Maine Audubon’s second year of participating in the World Series of Birding is now on the books, and what a year it was. Unlike our first attempt in 2020 when we were geographically restricted to small areas around each team members’ home, in 2021 the whole state was up for grabs and Team Maine Audubon did a good job putting the rubber to the road and ticking off as many species of birds in one day as we could.
The day started off with a flurry of texts (a group text was used to keep all the teammates updated to maximize effort) from Bob and Sandi Duchesne as they tallied Barred Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, American Woodcock, and just 20 minutes later the swept the expected owls by hearing a Great Horned Owl, all around Sunkhaze National Wildlife Refuge, before 3:30 am. Around this time Turk Duddy and Linda Woodard were picking up Eastern Whip-poor-wills at Kennebunk Plains, along with some of the many sparrows that nest there and often vocalize while it is still dark out.
By sunrise, Doug Hitchcox had made it to Taylor Bait Farm in Orono and the dawn chorus and mixed habitats there allowed for 50 species to be counted at that one spot. Nick Lund was at the Scarborough Marsh tallying a good number of specialty birds, like the herons, egrets, and ibis that spend the summer around the marsh, plus migrating shorebirds passing through. Turk and Linda had special permission for a quick weekend stop at Sanford Lagoons (many thanks to the crew who works there and is so accommodating to birders that visit!) where some unusual ducks and several species of swallows are easy to get. And the Duchesnes were filling in the boreal targets with specialties like Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker in Topsfield.
Despite our species count climbing quickly, the mercury wasn’t. Sandi and Bob were stuck in the 40s (ºF) in Washington County and the winds were picking up in Central Maine, making birding lakes and pond a challenge. Texts kept rolled in as each group slowly chipped away and our total cracking 140 species by 11:00 am. This was a nice milestone for us because our total in 2020 was only 139 species (but it did snow that day…)
This is where the law of diminishing returns really starts to come into play. Each tick beyond 140 came with a lot of effort and each teammate needing to focus on targets in there area. Nick got us to 150 by 1:00 pm by finding a few more shorebirds, like Piping Plover at Pine Point. Turk and Linda were able to find Black-crowned Night-Heron at Biddeford Pool, Doug refound his stakeout Louisiana Waterthrush in Gorham, and Bob and Sandi closed out the boreal birds with a Canada Jay in Whiting, putting us at 159 by 3:00 pm. The last few hours were a desperate attempt to fill gaps: the Duchesnes did find a breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe off the Schoodic Peninsula and Doug picked up the last bird of the day, a Grasshopper Sparrow at Kennebunk Plains. Efforts were made to hear nocturnally migrating birds before midnight, like Swainson’s Thrush which have a very distinctive flight call and were still missing from the list, but tired eyes and poor conditions called for the day to wrap.
Participating in the World Series of Birding is a very fun opportunity for Team Maine Audubon. The event had historically only been run in New Jersey, but was opened to other states when COVID started. The early May date is definitely better for New Jersey teams, as many migrants having made it to Maine yet, but that didn’t deter our team which still managed to get fourth place in our category, with a total of 161 species! You can watch some of our highlights from the day by visiting maineaudubon.org/worldseries. Thank you to everyone who followed along and cheered us on, and especially to the supporters who helped us make this another successful fundraiser to support the work Maine Audubon is doing to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitats. With your help we raised more than $13,000 to support our mission.