One of Becca Hoskins’ signs. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler.

BETHEL —  ” The Valentine Farm Birding Trail is a perfect way for people to get to see some our superstars and understand how important our region is for healthy birds both here and from other parts of the world,” James Reddoch, an avid birder and part-time Albany Township resident, said.

The soon to be birding trail, located off the North Road in Bethel, will officially open on Saturday, May 15, following a ribbon cutting in the morning at the Valentine Farm.

Over the past few years, birding has become an increasingly popular activity, leading to more birding trails popping up all over the country.  With the trail at Valentine Farm, not only will there be another place for people to search for birds, but this one will have plenty of tools to help guide those just getting into the activity of birding.

On top of a free printed, detailed trail guide, people will have help from 25 different signs set up on the trail, with each showing the shape, size and color of a particular bird.

“Our twist on it is to give people a little extra help finding these birds,” Reddoch said. “It can be a little intimidating just to pick up a guide, walk out into the woods and expect to find some of these tiny birds.”

The signs were made by artist Becca Hoskins and were placed on parts of the trail where people are most likely to see that specific bird. Hoskins, Reddoch and Development Director at the Mahoosuc Land Trust, Barbara Murphy, were three people heavily involved with the trail. Murphy created the original vision for the project, which was then fueled by Reddoch’s passion for birds and capped off by Hoskins’ art skills.

“I am honored to have been given this opportunity to help visitors learn how to spot birds in a fun, approachable way,” Hoskins said. “I am thrilled to have contributed my skills to a project that will provide outdoor enrichment for everyone.”

“I cannot imagine a more fun and satisfying way to learn about some of the common bird visitors to Valentine Farm,” Murphy added.

Reddoch called May a good month for people to learn about some of the farm’s yearly visitors, saying there will be a few weeks for people to go out and search for birds before leaves fully come in. He added that Hoskins’ signs will be beneficial in searching for birds, especially for people who are not super skilled with binoculars.

“There are a lot of ways we think this will appeal to people, especially those just starting to learn about birds,” Reddoch said.

The signs have been scattered along the east loop trail at the farm, stretching about a mile total.

“The trails are universally accessible and most of the birds are gonna be able to be spotted a few feet off the trail,” Reddoch said.

Reddoch said he expects the trail to attract people to the area, but said many birders already come to western Maine in search of certain species, sometimes traveling from as far away as California.

There are certain types of insects found in forests in the western and northern parts of Maine that draw tropical bird species to these regions, which are considered “important bird areas.” These sections of forests in the northern and western parts of the state make up a little less than 18 million acres, according to Reddoch.

“We get lots of interesting birds that come all the way from South America to western Maine,” Reddoch said.

The birds that make the long trip to Maine are often colorful, but also small, making them difficult to see once the leaves come in. Reddoch said birders who want to identify these species may be better off trying to do so by hearing them sing, rather than attempting to spot one. At the farm, birders will also be able to refer to the signs which, Reddoch says, are a good representation of what’s there, but overall represent just a fraction of the species that come to the area on a yearly basis.

So far at the farm, 121 species have been discovered over the past few years. Reddoch said in Oxford County there have been 250 species of birds identified and that statewide between 400 to 450 species have been reported.

Reddoch not only enjoys watching birds, but likes to study and write about them, too. He’s been doing research on birds since the 1970s.
















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