Over 400 species of birds have been spotted in Maine. Some are found all year round, others breed during the warmer months, and still others stopover on their way north or south during the spring and fall migration.
People often ask me how I discovered my love of birding. It’s simply really, I always tell them, the classic combination of a “one-two” punch.
The “one” for me and birding came in the form of a graduation present. After four years of toiling away at Cornell University, I finally graduated with my B.A. As a gift, my parents let me pick out and purchase my first, nice new camera. I had had “point and shoots” before of course, the kind of basic camera everyone had in the early 21st century to document their experiences. This new camera, a Canon, was the top of the line for the point and shoot model. It zoomed to a thousand times what the naked eye could see, contained within its hard-wiring all kinds of nifty effects and adjustments, and made me feel 100% cool when I slung that sleek black strap over my shoulder.
What does a camera have to do with birding? For me, a lot. The thing is, birds are small. Like, really small. A Golden-crowned Kinglet is barely four inches long, a Black-capped Chickadee less than five. Even ducks, which have the decency to reach at least two feet, will stay far enough away from shore that they form mere dots on the horizon. My camera, with its impressive zoom, allowed me to really photograph birds for the first time, and – most importantly – save the photos for poring over later.
Throughout the summer and the fall photograph birds I did, enjoying seeing up close the intricate coloring of their feathers, the beady quality of their eyes, and their impressive aerial maneuvers. But that’s all I did: marvel at them and then go on to something else. I didn’t care what species I spotted, I just found them interesting.
That is, until Christmas. My family goes all out for the holidays, and as usual a pile of presents lay huddled underneath our giant Christmas tree. Though all of my presents were good that year, one in particular would change my life. The package was small and unobtrusive, sitting patiently until my mother placed it carefully in my lap. Mildly heavy, perhaps the size of my entire hand, the size and shape of the wrapped object screamed, “I’m a book, I’m a book!”
I tore off the paper, letting it fall rapidly to the floor. It was indeed a book, with an illustrated picture of an American Goldfinch gliding across the cover. “The Sibley Guide to Eastern North America,” I read, flipping through. Each page contained illustrated birds, along with range maps and a brief description. The drawings were beautifully and painstakingly done, in what I later learned was a book project 11 years in the making.
I didn’t know it that day, but a connection had been made. The pictures of birds I had been accumulating for months sprung to life, their subjects suddenly attaining an identity, behavior patterns, habitat. I found that a brightly colored bird I had spotted in the Maine woods was really a Northern Parula, a neotropical migrant that spent its winters in South America.
Through this blog I will take you birding throughout Maine, from the beaches along the Atlantic coast to the deep forests of the north. What bird will you see next?