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Piping Plover

The Maine Beaches

Scarborough Beach
Least Tern
Kittery Lighthouse
York County in Southern Maine has some of the most easily accessible birding in all of New England. The coastline is dotted with parks and refuges. There are vast stretches of public sand beaches. Even those hot spots that are not on the coast are a mere 15 minutes from main routes. Interstate 95 and US Route 1 enable a quick transit from site to site.

York County also boasts the highest concentration of lodgings, dining, and amusements in the state. Because of its proximity to urban markets, it maintains a high regard for creature comforts while retaining a small town, fishing-village ambience. Furthermore, it is within a two hour drive of major airports in Portland, Boston, and Manchester, New Hampshire.

Breeding season is rich in habitat diversity, and because York County is southernmost in the state, it boasts a greater number of species than anywhere else. Kennebunk Plains is a lingering remnant of a grassland habitat that has all but disappeared. It is home to Grasshopper, Vesper, and Savannah Sparrows, and Upland Sandpipers. Laudholm Farm and the Wells National Estuarine Reserve protect a breeding population of Piping Plovers and Least Terns that scurry practically underfoot. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge shelters breeding Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows.

Migration season also has its share of pleasures. Several of the migrant traps in spring and one of Maineís best hawk-watching mountains in autumn - Mount Agamenticus - are in York County. Biddeford Pool is notorious for its surprises. Unlike frozen portions of the Maine interior, birding York County in winter equals, and sometimes surpasses, the excitement of summer. Many of Maineís sea ducks are unlikely in summer. Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, and Razorbills donít stray far from their nesting islands during the warm months, but in the off-season all may be encountered a stoneís throw from the waterís edge. Even Dovekies turn up occasionally. Subarctic breeders triple their numbers along the Maine coast in winter. Birders can find Black, White-winged, and Surf Scoters just about anywhere. They are joined by scores of Horned Grebes, Red-necked Grebes, Red-throated Loons, Long-tailed Ducks, and Buffleheads that are largely absent in summer. Common Eiders also triple there numbers and at a couple well-known spots they are joined by King Eiders. Harlequin Ducks are seldom seen from shore anywhere in Maine except York County.

Purple Sandpipers and Great Cormorants return to the coast in large numbers each winter. Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls turn up regularly. Large concentrations of Bonaparteís Gulls often contain a surprise Common Black-headed or Little Gull. Best of all, the oceanís effect modifies the weather so that snow and ice along the shoreline is less of a problem than further up the coast. The sandy beaches are free of snow, cleansed with every tide.

Southern Maine shelters the bulk of the stateís population and so it contains the highest number of birders. Rare and unusual species seldom go unnoticed. The York County Audubon Society is particularly active and its members are often found leading interesting field trips and volunteering their expertise at Laudholm Farm and the Wells National Estuarine Reserve.