The Business Birder: Way Down East
We have a “Down East”
Somewhere up there is the largest whirlpool in the northern hemisphere; however, given the bizarre, cosmic events already occurring, I was afraid to go see it. I will discuss the confluence of galactic forces below. For now, let’s just say it was a scary time.
In the hot, muggy
doldrums of August, affectionately know as “dog days”….well really, “daaaawg
I should not complain because I took a chance on a mid-summer pelagic trip off the Outer Banks of North Carolina that turned out better than expected. We chalked up a White-tailed Tropicbird and a Masked Booby among the other sea birds.
Anyway, with a US
Airways voucher sitting on the shelf going bad, I thought it would be cool to
I usually have to
purchase supplies after I arrive. This
time I was helped by fog in
After this trip my inventory, in the back of my SUV, included a can of Deep Woods Off, four containers of Coppertone sunscreen, three bottles of Off Skintastic liquid spray, and two tubes of Off Skintastic insect repellant with sunscreen. I use all, sometimes in combination; however, the Skintastic combination product seems to be really protective for all pests and the sun. Caution: use care in putting these chemicals on your skin at the same time. So far I cannot detect any skin damage but I faintly glow in the dark and the EPA has designated my SUV a superfund site.
I almost always forget to bring one of my collapsible, portable coolers. This trip I purchased The Slim Cooler by Rubbermaid which is made for that space between the front and back seats of a car. I enjoyed it so much that I brought it home and recommend it to you, the birding public. It will not show up in the yard sale with my other coolers.
Hats? Whether or not mine was in
One of my preparations
for this trip was to subscribe to the
I flew in to
On Thursday, Friday,
and Saturday nights, I stayed at the Island Watch Bed & Breakfast in
I spent a couple of
hours Thursday night on the deck of my upstairs apartment above the garage. It had a great view over
When I am birding, I
usually save the newspaper for dinner. Also, I usually ignore televisions and
phones. Sometimes they are not even available. I (along with most of
I know what you are thinking and I agree. The closeness of Mars and the blackout are not just a coincidence! The Martians sent an Earth probe to take advantage of the planetary flyby and they siphoned off our power to get home! After all, we sent probes to Mars to take advantage of this opportunity, why shouldn’t they?
Not convinced? My case is strengthened by the blackout experienced
I believe there was an
immediate, multi-government conspiracy to cover up expected extraterrestrial
weapons of mass destruction. There were no
public statements from the authorities; except for innuendoes from
I decided to research the situation on my own. Of course, I started with the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. This movie documented a blackout where aliens sapped the Earth’s power supply.
My Google of TDTESS yielded over 59,000 hits. I realized after a little reading that this is regarded as the best science fiction movie of all times. It was always one of my favorites, just behind The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Even today, I remember “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto”. There is speculation that this meant “Gort, do not destroy the planet!” However, scientists using the latest cryptography and listening devices, now believe that it meant “Gort, let’s twist again like we did last summer!” This was years before Chubby Checker uttered this same phrase, proving he was a spaceman. And don’t even get me started on David Bowie and Tiny Tim.
More proof of a Martian
Anyway, after my web research
and viewing the movie, I am able to confirm that Martians borrowed some power
to get home and I am able to debunk the myth that
Enough of this
seriousness! This is suppose to be a
light-hearted, informative piece about
The total driving time
for the seventy-five mile trip from
But not so fast my friend! The Chief leaves at , so if you have time, breakfast can be had at the Homeport Diner, beside the convenience store on the left as you turn toward the docks.
It was a great trip regardless of the fog because the sea was fairly smooth. One of the deck hands was Chip the Black Lab. He entertained us on the way out with tricks performed with his rawhide chewy.
Due to the fog, we only observed: Greater Shearwater, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Common Murre, and Atlantic Puffin. The sea was calm enough for us to be ferried to the island in small boats, walk up the slippery rocks, and view the Puffins from blinds. The Murre was nesting on the island.
I was hoping for a Roseate Tern, because two were being seen around the island, and a Razorbill, but we had no luck. There should have been many Razorbills; however, they had all dispersed for the winter.
The Puffins were simply unbelievable! I could not get over watching them from the blind at a distance of only three or four feet. Overhead, there were always four or five sets of feet landing, taking off, and scurrying around on the metal top of the blind.
The island is part of the
Unfortunately, I left
my digital camera in car trunk. I still
have not forgiven myself. I have elevated
self-loathing and self-flagellation to a new art form. One of the participants, Stephanie, who was
I always meet great
people on my trips and this trip was no exception. Phil and Marla Brown, who recently moved from
After the pelagic trip,
we had lunch at Tall Barney’s Restaurant on
On Sunday, I left
Machias is a good central place to stay; a good base camp for Way Down East birding. The Bluebird is adequate and has air conditioning. Machias has the accommodations needed by birders who do not want to waste time finding the basics: a McDonald’s, a grocery store two blocks from the Bluebird, a Laundromat, and several decent restaurants.
For future reference, from the Bluebird to the junction US 1
and ME 189 is a little over 17 miles and the entrance for
The bog’s most unique plant, the Baked Appleberry, is an arctic
plant found in only two other sites in
Unfortunately, I found no birds at the bog. I expected to see some heath bog birds like
Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Palm and
After the bog, I took the Thompson trail. The trail sign said one and a fourth miles to Carrying Place Cove; however, it seemed a lot longer than that to me. Just before arriving at the Cove, I flushed a Grouse. I am not sure which one and I never could find the covey.
At the cove, I took the Lighthouse Trail back to the parking area. At this point I had only seen one other person, back on the Bog Trail. The sign said two miles to the lighthouse and, since I am one of those people who never retrace my trail if I can help it, I pushed forward. Soon the going got rough.
Fortunately, it was about a mile and a half back to the parking area. I was breathing hard. This last leg featured ups and downs and thousands of wet, slippery tree roots to walk on. On the way back, I saw only a couple of hikers at Green point.
The first mile of this trail which led to Green Point was the worse part. I accidentally stepped into a soft area on the trail between the roots and rocks and was mired in above my ankle and boots. I recommend this hike for its beauty and solitude; just make sure you do not sprain you ankle or fall off the trail because you may wait a long time to be discovered.
As I approached the parking lot, I found a small feeding wave that included Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Juncos, and a couple of Chickadees, one of which may have been a Boreal. I had only a glimpse of that Chickadee as it moved quickly around a limb.
Earlier that morning, I arrived at the park at , after a two hour and fifteen minute drive
Other birds at
On the way back to Machias an adult and baby ferret crossed the road. The adult stood up in its alert pose as I passed. I did not know there were ferrets up here. Wild Ferrets? After exhausting research at my private library (Barnes & Noble), I now believe they were weasels.
Richard “Turk” Duddy,
Due to lack of a phone and cell phone coverage, I did not call him until Sunday afternoon, just after I checked into the Bluebird. Now this was a coincidence. I do not think the Martians were involved…..but who knows.
The number I called was
his cell phone. Turk and Linda Woodard,
who is an educator for Maine Audubon and Director of the
On Monday morning, I drove through historic Lubec which is just before the bridge to Campobello. It looks like a quaint, interesting place to stay. A couple of miles before Lubec is the Eastland Motel which was recommended to me. The Lupine Lodge was also recommended to me as a good place to stay on Campobello, a few miles east of Lubec.
My first stop was the visitor center for the park and I birded the parking lot. I found a Tennessee Warbler, a few Robin sitting around, heard Chickadees and nuthatches, and saw many small birds that I could not identify. The Chickadees may have been Boreal but they moved so fast, I was not certain. I moved on to find Richard’s hotel.
He had found a Black-legged Kittiwake and we spent about twenty minutes trying to turn a Bonaparte’s Gull into a Little Gull, based on the amount of black on the primaries. Eventually, a couple of Bonies flew in and ruined our dream.
We were joined by a birder from
The bay has a huge number of gulls from behind the
Richard and I proceeded to the East Quoddy Head Lighthouse
while Linda finished the move to a new motel because of thin walls at their
first motel. Richard and I climbed down
and made it about half way from the cliff to the lighthouse, crossing one
dangerous chasm between the rocky cliffs.
I balked at the second, only because of the slippery seaweed on the
rocks. The warnings jumped out at us,
especially those about being trapped or washed away by the incoming tide. This is a portion of the
We saw Black-legged Kittiwake, Black Guillemot, Cormorants, and thousands of Bonaparte and other gulls. These cliffs are a great place for watching seabirds and whales pass. Unfortunately, we did not see whales or Razorbills this day.
Linda and Zeus joined us at the park visitor center. While in the parking lot, we met Joy Rising (I did not make up her name), who is an Elderhostel organizer in the Eastport-Campobello area. She was interested in creating a birding Elderhostel. I would jump on that! I asked her just how much of a geezer one would have to be to attend the event. Well, the age is fifty-five and older and so I am that much of a geezer.
We also worked the gravel car trails through the international park to Cranberry Point. I learned a valuable lesson from Richard: that you can pish from a car. Funny, I had just never thought about doing that. I have played bird songs from my SUV’s CD player, just never thought of pishing. Duh!
I plan to go back to Campobello soon, regardless of the Elderhostel availability. The First Annual Down East Spring Birding Festival for the Cobscook Bay Area will be held Memorial Day weekend in 2004 (www.downeastbirdfest.org) and I plan to attend. This should be a much better time of the year to find the birds.
On the way back to Machias, I spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk on the highway in Whiting, where I had seen it the day before. This time I turned around and went back to find the bird where it disappeared in the undergrowth. Instead, I was rewarded by finding a Ruffed Grouse, with a look of grave concern on its face.
After Campobello, I had had lunch at Helen’s in Machias. I recommend the Pot Roast Burger and I had the uncooked Blueberry pie. The pie was loaded with whipped cream and very tasty. Of course, I returned for dinner and had the double-crusted baked Blueberry pie to compare. You, the birding public, deserve such dedicated research.
After a little rest, there was enough daylight left for a side trip. I took Bob Duchesne’s Machias-Cutler-Bold Trailhead loop via ME 191.
I found two American Eagles on the river behind Helen’s, just where he said they would be. One was directly across the water from me on a rock at the water’s edge. I had heard an eagle when I drove up but it took a little while to find it. The second bird was in a spruce tree above its mate.
The gate for the Cutler base was about a mile in from the highway and it was locked. There were many blueberry patches and scarecrows on this road plus many Cedar Waxwings but no other birds. Back on ME 191, there is a turnoff about a mile from the Cutler road which provides a great vantage point to scan the bay for shorebirds. The tide was in so I moved on.
When you first turn onto ME 191 from US 1, there is a sign that reads “Bold Trail System 17 miles”. I found the parking lot but only had a few minutes of light left and just walked a short distance down one path. The total distance from the Bluebird was 23 miles. This site has a great reputation and deserves to be a full stop on my next trip.
Cutler is a quaint town and harbor and it looks like a great place to stay on a future trip. There are accommodations at the Little River Lodge overlooking the harbor.
One final stop on the way back was at the canning company to
check for Godwits again. The tide had
gone out a good distance and more mudflats were exposed. In
Species added on this leg included: Yellow
Warbler, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, and
For dinner, I had Helen’s fried Haddock Burger. I recommend this local specialty which is basically a fish sandwich with bun, Haddock, and tarter sauce. Never, never, never order the clam chowder, especially the large bowl as I did. It was Horrible with a capital “H”!
The baked Blueberry Pie, warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream, was wonderful and made me forget the chowder. Which pie was best? They were so close; it will require more research on my next trip.
On Tuesday I stopped at
Schoodic Point, part of the
One key guide for my
trip was A Birder’s Guide to Maine,
by Elizabeth Pierson, Jan Erik Pierson, and Peter Vickery. Though a little dated, I also recommend Native Birds of Mount Desert Island and
Acadia National Park by Ralph Long.
Other guides may be found at the Port in a Storm Bookstore on
Unless you really want
to spend the big bucks for the Maine DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer or you have
GPS or OnStar, I recommend the Hiking Trail & Carriage Road Map for
I am happy with the warblers and Puffin but I did not do as well as I had hoped with the other species. I had three target birds, of which I expected to get one or two: Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Spruce Grouse. Three strikes against me.
Mid-August is not the best time to bird this area. Yes, I was in time to see the Puffins just before they dispersed to sea. Many of the other birds, however, were very silent and wandering in little feeding waves.
The best example of
post-breeding wandering was the wave we found at the
I will be back next spring! With or without the Martians! My camera will be chained around my neck.
The author, John Ennis,
is a full time healthcare consultant and a part time birder, who wishes that it
were the other way around. He lives in
John B. Ennis ã 2003