PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Veeries and woodpeckers and warblers — oh my!
That could have been the refrain of bird enthusiasts and other nature lovers Saturday as approximately 150 people flocked to Aroostook State Park to participate in the inaugural Aroostook State Park Birding Festival.
The festival, which began at 5 a.m. and continued throughout the day, allowed visitors to take part in bird walks and bird banding, and to witness optical and bird-calling demonstrations. A number of live birds of prey also were on display.
Participants were told to BYOB — bring your own binoculars — in order to learn more about birding.
“We have had a great day and a great turnout,” park manager Scott Thompson said Saturday. “People we have talked to love this experience and they have learned a lot about the species we have here in the park.”
The park features more than 100 species, including the Blackburnian warbler, the great crested flycatcher, red-eyed vireos and veeries. He noted that the park is known for its woodpeckers and is great for bird-watching because its older-growth trees and sloped trail allow for viewing over the tops of trees. That allows bird watch-ers to view species that are often more difficult to see from the ground.
Participants arose early to catch a glimpse of the birds and to hear their calls echo throughout the woodsy park.
“I didn’t get here as early as 5 a.m., but I did get here early,” Diane Shaw, a Presque Isle resident, said Saturday. “I love going on bird walks and have taken a number of them in other parts of the state.”
Shaw said she had learned a great deal during the Aroostook State Park event.
“I learned things that I did not know,” she said.
Before the end of the day, Shaw was talking with other participants about forming a group for regular bird walks.
Jason McGillis, a Connecticut resident who was visiting friends in the area, was on his way into the park just before noon. He had intended to go hiking but decided to check out the festival after seeing signs advertising it.
“It sounds pretty neat,” he said.
Thompson said the festival also served to get people interested in all that the park offers.
Aroostook State Park is Maine’s first state park and features nearly 800 acres. The park offers campsites, a beach, public boat access and hiking trails in summer and fall, while groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails are available in the winter. Groomed snowmobile trails also pass through the park.
“This park was created by the community and it is a treasure,” Thompson said. “Events like this bring people out to see what we have to offer and they get people interested in the park.”
He said that the positive turnout during Saturday’s event likely would mean another event next year.