I really need to be more careful about what I write into this column. Too often, my own words come back to haunt me.

For instance, a month ago I extolled the virtues of joining a Christmas Bird Count somewhere far from home, just to add a little novelty to winter birding. Two sentences in that column set me up for an escapade.

When I complained about counting the same chickadees on my usual route every year, I wrote: “I need to rekindle the romance, perhaps by counting somebody else’s chickadees.” And when I suggested enlisting on one of the more remote counts, I wrote, “Maybe this is the year I’ll go completely nuts and join Jeff Wells for his Christmas Bird Count on Matinicus.”

At 7 a.m. Jan. 2, that is how I found myself climbing into a small plane at Knox County Regional Airport and flying out to Maine’s most remote inhabited island. My companions were Jeff Wells, senior scientist for the Boreal Songbird Initiative in the Canadian forest, and Rich MacDonald, a professional naturalist and birding guide from Bar Harbor.

In the Abenaki tongue, Matinicus means “far out island.” It was likely too far out for routine canoe visits by Native Americans, but French fishermen and English pirates eventually made use of the harbor. Mostly, it has been a quiet place over the centuries, at least until we got there.

I will never forget the sunrise. We leveled off at 1,200 feet just as the sun broke through the clouds over Matinicus. I will never forget the landing. We teetered through a 20 mph crosswind onto a landing strip the size of a Band-Aid. I will never forget overdressing. I was too warm by half, and my arctic boots were far too large and heavy for a long hike.

Long hike? The island is only 2 miles long. We would be thorough. We walked not only the length of the island but also most of the side roads spanning the width of the island. Wells reports that his new Fitbit showed 24,898 steps taken during the day, totaling 11 miles of hiking. If there was a rare bird present, or even a common bird, we would find it.

There is plenty of good winter birding in Maine, but islands have their own intrigue. Migrants can get trapped on islands, especially if a rare bird has wandered off course. Monhegan is a famous spot to look for lost birds. Matinicus is, too. It’s just harder to get to. As we walked up the runway, Wells pulled out all of his tricks, imitating bird alarm calls and three different species of owl – anything to get their attention.

It worked. On a small island, 20 miles out to sea, we counted 44 species, totaling 610 birds. I admit that it vastly exceeded my expectations. Certainly I expected gulls. We tallied 76. I expected crows. We tallied 25. I expected sea ducks around the island, and we tallied 63 common eiders and 65 long-tailed ducks. We spotted 20 common goldeneyes, a surprisingly high number, and we noted one red-throated loon among the 10 loons we recorded. Nine purple sandpipers on the harbor breakwater allowed us a close look.

I didn’t expect that the most abundant species we would encounter would be common grackles. It’s a blackbird that should have been far south by January. We were utterly shocked to come across a flock of a hundred. If I started driving toward Miami right this minute, I wouldn’t expect to see the first grackle until at least New Jersey. These guys should have abandoned the frozen north long ago.

There were other birds I’d never encountered in the middle of a Maine winter. We scored two yellow-rumped warblers, one hermit thrush, one winter wren and one northern flicker. A few typically hardy birds were present, including 19 white-throated sparrows and six song sparrows. I expected American goldfinches; we encountered 15. We noted three pine siskins, but sadly no crossbills or redpolls. Wells says there are always a few northern cardinals on his Matinicus Christmas Count, but 11 was a surprisingly high total.

The usual winter residents were cooperative. We enjoyed 19 dark-eyed juncos, 16 golden-crowned kinglets, 13 red-breasted nuthatches, six mourning doves, five downy woodpeckers and one hairy woodpecker.

And we had 45 black-capped chickadees. I was right. Counting your own chickadees over and over can get rather boring. But counting somebody else’s? On Matinicus? Bliss.

Bob Duchesne serves as vice president of Maine Audubon’s Penobscot Valley Chapter. He developed the Maine Birding Trail, with information at mainebirdingtrail.com. He can be reached at duchesne@midmaine.com.