Happy Holidays from your friends at Down East.
One of the conditions my future wife set for me in the early days of our relationship - if I wanted to have a relationship - was that I needed to take up birdwatching. She never came right out and said this, but I took the hint. You sign on for lots of strange things in the name of love.
I've been birding for ten years now, and like many people who are late converts to a cause, I've become something of a zealot. I now store birdsongs on my iPod and secretly practice hooting like a barred owl when no one is within earshot.
Birding is called twitching in Great Britain, and I can think of no better term for this eccentric pastime. You do lots of twitching when you stand on the Rockland breakwater on a subzero December morning, scanning the harbor for surf scoters. That's where you'll find me a few Saturdays from now: tallying birds on the rocky fringe of Penobscot Bay as part of the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count.
For one day each year, my wife and I devote ourselves to counting every bird we see in a pie-sliced section of Rockland, Rockport, and Thomaston. This might strike you as a bizarre thing to do, but taking part in the Christmas Count has become a Yuletide tradition for us, as much as midnight Mass or visiting our families. Watching sea smoke rise from Rockland Harbor, listening to the yodeling of long-tailed ducks, gossiping with fellow birders, and freezing our own tails off - these are some of the ways we celebrate the holiday. For us, it's an occasion to reconnect with old friends and with our beloved state of Maine.
As you'll read in this issue, Mainers have unique ways of celebrating the holidays. Some donate Christmas wreaths from Washington County to the graves of Arlington National Cemetery. Others transport their great-grandfather's Swedish cabin from Aroostook County to Harpswell to serve as a festive guesthouse.
On behalf of all your friends at Down East, I'd like to wish you the best as you celebrate your own Maine traditions. If you happen to live in a Christmas Count region, I hope you'll fill your feeder and count your cardinals. You might even find yourself with a new December ritual. And if on an arctic afternoon you see some half-frozen birder raising his shaky binoculars to count the gulls on the roof of a McDonald's, be sure to say hello, because that shivering fool might very well be me.
Editor in Chief
Editor in Chief
- By: Paul Doiron