Maine’s diverse geography abounds with bird life, from shorebirds along the beaches and bays, to loons and herons on the inland lakes, streams, rivers and ponds, to warblers in the woods and hawks and eagles in the mountains. Stash a pair of good binoculars and a bird identification book into your day pack and you’re ready to hit the trail to scout and observe our many avian friends.

But where to go, you ask, to combine the pleasures of bird watching with the joys of hiking?

That’s where the Maine Birding Trail comes in handy, a new guide to more than 260 accessible birding sites across Maine.

This comprehensive reference to the best birding locations is perfect for casual or serious bird watchers. Most of the locations in the guide have hiking trails associated with them, so you can easily pursue these activities together for a wonderful day outdoors.

Author Bob Duchesne of Old Town has been birding since first grade and leading birding trips for more than 20 years. He drove more than 40,000 miles over the course of four years researching and compiling information for the book, and another two years writing it.

Duchesne had pondered the idea of a birding trail as a way to bolster the state economy through the growing eco-tourism market, but a lack of time prevented him from making real progress.

Finally, in 2003 he quit his job and dedicated himself to the project.

“Many other countries have all these different ways to get visitors to spend money,” Duchesne said. “And probably half the states in the U.S. have birding trails, so why not here in Maine?”

Maine has the assets and the infrastructure to make a birding trail and similar eco-tourism projects a success, noted Duchesne, “but we don’t always do a good job of telling people about them.”

Duchesne was determined, and his work with Maine’s Office of Tourism, Department of Conservation and Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, made the Maine Birding Trail a reality.

“The goal was to cover the whole state, to connect the tourism infrastructure to the birding,” Duchesne said. “And this book does exactly that.”

Maine Birding Trail sites are listed by nine regions, from the beaches in the south to Aroostook County up north; from the lakes and mountains in the west to Acadia in the east. Two bonus sections include sites on Campobello and Grand Manan islands in Canada.

The variety of sites described by the guide is astounding, providing plenty of ideas for hikes year-round to popular places most hikers know about, and many lesser known but equally rewarding locales. And, of course, you’ll discover the bird species most likely to be found at each spot.

The guide is highly readable and easy to use. Each section displays a map key for locating the numbered birding sites.

Individual site descriptions include a map, pertinent information about the area, bird species commonly found there at particular times of the year, and driving directions. Nearby bonus sites are included as well.

The appendices provide a wealth of additional resources, starting with the all-important Maine Audubon Field Checklist of Maine Birds.

Under trip planning you’ll get tips on organizing outings for certain types of birds or visiting particular locations (i.e. staying on an island or lodging at a sporting camp), plus a comprehensive list of online links to the various regions, accommodations, dining, boating, outfitters and guides and ferry services. Use the bird finding list for specific species you may be interested in.

Finally, there’s info on Atlantic puffins and pelagic birding, pests and hazards and the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics.

An abbreviated version of the Maine Birding Trail guide can be obtained in brochure form from the Maine Office of Tourism at www.visitmaine.com and at visitor information centers around the state.

“We’ve gone through a pile of them, more than 50,000, in the last year or so,” said senior tourism officer Phil Savignano, a testament to the success of this birding effort as a strategy to increase Maine’s nature-based tourism business.

Quoting the brochure about Maine, “The most forested state in America also has one of the longest coastlines and hundreds of lakes and mountains. The birds like the variety. So will you.”

Carey Kish of Bowdoin is a freelance writer and avid hiker. Send comments and hike suggestions to:

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