I and the Bird

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Kennebunk Plains

I lived in Maine for 21 years and apparently I never left my own town. The Kennebunk Plains are about a half-hour drive from Portland, but are unlike anything else in the state.

Apparently glaciers created this large, flat, grassy area (ok I'm no geologist) by leaving sifted sand and gravel on the ground instead of more vegetation-friendly soils. The result is a huge grassland in the middle of otherwise lush northern forest. It reminds me of midwestern grasslands (uh, even though I've never been to one) and, like other grasslands, supports wildlife that cannot live in think forests.

I was looking for four different birds: Upland Sandpiper, Vesper Sparrow, Prairie Warbler and the pair of extralimital Clay-Colored Sparrows that have been hanging around. NOTE: these sightings thanks to the Maine RBA postings that can be found on the Yarmouth Wild Bird Center website.

The three of us (Kate and Jared and I were all heading out of Maine to NYC for a few days. They aren't birders, and it was very hot in the sun, but a free ride to the city afforded me some time walking around a field with my binoculars...God bless 'em) pulled into the main parking area and hiked the path back to where the Clay-Coloreds had been seen. The presence of these birds is big news in Maine, since their typical summer range only extends into New York and Quebec, as you can see:

Walking through the field I was a little disappointed at the lack of visible birdlife. I could hear grasshopper sparrows all over the place, but the breeze kept most birds down in the brush. I figured my chances at seeing a single individual Clay-Colored were pretty slim, but we kept on strolling.

To my surprise, the Clay-Colored was buzz-singing his little heart out at the top of a small tree, right where the wonderful internet said it would be (honestly, how sweet are RBAs? I drove 50 miles and walked out to the middle of a field and saw a bird the size of my fist with no problem. Awesome). I was overjoyed. I got great looks through the binos, and even gave the two non-birders a look. They didn't care.

Here's the best picture I got. You're just gonna have to trust me on the ID.


Onto another section of the park to look for the Uplands. We drove down to a nearby power substation and birding hotspot to check it out. Long story short, no Uplands. I did see a pair of lifer Vesper Sparrows, though. These birds had previously eluded me at both Kenilworth and Rock Creek, but here they were plentiful, showy and out in the open. No pictures, though.

Kennebunk Plains is an outstanding place. It is beautiful, especially when you get there after driving through miles of dense forests.

It's good to be back in DC. My next trips will probably be to Sky Meadows to look for the Shrikes there. I'll keep you posted.
Very cool, Nick!
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Location: Portland, ME

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