Scraggly Lake and Baxter State Park
June 29, 2009
||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).
||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 they’d
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.
||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.
||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.
||In my favorite half-mile section, a female
Spruce Grouse stepped onto the road and into the sun to
pose for photos. I’m 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.
||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. I’ll 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.