Of Beer and Birding in Maine
You know about the birds and the bees. Start thinking about the birds and the beer.
Maine has cleverly packaged its birding and beering opportunities into two trails for tourists and residents alike. State Representative Bob Duchesne (D-Hudson) has focused his binoculars on an exciting economic opportunity, leading the drive to establish Maine’s very own birding trail.
Bob has done this at his own expense with a strong group of partners: Maine Audubon, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Fish and Wildlife Department, and the Office of Tourism. They have set up a Web site. The Web site is a real treasure for those who are just starting to look at birds as well as the obsessed birdwatcher (something my wife Linda says I am approaching).
Truth be told, I interrupted my turkey hunt one May morning because I heard some interesting warblers and had to take a look at them. Yikes! Maybe I am obsessed.
On the Maine Birding Web site you’ll find great information about birding guides, festivals, and much more including a fascinating “rare bird alert.” Down East just published Bob’s book, the official Maine Birding Trail Guide, with over 260 sites including my favorite island, Campbello, Canadian territory just offshore of Lubec. We’ll be there in August and the guide will come in handy.
But you don’t have to go to Campobello to find great birds. Linda and I have been using the guide to bird in and around Baxter Park. The book is amazing in its detailed accuracy.
One morning two friends, Jim and Donna, and Linda and I decided we wanted to see Philadelphia vireos. Bob’s book said we’d find them along Sourdahunk Stream at Slide Dam.
We emerged from the Subaru at Slide Dam and started walking along Baxter Park’s perimeter road that parallels the stream at that site, and we hadn’t gone 100 yards when Donna looked up into a bush no more than 6 feet away and said, “Hey, those are Philadelphia vireos!”
We didn’t even need our binoculars to see them.
Meanwhile, as I’m waiting in the bushes to see the birds, there is plenty of superb Maine-brewed beer to keep me hydrated. On the same day birders gathered to announce their new trail, beer aficionados hosted a press conference in Portland to introduce the Maine Beer Trail. You’ll find a map and list of Maine’s top microbrewers at their Web site.
All of these brewers offer tours and tasting opportunities. You could do worse than spend your summer visiting all fourteen on the Maine Beer Trail.
And here’s some good news. Unfortunately, the trail doesn’t seem to include other local favorites including Kennebec Brewing in Gardiner, Sheepscot Valley Brewery in Whitefield, and my personal favorite, Oak Pond. Set up in an immaculate old Skowhegan chicken barn, Oak Pond produces some of the state’s tastiest beers including their great summer brew, Door Yard Ale.
You can find information about these great breweries on the Maine Brewers Web site, although they are not listed in the trail guide.
Sometimes you have to get off the trail to find the best beers and the best birds.
Bob Duchense showed up at our Mount Vernon home one June morning at 6 a.m., before the legislative session, to lead a small group of us on a birdwatching expedition in one of those off-the-trail places, our yard. It was a fantastic morning, with birds singing all around us. I hardly knew where to point the binoculars.
Bob’s ability to identify birds by sound astonished me. Turns out there are a lot more species around the house than I ‘ve been seeing. And he actually called in an ovenbird so we could see it.
Trying to stay true to our theme here, I offered Bob a Maine microbrew for breakfast, but he had to get back to the legislature. Some of those coffee stouts do serve well as a breakfast drink.
All trails lead to birds and beer in Maine this summer. Enjoy!