Yearly Archives: 2021

Jun 162021

No Tropicbird

In the spring of 2005, a Red-billed Tropicbird, a stunning white bird with a bright red bill and a long streaming tail was seen in the cold waters off the Maine coast.  Thousands of miles off-course . . . this bird normally prowls the seas off the Lesser Antilles. It was seen off and on […]

Read More

Jun 132021


With the pandemic winding down, date night has returned to America . . . dinner and a movie. For the Whitakers, last night was dinner . . . then a 90 minute drive . . . followed by a five mile hike, down a scary road, in pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded […]

Read More

Jun 112021

Climbing Saddleback

I know, I know . . . you’re expecting a photo of a cute warbler . . . or a stunning raptor . . . or a rarity that has inexplicably appeared in Maine.  Nope, today you’re getting a selfie of MOI!!!! The Bicknell’s Thrush holds a special place in the hearts of the Maine […]

Read More

Jun 82021

Out to Sea

When planning a Big Year . . . it’s easy to forget the deep sea birds . . . these are the most mysterious and the hardest to find.  To have a shot at the Maine State Record (317), I’ll need to get almost all of of the deep sea birds . . . and […]

Read More

Jun 420212 comments

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

There have been a number of books (and a movie) about Big Years, and a running theme is the stress they put on a relationship. Fortunately, unlike most of the spouses and partners in these books . . . Ingrid is also a Birder and often she wants to get the bird just as much […]

Read More

Jun 12021

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on Nest

Back in mid-April, I got a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Kittery . . . Maine Big Year bird # 178.  Forty days and 94 birds, later I hadn’t seen another one.  Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much . . . except my wife hasn’t seen her first Gnatcatcher of the year . . . and […]

Read More

May 292021

One Warbler to Go

With spring migration pretty much over . . . I’ve picked up 27 warblers so far this year.  The only regularly occurring Maine warbler that I don’t have is a Mourning Warbler, a bird I have never seen.  During the summer it nests in northern Maine . . . looks like some summer road trips […]

Read More

May 282021

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Today I drove almost four hours north to pick up the rare Black-backed Woodpecker. A friend found this bird (on its nest last week) and I was very excited about chasing it. Unfortunately access to birds in the Maine north woods involves horrible dirt logging roads . . . far away from civilization (i.e. Dunkin […]

Read More

May 232021

Rushing Around

A Maine Big Year during migration season is chaotic as we rush from place to place looking for one rare bird at a time. I say we, because Ingrid is with me on many of my excursions (when she isn’t teaching her 4th grade cherubs). Most of the easy birds have been checked off but […]

Read More

May 202021

Six Vireos

It’s a hot summer day, there isn’t a breeze blowing and everything is still and oppressive . . . except for one bird that is singing over and over again . . . as many as 20,000 times in a day. We hear the Red-eyed Vireo sing so often, a whistling phrase “here-I-am, in-the-tree, look-up, […]

Read More

May 192021

Grassland Habitat

As Ingrid and I chase birds around the state of Maine trying to get to 318 . . . we are constantly shifting habitats. A bird that is very common on the beach . . . say a Piping Plover . . . is never found in woods, just a mile away. Next month I’ll […]

Read More

May 142021


One of the fun (and not so fun) parts of a Big Year is the constant change in plans. On a typical day, I’m up before dawn with a plan. I might be going to a particular beach, driving an hour to a marsh or hiking a preserve trying to add a new bird to […]

Read More

May 92021

Solitary Sandpiper

This is a Solitary Sandpiper . . . let’s call him Sam.  Last winter he was hanging out in the Amazon basin, chowing down on frogs and insects without a care in the world. Then around March 15, a chemical reaction occurred in his brain . . . maybe triggered by the length of the […]

Read More

May 52021

Blue-winged Warbler

Back in April of 2017, Ingrid and I were in High Island, Texas and we saw a beautiful bird called a Blue-winged Warbler. Its stunning yellow body, sharp black bill and grayish blue wings were breathtaking. Four years later we finally saw another one . . . well . . . actually two. A couple […]

Read More

May 12021

Yellow-headed Blackbird

If I should die during my Maine Big Year . . . chances are it won’t be because I fell off a mountain or got mauled by a bear.  Rather it will be my habit of driving slowly about around rural neighborhoods, early in the morning and scanning the yard and shrubbery with my binoculars. […]

Read More

May 12021

Chimney Swift

Today I hit a Maine Big Year milestone . . . Bird #200 . . . a Chimney Swift. Basically a flying cigar, this bird spends most of its life in the air, only landing to roost in chimneys.  They are incapable of perching in trees like other birds but have adapted to clinging to […]

Read More

Apr 292021

Finding the White-faced Ibis

The Glossy Ibis has become a regular summer visitor to the marshes of southern Maine.   Feeding in huge flocks, their redish-black plumage gives off a shimmer in the sun.  The flock in this photo had 197 birds in it. Here is where the fun starts . . . somewhere along the Maine coast, in […]

Read More

Apr 252021

Tricolored Heron

Each summer for the last six years, at least one Tricolored Heron has been seen in the marshes around Portland, Maine. This is unusual as this beautiful blue/gray/purple and white rarely nest north of New Jersey . . . but weird hybrid birds have been seen in the area in subsequent years . . . […]

Read More

Apr 2220211 comment

White-winged Dove in Maine?

Today a White-winged Dove showed up in a residential community in Gardiner, Maine . . . about 1800 miles north of it’s normal stomping grounds in Florida. It was a gray, cold, windy day and even snowed a bit and I really didn’t enjoy the two hours it took me to find the rarity . […]

Read More

Apr 212021

American Bittern

Today Ingrid and I went searching for an American Bittern, a secretive bird of marshes and reeds. I had seen the bird flying at a distance last week but we really wanted an up close photo. For 45 minutes we scanned the marsh with our binoculars … getting closer every time it vocalized (a cartoonish croaking). Finally […]

Read More

Apr 202021

Broad-winged Hawks

Today, Ingrid and I observed a spectacular bird migration as we watched Broad-winged Hawks soaring on thermals as they moved north. Most raptors migrate as individuals, but Broad-wings move in small groups or even large flocks. A Golden Eagle, a very rare state visitor and a pièce de résistance for a Maine Big Year was […]

Read More

Apr 142021

Eastern Meadowlark

Photographed this Eastern Meadowlark today at Kennebunk Plains, a grassland preserve that is one of the rare places in Maine to reliably see this beautiful bird. My friend Kevin Tolan, a researcher, tells me that the population of Meadowlarks in the state is declining at a rate of 7.5% per year, and he doubts this […]

Read More

Apr 142021

Snowy Owl

While looking for early migrants in “downtown” Biddeford Pool, I looked across the channel . . . at the stately homes just a few yards away as the crow flies (but 20 minutes away by car). There, sitting on the edge of a freshly mowed lawn and bunches of spring daffodils was a Snowy Owl. […]

Read More

Apr 112021

Palm Warbler

If you ask birders in Maine what is their favorite family of bird . . . I’d wager on Warblers.  These tiny, colorful, fast moving, bug eaters are often just a few feet away.  Warblers are the highlight of spring migration, somedays the trees and bushes are just dripping with birds. On Thursday I saw […]

Read More

Apr 72021

Cattle Egret

This morning I was driving north on I-95 heading for a reliable spot for early spring Warblers when Ingrid texted me . . . “a Cattle Egret has been seen in Newport, Maine”. Maine is a good 500 miles outside of the Cattle Egret’s range but each year several overshoot and are seen in the […]

Read More