Along the Natchez Trace

Monday, June 9, 2014

Northern Maine Birding Festival

Probably because the areas are so different there is a Southern Maine AND a Northern Maine Birding Festival held each year.  I don't know where all the Northern Festivals have been held, but know that Aroostook State Park has hosted it in the past.  Our friends, Mark and Teri, probably worked it when they volunteered there.  

But the location has been changed and this year was the first time it was held at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.  One big reason for the change is that we have a large maintenance shop that can be cleaned up and used for large presentations.  Especially nice if it rains.

The event started at 6:00 AM
That's Sharon (yep, another Sharon who is volunteering here this summer) welcoming the visitors and directing them to the parking area.

This festival is sponsored by the Aroostook Birders group...  which I think is based in Presque Isle, about 20 miles from here.  These folks brought their own displays...
and their own members as workers.  They planned the agenda and made all the arrangements for the guest speakers, the wildlife exhibits, presentations etc.  The Aroostook NWR Friends group helped with setting up and had activities for kids.  We "resident" volunteers, Bill and me, and Bonnie, who is in the upper right photo, working the information/sales counter, and the other Sharon, not only worked the day of the event but got our refuge looking good for the occasion.  And our Refuge Manager, Steve, who confesses to be anal about detail...  Steve deserves a gold star for seeing this through!

The early arrivals came for the birding tours...
Bill Sheehan, pictured at the far left in both the upper left and lower right photos, is an expert birder and the best-known birder in (at least northern) Maine.  He conducted an early tour at 6 am, and a later tour at 8:30 am.  I tagged along on the 2nd tour....  at least for part of it....  and since Bill knows all the "hot spots" here, he had us all caravan in our autos and he stopped at different locations.  Look at that serious gear those guys in the lower left photo carry!  We had all levels of interest and expertise on these tours....  and all ages as well.  Bill entered the days data on a chalk-board at the visitor center...  last time I checked he'd listed over 60 species seen or heard.  I don't know the final count.

Another well attended presentation was a demonstration on mist-netting and bird banding.
I don't have the names of the presenters, but I believe they are based out of UMPI  (University of Maine at Presque Isle).  The upper left shows the nets (but doesn't show them very well)...  looks kind of like a volley-ball net, only the net is kind of like sections so that when a bird flies into it, it kind of stays in a pocket.  The first bird they caught was a Chestnut-sided Warbler (upper right).  The lower middle and right photos show them taking measurements and actually banding the bird.  The fellow in the white tee shirt is recording the information.  They also explained what to do if you find a dead bird that has a band and other information.

Last week, Bill cut cedar wood to make 15 Blue-bird houses.  (upper right)
 He had one already completed so the kids could see what the finished product should look like.  Then he, and Ron, a Friends volunteer, helped kids construct their own birdhouse.  Bill & Ron worked until the owl presentation at this job....  and the 15th birdhouse was finished just on time.  We had no idea that so many kids would be interested in this...  and they did get to take their bluebird house home with them.

Ron's wife, Barb, was great with another kids project...
Make your own bird feeder!
The kids filled those big pine cones with peanut butter...  then rolled them in cornmeal and bird seed.  As you can see from the lower right photo, it could be a messy job.  The upper right photo is the coloring book table.  Not just any coloring book...  but something about ducks, bears or other wildlife or conservation topic.

The big event of the day was an owl presentation by Chewonki.
Chewonki is an educational/conservationist organization that started out as a summer camp.  Now they not only offer that, but many more programs.  One of their programs is to take live animals to schools and events all over Maine.  The program includes slide shows and educational talks, but ours included 3 live owls.  Emma, the presenter, had a Great-horned, a Screech, and a Saw-Whet owl to show this group.
And look at the size of the group!  We had 80 chairs...  everyone of them were taken.  I counted at least 60 folks standing along the walls and in the back (see upper left photo), and couldn't even count the kids sitting on the floor in front of the chairs.  I thought Bill Sheehans bird tour was the attraction....  well, believe me, the Chewonki was the drawing card for this event!
Emma's presentation was just over an hour...  she walked around with her owls... (all have been hurt in some way and are unable to live in the wild)....  passed around feathers, owl pellet contents and the such.  
The neat thing was that she explained things on a level that anyone in the audience could understand.  I can see why this program is such a hit.

Below are just some shots I took throughout the day...
Upper left...  a goshawk that was on display.  
Upper right:  A group of bicyclist that took this opportunity to take a ride in the old Air Force base.
Lower left:  A Raffle!  Three great prizes, including a half day birding tour with Bill Sheehan.
Lower middle:  The Friends took this opportunity to sell some herbs and other plants.
Lower right:  A mayfly...  enjoying its short (maybe 24 hours) hours of life at one of the ponds.

This entire event lasted about 7 hours...
I'm estimating that maybe 200 people attended.  They all headed home by 12:30 or 1 pm.
All that was left was the clean-up.
(Of which the Aroostook Birders did a wonderful job.)
The Friends group sold over $400 from the gift shop.

Bill & I headed home.  We were tired....  ready for lunch...
Events like this don't happen every day, and you work hard to make everything just right for all the guests... whether they be presenters or visitors....
And you feel good...  
And tomorrow you'll go back to hauling gravel, or mowing grass or manning the Visitor Center.

That's All For Today!


  1. Now thats sounds like one great time you had there.
    No wonder you were tired out.
    Great photos.

  2. A seven hour birding festival sounds great. The one I worked here lasted four days! Talk about exhausting.

  3. What a great day you guys had!--we've had owls of some sort hanging around our place lately.

  4. Great photos of a wonderful event! 7 hours would tire me out too!

  5. We got seriously into birding while living in New England. Such a great place for it. But I've never been to a festival. Leave it to you to find a party.

  6. Loved the pictures ~ never been to a birding festival. I did go to a hummingbird festival in South Texas ... love the hummers and the banding? little ol bitty legs being banded was quite a something to see!