TRESCOTT, Maine — Now in its sixth year, birding enthusiasts at the Down East Spring Birding Festival have spotted more than 200 varieties of birds in the first five years. The Maine Audubon Society’s Web site has referred to the Down East region as offering “the most interesting birding in terms of the species to be found.”
The festival is now accepting registrations for this annual event that will be held on May 22 to 25. Guided bird walks, boat rides, and presentations will be available for advanced, intermediate and beginning birders alike.
Maine’s Cobscook Bay area is home to diverse habitats and a great variety of birds. The three-day-event was first organized by the Cobscook Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and recently shifted to a new administrator, the Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott.
The festival is held during the spring nesting season, which allows participants to maximize all that the area has to offer in terms of unique sightings. Many different waterfowl, a variety of raptors (including all three accipiters — sharp-shinned, coloper and northern goshawk), sandpipers, alcids (including the Atlantic Puffin), woodpeckers, flycatchers, vireos, two dozen colorful warblers, and several boreal species are some of the area’s avian attractions.
Participants can sign up for the whole festival for $60, and there are day passes available for $15 or $25 for the family. “We are promoting the day passes locally and encouraging local people to come see what this event is all about,” CCLC Program Director Kara McCrimmon said. “Our vision for the bird festival is that it will both draw people to the area and be a fun activity for people who live here.”
Some events, such as boat trips and meals, cost extra, while events on the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge are free and open to the public, though registration is still required.
The birding festival begins at noon Friday, May 22, at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring. Kicking off the festival on Friday afternoon will be one of the favorite presentations from past years, Birding by Ear, by Bob Duchesne, who is a trustee and a frequent field trip leader for Maine Audubon. Immediately after the presentation, Duchesne and others will lead hikes in the refuge to give birders an opportunity to practice identifying birds by their calls.
The Down East Spring Bird Festival events are spread out across the region to allow participants a chance to experience the diversity the area has to offer both in terms of bird species and the varied terrain and topography. The festival is headquartered for the first two days at the MNWR and at the Cobscook Community Learning Center (CCLC) in Trescott for the second two days. Guided birding walks take place in Eastport, Perry, Calais, Baring, Topsfield, Edmunds, Lubec, Trescott and Grand Lake Stream.
The Down East Spring Birding Festival is also known for its fantastic boat trips — especially the Bold Coast Charter Company’s cruises to nearby Machias Seal Island to view thousands of Atlantic Puffins and other pelagic seabirds. If the weather permits a landing on the island, participants will be able to spend time inside blinds from which they can watch and photograph the puffins up close. Machias Seal Island is the best place off the Maine coast to see Atlantic Puffins. Additional opportunities to get out on the water include a cruise aboard the two-masted schooner Sylvia Beal, a sea kayak trip on Cobscook Bay, and other chances to get out on the lakes and stretches of spectacular, undeveloped shoreline that characterize the region.
For more information, or to register, visit www.downeastbirdfest.org or call 733-2233. Early registration is recommended.