If people simply take the time to look up once in a while, they’ll see some amazing stuff going on in the sky.

Maybe that’s why birding has seemed to soar in popularity during these last two years of pandemic restrictions. There were stretches when people had plenty of time and nowhere much to go for fun, except outside.

Early in the pandemic, bird supply sales surged at some Maine stores and photos from first-time birders started appearing in droves on social media. In December, a Steller’s sea eagle came to Georgetown and drew hundreds of curious folks who wanted a glimpse. The bird is native to Asia and Russia, and experts said this was the first-ever sighting in Maine.

Now that spring is upon us, it’s a good time to get out and see what all the flying fuss is about for yourself. Southern Maine has plenty of good birding spots, as well as organized birding activities.

A bald eagle takes flight from a tree in the Scarborough Marsh in January. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS

A good way to get a handle on birding is to go out with somebody who knows what they’re doing and what they’re looking at. You can do that at the Gilsland Farm Bird Walks held every Thursday through late October at the Maine Audubon property in Falmouth. The walks are from 7-9 a.m. and are led by Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox, who writes a wildlife column for the Maine Sunday Telegram.

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The walks are typically between 1 and 2 miles, and waterproof shoes are recommended. Bring binoculars if you can, but there are pairs available as well. The walks are free, and no registration is required. For more information on the walks and on the most recent birds sighted at Gilsland Farm, go to MaineAudubon.org and click “events” at the top of the page. You can check the Maine Audubon events listings for other upcoming bird events led by experts, including a series of free Warbler Walks to be held in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery on weekdays May 9-20.

Members of the Portland Youth Corp take a bird walk in Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. Photo by Jennifer Schmitt

FEATHERY FORECAST

Get out for some early birding Saturday and Sunday at an event called Feathers Over Freeport. Despite the name, it actually starts in Pownal at Bradbury Mountain State Park with a bird walk led by Derek Lovitch of Freeport Wild Bird Supply at 8 a.m. Saturday. There’s also a hawk watch at the summit all day, as well as educational displays, a self-guided bird walk for children and workshops. Preregistration is required for the early morning walk and the hawk watch.

Then on Sunday, the action moves to Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport with another 8 a.m. bird walk, educational displays, a self-guided bird walk for children, an osprey watch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and a live owls program at 11 a.m. All the events and programs are included with a paid admission to the park. Admission is $4 for adults, $1 for children 5-11 and free for children under 5 or people over 65. For more information and to preregister for events, go to the Maine.gov and search Feathers Over Freeport.

A great egret hunts for food in the Scarborough Marsh last summer. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

ON YOUR OWN

If you want to go birding on your own time, Nick Lund, Maine Audubon’s advocacy and outreach manager, has some suggestions. Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery, in the Deering section of the city, is a beautiful place to walk anyway, but it’s also a hotspot for birds. It’s a well-known migration site, Lund said, and dozens of songbird species can be seen there every spring. Scarborough Marsh, the largest salt marsh in Maine, is home to some magnificent birds like egrets, herons, ibis, sparrows and more. There’s also an Audubon Center at Scarborough Marsh, which is a good place to start a marsh adventure.

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To see birds you wouldn’t find in southern Maine, Lund recommends a trek to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Millinocket. For information on bird watching there, go to nps.gov and search Katahdin Woods and Waters. In the Rangeley Lakes region, you can find birding spots by referring online to the Rangeley Lakes Birding Trail, organized by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. It recommends several specific trails or bird walks in the area. For more information, go to rlht.org and search Rangeley Lakes Birding Trail.

A palm warbler in a tree growing in a bog in West Gardiner. Flocks of the song birds are migrating through Maine on route to breeding grounds in Canada. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

ADVENTURES ON ACADIA

If you want to combine birding with a vacation, you may want to consider the Acadia Birding Festival, scheduled for  June 2-5 on Mount Desert Island, the home of Acadia National Park. There are boat trips, canoe trips, field trips and hikes to see the great diversity of wildlife in that area. Some of the places explored include the park’s famed carriage roads through the woods, Otter Point, Sieur de Monts, Seal Cove, Schoodic Peninsula and a lot more. There are also various workshops. All the trips and programs have fees attached, from $5 for a seabird identification workshop to $20 to $30 for many on-island excursions and $90 or more for some all-day, off-island trips. For specific information and to register, go to acadiabirdingfestival.com.

MORE LOOKING UP

Maine Audubon has a comprehensive online Maine Birding Guide on its website, which divides the state into six regions and talks about the kind of birds found in each. It also suggests a dozen or so specific sites in each region. Also on the website is a Maine Birds Checklist for kids, with pictures and descriptions of a couple of dozen or more birds. If you print it out, there’s a place to mark the date and location of each sighting, along with notes.

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