6 easy ways to view wildlife in Maine this spring

This story was originally published in May of 2019. Program dates have been updated for the 2022 season.

As the days warm and lengthen in the spring, the forest surrounding my house comes alive with birdsong, drawing me outside with a camera in hand.

A number of animals stick around for Maine’s long, harsh winters, but the population of active wild things in the state notably increases throughout April and May as birds migrate up from the south, black bears climb out of their dens and frogs emerge from the mud .

BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. Hancock County, June.

This is an especially exciting time for wildlife watching. During the spring, you can witness animals building nests, dancing and singing to impress mates, and – later in the spring – raising their young. There’s nothing quite as adorable as a line of baby ducklings following their daily every move.

If you’re new to wildlife watching, here are a few ideas for finding critters in the spring. Just remember to keep a good distance. Try using binoculars or a long camera lens. And after a romp in the wilderness (even a city park), check yourself thoroughly for ticks. Unfortunately, we can not pick and choose which creatures wake up for spring. If we could, I’d tell the ticks to go back to bed.

1. Visit a marsh

Many public trails visit the edge of marshes, where you’re almost guaranteed to spot wildlife in the spring. This type of wetland, lush with plant life, is an ideal nesting area for many species of birds. Some commonly spotted species in marshes include mallard ducks, wood ducks, red-winged blackbirds and grackles. Muskrats and beavers are also commonly spotted in marshes, and in the evening, many marshes come to life with the high-pitched calls of spring peepers, a tiny frog with a big voice.

Check out this photo gallery of animals I found at a marsh on the Essex Woods property in Bangor in early April 2019. And this photo gallery of animals on the same property in late May – including ducklings!

BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki. Female mallard with ducklings, Bangor, June 2015.

2. Take a leisurely paddle

I’ve found that one of the best ways to spot wildlife is by water, and it doesn’t have to be an epic adventure. A small pond or calm stream can offer many changes to view animals. Turtles sunning on half-submerged logs and boulders is one of the most common sights I’ve seen while paddling in area ponds during the spring. I also often see belted kingfishers, a bird that nests in burrows that they dig into banks, often near water. This bird has a distinctive rattling cry and makes impressive dives at the water to snatch up fish, making it hard to miss. Spring is also a time when loons return to Maine’s lakes to nest. Likewise, many bald eagles return to nests that have been built up over the years in tall, lakeside trees (typically white pines).

Canada goose on a nest in May.

One year, I came across a Canada goose sitting on a nest on the edge of an island in a Maine lake. Due to my ignorance, I initially thought the bird was dead, until it raised its head! I quickly paddled away, worried I’d disturb it.

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