Whimbrel. Noel Reynolds

 

I’ve spent the holidays enjoying a gift my wife gave me, Birds of Maine. This book was recently published by Princeton University Press and Nuttall Ornithological Club with support from Maine Audubon and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. It provides detailed accounts about the 464 species of birds that have been found in Maine over the last 70 years. It picks up where Ralph Palmer’s book, Maine Birds published in 1949, left off. The book is a work of Peter Vickery who either wrote or collected the data for this massive work. His wife, colleagues and friends completed the work after his death in 2017.

I thought this book would only appeal to serious birders, but I can’t say enough about how much I’ve already enjoyed it and think it would delight anyone interested in the unique climate, geology and habitat that make Maine a crossroad for such a wide array of birds.

South Polar Skuas and Artic Terns crisscross offshore attracted by the cold and fertile waters that punctuate our coast. The boreal forest of our mountains are home to year-round birds like the Canada Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker and Boreal Chickadees and attract a wide range of migratory warblers, vireos and thrushes. Crossbills, finches and grosbeaks erupt into our state from further north attracted to our productive forests. Our waters host loons, grebes, mergansers and a host of ducks and shorebirds. Unique Maine habitat like blueberry barrens attract birds like the Whimbrel.  This is a large shore bird with an enormous downcurved beak. (Photo by Noel Reynolds). As it migrates from Arctic Alaska to Argentina, it stops over in Maine’s blueberry barrens to refuel. The locals once referred to these unusual birds as Blueberry Curlews.

The book describes Maine’s contributions to the world of ornithology, including its impact on noted conservationists like John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau and Teddy Roosevelt. Each wrote fondly about time spent in Maine’s mountains, rivers and woods.

The art and maps alone are another reason to consider adding this book to your library. Lars Jonsson was commissioned for six paintings and Barry Van Dusen, a Maine native, contributed pen and ink drawings. Both are considered to be among the best bird artists in the world. Their work helps bring the data in this massive book alive.

As I thumb through this book on these long, cold days, I day dream about the birds I want to see and the places I want to visit soon – Scarborough Marsh for a Little Egret, Brownfield Bog for Yellow-throated Vireo, Rangeley Lakes for Olive-sided Flycatcher and of course blueberry barrens for the Whimbrel.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To learn more visit www.mahoosuc.org. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected]

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