You just can’t make this stuff up. As many readers know, I lead a double life. I guide birding tours, and I serve in the Maine House of Representatives. I also do a radio show and write other stuff. OK, I lead a quadruple life. When these lives collide, results can be humorous – like the time pigeons flew into the State House chamber and began copulating in the rafters. Well, somebody had to explain what was going on!

Readers also may know that I spent a week in Texas last month. There I was, in the heart of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge south of Houston, searching for a Sprague’s pipit. Suddenly, my cell phone rang. It was the Maine Speaker of the House, wishing to discuss committee assignments. As he spoke, more than 30,000 snow geese circled low over my parked car. Seriously? Now, Mr. Speaker? Horrible timing.

Even greater numbers of snow geese were at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge near Galveston. This column was born there, because it got me thinking about some of the big birding spectacles in the world, and whether Maine had any of its own to boast about. A gazillion sandhill cranes settle along the Platte River in Nebraska during migration. Observers at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania, and Cape May, New Jersey, often count thousands of hawks per day during migration. A southbound sea of broad-winged hawks flow through Texas on the way to their wintering grounds in South America each fall. Up to 400,000 hawks can be seen in one day as they funnel through a narrow valley near Corpus Christi.

Northbound migrants also get funneled through particular spots. Magee Marsh in Ohio, Point Pelee in Ontario, and High Island in Texas, are famous for the preposterous numbers of songbirds that touch down in migration. On April 24, 2013, a team of birders set the North American record by counting 294 species in a single day when weather conditions conspired to dump an abundance of migrants onto the upper Texas coast.

As I pondered whether Maine had any spectacles of its own to brag about, I considered our puffin colonies. A summer trip to Machias Seal Island is incredible. There are up to 5,000 pairs on the island. From the blinds, you can almost touch them. But then I visited Witless Bay in Newfoundland, where millions of seabirds are concentrated. There are 260,000 pairs of puffins spread over four islands in the bay. More than 600,000 pairs of Leach’s storm-petrels nest there, too, and it’s not even the largest petrel colony in the world. That honor goes to Baccalieu Island, 75 miles farther north.

The invasion of seabirds into the Gulf of Maine in late summer, including migrants from the southern hemisphere, undeniably meets the definition of spectacle. Unfortunately, that’s 15 miles out to sea, and most Mainers never get to experience it.

What Mainers do get to boast about is more subtle. In breeding season, there are many places where birders can walk a mile and encounter 16 different species of warbler. The same walk could turn up four thrushes, five woodpeckers, several flycatchers, multiple sparrows, and a score of other songbirds. Maine isn’t a famous migration stopover. Maine is the destination.

Soon, the season changes. Shorebirds and waterfowl flood through the state in late summer and fall.

Then the season changes again, and we experience what we have now: subarctic breeders that winter in Maine. Eiders, scoters, mergansers, grebes, buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, and purple sandpipers return to the coastline every year. Finches, grosbeaks, and waxwings irrupt unpredictably into our fields and yards each winter. We’re now experiencing our third consecutive invasion of snowy owls.

Spectacles are exciting but brief. The sandhill cranes of Nebraska stop to forage in migration, then move on. For the rest of the year, the birding is unremarkable. Hawk migrations and warbler fallouts are great for several weeks. For the rest of the year in those spots: meh. Maine birding is terrific year-round.

There’s no effort involved in witnessing a spectacle. Just park the car and watch. But if you want to bird Maine, you better be ready to live up to Maine’s famous work ethic. You’ll have to explore, walk, and listen. You’ll have to drive dusty roads and swat black flies. Our birds aren’t going to make it easy for you. They’ve got better things to do.

Nonetheless, watching 30,000+ snow geese is cool. Can I call you back, Mr. Speaker?

Bob Duchesne serves as a Maine Audubon trustee and vice president of its Penobscot Valley Chapter. Bob developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at Bob can be reached at