April 27, 2018
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National Geographic scouts Maine for birding show

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — National Geographic is coming to Maine and, instead of just showing up in your mailbox, could end up featuring some Maine birdwatchers on television.

Rich MacDonald, a field ecologist and enthusiastic birdwatcher from Bar Harbor, is helping television producers find Maine birders who could end up appearing on a show planned for the National Geographic Channel. The show is still in development and does not have a name, MacDonald said Friday, but the concept is to feature enthusiastic birders, first in one part of the country and then another, as they go out looking for various types of birds.

“It’s a growing demographic,” MacDonald said of bird watching. Wildlife tours are becoming a significant component of the global ecotourism industry, he said, and bird watching is the fastest-growing segment of the wildlife tour business.

Maine is a great place for serious and casual birders to see a wide variety of species, MacDonald said, because it is an important stop along migratory bird routes between the tropics and the arctic, and because it fits into both the northern and southern ranges of many nonmigratory species.

This weekend, television producers are coming to Maine to go on bird watching tours organized by MacDonald. They are going on bird walks in Freeport and Scarborough on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the plan is to go look for birds in the Bangor City Forest before heading to Mount Desert Island to view shorebirds in Acadia National Park.

MacDonald said he has found about 23 total people to go on one or more of the walks who could end up being on the show. Enthusiasm, more so than expertise, is what the show’s producers are looking for, he said.

“They want a show about people that go birding,” MacDonald said. “I think they’re going to find the person or people they are looking for.”

If they do, he said, they likely would return to Maine in March to actually film segments for the show. Earlier this month, producers went to Savannah, Ga., to meet birders there, he said.

MacDonald said that enthusiastic Maine birdwatchers interested in going on any of the walks can contact him for more specific information. He can be reached by cellphone at 266-9461 or by email at rich@thenaturalhistorycenter.com.

MacDonald, who owns the Natural History Center shop in Bar Harbor and conducts bird watching tours, says one of his hopes is that the show will help promote ecotourism in Maine.

For the past six years, he and his wife Natalie Springuel have served as naturalists on annual Prairie Home Companion cruises led by Garrison Keillor, creator and host of the public radio program, and next August they are planning to work their seventh such cruise on a 10-day sail in the Mediterranean Sea. But he said the more he can do to boost wildlife awareness and ecotourism at home, the better.

MacDonald said he is not looking to wind up on the program himself, but he isn’t ruling it out, either.

“I don’t feel like I’m a good TV person,” he said. “On the other hand, it could be kind of fun.”

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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