The B.A.R.B. at SongStar

My Trip to Maine
by Kathie Lambert

Maine May 31-June 8, 2003

For years, we’ve been bugging Al (a local MD birder) to lead a Maine trip. He & his friend Herb finally put one together and schedules worked. I wasn’t sure if I would go on this trip. After losing the engineering job & taking a job as a medical secretary in a career change move, the cash flow has been significantly reduced. I was on the fence but thinking that if I didn’t take a vacation now, I might not be able to take one for 3 years once I get into Physician Assistant school. Mom twisted my arm (admittedly not hard) when she wanted to go but was afraid of having to room with someone unpleasant.

We dedicated this trip to our friend Mary who died May 27. Most of us attended her funeral the day before we left for ME. Mary was a wonderful person, a good birder, and loved a new adventure. She would have liked to have been on this trip, but she was too sick to go. She is greatly missed.

Day 1-May 31—Travel from Baltimore to Manchester, NH

To reduce the amount of running around, I spent the night at Mom’s house. In the morning, we went to Dotty’s house where our friend Marilyn met us to drive us to the airport. Mom & I don’t do mornings well. Dotty wakes up singing; Marilyn wakes up singing opera. As we loaded luggage into Marilyn’s car, she asked me if I woke up more like Mom or more like her. I didn’t have to say a word, the look of utter disbelief on my face was sufficient that Marilyn said “Oh, I see,” and didn’t mention it again. In the car, opera was blaring. She asked if we would like to listen to opera on the way to the airport. The answer was a resounding NO!

At BWI, we were totally annoyed at the security check point. Even if you were wearing flip-flops, you had to remove your shoes and send them through the x-ray machine. Totally stupid. They didn’t even have any chairs for you to sit in to put your shoes back on. Solution to security problems—Fly naked!

Uneventful flight—1 take off, 1 landing. Flew Southwest; they do cattle better than any airline. 6 of us sat in one of the “lounge” areas on the plane. General silliness for the short hop to Manchester. We were to meet Al & Herb at the baggage claim area. We waited quite a while before they showed up. Then we piled into a 15 passenger Chevy van with the last seat removed to accommodate our luggage. Birded our way into Maine.

Stopped for a picnic lunch and birding at Laudholm Farms in Wells, ME—the first of many peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for Bobbi & me. This is a wonderful former farm. In the fields around the farm, we found Bobolinks, Eastern Bluebirds, and Eastern Meadowlarks. We heard our first warbler, a Chestnut-sided. It didn’t sound quite right. Turns out the ME accent on birds would vex my poor ears through the entire trip.

We birded the area around the farm buildings then walked a trail out to the beach. The beach is wide and sandy (rare in ME). Lots of Least Terns, various gulls including a Black-headed Gull (lifer for several folks). Mixed in with the Sanderlings were a few Semipalmated Sandpipers. Good looks at many Piping Plovers, some within 30 feet as they scurried down the beach. They were chasing each other. They have a habit of wiggling a foot in the wet sand to stir up creatures. It was amusing. Every now & again, one of them would pull up a reluctant worm. Semipalmated Plovers provided a nice comparison. Black-bellied Plovers in breeding plumage were striking. We picked up some very nice looking complete shells. A little while later, I was cleaning the sand from one and it moved. The snail inside was still alive; immediately put the shell back into moist sand. I found hunks of stuff that looked like worn bits of Styrofoam with stuff growing on it. After picking it up and examining it, it turned out to be a sea sponge. The seaweed in the area looks like kelp but isn’t. Every year the plant grows a new air filled float so that the plant won’t sink. You can tell the age of the plant by counting the number of floats on a string. This seaweed is found on rocks all over the coast. When it’s wet, it’s very slippery.

There is a marshy area between the beach and farm. Some Mallards, Snowy Plovers, Willets were there. In the woody areas, great looks at a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler. More song confusion with birds with ME accents.

Stop at Kennebunk Plains. This is one of the very few natural grassland areas in ME. It’s owned by the Nature Conservancy. We had hoped to find grassland sparrows but the weather was turning cool & dreary and not many birds wanted to bother with us. While we were there, the grassland management specialist Parker Shuerman showed up in his well worn pick-up truck. He was making the rounds picking up the trash that the locals like to dump on the place. He figures if it doesn’t look trashy, it will attract less trash. He’s originally from Nebraska (I new he wasn’t from ME from the lack of a local accent). He gladly hopped out of his truck and explained just why the area was significant and what they were doing to manage the grasslands to keep the habitat intact. Geologically, it’s the remnants of a huge river delta from when the last glaciers were receding. The sand is many miles deep and the ground water in it forms the water supply for that region of ME. The big problem is keeping the trees form over growing the area. They use a combination of infrequent mowing and controlled burns to keep the area grassy. We did manage to find Upland Sandpipers, Vesper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows and Meadowlarks. According to Parker, many of the breeding sparrows hadn’t arrived yet, including Grasshopper Sparrows.

Overall, it was a delightful day. Cool, very sunny, slight breeze. After experiencing a very cold, wet MD May, this weather was wonderful! Lilac bushes were in bloom and smelled great—they come in lots more colors than at home, purple, magenta, fuchsia, white. Their spring is several weeks behind ours.

Travel to Sanford for the night. Ate at the Weathervane, a local chain. Good food reasonable price. Night at the Super 8 motel. Nothing fancy.

 Day 2-June 1—Sanford to Waterville

Woke to rain. It rained all day long—all day!! Heard Parula, Pine, & Prairie Warblers at the motel—although sorting them out was tough due to the ME accent on these birds. UGH!! Travel to the Saco Heath, a Nature Conservancy area. What a wonderful place. Would have been very birdy except that it was pouring rain. The trail winds through a hemlock forest then ends at the heath area. A type of wild azalea was in bloom and made large sections a wonderful purple. We finally heard a Hermit Thrush and an Ovenbird on the way back to the parking lot. We were soaked but happy that we saw the area. My wind block fleece jacket is normally fairly water resistant. However, after half an hour in a downpour, it was soaked inside & out. When wet, it holds an amazing amount of water and I was constantly wringing out the sleeves after we got into drier weather.

Traveled to Biddeford, Scarborough, Dameriscotta, and Pemaquid. Mostly car birding because it’s still raining. Scarborough is a place where you can find both Nelson’s & Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows singing side by side. Unfortunately, not today. Because everything has been arriving a little late, they may not be back yet. Or they could be hiding because it’s still raining. Outstanding looks at Common Eiders once we got to a section of rocky coast. We even saw the green coloring on the back of the male Eiders’ heads. At Pemaquid Lighthouse, saw a Black Guillemot close in to the rocks. It was easy to identify—could have sworn I’d seen one before, but when I checked the bird book a little later, turns out it was a life bird! I knew that I would not get many life birds on this trip, but expected to get a couple once we started exploring the islands later in the week. So, I was pretty happy to get such good looks so soon! Still raining.

At one point after lunch, we found ourselves traveling on I95. The group took a collective nap. The back roads were interesting, but the interstates are highly snoozable.

Lunch at Ken’s (another local chain). I wasn’t impressed. However, it was our first introduction to the “roll” type of sandwich, which is common throughout ME. The “roll” is like a hotdog roll, but is rectangular and toasted on the outside. Think of a hunk of white bread 2"x3"x6", slit down the middle, and toasted. It can be filled with just about anything. One of the most popular fillings is lobster salad—like shrimp salad only with lobster. Mom liked the lobster chowder. Dinner at Governor’s in Waterville—another local chain with a large varied menu and terrific deserts. I had a generous helping of chocolate cream pie and couldn’t finish it. Night at the Hampton Inn—very nice and comfortable.

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Copyright  2003 by Kathie Lambert and Richard L. Becker