Maine Birders Get New Resources Online, In Print
It’s a great time to be a birdwatcher in Maine. From the release of a spectacular new bird identification guide, to creation of a new eBird server, there’s a ton of information available to get you started on a great new outdoor experience or to serve your expanding interest in birding.
The eBird server can be accessed at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site. In partnership with the Maine Birding Trail and the state's top birding guide, Bob Duchesne, the Maine Tourism Commission, and Cornell University, IF&W has created a state-specific version of eBird – a popular Web site where birders share information about sightings, trips, and trends.
IF&W wildlife biologist Steve Walker noted that, “Birders are very passionate about birding, and we at the Department hope to harness that passion and energy in a way that best informs our work, but also demonstrate our responsiveness to non-game bird resources and to a growing constituency of birders.”
Walker is responsible for the site and provided most of the information for this column.
Creation of the site cost $10,000, with $5,000 provided in a grant from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, $2,500 from sales of Maine birder bands, and $2,500 from IF&W’s Information and Education Division budget.
In recent years, about 300 residents and visitors purchased Maine birder bands, which can be ordered on the department’s Web site. A donation of $20 is suggested but you can donate any amount you wish.
So far this year, only 180 birders have donated and purchased birder bands, indicating that the opportunity needs more promotion. But that’s hard, given the department’s serious lack of funding.
Walker reports that annual maintenance of the site will cost only $1,000, and he is counting on that money being available from birder band sales.
Since the site was launched in May, over 4,200 bird checklists have been submitted, and 305 bird species reported. A “ton of reports” have come from our friends-from-away who enjoy birding in Maine, reports Walker.
Birding continues to hold great promise for Maine’s outdoor economy, and it’s good to see more people in the tourism arena both recognizing this potential and stepping up to help Bob Duchense, who thus far has been a one-man-marketer-of-birding-in-Maine.
In addition to serving in the Maine legislature and writing the outstanding Maine Birding Trail book (published in 2009 by Down East), Bob is the state’s top birding guide. I saw him just last week guiding a lady from New Jersey on a birding adventure in Baxter State Park.
It was my privilege to participate in the 2011 Maine Audubon Bird-a-thon with Bob, and I learned a lot. My wife, Linda, and I have been avid birders for only five years, but we’re really into it now, and Bob has been a great mentor.
The eBird Web site includes an excellent tutorial, questions and answers, and a user-friendly format for reporting your observations.
My identification of birds has improved significantly since I got The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds, published in 2011 by the Princeton University Press. I was captivated by an interview with the author, Richard Crossley, on the Princeton Web site.
Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder and photographer. His new guidebook is unlike any other birding guide. It features large, lifelike scenes for each species, showing them near, far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors including flight, and in the habitat in which they live. The visuals are astounding, beautiful, and very very helpful in identifying specific species.
It would be extremely valuable to any birder, from novice to expert. Crossley’s new guide has added immensely to my enjoyment of birding, and even caused me to set aside my favored mysteries some evenings to pour over Crossley’s photographs.
IF&W’s eBird is becoming a good resource for me as well, and offers a reminder of how large a constituency that department now serves, beyond it’s traditional hunters and anglers.