A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Maine in Fall: Seabirds & Coastal Migrants 2023

September 8-17, 2023 with Eric Hynes guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The sunset before the remnants of Hurricane Lee reached us in Acadia was mesmerizing. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

This year's Maine in Fall tour was noteworthy for how much Mother Nature played a role. We dodged and dealt with thunderstorms, fog, and even a hurricane. The cancelation of the pelagic undoubtedly impacted our triplist species total. Despite all the challenges and plan Bs, we managed to have numerous memorable experiences and a bunch of avian highlights. The adventure was all the better for the kindness and consideration you all expressed to each other. All the lobster rolls, clam chowder, and blueberry pie didn't hurt either.

Our first full day in the field was a glorious one. We focused on shorebirds in York and Cumberland Counties and tallied an impressive list by the time the day was done. Particularly noteworthy species (in Maine) were: Western Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, American Golden-Plover, Whimbrel, and Pectoral Sandpiper. A Peregrine Falcon and several Merlins stirred the pot for us several times.

The days on enchanting Monhegan Island were relaxed and thrilling at the same time. Not getting in any kind of vehicle for several days is a pleasant change from the rest of our normal routines. Mixed flocks of almost two dozen warbler species, coming on in close, quickened our pulses. Noteworthy species included: White-winged Crossbill, Worm-eating Warbler, and Clay-colored and Lark sparrows.

Bar Harbor was our base for the last chapter of our adventure, before Hurricane Lee chased us back down to Portland. We explored Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park and enjoyed species like Nelson's Sparrow, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Northern Gannet.

The highlight of the tour for some of you was our morning cruise out of Eastport. Being in the middle of Old Sow at peak upwelling was unforgettable. The species of note were numerous: Minke and Fin whales, Harbor Porpoise, Great Cormorant, Common Murre, Black-legged Kittiwake, Little Gull, and so, so many Bonaparte's Gulls!

Thanks for making my job so easy and for choosing Field Guides. I can't imagine finding a better bunch of "fine adult birders." I hope I get to bird with all of you again, sooner than later. Take care.


—Eric Hynes

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)

Lots of small flocks grazing in fields along the way

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Sure, there were plenty of exciting bird highlights but I am not certain how many birds created the same eagerness as wild Maine blueberry pie a la mode. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

Several encounters in lakes in central Maine but the one flying down the coastline in Biddeford was a real surprise

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Two flew in while we were on the Eastern Trail and briefly landed in a panne

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

I was surprised to see that one drop in with two Blue-winged Teal. It is a bit early for one to show up in Maine.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

Common and widespread but never in big numbers


Good looks later in the tour at this Atlantic Coast species

GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)

Two in the marsh behind the Pelreco building might have been missed if they hadn't gotten up and flown off

COMMON EIDER (DRESSER'S) (Somateria mollissima dresseri)

Lots along the coast; too bad the drakes hadn't finished molting yet to see that striking plumage

SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)

Distant scope views the last morning from East Point Sanctuary

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Melanitta deglandi)

One drake showed well just beyond the breakers at Biddeford Beach at the start of the tour

BLACK SCOTER (Melanitta americana)

Distant scope views the last morning from East Point Sanctuary

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Pointed out quite a few as we were driving

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

An out-of-place but entertaining presence on Monhegan Island

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)

Good scope views at a bird still in alternate plumage our last morning

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]


MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Thick out on Monhegan

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Immatures were conspicuous out on Monhegan

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Heard lots of whistling and enjoyed good scope views from Ocean Ave in Biddeford

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I don't want to jinx it, but we seem to have consistent luck catching up to a Little Gull during our boat trip out of Eastport every year. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

A real mix of birds in various states of molt at the beginning of the tour

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis dominica)

Just one distant juvenile

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

By the hundreds at Pine Point

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

A cooperative individual was out on Monhegan

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

The "rotary phone being dialed number 7" call was conspicuous as we got out of the van at Hills Beach; it must have been flying over

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

Excellent looks at this striking shorebird

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

Observant Bob first drew our attention to this probing shorebird; a regular but rare migrant in fall migration in Maine

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

By the hundreds

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

Good study of a molting bird at Biddeford Beach

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Tiny, warm-plumaged, and light-colored legs

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)

It was fun to tease these larger and longer-winged birds out of the flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

This is not a common migrant in Maine so I was pretty tickled to have such a great view of a gorgeous juvenile bird at Scarborough Marsh


The default sandpiper on the coast of Maine in fall migration; we had lots of great studies

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

We played "Where's Waldo" among the large flocks of Semipalmated Sandpipers and managed to tease out two of them

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

The biggest numbers we encountered were at Hills Beach; most birds were juveniles

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Just a few individuals

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

Our prize for our perseverance in the rain in Augusta

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Plenty of good looks

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)

Most depart by the time we run this tour but we found five foraging on the mudflats at Pine Point

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Good comparison with their larger cousin at Dunstan Landing

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Getting to know familiar birds better was a theme of the tour. We had intimate experiences with so many shorebirds. The delicate, pale tips to the coverts on this Semipalmated Plover marked it as a juvenile. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)

COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)

We saw well over 100 during our cruise out of Eastport

BLACK GUILLEMOT (Cepphus grylle)

That raft of nine with all stages of molt was interesting

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)


Easier to see their unmarked greenish-yellow bills and inky wingtips than their dark legs on this pelagic gull

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

Wow -- what an awesome study with hundreds around the boat multiple times on Passamaquoddy Bay

LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)

The smallest gull in the world is predominately a Eurasian species so it is also a banner day when you find one. Captain Butch kept us in a great position to study the subtle differences from Bonaparte's Gulls.

LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)

Losing their hoods by this time

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

These inland breeders were just arriving on the coast

HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)



This species is showing up in increasing numbers in North America. We had multiple opportunities to study them in comparison to their larger cousins


The largest gull in the world

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

I was surprised to see a pair fly by us at Seawall during our picnic lunch and then have another pair fly along the shore at Lubec giving their loud, raspy call.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

A few still around

Gaviidae (Loons)

COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

Nice to see adults in breeding plumage on lakes in central Maine

Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)

NORTHERN GANNET (Morus bassanus)

We scoped these massive seabirds from coastal vantage points several times

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We passed this Harbor Seal haul-out while on the ferry out to Monhegan Island. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Their larger size and heavier bills were easily discernible from the next species when they were roosting on rocks together

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

A common breeder in Maine

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

What a bonus! Most birds were sheltering out of view during tropical storm Lee but we managed to find this cryptic skulker peeking out from some cattails and then we all got to enjoy its distinctive two-toned upperwings as it flew across the marsh.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

More days than not

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

The one all the way up in Eastport was surprising

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Quite a few at Wharton Point

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Easily overlooked but we managed to find several along the way

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

All of our sightings were of juvenile birds

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Not known to breed in Maine; we were lucky to find a couple juveniles that headed north in post-breeding dispersal; excellent comparative studies with the similar previous species

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Effortless soarers

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

This species has really comeback strong in Maine as a breeder

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

Cinnamon-bellied juveniles

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

A few flyovers; short-handled sledgehammers

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Normally a western species, Lark Sparrows routinely show up on the coast of Maine in small numbers. What a handsome sparrow. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

COOPER'S HAWK (Accipiter cooperii)

The flying cross

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Mostly adults

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

This species is few and far between in Maine but we spotted a distant soaring bird while we were on the Eastern Trail. The pale crescents at the base of the primaries were evident because it was backlight.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

On the wires

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Roadside mostly in southern Maine during our tour

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Daily sightings on this tour; they seemed to be hunkering down on low rocks during tropical storm Lee

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Heard but not seen from Dunstan Landing

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

Mostly heard birds

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

Calling when we were in Tremont

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

Heard more than seen

NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus luteus)

The most conspicuous woodpecker of the tour

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

Multiple days we had excellent looks at this speedy raptor, but our last morning was probably the best, with several scope views of perched birds.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

It was really exciting when the immature bird buzzed the mudflats at Pine Point putting up thousands of shorebirds.

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We saw Semipalmated Sandpipers by the hundreds, but sprinkled in among them were White-rumped Sandpipers if you knew what to look for: elongated structure, longer legs, light supercilium and a pale base to the slightly decurved bill. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

We saw several birds well on our hike across Monhegan

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

Just a few still around

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

Several cooperative birds

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

At least one was hanging around the village of Monhegan

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

This species can be hard to come by but we had a couple good looks at creamy-throated birds on Monhegan

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

Plenty of good looks

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

That squadron overhead at Mitchell Cove was memorable

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)


FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

Our session with a family group proved educational

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)


Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Maine's state bird

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

Finally caught up to a calling bird our last morning


"szeet szeet szeet"

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

A favorite of mine

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (EASTERN) (Sitta carolinensis carolinensis)

Noted the vocalization difference from western birds

Field Guides Birding Tours
Post-breeding dispersal usually brings a few Yellow-crowned Night-Herons up to Maine in late summer. We were fortunate to notice two different juveniles at the beginning of the tour. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

Heard well along the start of the trail at Boot Head Preserve

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Just a heard bird at Dunstan Landing

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

A boisterous little beast

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Flocks on wires

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

Saw a few here and there but heard plenty more

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

Excellent scope views of this rusty Mimid our first morning in Biddeford

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Another Biddeford bird

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

Just after the rain at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

That juvenile allowed us prolonged looks as it foraged down the trail ahead of us

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

A common bird in Maine most of the year but few and far between in September

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Swarms on Monhegan

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]


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Lesser Black-backed Gulls used to be a real hotline bird in Maine but finding them along the coast in September just takes a little effort. Even if they all hide their heads, those yellow legs give them away. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Our last morning there were some cooperative birds along Ocean Ave


THE bird of the tour. We enjoyed a pair teed up in spruce on the hike across Monhegan


Scattered throughout

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

Mostly juveniles

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

This is a rare species in Maine but a few consistently end up on Monhegan Island in fall migration

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus)

Finding one on Monhegan was fun but not surprising. Finding one on Ocean Ave in Biddeford was definitely more unusual

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

We had a few along the boardwalk at Sieur de Monts

NELSON'S SPARROW (ATLANTIC COAST) (Ammospiza nelsoni subvirgata)

A tough get. One teed up pretty far out in the marsh -- some got a scope view

SALTMARSH SPARROW (Ammospiza caudacuta caudacuta)

We really had to work for this target species. A juvenile eventually gave us good looks

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

A few birds early in the tour

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Plenty. Lots of youngsters on Monhegan

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

Primarily a heard bird in the fog on Monhegan but we did see a couple flyovers the last morning on the island

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

Neat to see a little migration push show up one morning on Monhegan

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Thick in the summer but many have moved on by the time of the tour

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Flocks on Monhegan

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I love playing Where's Waldo. One of the "Waldos" in a flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers in Maine in September is Western Sandpiper. This individual's longer, decurved bill tapers to a fine point. The rusty scapulars are a decent tell as well. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

We kicked one off the trail coming and going on our way over to Whitehead

WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)

The biggest surprise of the tour. The northern edge of this species range stops south of Maine so clearly this was a wrong way bird in fall migration.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Conspicuous on Monhegan this year


Mostly plain-faced juveniles

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

One of the first warblers we found on Monhegan turned out to be the only one of the tour

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

One in a mixed flock on Lighthouse Hill

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

Maybe the most numerous warbler we encountered

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Spastic foragers

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

We can all recall that one that perched briefly in the open in gorgeous morning light

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

Surprisingly few

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

Most of the mixed flocks we encountered on Monhegan had at least one of these

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)

That one bird down by the ice pond seemed frozen. I don't ever recall seeing one hold a perch that long before


Bold, pale mantle streaks are the key to the ID

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

A little pack hung out near that one garden we passed each walk on Monhegan

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)

Amazing to think some of those birds are fattening up to make a huge flight to the Caribbean or even South America before putting down again

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)

Just a few

PALM WARBLER (YELLOW) (Setophaga palmarum hypochrysea)

Normally we see the "western" subspecies in fall migration on Monhegan but we definitely had a yellow-bellied bird -- the type that breeds in the northeast

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)


PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

Several good looks in mixed flocks on the way down to Lobster Cove


Not as numerous as I am used to in fall migration but we had multiple good looks

CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)

One came in with a flock down by the Wyeth house

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Holly Merker, from the National Audubon Society group out from Hog Island Camp, got a few of us on one down by Lobster Cove

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Common Murres were no longer in breeding plumage when we ecountered them up close in Passamaquoddy Bay. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

More heard than seen

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Just a few



Scurrying about

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

Mostly noticed while we were driving

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Boot Head Preserve

HARBOR PORPOISE (Phocoena phocoena)

Numerous in Head Harbor Passage but we saw some in U.S. waters as well

COMMON MINKE WHALE (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

At least three individuals, including Stumpy. That one that surfaced so close to the boat was unforgettable

FIN WHALE (Balaenoptera physalus)

Bonus! We were delighted that the "greyhound of the sea" was being "lazy"

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

A few of us saw one successfully cross the road after dinner in South Portland and Acacia spotted another on the rocks at a marsh roadside

HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)

Lots of great looks at "seadogs"

GRAY SEAL (Halichoerus grypus)

The larger "horsehead"

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Most sightings were on the day we drove up to Eastport

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The finest adult birders -- haha! We had a lot of fun with that running joke throughout the tour. Photo by guide Eric Hynes.

Totals for the tour: 145 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa