AUGUSTA, Maine – Some of Maine’s top birders and naturalists will head to Maine’s first state park in Presque Isle for Aroostook State Park’s third annual birding festival.
A favorite park event, the birding festival will offer bird walks, live birds of prey, birding displays, boat rides and children’s activities highlighting the natural resources of the park as a birding locale.
The festival features activities for birders of all abilities to explore the park’s exceptional bird habitat, according to Park Manager Scott Thompson of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL), under the Maine Department of Conservation.
“We expect the birding festival to be at least as successful as the previous two years,” Thompson said. “The festival is a family-fun event that helps people increase their basic skills, such as bird identification, that makes being in the outdoors more enjoyable. Experienced birders get to explore a unique bird habitat and add to their life lists. This wonderful event helps promote our Maine state parks and Aroostook County as terrific places to explore.”
The festival runs 5 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, June 18.The fees are $2 for adults, $1 for children 5-11, seniors and children under 5, free.
Aroostook State Park, the first state park to be established in Maine, is known as the home to more than 100 species of birds, including waterfowl and shore birds who inhabit the park’s Echo Lake; raptors, owls, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos and sparrows. It also is known for its woodpeckers, including hairy, downy, pileated, three-toed and black-back species, located in the park.
During the first festival, held in June 2009, participants had the rare chance to see a female hummingbird sitting on its nest. Last year, 53 different species were seen throughout the day, including a rare flock of plastic flamingos that graced the lake’s water edge.
This year’s event is sponsored by Wicked Joe Coffee, Hannaford, Katahdin Trust, Northern Maine Development Commission, Citadel Communication, Poland Springs, Star Herald and the Maine National Guard.
The day begins with guided bird walks beginning at 5 a.m. and continuing to 9 a.m., with additional walks as needed. The walks will be led by well-known birders Bill Sheehan of Woodland, one of the top birders in northern Maine and an environmental specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and Dave Rodrigues, BPL senior planner and birder known for his ability to recognize birds by their calls. Mark and Teri McClelland of Elgin, Texas, park campground hosts and skilled naturalists, who already have identified many birds in the park, also will lead bird walks.
At 9:30 a.m., Arthur Howell, head of the A.E. Howell Wildlife Conservation Center and Spruce Acres Refuge in North Amity, will present his live birds of prey and discuss wildlife conservation. Howell has devoted his life to managing the center, which rehabilitates injured birds and wildlife.
At 10 a.m., Jocelyn Hubbell, BPL parks interpreter, will present an array of children’s activities, sharing her knowledge of birds and nature.
Other activities throughout day include bird banding demonstrations by Jason Johnston, assistant professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Johnston instructs an ornithology course and is federally certified to band birds.
An optics display including spotting scopes will be established, and a parabolic microphone will be set up to be used to help visitors identify birds by their songs. There also will be a build-a-bird house station for kids to build a bird house and take home to establish a bird habitat at their own residences.
Also participating for the first time is the Aroostook Birders, a newly organized group of bird enthusiasts in Aroostook County, Thompson said.
“Many of the members are volunteers who have helped out the festival for the past two years,” the park manager said. “Now they have organized and are ready to implement the group’s mission, which is to help provide education to those who would like to learn more about birds and birding.”
Visitors should wear appropriate clothing for the weather and bird walks, Thompson advised. They also should bring personal birding equipment, including binoculars, books, spotting scopes and cameras. In addition, they should bring sunscreen, insect repellant, and snacks or a bag lunch. Coffee, hot chocolate, water and hot dogs will be available.
Those who want to know what birds already have been seen in Aroostook State Park can follow Bill Sheehan’s blog at: http://northernmainebirds.blogspot.com
For more information about the festival, contact Scott Thompson, park manager, at: (207) 768-8341.
For more information about Maine state parks and lands, go to: http://www.parksandlands.com