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As songbirds flock to Maine, here’s how you can find their hideouts

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By Bob Duchesne This is the weekend when many songbirds begin to return to Maine. Our neotropical migrants are about to get mean, loud, defending territories and courting mates.

By Bob Duchesne

This is the weekend when many songbirds begin to return to Maine. Our neotropical migrants are about to get mean, loud, defending territories and courting mates.

At the same time, there will be many bird walks, festivals and guided tours to enjoy the breeding season. But for anyone who wants someone to come up with a DIY guide, I’m happy to report that someone already has.

I admit, I’m weird. While most birders want to know the identity of every bird, I want to know the location of every bird. This fetish of searching for birds goes back about 30 years when I first started leading trips for Maine Audubon.

Some of these trips were multi-day tours to remote locations in Maine, others to Atlantic Canada. After each outing, I was like, “Where to go next? I didn’t want to take the same trip over and over again every year.

Slowly I developed a curiosity about where to find birds in Maine. At first, my goal was to design new birding trips for Audubon members. Later, I just wanted to know where each bird was.

After a decade of exploring, it occurred to me that I should probably share the results of my adventures. This led to the development of the Maine Birding Trail.

The Maine Birding Trail is a tool you can use this spring to plan your own do-it-yourself adventures. I wrote the guide in 2009: “Maine Birding Trail: The Official Guide to More Than 260 Accessible Sites”. It is available from all online retailers and some local bookstores.

However, I’ll confess privately that you don’t need to buy the book. Most of its content is free online at MaineBirdingTrail.com. Don’t let this secret leave the room.

The reason for the Maine Birding Trail is simple. Maine is an incredibly diverse place, with common and unusual birds lurking around every corner. Maine is the most forested state in the country. Its elevation rises one mile from the salt water to the summit of Katahdin. Its coastline is so rugged that it would be longer than California’s if you straightened it out. Its tides are among the highest in the country.

Maine is full of habitat transitions. Maine is where the southern beaches give way to the rocky coast. Maine is where the predominantly hardwood forest of Appalachia begins to turn into the predominantly softwood forest of Canada.

Maine is where the continents separated 200 million years ago, creating tectonic upheavals in the underlying bedrock that were later buried by silt from Ice Age glaciers and the marine clay from changing sea levels. Maine has countless lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. As a result, the map of Maine is a mosaic of habitat diversity, with a mix of different birds in each location – if you know where to look.

The Maine Birding Trail is a useful tool for finding these birding hotspots. The first step in planning your own self-guided adventure is probably to review the locations featured on the Trail Sites pages. However, knowing how to birdwatch is as important as knowing where to birdwatch.

I posted explanations of birding from the woods of northern Maine to the Gulf of Maine. There are tips for taking boats to see puffins and more boats to see ocean species. I have published pages listing festivals, tours and private guides for hire. There are bird checklists and pest warnings.

There is a page with links to bird watching videos. For the past five years, I have devoted myself to producing videos on how and where to birdwatch in Maine, as well as posting travelogues online that detail my own encounters with some of Maine’s most unusual species and places. Last year, I went so far as to start Bob Duchesne’s YouTube channel, collecting all of my videos in one place. Just go to YouTube and enter my name to access the channel. Shameless Self-Promotion: Subscribe, if you want to be alerted to all new videos as they are released.

There are countless excuses for not venturing beyond your garden. Embarrassment usually tops the list. Many people who would like to participate in a guided group event are afraid of feeling like the least experienced birder in the crowd. In reality, most participants are also inexperienced. Frankly, even the guide makes mistakes. Follow me everywhere. You will see.

Still, choosing a spot close to the Maine Birding Trail and doing a little private exploration without crowds can help build skills and confidence. It’s a timid way to dip a toe in the water to learn how to identify birds, during their active breeding season.