We’ve had some great Birds on Tap – Roadtrips! over the six years of doing these. OK, they’ve all been great, but in some, the birding has been more exceptional than others. Sunday’s “Seaducks and Suds” was one such outing. In fact, for a pure “quality” of the bird list, it ranks as one of the best ever, if not the absolute best ever!
Sure, we saw lots of fun seaducks as advertised, and thoroughly enjoyed our time with all of the expected, beautiful, and charismatic winter seaducks that call our coast home. Lots of all three scoters, Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, and of course, the crowd-favorite Harlequin Ducks.
It’s hard to stop looking at Harlequin Ducks – that stunning pattern and how it plays with the dynamic surf they dwell in – but at Marginal Way in Ogunquit, our first stop, a Thick-billed Murre stole the show.
Usually found well offshore in winter (and far to our north in the summer), this is always a great bird to see from land in Maine. There have been quite a few along our shores of late, so it was a bird we were hoping for. A “life bird” for everyone, we watched it for a while as it slowly drifted closer to shore, allowing for prolonged and satisfying scope views.
We spent so much time with “Harlies” and the murre that I had to choose between two famous birding destinations for my second and last stop of the tour. I struggled with it, but finally decided to go to the Cliff House. We were all happy we did!
Shortly after arriving, and enjoying some more Harlequin Ducks, I spotted our other much-hoped-for species of the day: a Dovekie, another pelagic species rarely seen from land!
A “little marshmallow” as described by one member of the group, we watched in the scope for a while, getting our fill, and followed it long enough to be led to two more!
And for a spell, all three were in view in the scope together – and exceedingly rare observation in Maine. But apparently, we weren’t done yet, as with “Rarity Fever” juices pumping, I went back for a second look at the raft of eiders and teased out a female King Eider – our third rarity of the day! She was a little far for photos, but she was very well seen in the scope. Two Razorbills and a Black Guillemot added to the alcid list…hmm, maybe we should rename this trip “Alcids and Ales?”
I was also too busy taking photos of rarities to take a good photo of the group birding, apparently.
While our Roadtrips! are not really about rarities (well, except for November’s “Rarity Roundup,” of course) it was hard not to get sucked into the excitement – even if some of the folks today had never even heard of these species before they got on the bus today! Hopefully, we passed on a little more of the highly contagious Birding Flu. I had hoped for one of these three rare species today; getting all three in less than 3 hours of birding was far beyond what I could have expected.
And this was only the first half of the tour! Next up was beer – our only guaranteed sighting of the day. And destination number one was the recently-opened York Beach Beer Company.
Here, we were presented with a sample of five of their beers.
Despite a superficial similarity in color and turbidity, each of the five tasted quite different, which was very instructive. Nathan and I led the tasting, describing and exploring each of the offerings. Starting with the Flannel Sombrero, the light and easy-drinking Mexican style lager, we moved on to the Miss Jen, whose light and clear color did not lead to expectations of the strong coffee flavor. Orange Maine-sicle definitely tasted like a melted creamsicle, while Long Weekend pale was a more traditional brew but with added pineapple puree. Their IPA, Dancing Madly Backwards, definitely took the prize for the best name, and the deepest hop flavor.
Traveling up the road, Biddeford’s Banded Brewing was our next stop, and this venerable local institution did not disappoint. We enjoyed a very nice progression of flavors and styles, starting with the traditional and very well-executed Pepperell Pilsner.
Some folks were excited, others were apprehensive, about our first sour of the day: Charms & Hexes with Blood Orange and Blackberry. This approachable sour series can change some minds about what a “sour” is, and sure enough, one participant bought a 4-pack to take home after coming into the “3-sip rule” stating “I do NOT like sours.” Daikaju DIPA was up next, a good tropical and citrus-rich example of this popular style.
Our fourth sample was their coffee stout, Jolly Woodsman, but it was presented with an extra taste of the Woodsman Reserve, which is Jolly Woodsman aged on maple bourbon barrels. Comparing and contrasting was quite educational, and quite tasty, with the difference more readily apparent than head and bill shape in female eiders.
It was also a perfect way to toast a truly extraordinary day of birds and beer!