Mountains to Coast
Vermont, New Hampshire, & Maine
17-27 June 2020 (10-Day Tour)
Price: $3,500 (includes lodging & meals)
Single Supplement: $700
This tour is designed to provide a thorough look at the rich diversity of birdlife across northern New England with a focus on finding all of the region’s specialty species. The tour kicks off in the splendid state of Vermont, from the spectacular Lake Champlain and valley to the gentle and lush Green Mountains, where we’ll take a sunset tram ride to summit of Jay Peak to take in the surreal dusk chorus of Bicknell’s Thrush. We then start our boreal bird extravaganza as we explore New Hampshire and Maine’s northerly forests, pristine lakes, and expansive White Mountains. Finally, we head to the coast of Maine, exploring Acadia National Park, an offshore seabird colony, beaches, and coastal marshes. This portion of the tour includes a boat trip to Seal Island, home of an impressive seabird colony with Atlantic Puffins, other Alcids, Arctic Terns, and many other seabirds as well as seals and whales (see full itinerary below).
Overall, participants can expect to see around 200 species on the tour, including 25 Warbler species, 4 Alcid species, 6 Tern species, 9 flycatcher species, 5 vireo species, 4 wren species, 7 thrush species, 14 sparrow species, plus an array of raptors, owls, seabirds, marsh birds, waterfowl, and shorebirds (see complete species list).
The tour highlights the many specialty birds of New England including Bicknell’s Thrush and Blackpoll Warblers in the high mountains, boreal forest residents such as Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee, breeding seabirds such as Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Common Murre, Common Eider, Great Cormorant, and Arctic, Roseate, and Least Terns, beach-nesting Piping Plovers, the secretive Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows in coastal marshes, and northerly breeding migrants such as Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Philadelphia Vireo, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird. And not to mention warblers galore! The region features a dazzling array of warblers with around 25 species expected on the tour, including northerly breeders such as Cape May, Bay-breasted, “Yellow” Palm, Tennessee, and Mourning Warblers, along with Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Canada Warblers.
In addition to the specialties, the tour features many other amazing breeding birds such as Common Loon, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Black Tern, “Eastern” Willet, Upland Sandpiper, Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Willow and Alder Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, and Prairie Warblers, and Grasshopper, Vesper, and Field Sparrows to name a few.
This tour is led by top-notch bird guide Dr. David Hof, Ph.D.
Day 1: Meet in Burlington, VT. Introductions, overview, and tour logistics. Night in Burlington, VT.
Day 2: We kick off the tour’s birding in the spectacular region to the south of Burlington. Our primary focus for the day will be observing the “winged warblers” – Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers, and their array of hybrids. We’ll bird in a variety of habitats including the shores of Lake Champlain, marshes, grassland, and lush forest, taking in a wide variety of bird species. We’ll also search for species which are more challenging to find elsewhere on the tour. Highlight species include Sandhill Crane, Caspian Tern, Northern Goshawk, Black-billed Cuckoo, Willow and Alder Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Marsh Wren, Brown Thrasher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prairie Warbler, Field Sparrow, and Eastern Towhee. We’ll end the day with an optional evening outing looking for Eastern Whip-poor-wills and owls. Night in Middlebury, VT.
Day 3: We’ll start off the morning in the Middlebury, VT area looking for species we may have missed on the previous day as we make our way to the northwestern-most corner of Vermont. We’ll visit Mississquoi National Wildlife Refuge, situated near the top of Vermont’s lovely Lake Champlain, and home to breeding Black Terns among other species. We’ll explore the remote rolling countryside near the Canadian border, an excellent area for Upland Sandpipers, Grasshopper, Vesper, and Field Sparrows, Mourning Warblers, Eastern Meadowlarks, and displaying Bobolinks.
We’ll then ascend into the northern-most portion of Vermont’s Green’s Mts., where we’ll get settled into our lodging and nourish ourselves with a slope-side barbecue at the legendary ski mountain, Jay Peak. Post-dinner we’ll set out on a Tram Ride to Jay Peak’s summit, taking in the sunset and the breathtaking views of Vermont’s Green Mountain landscape. This gives us our first opportunity to see the secretive mountaintop specialist Bicknell’s Thrush, and to be serenaded by their ethereal dusk chorus, along with Swainson’s Thrush and others. This will also provide our first visit to higher elevation habitat featuring breeding Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, and Blackpoll Warblers singing their ventriloquial songs. Night at Jay Peak Resort, VT.
Day 4: We descend west from the mountains into the heart of the region known as the Northeast Kingdom, named for its remarkable and distinct beauty. Our morning birding destination is Moose Bog and the surrounding area, an excellent starting place for our boreal bonanza. This is the first of 3 days that we concentrate on finding the focal boreal specialists with many other great species thrown into the mix.
The boreal specialists include the residents – Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, and Boreal Chickadee, and several northerly breeding migrants such as Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and a gamut of warblers – Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee, Nashville, Magnolia, Cape May, Palm (“Yellow”), Bay-breasted, Wilson’s, Canada, and Mourning Warblers. Some of these specialties can be challenging to find, and this portion of the tour provides ample time and flexibility to search for these species.
The region also hosts a plethora of other species such as Broad-winged Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo, Winter Wren, Wood Thrush, Veery, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Green Warblers, and often Red and White-winged Crossbills.
In the afternoon, we bid farewell to the delightful state of Vermont as we cross the Connecticut River (where we’ll stop for breeding Bank Swallows), and head into the next splendid state of the tour – New Hampshire. Night at Connecticut Lakes, NH.
Day 5: We’ll spend the morning birding in the area around the Connecticut Lakes, the headwaters of the Connecticut River at the very northern tip of New Hampshire. These pristine lakes lie amongst rolling mountains and lush forest, and the region emanates a feeling of remoteness and total tranquility. This area is superb for boreal specialists, and we’ll continue to take them in, as well as the many other amazing species in the North Country. In particular, this can be a great place to find some of the more challenging boreal migrants such as Philadelphia Vireo, Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Cape May, and Wilson’s Warblers, and Lincoln’s Sparrow.
In the afternoon, we head west to Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, straddling the New Hampshire/Maine border, and featuring the expansive Lake Umbagog, lovely black spruce bogs, pristine rivers, and an array of forest types. We’ll take some down time at our lodging before driving up to Dixville Peak, our second mission for Bicknell’s Thrush. This site also typically hosts breeding “Red” Fox Sparrows. After dark, there will be an optional outing in search of Northern Saw-whet Owls. Night in Errol, NH.
Day 6: This is our final day looking for any boreal specialists or other species we may not have found so far on the tour, and we’ll have the flexibility to focus on any species “needs”. We’ll start off the day exploring some areas around Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, a prime area for boreal species. This area can be especially good for Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Mourning Warblers. The refuge also features an abundance of Common Loons, Common Goldeneye, and Bald Eagles, as well as an abundance of Moose.
We’ll then cross into our final great New England state of the tour – Maine, where we’ll explore the stunning mountain and lake landscape. We’ll stop at Grafton Notch State Park (excellent for Philadelphia Vireo), and the beautiful area around Rangeley, ME. Night in Rangeley, ME.
Day 7: After some quick morning birding near Rangeley, we’ll start our journey to the coast of Maine, making a stop for breeding Black Terns and Sandhill Cranes en route. We’ll get settled into our lodging in Bar Harbor in the heart of Acadia National Park. Time permitting, we’ll start some late afternoon exploration of Acadia, taking in the spectacular views of the rocky coastline with offshore lobster boats and forested islands, and spruce-fir forest and mountains rising from the ocean. We’ll top of the day with our first chance to enjoy Maine’s famous lobster and seafood. Night in Bar Harbor, ME.
Day 8: We’ll spend the morning in Acadia National Park taking in the scenery while looking for seabirds and birding the lovely coastal forest. We’ll take a drive up the famed Cadillac Mountain where Peregrines and Merlin often put on a good show.
We’ll then head to Stonington where we’ll meet up with our captain, and get on board the Nigh Duck. We’ll head out to Seal Island, about 20 miles offshore, and home to an impressive seabird colony containing nesting Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Arctic Terns, Great Cormorants, and Common Eiders. Seal Island has also been the summer home of a Red-billed Tropicbird for over 10 years, and he has returned for another year so we should have a great chance to see him. En route we’re also likely to see Common Murre, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Northern Gannet, and Scoters. Other possibilities include Red-throated Loon, Parasitic Jaeger, and Manx, Sooty, and Great Shearwaters, as well as Gray Seals, Harbor Seals, and Harbor Porpoise. For this excursion, we’ll be joined by seabird biologist, Keenan Yakola, of Audubon’s Project Puffin, who will tell us about the ecology of the breeding seabirds and ongoing research on Seal Island. Night near Stonington, ME.
Day 9: This day is a “rain date” for our boat trip, in case we experience high seas on the previous day. If all went according to plan, we’ll head down the coast to Popham Beach State Park to look for nesting Piping Plovers, Roseate and Least Terns, lingering shorebirds, and potential seabirds not encountered on our boat trip. We’ll also visit nearby grasslands to look for Upland Sandpiper and other species. We’ll then head to the delightful town of Freeport, and have a chance to indulge in some shopping at several outlet stores, including the LL Bean flagship store. Night in Freeport, ME.
Day 10: We kick off the final morning of birding at Scarborough Marsh, home to the lovely “sharp-tailed” sparrows – Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows and their hybrids. This area can also be good for Gadwall, Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, and sometimes Tricolored Heron and Little Egret. We’ll make our way to the beautiful nearby beaches hosting federally endangered Piping Plovers, as well as Roseate and Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers.
Additionally, we’ll take a jaunt in the Kennebunk Plains, a large expanse of grasslands, if we need another chance for Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow. Other stops will include the area around Biddeford Pool, a good place for terns, “Eastern” Willet, and providing an excellent opportunity for shorebirds and waterfowl not yet encountered on the tour. We’ll make a final stop at the picturesque lighthouse at the rocky point of Cape Elizabeth, where we have the possibility of adding seabird species to our trip list. Night in Portland, ME.
Day 11: Parting farewells, and rides to Portland airport.