Going to the Birds


The Arctic Tern


Summertime is prime bird watching time in Maine. We get the songbirds of the meadows and woodlands, but we also get the water birds. Gulls, terns, waders like Great Blue Herons and Egrets. A lot of birds of prey too. Ospreys and Eagles and hawks, oh my.

I confess I love them all.

Yesterday MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I went for a drive to Wolfe’s Neck Farm (yes it’s as beautiful as it sounds). We saw all kinds of birds. In fact on the mouth of the Little River, where it flows into the bay—on the tidal flat—we saw six Egrets along the river. It was an amazing sight. We took a few photos from afar, but when I got home I looked at them and decided none was close enough nor could be enlarged without looking blurry so I threw them away.

A hawk... I think a Broad Winged (any birders out there want to chime, er, chirp in?)

A hawk… I think a Broad Winged (any birders out there want to chime, er, chirp in?)

This is very uncharacteristic (I have almost 10,000 photos on my computer and another 6,000 on my iPhone, so clearly I rarely trash anything), and I immediately regretted it (well when I decided to write this blog). I wanted to include that distant photo of the six egrets but I didn’t have it anymore. Moral: don’t throw anything away. Better moral: Keep at least one photo of everything. Addendum: buy an external hard drive to store photos.

Anyway, last night we watched A Birder’s Guide to Everything—a sweet coming of age movie about bird watching and life. And today I went bird watching again at the Town Landing in the next town over, the place I go almost everyday. And boy was I glad I went. I immediately saw several small seabirds flitting around, plunging into the water and diving for fish. I knew they were terns, but what I didn’t know until I got home was that I was watching the Arctic Tern.

This gives you an idea of the speed these birds move. I guess they have to in order to cover as much ground as they do!

This gives you an idea of the speed these birds move. I guess they have to in order to cover as much ground as they do!

This is what I learned from the Cornell Bird site: the Arctic Tern has the farthest yearly journey of any bird. It migrates up to 25,000 miles from its Arctic breeding ground to where it winters in Antarctica. I probably could’ve stood on the dock and watched these birds all day. They were as beautiful as they were acrobatic.

Although there's no bird in this photo, it is my favorite of the week. Partly because it's so beautiful, partly because the people in the photo are friends of mine and I know how happy they are while they're out sailing together!

Although there’s no bird in this photo, it is my favorite of the week. Partly because it’s so beautiful, but mostly because the people in the photo are friends of mine and I know how happy they are while they’re out sailing together!

Although none of my photos of the Arctic Tern are that great, I still decided to include them in this post (I learned my lesson with the egrets!), because I guess the Arctic Tern may top my list as my favorite bird this year.  My all-time favorite is still the Hermit Thrush. A songbird, its song is just beautiful. (If you have time, you should follow the link and listen to the “typical voice,” well worth it!)

Are you a bird watcher? What’s your favorite bird? What’s your favorite outdoor activity this summer?




  1. Micky Wolf says:

    Julia, you come on wings of beauty today. Okay, pun intended. 🙂 Enjoyed your post and, yes, a hearty thumbs up to A Birders Guide to Everything. My beloved and I are definitely bird watches. The ‘Cardinal couples’ and the Black-capped Chickadees are among our favorites. And sitting on our deck for dinner with a lovely ‘taste-o-the-grape’ is a favorite activity.

    • So happy you liked the wings of beauty (and I loved the pun!!). I love cardinals — such wonderful memories of watching them at my grandmother’s feeder from her kitchen window.

  2. My best bird sightings came during a trip to Iceland. It was awesome to see puffins, arctic terns and razorbills all hanging out on the sides of the cliffs. We were able to get so close to them — within a few feet. That was probably my best bird adventure.

  3. Julia – Oh my gosh, I love your “bird in flight” photo — you can practically FEEL the speed. And your advice: “Addendum: buy an external hard drive to store photos” is excellent. My iPhoto library was getting so huge it was bogging my laptop down. Once we scooted everything over to an external hard drive, it went back to kicking up it’s light and airy heels!

    • So glad you enjoyed the photo, Laurie! The speed was so fun to watch, especially when they dove into the water. I have way too many pics on my laptop and my iphone. But I just can’t stop and keep wondering about having to carry the external drive around with me (I do a lot of work remotely).

  4. I’ll probably need an external hard drive just for my cat pictures someday. 😉 Maybe this is a bit off topic, but it does come to mind. You’ve made me think about how many photos I have, too. I never throw them away — not because I’m attached to them or think I might need them, but because it’s easier not to. With cameras available in seconds on our phones, which most people are never without, I think we all have thousands of photos these days. Interestingly, not many seem to bother with photo albums anymore (unless you count Facebook, I guess). It’s just strange how much the phenomenon of photography has changed in our personal lives. Sometimes I worry that my volume of pictures, and never being forced to sort through them, etc., actually makes them less special. I’m not a photographer, though, like you. I just snap social shots, pictures of my cats, and that sort of thing. Do you ever wonder about that with your photography?

    • Sorry this has taken me so long to answer, Annie… YES I wonder all the time about the lack of specialness of photos. And I also am sad thinking that there won’t be photo albums like the olden days. I also worry that by being so obsessed with taking photos, that I’m missing “just enjoying” the moment. These days I try hard to (at least sometimes) simply not take photos of special moments. Most of my photos tend to be of places, not people. When I’m with good friends or when our family is together, I might take a couple photos at the end of an event and leave it at that. The cameras really do take away from the moment. My kids are really good at drawing the line, too — they aren’t into selfies or photography. So, yes, I am with you on this one. A few special shots unless it’s a sunset, then it’s a few 100 special shots 😉

  5. Ann Mc says:

    I don’t know about a favorite bird, but I took a ton of bird photos in July and the beginning of August! They’re terrific and crazy difficult to shoot! I love the photos you’ve posted! My computer did the death rattle and I’m currently moving over 24 THOUSAND photos from my old hoopie of a (12 years old) MacBook Pro to my new iMac – and the new computer dumped all of them….it was a lemon! So, Apple, being Apple, replaced it immediately and I’m starting all over!

    BTW – I submitted one of my bird photos to National Geographic for an amateur photography assignment – it made the Top 1% out of 16K photos, but didn’t make the final cut. That’s okay, I was SO excited that it made it that far!

    • Thank you so much, Ann! I’m glad you enjoy my photos — as I enjoy yours! 24,000 pics. WOW. I have “only” about 6 years of photos on my new laptop (not quite 10K photos) and another 6500 on my iphone. It’s daunting to think about transferring (or — hyperventilating — losing) them.

      Huge congrats on National Geographic. That’s amazing and very exciting!!

      Right now I’m trying to balance the photography with the writing more, because my writing is still on the front burner, and sometimes I let photography get too much in the way.