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Birding In The National Parks: Acadia Birding Festival

Herring gulls should be readily visible during the Acadia Birding Festival later this spring. Kirby Adams photo.

Most of the United States has now passed the coldest (by average) depth of winter, so it seems appropriate to take a look at places to book some spring birding adventures in the national parks. One spot always comes to minds when I think of late spring, birds, and national parks.

One of the premier birding festivals in the National Park System, the Acadia Birding Festival, celebrates its 15th year this spring. Registration is open now for the May 30th to June 2nd event based on Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park along the Maine coast.

The festival began its life as “Warblers and Wildflowers” to honor the explosion of spring blossoms and equally colorful songbirds that migrate up the Atlantic coast. Warblers can turn up just about anywhere during migration on Mount Desert Island, but to spot of the resident forest dwellers or the shore and sea birds you’ll have to seek out the appropriate habitat.

National Park Sea Kayak Tours is sending their guide Robert Shaw to the festival to take participants sea kayaking around the bays and inlets of Acadia. As a veteran of National Park’s tours, I can highly recommend signing up for one of these special events. You can’t beat being at water level in a silent craft if you want to get a good look at the gulls, terns, ducks, and shorebirds of Acadia. You’re also likely to paddle right under a perched Bald Eagle or two.

Plenty of boreal birds call the forests on the interior of Mount Desert Island their home.

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A nesting loon at Acadia National Park. Kirby Adams photo.

Boreal Chickadees, Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpeckers, and sometimes Red and White-winged Crossbills have been encountered on festival walks in years past.

For the adventurous birder with a good set of sea legs, there’s a pelagic tour on June 1st that takes festival-goers 25-30 miles offshore into the Gulf of Maine to see some of the seabird gems on the North Atlantic. Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Arctic Terns, Roseate Terns, Common Eiders and other pelagic species can be seen from the deck of the chartered whale-watching boat along with, quite appropriately, whales.

No birding excursion to Acadia National Park would be complete without scoping out the breeding Peregrine Falcons on the Precipice cliffs. Guides and park staff will be on hand to help birders locate the falcons and to explain how the park helps protect the birds and encourage their nesting. The Precipice Trail is closed during springtime to avoid disturbance of the falcon nests. In the evenings, when the day’s birding is done, presentations and lectures on a variety of subjects are offered.

This year everything from humorous anecdotes about birding and seabird identification to the perils of wind power development in the Gulf of Maine will be addressed. If you’d like more information, be sure to go to for details and registration.

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