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Friday, March 27, 2015

Travel Tip for Maine - Acadia National Park


          For those of you who are looking forward to summer vacation, I would recommend a stay at Acadia National Park located on the coast of Maine. Only about a twelve hour drive from the Philadelphia area, you could be devouring a delicious lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor's many fine restaurants while watching an ebbing tide.

           The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast. Weekly, annual and senior passes are available to purchase at the visitors center and maps are available for driving and hiking the back country.
             Birding in the park can be spectacular especially if this is your first time visit to New England. Bass Harbor Head Light is the only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island. Currently a private residence for the commander of the local Coast Guard unit, the lighthouse has short trails on either side that provide spectacular views. The lighthouse overlooks the ocean and many seabirds can been seen from the lookouts. Common Eiders are regular as well as Black Guillemots. In the fall search for Jaegers and Red-necked Phalaropes resting on the water. Make sure to search the woods around the parking lot for both White-winged and Red Crossbills.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
          The 27-mile Park Loop Road system offers outstanding views of the park's ocean shoreline, coastal forests, and mountain silhouettes. This historic road system is open from April 15 through November, 24 hours a day.
Park Loop Road

          The loop road starts at the visitor center and circles the whole island. There are many places to stop along the route, but my favorite spot is the Otter Cliffs area. Black Guillemots are almost a sure thing by scanning the surrounding ocean waters and be patient as the guillemots tend to spend a lot of time underwater.
Scanning for Guillemots

Black Guillemot
          At Schooner Point there is usually a flock of Common Eider floating among the large rock outcroppings from the shoreline.
Common Eider
            Black Scoters are usually present by scanning the ocean from just about any point along the park loop road. If you stop at a pull off that has a large wooded area try traipsing through looking for boreal birds. Gray-cheeked Thrush and Olive-sided Flycatcher could be found there along with nesting Broad-winged Hawks and Peregrine Falcon at Precipice Point. If you are lucky you might come across a Northern Goshawk swooping through the forest.
Olive-sided Flycatcher by Tom Munson
          Another excellent area to bird is called Seawall. Here the water area is protected in a cove and is a good spot for Red-throated and Common Loons, Common Eider, Double-crested Cormorants, Osprey, Yellow-bellied and Alder Flycatchers and many species of warblers, including Black-and-White, Magnolia and Wilson's Warbler.
American Redstart
           Of course after all this birding you'll have to stop for lunch in the park and the best place to do that is at Jordan Pond. The popovers are to die for and is the main reason that most people stop by. You will definitely need reservation for this stop.

Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond dining area
           Kids will enjoy the time in the park also with carriage rides on the old carriage trails throughout the park where they can also bicycle. Another great thing to do with kids is visit the tidal pools at low tide and examine the starfish and sea cucumbers and many other sea creatures that get caught in the pools. The park also has a Junior Ranger program. Mid-May through mid-October, kids of all ages can take part in the Junior Ranger Program to learn about Acadia. They will complete fun activities, participate in ranger-led programs, and take the junior ranger pledge to earn a signed certificate and an embroidered patch.

Carriage Path
              The Pretty Marsh area is a good spot to find passerine species like Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren Golden-crowned Kinglet, Parula, Black-throated Green Warbler and Purple Finch. As you can see Acadia has a lot to offer. And don't forget to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain at sunrise and be the first person to see the sun rise in the United States that day. Also an evening ride will usually produce a captivating sunset. You can go stargazing on the mountaintop since the park stays open after sunset.
Sunset at Cadillac Mt

          Whale watching tours are also available out of the town of Bar Harbor. On these tours you can usually expect to see some pelagic birds like Great Shearwater or Wilson's Storm-Petrels and maybe Atlantic Puffins. If you don't see any whales you get a free pass to try again another day.
           In the past we have rented a little cabin outside of town which can save you quite a bit of money.

            When you are finished in Acadia, how about a little side trip to Quoddy Head Lighthouse. This town is in the far northeastern portion of Maine where it connects to Canada and Campobella Island, former home of Franklin D Roosevelt. But getting back to Quoddy Head, park at the lighthouse and take a walk through the boreal forest. You can find Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays(rare), and Sprouse Grouse. The Spruce Grouse tend to be at the end of the boardwalk and everytime I have gone there I have seen the grouse.

          I hope you will be able to get to Maine some day. it would be well worth your time.

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