our first lobster dinner. Night in Bar Harbor.
Day 3: Weather permitting, we’ll take a morning bird and whale cruise on a stable catamaran on the Gulf of Maine. Greater and Sooty Shearwaters are likely, and we may also see Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins, and Red and Red-necked phalaropes. Cetaceans might include Harbor Porpoise and Atlantic White-sided Dolphin as well as Humpback, Minke, and Fin Whales. After lunch we’ll visit some of our favorite spots on Mount Desert, looking for migrants while surrounded by the magnificent Maine coast. Night in Bar Harbor.
Day 4: If the weather yesterday was bad, we’ll try our boat trip again this morning. Otherwise we’ll bird locally, looking for Common Eider, Black Guillemot, and others. If the weather is suitable, we’ll drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, where the view is spectacular and where we might encounter a modest raptor passage. After lunch we’ll drive west to the coastal town of Port Clyde, where we’ll board a ferry to Monhegan Island. Night on Monhegan at the Island Inn, the most comfortable lodging on the island and the only one with heat.
Days 5–6: Our days on Monhegan will be unscripted. We’ll usually begin by walking the dirt road through town before breakfast. We have favorite gardens and weedy patches that over the years seem to have harbored more than their fair share of birds, and we’ll visit them repeatedly. After breakfast we’ll take a longer walk, perhaps past Ice House Pond through Cathedral Woods to the northeast side or perhaps to Lobster Cove or Burnthead Cliff. No walk is very long and each is lovely in its own way. If there are lots of migrants about, we may never get out of town. Afternoons will be a repeat of the mornings but to different destinations. During our stay we’ll certainly visit some spots more than once, but there’s more than enough to do.
Monhegan, like all migration spots, can be full of birds … or we might have to search for the next migrant. With two full days plus an evening and a morning on Monhegan we have a reasonable chance of experiencing a movement of birds that might include upward of 20 warbler species and a fine mix of flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, and other migrants. We can’t predict what our days will be like, but we can say with confidence that our surroundings will be remarkably beautiful. Nights at the Island Inn, Monhegan.
Day 7: After a final morning on Monhegan, we’ll return to Port Clyde and travel on to Portland. Since we’ll pass by Freeport, we’ll make a short stop at L.L. Bean, the iconic outdoor store, which is worth a visit if only to see the fine display of wild trout swimming in a large wall aquarium. Night in Portland.
Day 8: The tour concludes this morning in Portland.
Updated: 19 September 2013
- 2014 Tour Price : $2,400
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $600
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
Group size limited to eight participants with one leader.