Tuesday is National Audubon Day – an unofficial holiday commemorating the birthday of ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon.

Though Audubon achieved great notoriety and praise for his work – especially his beautiful book “The Birds of America” – many of us know his name because of the National Audubon Society, the environmental organization incorporated and named in his honor in 1905. For more than a century, the National Audubon Society and its 500 chapters have been dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems and habitats.

Seven of those chapters make up Maine Audubon – all volunteer organizations, working together to help realize Audubon’s mission. As part of that work, Maine Audubon maintains eight centers and sanctuaries, protecting a variety of landscapes. In addition to unique wildlife and flora, these destinations also offer miles of hiking trails over varied and beautiful terrain, and are worth a visit – whether you’re looking for birding, hiking or a scenic family.

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, Falmouth

Just five minutes from Portland, perched above the Presumpscot River estuary, Gilsland Farm is the location of Maine Audubon’s headquarters – home to a beautiful environmental center and nature store, where members and the public can attend educational and family programming. Despite its proximity to Maine’s largest city, the 2.5-mile trail network at Gilsland Farm feels remote, and the meadows, flowers and wildlife provide an easy way for people who live and work in Portland to get a regular nature recharge.

Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary, Guilford


The northernmost Audubon Sanctuary also has the most distinctive and striking scenery, thanks to the craggy and prominent profile of Borestone Mountain. Borestone is a hiker’s dream, featuring two nearly 2,000-foot peaks and 360-degree views over the western Maine mountains and 100-Mile Wilderness. The short hike – only about three miles from the access road trailhead, or one mile from the visitor’s center – has a bigger payoff than you’d expect for such little effort, making it a great destination for kids or inexperienced hikers to get a taste of big mountain hiking.

Fields Pond Audubon Center, Holden

Like Gilsland Farm, Fields Pond feels like a natural oasis despite its proximity to a city – though in this case the city is not Portland but Bangor. Just seven miles from Bangor, Fields Pond is home to a nature center and store, and trails that meander through fields, forest and marsh. The Lakeshore Trail, which runs along a portion of the 85-acre pond’s eastern shore, offers particularly good views.

Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary, West Bath

Between the New Meadows River and Back Cove in West Bath, the Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary – named for Millicent Hamilton, an avid birder who lived on the land in the mid-20th century – offers nearly three miles of hiking trails. The varied landscape is home to numerous kinds of wildlife, but the expansive views over Back Cove’s tidal mudflats make the shore trails a great place to spot osprey and great blue herons.

Josephine Newman Audubon Sanctuary, Georgetown


Nestled at the end of a long dirt road in Georgetown, it’s easy to overlook the Josephine Newman Audubon Sanctuary – especially with the long sand beaches of Reid State Park providing a popular summer destination just miles away. But this hidden gem is home to some of the more rigorous hiking I’ve found in midcoast Maine, with more than two miles of trails that travel over rocky ridges, streams and hills. Bounded by salt marsh on both sides, the interesting rock formations and wildlife – plus a magnificent forest waterfall on the southwestern edge – make this sanctuary a quiet and scenic alternative to the crowded beaches down the road.

Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary, Freeport

Long before outlet shoppers arrived in Freeport, the British Navy came up the Harasseeket River seeking giant pines to make the masts of their ships. Loggers felled many trees destined for the high seas on the land that’s now the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary. Shorebirds, songbirds and other wildlife are attracted to the fields, orchards, alders, pine and hemlock, and trails wind through woods and near the sites of the old dam and mill. The three miles of gentle trails are perfect for family hikes year-round, and particularly for snowshoeing and cross country skiing in winter.

Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, Scarborough

While hiking trails are a big draw to all of the Audubon sanctuaries, the best way to explore Maine’s largest salt marsh isn’t on land at all. Situated along the meandering Dunstan River as it snakes its way to Saco Bay, this unique center offers kayak and canoe rentals in the summer for adventurous paddlers who want to get a fresh perspective from the water – an exciting and different way to travel right to the heart of the marsh. Non-paddlers can still enjoy the informative self-guided tour on the nature trail, and the aquarium and interactive exhibits at the shoreside center.

East Point Audubon Sanctuary, Biddeford

At the eastern end of Biddeford Pool, East Point Audubon Sanctuary has just one trail – but with spectacular views of the Woods Island Lighthouse, Saco Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Surrounded by private homes, East Point provides public access to the coast – a unique piece of protected land providing such access in the area. Like Gilsland Farm near Portland and Fields Pond near Bangor, East Point’s proximity to Biddeford helps underline its importance.

These special places protected by the work of Maine Audubon volunteers remind us of the balance we must strike between conservation and development. This Tuesday, celebrate John James Audubon’s 231st birthday by taking a moment to appreciate these beautiful places and their wild residents, right in our backyards.

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