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Scraggly Lake and Baxter State Park
June 29, 2009

Scraggly Lake sign First, I have a confession to make. When I included the Maine Public Reserve Lands at Scraggly Lake in the new Maine Birding Trail guidebook, my glowing recommendation was based on a very productive visit in August, 2007 confusing fall warblers everywhere. The habitat was so diverse and mixed that I was sure it would be a great spot for songbirds in the spring and for a few boreal specialties. However, it remained on my mind for the next two years that I would have to go back in the spring or early summer to find out what it was REALLY like, when I could do a more thorough inventory of the birds. Holy Cow! Tons of warblers, including a singing Cape May, and many Ovenbirds (right). Ovenbird
Boreal Chickadee There seemed to be a zillion Veeries, many Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, and one singing Wood Thrush - the surprise of the day considering that I rarely see them north of Bangor, especially in such coniferous habitat. There were several singing Scarlet Tanagers, and cluster after cluster of Boreal Chickadees. Clearly theyd all just fledged their families, because they were active, vocal, and numerous. In one day, I tripled the size of my collection of bad Boreal Chickadee photos. Several times when I stopped for the chickadees, I got a family of Gray Jays thrown in for free. Easy pickings. I even had three crossbills fly over. They sounded like Red, but I couldn't be sure. Both crossbills make a jip-jip sound while flying. The Red is a stronger, slower, more distinct jip, which often helps to distinguish the two by ear, but it is not fool-proof, and the morning was too overcast and gray to get a good look. Boreal Chickadee
Magnolia Warbler And so, five hours passed as I racked up warbler after warbler. The Magnolia Warblers shown here were abundant. Nashville, Black-throated Blue, and Blackburnian Warblers were always within earshot. There was not much singing from the Black-throated Green Warblers, but their constant chatter in the woods showed that the parents had all they could handle in feeding their demanding fledglings. A smattering of Black-and-white Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and American Redstarts announced their presence through song, and I was once scolded by both sexes of a Chestnut-sided Warbler pair just to let me know that I was apparently too close to the nest. Just beyond where the Cape May Warbler was singing, a Northern Waterthrush kept pace. Magnolia Warbler
Canada Warbler Of course, since Scraggly Lake is just above Baxter State Park and along the way to the north entrance, I decided to return through the park. Because the showers persisted until 10am, and since the sun made recurring appearances through the afternoon, there was persistent singing much of the day. The northern half of the park was standard fare: warblers and thrushes. When I reached the boreal area that stretches between Nesowadnehunk Field Campground and Camp Phoenix, I was treated to another birding bonanza. The two Bay-breasted Warblers and two Blackpolls that were singing just below Camp Phoenix were at it again in virtually the same trees I had left them in the previous Thursday.

American Redstart
Spruce Grouse In my favorite half-mile section, a female Spruce Grouse stepped onto the road and into the sun to pose for photos. Im not sure which was the bigger surprise the grouse or the fact that there was actually SUN. I guess the latter, because when I had my tour group in that spot the previous week, I pointed out the small depression of a dust bath on the side of the road and commented at the time that there was a grouse hidden in there somewhere. Where was she when I needed her? For that matter, where were the White-winged Crossbills when I needed them? Three flew over at that moment and landed in a nearby tree. Then a Blackpoll came out to pose for pictures (below left). Then more Gray Jays, a pip-pip-pipping Olive-sided Flycatcher in full view, and singing Fox Sparrows. Spruce Grouse
Blackpoll I love that spot.

Continuing on the return, a Bay-breasted Warbler posed for photos between Tracy and Grassy Pond (right), and another sang from right next to Katahdin Stream Campground.  When I lead trips, I seldom get to shoot photos, so that was the main purpose of day's trip. Though I only got a few of them in front of the lens, it was a 20 warbler day. Also a 4 thrush day, and 2 species each of grouse, jays, and chickadees. Ill take more days like that.

Baxter State Park is site #78 on the Maine Birding Trail. Scraggly Lake is off the trail, and can be found on page 188 of the Maine Birding Trail guidebook.
Bay-breasted Warbler