Sunday, February 13, 2005

Destination - South Coast Maine

Dear Readers,

The southern coast of Maine is an amazing place to bird in winter (as is the whole coast). This week I will focus on the town of Ogunquit( and the surrounding areas.

A quick trip to this time of year will make many a birder drool with envy over what is being seen. The town of Ogunquit not only has varied coastal habitat, but also has incredible public access to the water. Ogunquit is about 19 miles from the Maine/New Hampshire boarder at Kittery/Portsmouth. There are three major airports nearby. Logan Airport( in Boston places you about a 90-minute drive north away. Better yet is the airport( at Manchester, New Hampshire, which is one hour away. Closest is the Portland International Jetport(, which is only 45 minutes from your destination.

Ogunquit is a busy tourist town with many places to stay and several restaurants. It has one of the nicest sandy beaches in the state. This time of year tourism slows which means there is more room for the birders. If you are driving from the south be sure to stop at the Maine Tourism Association(MTA)( information center in the southern Maine town of Kittery that is accessed from Route 95 North or from coastal Route One. The MTA number in Kittery is (207) 439-1319. There you can get info on lodging, restaurants, other amenities and professional help with directions including a complementary state map. Use your new maps to find the Shore Road, which runs from York to Ogunquit. Head north on the Shore Road until you reach the Cliff House Resort and Spa( Drive carefully and slowly. Most folks will not be used to this twisty, narrow road, especially with beautiful glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean distracting you along the way. The Cliff House is PRIVATE PROPERTY so PLEASE be respectful. They tolerate birders coming there – so far. The resort is perched on rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean. I like to park in the northern most lot closest to the cliffs. This area can be extremely difficult and dangerous walking if it is icy or there is a lot of snow. Pack your snow boots, warmest clothes and wind blocking gear just in case.

After scanning the area near the parking lot you can walk south along the cliffs behind the resort. Bring your spotting scope to view the large groups of Common Eider(Somateria mollissima) and try to pick out a King Eider(S. spectabilis). Almost every winter there is a male hanging around the area. There currently is one being seen about five miles north in Wells Harbor. Close to the cliffs there are usually a small group of Harlequin Ducks(Histrionicus histrionicus) to be seen. I have seen up to 60 individuals. With patience you should see Red-necked(Podiceps grisegena) and Horned Grebes(P. auritus), Red-breasted Mergansers(Mergus serrator), and possibly all three local scoters – Surf(Melanitta perspicillata), White-winged(M. fusca), and Black(M. nigra). Will diligence you may pick out a Razorbill(Alca torda), a Thick-billed Murre(Uria lomvia), or the elusive Dovkie(Alle alle). This is where I spotted my one and only Dovkie about 15 yards off shore! You should expect Herring(L. argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gulls(Larus marinus) and others might show up. I have even seen Snow Buntings(Plectrophenax nivalis) in the parking lot.

Just north in Perkins Cove is a paved, public walkway called the Marginal Way. Wear rugged shoes and expect slippery and tough walking this time of year. I would guess that it is about a mile long and runs toward town. This little cove is a phenomenal place to view all the above-mentioned birds. I once had a King Eider standing 15 feet away on a rock here. In summer you will be charged to park in Perkins Cove (if you can get a spot). Usually there is no problem in the winter, however, on a nice, weekend day it can be crowded so get there early.

The beach in Ogunquit is worth a walk if you get there early. The town of Wells has several beaches to the north, as does York to the south. You may like to check out the beautiful Nubble Head Light( at York Beach. This is also a great place to bird.

If you don’t mind the cold or wind the rewards along the southern coast of Maine can be great in winter. Who knows, you might even see me out and about. Hope one day you get to enjoy this little piece of heaven.



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