Annual Downeast Maine Puffin and Boreal Species trip.
Led by Deb and Henry Mauer
Trip report from Strickland Wheelock
One of those great birding experiences is heading to Machias Maine with the hope of landing on Machias Seal Island to witness all the Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres, Razorbills, then exploring the various other special habitats from remote logging roads to Blueberry barrens to marshes in search of many specialty birds.
I was blessed to join the Brookline Bird Club on this adventure and having Henry and Deb Mauer coordinating all the logistics/game plans plus all their pre-scouting to make this trip such a success. In the end, we ended up with 97 species that included a Tufted Puffin, Leach’s Storm Petrel, Black-backed Woodpecker, American Bittern, Upland Sandpiper, Nelson’s Sparrow, 15 species of warblers, Sandhill Crane & much more
Day 1  Thurs June 30th    Met at Bluebird Motel 5 pm
Goal was to show the folks a few interesting species after their long drive, close to the motel – first spot on the edge of the town was a trail along the river leading to a salt marsh where a Nelson’s Sparrow teed up on some marsh grass in perfect light and sat there for all to view through the scopes. Along the river were 2 Bald Eagles, 1 Osprey plus many D-C Cormorants – in the longer grasses were several Savannah Sparrows calling
After dinner, we waited at dusk at the Bad Little Fall’s Park in town to enjoy 3 Common Nighthawks plus Chimney Swifts and a Yellow Warbler
Day 2  Friday July 1  Left motel at 7 am to arrive and load on the boat to the island at 8 am – low tide
Was wide awake at 4 am, so figured I would walk further down the trail along the river to more salt marsh areas to listen for the Nelson’s Sparrows – what a beautiful morning with the sun rising and as I got further down the trail to the wider area of marsh grass, could hear the Nelson’s Sparrows [maybe 5+ birds] calling – with a few phishes, they were teed up about 10 yds away in full morning light  hearing Hermit Thrushes calling off in the distance – great way to start the morning & met up with the group
We were really blessed with ideal weather conditions with little wind, calm seas & sunny – once on the boat leaving the harbor, we had a few Common Eiders and a Common Loon – further out on the 1 hr boat trip we had a Common Tern and an Arctic Tern – one highlight for me and a few other participants was a Leach’s Storm Petrel flying close to the boat [for me, approx 60 yrs ago when I went to camp in Maine I was able to help band these special birds]
As we approached the Island, the excitement level grew as the Puffins, Razorbills and Common Murres were flying all around us –  a pair of Black Guillemots were sitting on the rocks, Arctic Terns were flying all around.
Once landed, we had to walk with sticks over our heads as Arctic Terns were dive bombing us as we carefully walked in single file through a cut grass area dodging tern eggs, seeing baby terns along the way to an instruction spot – there were 4 small blinds where 4 folks would occupy that blind for 2 hrs – no leaving until the person in charge returned. Each blind had small openings to view from and instantly the Puffins, C Murres and Razorbills are walking on the rocks in front of the blind – only feet away – landing on the roof of the blind – also instantly you are hearing all the love noises, watching these birds rubbing their bills together, then the actual mating – birds flying in with fish to feed their children – you are surrounded with thousand of birds on the rocks or under the rocks –  some of all the species maybe a yard away were totally unconcerned with us admiring them – the researchers on the island had estimated approx 16 thousand of these alcids were breeding on this small island.
One lucky blind suddenly had a Tufted Puffin come walking up to the window to have his picture taken – last one seen on the island was 2014 so good fortune was on our side – none of the other blinds were as fortunate.
What was also special was watching close up a pair of N Gannets [obviously full breeding plumage] rubbing their bills together then start mating – things were happening all around us nonstop.
Other species seen on the island were a few Great Cormorants, several Savannah Sparrows, Spotted Sandpiper
After our 2 hrs, we returned to the boat just blown away with this experience
Once back to the boat, we worked our way [with a few stops] towards Quoddy Head State Park where we walked trails through the spruce forest towards a bog where Palm Warblers nest along with Red-b Nuthatch,  Blk-thr Green, N Parula Warblers Wht-thr Sparrows. One fortunate group heard both a Ruffed Grouse drumming and a Blk-backed Woodpecker calling on their way into the spruce forest
Scanning from the beautiful lighthouse, could see flocks of Razorbills, Blk Guillemots flying by – also on a large rock off shore were an immature Great Cormorant and immature D-C Cormorant side by side to show their differences.
On the way to Quoddy Head, we made a quick spot at a interesting brushy habit were we enjoyed great looks at a Nashville Warbler, Am Redstarts, N Parula Warbler, Blk & Wht Warbler & more
Day 3  July 2nd  Goal was to leave at 5:30 am from the motel to the northern logging roads for Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee & Gray Jay – almost a 2 hr drive with rest stop – major threat of rain to happen this morning through 11am
Quick change of plans given the upcoming rain – decided to head to Rogue Bluffs preserve which was close by just to enjoy seeing some species before rain really hit, then do the 2 hr drive in the rain arriving around 11 am.
Once in the parking lot at Rogue Bluffs [light rain], we had a wonderful mixture of warblers that we could see like the Magnolia, N Parula, Blk&Wht, Blk-thr Green, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped, Am Redstarts and Common Yellowthroats – wonderful looks at Alder Flycatcher and Purple Finch – further down the road we had a productive stop at a swampy area where we had scope looks at a close Yellow-b Sapsucker – heard Pileated Woodpeckers, Swamp Sparrows, small flock of Cedar Waxwings in the trees plus more warblers before the heavy rains came & time to head north east to the logging roads & drive in the rain with the hope to arrive when the rain stopped at 11 am & fortunately that is what happened
Along the way at a swampy location, we stopped to enjoy a distant Moose, 3 Belted Kingfishers, Osprey, N Harrier, nesting Hairy Woodpeckers, Black Ducks & babies, E Kingbird, calling Pileated Woodpeckers, Tree Swallows but the major highlight was one keen observer spotted an Am Bittern frozen in spot waiting for a meal to swim by
The challenge we faced was that the Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays seemed to have moved further north so always hope that one would show up – the Spruce Grouse were certainly there as Thurs scouting these logging roads which surprisingly are in great shape, we had a mother Spruce Grouse with 2 babies in the road plus another one further along – also had a Red Crossbill calling & fly over – that morning we left at 4:15 am to catch the most song & activity – this day we arrived it was hot & humid midday making sightings more challenging – could hear several Swainson’s & Hermit Thrushes, Blue-h and Red-eyed Vireos, Winter Wrens, Pileated Woodpeckers and Y-B Sapsuckers – enjoyed wonderful looks at Blackburnian, Blk-thr Green, Blk& White, Pine W, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, N Parula, C Yellowthroats, heard Blk-thr Blue & Magnolia, saw several Am Redstarts, Broad-winged Hawk, Purple Finch, Golden-cr Kinglets, Juncos, C Raven, Red-b Nuthatch
To our major disappointment, all the miles driving these remote logging roads no Spruce Grouse was out in the road – no Boreal Chickadee or Gray Jay made an appearance – did have a Mink run across the road.
Day 4  July 3rd Sunday – goal was to leave at 6 am but quick change of plans as we decided to make a quick trip down to Great Wass Island Preserve to quietly walk their spruce trails with the hope of seeing a Spruce Grouse – no luck, lovely spot but did find Brown Creeper, Golden-cr Kinglet, Swainson’s & Hermit Thrushes,
N Parula & Blk-thr Green & Magnolia Warblers
Next stop were the Blueberry Barrens up near Dublois where Henry & Deb did pre-scouting and drove us through miles of Blueberry fields right to a family of Upland Sandpipers that put on a great show for all calling, teeing up on posts, flying around us – awesome looks – also had Vesper and Savannah Sparrows in the fields.
Last stop was Lake Messalonskee further south on the trip home to hopefully see the Black Terns that breed there – enjoyed a mother Common Loon and baby, many Swamp Sparrows, few Gt Blue Heron, Wood Ducks, E Kingbird, B Kingfisher, N Harrier, Osprey, Warbling Vireo but no flying Black Terns.
Just as I was leaving, another sharp-eyed observer spotted a pair or 3 Sandhill Cranes for all to enjoy – great ending bird – number 97 – that number did not include a House Sparrow which seem to not exist that far north – oh well if you are going to miss a species, we could live without that one.
The group was wonderful working together as a team, lots of enthusiasm, took lots of pictures, Henry & Deb did a great job organizing the trip, keeping the line of cars following his together which is no easy feat, saw well many desired species including 15 species of warblers plus a Tufted Puffin & a Sandhill Crane, Am Bittern & so much more.
Trip list: 97 species

Canada Goose

Wood Duck


American Black Duck

Common Eider

Ruffed Grouse

Wild Turkey

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Common Nighthawk

Chimney Swift

Sandhill Crane


Upland Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Common Murre


Black Guillemot

Atlantic Puffin

Tufted Puffin (seen by 4 participants, photos)

Laughing Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Common Tern

Arctic Tern

Common Loon

Leach’s Storm-Petrel

Northern Gannet

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Cormorant

American Bittern

Great Blue Heron

Turkey Vulture


Bald Eagle

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Belted Kingfisher

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker (seen by 4 participants)

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Alder Flycatcher

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Kingbird

Blue-headed Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay

American Crow

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Winter Wren

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Swainson’s Thrush

Hermit Thrush

American Robin

Gray Catbird

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

Purple Finch

American Goldfinch

Chipping Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Nelson’s Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle


Black-and-white Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

American Redstart

Northern Parula

Magnolia Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Palm Warbler

Pine Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Northern Cardinal