Scarborough Marsh is one of the top places to bird in Maine. It encompasses over 3,000 acres of estuarine saltmarsh, 15% of the state’s total. Nelson’s and saltmarsh sparrows overlap and interbreed here. Flocks of glossy ibis forage throughout the marsh. Great blue herons, great egrets, and snowy egrets are common. Little blue herons are regular. Tri-colored herons are uncommon.
The marsh is very wide and the Spartina grass is thick, hiding many of the pools. This is a good place for a spotting scope. There is a seasonal Maine Audubon Nature Center midway along Pine Point Road. The center can provide trail maps, birding tips, and a bird-sighting register. It also rents canoes for access into the estuary. In season, there are regularly scheduled nature trips available from Maine Audubon.
From the Maine Audubon parking lot, scan the marsh slowly, noting the walking path and bridge to the south. Take the time to explore the pools on the opposite side of the road. This is one of the best places for a close view of shorebirds, particularly greater and lesser yellowlegs, but also semipalmated sandpipers, stilt sandpipers, and short-billed dowitchers. Long-billed dowitchers are rare in Maine, but they occur annually in this spot.
Just south along Pine Point Road, Eastern Road (now a walk/bike path) provides an opportunity to stroll deeply into the marsh along some of the best salt flats in the refuge. This is the preferred place to see both sharp-tailed sparrows. High tide has a tendency to push sparrows closer to the path for easy viewing. Willets breed here. Red knots, Hudsonian godwits, and stilt sandpipers are regular in small numbers in August-September. Be aware that harbor seals swim all the way into the marsh at high tide and may be seen when least expected.
Directions: Route 1 through Scarborough passes through the north edge of Scarborough Marsh. Drive south along Route 1 from Portland, cross the marsh, and turn left onto Pine Point Road (Route 9) at Dunstan Landing. Proceed to the Maine Audubon Nature Center parking lot to begin the adventure. From Saco, drive north on Route 1. Pine Point Road will be a right turn at Dunstan Landing.