Learn How to Be a Better Birder with Maine Expert Derek Lovitch
Down East Adventures is excited to offer more workshops in 2024 with the owner of Freeport Wild Bird Supply.
Derek Lovitch has made a career out of his lifelong passion for birds. After graduating with a degree in environmental policy from Rutgers University, he worked in avian research and education projects in nine states, from New Jersey to Hawaii, Florida to Michigan. He also spent three summers as a tour guide on Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, serving as tour director in 2003 and conducting the first comprehensive Fall Avian Survey in the islands’ history.
Derek and his wife, Jeannette, live in Durham, where they own and operate Freeport Wild Bird Supply, a retail store that caters to birders of all levels. The store serves as a vehicle for Derek to continue sharing his enthusiasm for birding, birds, and bird conservation.
We talked with Derek to get more insight into his birding background and some of his favorite spots to go bird-watching.
How did you get into birding?
I honestly have no idea. I started when I was very young, perhaps as nothing more than a natural evolution from my love of dinosaurs at the time. I have some bird-related memories from childhood, but no one moment, “spark bird,” or influence has ever stuck out.
Where is your favorite place in Maine to birdwatch?
I’d have to answer this based on the season, but in summer, it’s anywhere there are a lot of shorebirds. In spring and fall, it’s Monhegan, and in certain conditions in the fall, it’s Sandy Point in Yarmouth. In between, it’s my backyard — I like nothing more than watching birds outside my bird-safe windows while sipping my coffee in the morning!
Do you have a most memorable bird sighting?
There are too many to name: Spoon-billed Sandpiper on the breeding grounds brought me to a little tear. But what immediately comes to mind is the Tufted Puffin — one of my favorite birds in the world – that I spotted on Eastern Egg Rock in July, which was my 400th species in Maine, and I had lost hope of ever seeing this near-mythical Gulf of Maine traveler.
Do you have binocular recommendations?
Skip the compacts (need at least 30 mm diameter objectives), skip high-power (anything above 8x has too many trade-offs), and then get the best binoculars you are willing to afford. You’ll appreciate the benefits every time you use them. How binoculars fit your face and how they feel (a concept I defined when I was the product reviewer for Birding Magazine) is much more important than some biased online review, so you need to try out binoculars to see what works for you (like, <ahem> at our store for example).
Is there a species you’ve always wanted to see but haven’t been able to?
I really want to see a Flightless Cormorant in the Galapagos, in large part due to my interest in island biogeography.