Saturday, July 20, 2019

Baxter State Park

What is it with people hanging dead animal heads on walls?  I'm grossed out and fascinated by it all at the same time. 
Over the years, Kathie and I had both spoken about going to Baxter State Park in Maine.  Our plans had changed.  Kathie's husband Gus suffered a stroke and was now in recovery. Our plans to drive from Maine to Wisconsin changed.  I knew they'd change when I had heard the news.  Over the years with my friendship to Kathie, I've also grown to include Gus as a friend.  He's a great guy and I am so thankful that we were able to visit longer.  But I'm not going to get all wishy washy emotional.  Neither of us like that emotion stuff:)  I'm just glad he's ok.  Kathie's got enough emotion for ALL of us:)

With my Dad's heart surgery and Gus's stroke, I knew Kathie would want to stay home.  I told Kathie not to stress because Gus was more important. He's an amazing guy. I just didn't want to intrude on their routine.  But in Gus fashion, he told us to get out of the house and have fun.  So like much of the summer, I "rubber banded" it with Kathie and my family in Wisconsin. We'd make it work and have fun with it all. It was a summer of family and friends which meant we birded close or somewhat close to home so that we could "snap" back if there was an emergency. Plus for everyone involved in both Wisconsin and Maine, we had to drive to appointments!  They're still getting their treatments/therapy!

One of the places, we decided to explore was Baxter State Park.  It was one of our splurges. Kathie's mission was to hit 500 lifebirds this summer.  Mine was to add just a few.  Our first lifer together was this beautiful Black-backed Woodpecker!

Black-backed Woodpecker
This woodpecker can be a hard one for many birders across the country.  But not because they are rare; but because they can be rather elusive and prefer dense forest areas. Kathie spotted this one and I was able to get a quick shot before it flew off. Throughout our time there, we heard many more drumming off in the distance. 

Baxter State Park is gorgeous and free to state residents!  We stayed at the Big Moose Inn which was really an iconic piece of Maine history and close to the park.  One of the things I love about Kathie is her knack for finding excellent restaurants and places to stay.  

There were birders coming through the area and had also stayed at the Inn during our stay.  I heard them in the morning but chose to stay in bed.  After they left, we went to get breakfast.  I could have sat there all day and it was Kathie who said, "Come on Rohrer, we've got birds to find."  I was hesitant because I knew it would be another day fighting blackflies and mosquitoes. My body looked like a war zone after my trek to Maine. Surprisingly though, there were NO ticks in this park. So if we had gotten rid of the blackflies, our journeys out into the park would have been even more perfect.

Philadelphia Vireo
Another bird I had to find was the Philadelphia Vireo.  I'll be honest. I'm not into vireos.  They're cool birds, but I wasn't into digging through every vireo call in the forest.  So many vireos sang and many of them were Red-eyed Vireos.  The calls are almost identical and I couldn't distinguish the two species apart. So when we found this one above, I smiled at the accomplishment and just enjoyed the rest of the scenic drive. 

Did we find a moose?  Yes but the moose was on the interstate!  There were moose sightings in the park, but we never did see one there.  We did find this cool looking Eastern Painted Turtle however!

Blackflies kept up the attack.  And human flesh was exposed.  No amount of spray would keep them off my body.  The spray worked with mosquitoes but not the blackflies.  Even writing about this memory makes me itch and cringe again. 

Black-and-white Warbler
However, with great bugs come great warblers.  So many great warblers. Baxter State Park is quite a magical place.  The habitat was just slightly different enough to have a unique sampling of birds that we couldn't find around Kathie and Gus's home outside of migration. 

Ok. I'll admit that there is one vireo I kinda dig more than the others.  The Blue-headed Vireo below is a looker.  Their slightly slower call, yet very similar Red-eyed Vireo call, makes them a tad easier to find. 

Blue-headed Vireo
And then there were eastern warbler calls galore.  Just when I thought I'd get used to a call, I'd second guess myself.  Is that a Pine Warbler or a Chipping Sparrow calling?

Pine Warbler
Who's making that short and loud vocal burst?

Magnolia Warbler
Oh!  It's a singing male Magnolia Warbler setting up a territory! But didn't they have a different call?  Yes but it wasn't making that one:)

In Arizona, visitors always ask me, "What's that hawk?"  My automated response is "Red-tailed Hawk."  Then they respond, "But that doesn't look like our Red-tailed Hawk back home." 
"It won't.  We have several subspecies here." 
Back to Maine.  I'm in the visitor spot now and I ask Kathie, "What's that warbler call?"
"American Redstart"

There are so many vocalizations for this species.  And I think I've nailed the ID on this bird now just by hearing their various calls a million times.  I had A LOT of practice in both Maine and Wisconsin.  I can officially "talk" to this bird and it's part of my bird vocabulary now. 

male American Redstart
Another bird that I've also memorized and can easily ID is the high slurred wind up zzzzzzeeeeeeet of the Northern Parula.  Easy peasy. 

Northern Parula
In short, Maine was incredible.  There are several more posts that I will write which will include birding codes and connections to the birds.  I discovered some weird things about myself there while birding.  I'll explore that during a trek to Monhegan Island with Magill in our next post. My last lifer from Baxter State Park was the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher which I have also memorized now.  It was fun finding this species but it's a birder's bird.  It's one of them flycatcher jobs, but by finding this species, I completed all of my North American flycatchers. 

In many ways, Maine birding was my "dotting the i's and crossing the t's trek" to complete my flycatcher and vireo lists.  I just need Black-whiskered Vireo now to complete all of my vireos for the US. Kathie and I both loved Baxter State Park.  We only scratched the surface. Stay tuned for more.....


  1. Lol! What fun. We did battle those darned bugs, but it was worth it! What an adventure it was. As always, not enough time! That last photo cracks me up! Thanks for taking all the pictures. I am so glad we got that Black-backed woodpecker.

    1. Me too! I wish you were here to bird with us in AZ!

  2. Since I'm an Eastern Birder I can attest to how difficult the vireos and warblers can be..great job with what you found! Adding the sweat, the bugs, and the heat makes it a physical challenge as well as a mental one. Awesome photos too.

    1. Thank you Sondra! I'll forget most of the calls and be back at it again next year relearning all the calls. That's certainly part of the fun of birding. Happy week to you!

  3. Your photos are so beautiful Chris and the birds wonderful. Sorry about the insects though! There seem a lot of biting insects around here at the moment too :( Wishing Gus and your father swift recoveries.

    1. Hello! Thank you! I'm finally sitting in my quiet office catching up with everything. So far Gus and my pops are doing alright and moving around. I'm so thankful that they caught all of it before it was too late. Besides the bugs, anything that isn't a moth, I hope you are enjoying your summer. I've seen some amazing moths coming out of Wales on Facebook! There's this really pretty pink sphinx moth you have over there. Wow! What a looker! Hugs to you! Chris

  4. Wow you do know how to find the Birds. Although we have some of the same birds out this way lots of Eastern birds we never see. I love them all

    1. Thank you! I love finding them all. Hope you have a great weekend ahead! Chris


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