Birders Flock to Down East Maine for Spring Festival
~At last year's festival, 176 different types of birds were spotted~

WHITING, Maine - It's often said that birds of a feather flock together and in late May, there is no place it seems the birds would rather flock than Down East Maine.

As Memorial Day draws near, dozens of bird species descend on this coastal region of Maine, on route to their summer perches. The spot is ideal for birds because it is situated directly in the migration path for many that
are heading to northern climes and also because the area has many different habitats -including boreal and northern hardwood forests, bogs, fresh and salt water marshes, tidal flats, coastal islands, streams and grassy fields -allowing a wide range of birds to feel at home here.

For birders, this perfect storm of sorts is cause for serious celebration and at this third annual Down East Spring Birding Festival, that's exactly what binocular toting participants will do. Headquartered in Whiting, the
festival will run on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29, and is expected to result in sightings of nearly 200 types of birds including several that are considered a threatened species and rather rare, such as the Bald Eagle and the Peregrine Falcon.

Of the 230 species that could possibly be spotted, birders at last year's festival saw winged representatives from 176 different types of birds, ranging from Atlantic Puffins to Spruce Grouse and Common Eiders to Common
Loons. These are two species of birds that enthusiasts know are anything but common.

Many of the birds like the Blue-winged Teal and the Red Breasted Merganser are naturally vibrant in color. Michael McCabe, an organizer of the festival, says that many of the birds spotted by festival-goers are especially beautiful in late May because they are nesting, and thus have a more brilliant plumage.

In addition to selection, McCabe says the festival's greatest feature is its small size. While many bird festivals allow thousands of participants, the Down East event limits registration to 100 birders. The result, he says, is a "pastoral setting" that is both friendly and intimate.

Smaller groups means participants are able to move more freely and quietly on their guided expeditions, allowing them to get even closer to the birds. McCabe says the festival favorite Atlantic Puffins seen on a boating trip
to Machias Seal Island, are so close that the regal birds with their black backs, plump white chests, carroty orange beaks and feet, are almost touchable.

Scheduled events for this year's festival include guided birding canoe and sea kayak tours, daily social events, expeditions by boat and hikes around Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Quoddy State Park, Morong Point, Reversing Falls and along the Calais waterfront. Presentations will cover topics ranging from "Birding by Ear" to "Eiders and Art" to "Birding Optics."

Because of the abundance of birds that festival-goers are likely to see, McCabe says the Down East Spring Birding Festival is an ideal introduction to this growing hobby even for those who have never picked up a set of
binoculars. And for birding regulars, it is a chance to spot some of the country's most exceptional birds when their plumage is at its peak.

Registration for the festival is $50 per person and includes all guided hikes and presentations. Special boating expeditions require an additional fee.

For more information about the festival or to register, visit the event's Web site at www.downeastbirdfest.org or phone (207) 733-2201.


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