The Christmas Bird Counts Are Coming

Harlequins DH 5196837123_369eef562e_z crop

Beginning on Christmas Day in 1900, the Audubon Society has been sponsoring Christmas Bird Counts (CBC’s) to help monitor the health and status of bird populations throughout North America.  In that first year, there were 25 count circles with a total of 27 birders.  Now, there are over 2300 count circles each year with over 70,000 birders participating, with the locations stretching from Alaska to South America.

Each year, York County Audubon sponsors two counts.  The Southern York County circle extends from Kittery to Ogunquit, while the Biddeford/Kennebunkport count circle reaches from Kennebunk to Saco.  Each count territory is a geographic circle, carved out into six or more territories.  Each territory has a team that scours it during “count day” looking for all bird species, and recording the numbers seen of each.  It can, at times, be a bit more art than science, as we attempt to count – but not double count – the birds we find. We also have supporters who monitor their home feeders during the day and contribute their totals.  To avoid double counting, we ask them only to report the greatest number of each species that they see at any one time during the day.

At the end of the day (at 5 p.m.), we meet to compile the counts and share highlights.  Once compiled, the counts are forwarded to National Audubon for their master compilation.  Both locally and nationally, the totals are reviewed to assess trends in the populations of all species.  While the totals can vary fairly dramatically year to year due to the weather that happens to grace us on count day, the bigger picture over time can be very informative.

This year, the Southern York County CBC will be held on Monday, December 19th, while the Biddeford/Kennebunkport CBC will be on Monday, January 2nd (which will be the legal holiday this year for New Year’s Day).   The Southern YC compilation will be held in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve, while the Bidd/Kport compilation will held at the Church on the Cape in Cape Porpoise.  If you might like to find out about participating in one or both, please contact Pat Moynahan at 207-284-5487 or for the Southern York County CBC, or Kathy Donahue at 207-967-4102 or for the Biddeford/Kennebunkport CBC.

Posted in Uncategorized

Lake Baikal—Beautiful Birds, Bad Beer, and Buddhist Babushkas – with Lena Moser – Tuesday, October 18th

Lake Baikal, also called the “pearl of Siberia,” is a truly astonishing place.  It is Earth’s deepest lake, holding a fifth of the world’s fresh water.  At 25-30 million years old, it is also one of the most ancient geographical features on the planet.  Perhaps this is why the lake’s water alone is home to 1,500 plant and animal species, 80% of which are found nowhere else on Earth!

Diverse habitats around Lake Baikal—from expansive shorelines and mountain ranges to taiga forests and steppe meadows—attract numerous birds.  Some sought-after species include Siberian Blue Robin, Daurian Jackdaw, Amur Falcon, Siberian Thrush, Booted Eagle, and the endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting and Swan Goose.  Mammals such as Long-tailed Ground Squirrel, Siberian Chipmunk, and the endemic Baikal Seal are also a treat to see.  And, of course, no trip to Siberia is complete without its human highlights, as culture, cuisine, and comedy weave themselves into a rich tapestry of local tradition.

This July, YCA board member Lena Moser co-led a birding tour to Lake Baikal with Wildside Nature Tours.  Join Lena for an entertaining evening of photographs and stories as she recounts her journey to the remarkable region.

York County Audubon programs are held at 7 p.m. in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve.  There’s no charge and all are welcome!  No reservations required.

Bluethroat-1  lena-moscow-crop

Posted in Events

The Harlequin – Autumn 2016

Please click on the link below to view the Autumn 2016 issue of our Harlequin newsletter (with photos in full color!)

Tallamy - Prothonotary      Tallamy


Posted in Harlequin newsletter

Myths and Truths about Bats – Bat Conservation and Biology – Tuesday, September 20th

Bat BRI 2

There are more than 1,300 known species of bats, comprising nearly a quarter of all mammal species on earth.  These unique creatures are at the center of some of today’s most pressing ecological issues, yet are still held in fear by some, and misunderstood by many. Old wives’ tales and folklore, such as that bats suck blood, get into your hair, or they are blind, are in need of an update.  Our September program:  Myths and Truths about Bats – Bat Conservation and Biology presented by David Bates.

BRI - David-Yates

David Yates is the Mammal Program Director at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland.  Since its inception, David Yates has been a wildlife biologist at BRI, doing research on our bats and other mammals.  He will share his extensive knowledge of bats’ role in the ecosystem, their habits, and the latest science about their health and future, as well as answer all your bat-ty questions.  Join York County Audubon in learning about these fascinating and important members of our wildlife community.

York County Audubon programs are held at 7 p.m. in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve.  There’s no charge and all are welcome!  No reservations required.

Posted in Events

Hawk ID Workshop – Sunday, Sept 25th on Mt. A! (rain date: Sept 26th)


Late September is the time to be looking for migrating hawks!   YCA is collaborating with the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region to present a workshop on Sunday, September 25th (with a rain date of Monday, September 26th) in the Learning Lodge atop beautiful Mount Agamenticus, an excellent spot to see the Fall raptor migration. The workshop will run from 9:00 a.m. till 11.  Then we’ll eat our bag lunches and step outside and see what the winds bring in and if the Broad-wings are kettling. It should be an exciting day.

The workshop leader is Katrina Fenton, a biologist and naturalist who has worked as a counter for raptor migration projects in Maine and New Hampshire.  She will teach us about hawk migration and identification, as well as current ebird and hawk data.

Space is limited and advance registration is required. There is a $10 registration fee, payable at the door.  Please bring lunch and snacks, as well as binoculars and a scope if you have one.  Please register by signing up on this website by clicking on the event link in the Calendar column to the right, and then scrolling down to the fields for making a reservation.   Hope you can join us.

red_tailed_hawk_2 cornell  kettle - broad winged and swainsons

Posted in Workshop

Shorebird Workshop with Louis Bevier – Saturday, July 30th


York County Audubon continues our Workshop series by offering a Shorebird Identification Workshop presented by noted Maine Birder, Louis Bevier. Shorebirds herald the changing seasons by staging and feeding in mixed flocks on our beaches and resting on historical roosting area.  Fortunes Rock Beach and Hills Beach are two of these noted areas. Louis will discuss the beautiful plumage variation of these long-distance migrant flocks.  We will begin to identify specific species within the flocks by size, shape and feeding strategy. Louis will also identify species migratory travel dates from ebird data. Sounds of individual species will also be discussed and listened for on our beach walks.

This workshop will be led by well known Maine birder Louis Bevier.  Since the 1960’s, birds have drawn him to explore most of North and South America, leading to months at sea off Alaska and California, backcountry surveys in the high Sierra, plant and bird expeditions to several countries, and many other adventures.  He has worked as a tour guide for Field Guides, as an editor for The Birds of North America series, as Associate Editor for the journal North American Birds, and serves on the Maine Bird Records Committee.

The workshop will be held at the University of New England (room and parking area to be announced) on Saturday, July 30, 2016 with a rain date of Sunday, July 31st. We will meet at the UNE parking area at 8:00 a.m., carpool to Fortunes Rocks for our first beach walk, and return to UNE for Louis’ presentation at 10:00. A second walk will follow at Hills Beach. Beach shoes are appropriate although we should not get wet as High Tide is 8:40.  Please bring your lunch.

This workshop is proudly sponsored by York County Audubon.  The cost is $10/person, payable by check or cash at the workshop.  But space is limited and advance reservations are required. Please register by signing up on this website by clicking on the event link in the Calendar column to the right, and then scrolling down to the fields for making a reservation.   Hope you can join us.

oystercatcher KJ   Common Tern with fish

American Oystercatcher – photo by Ken Janes. Common Tern with fish – photo by Marie Jordan.

Posted in Uncategorized

Learning Deep Bird Language with Dan Gardoqui – Tuesday, June 21st – (Preceded by brief Annual Meeting)

Birding can be whole lot more than feeding, watching, photographing, keeping life lists, or chasing rarities.  It can also involve knowing what birds are saying. Deep Bird Language requires slowing down and truly listening to the birds.  Dan says “It’s more about quality than quantity.” For the vast majority of human existence, this was a skill we could not afford to ignore.  Once critical to our survival it is now, nearly gone.  Local tracker, naturalist, and birder Dan Gardoqui will give us a peek into the world of Deep Bird Language including tips on how to “re-awaken” this hardwired skill set of awareness.

Dan is co-founder and Executive Director of White Pine Programs.  He lives in the Agamenticus region, and has been studying naturalist skills, wildlife tracking, bird language & mentoring since 1990. Dan has a M.S. in Natural Resources, is a Certified Wilderness First Responder, Certified Wildlife Tracker, Registered Maine Guide, & served as Science Faculty at Granite State College for over a decade. Through wildlife tracking, Dan has contributed to wildlife studies and served as science editor for the bird language book “What the Robin Knows.”   FMI:

York County Audubon programs are held at 7 p.m. in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve.  There’s no charge and all are welcome!  No reservations required.

Dan-Gardoqui   What the Robin Knows

Posted in Uncategorized

Annual Election of Officers and Directors

The Nominating Committee has presented a slate of Officers and Directors to the YCA Board, and that slate has been approved by the Directors.  At the Annual Meeting on June 21st, the following slate of Officers shall be voted upon by the Membership:  Bill Grabin, President, Joyce Toth, Vice President, Kathy Donahue, Treasurer, and Monica Grabin, Secretary, as well as the following slate of Directors: Mary Bateman, David Doubleday, Doug Hitchcox, Ken Janes, Lena Moser, Pat Moynahan, Eileen Willard, Marian Zimmerman

Posted in Uncategorized

Bird Photography: Insights and Inspiration – with Michael Milicia – Tuesday, May 17th

Michael Milicia - Atlantic PuffinMichael Milicia is a gifted photographer and teacher.  He will present a selection of bird images along with understandable commentary intended to inform, entertain and inspire. This program will be of interest to both general audiences and photographers of all abilities.  Using example photos, Mike will demonstrate the importance of things like head angle, catch lights, in-camera composition, knowing your subject, and being proactive in the field.  

There will also be a review of a few key camera settings that enable Mike to be more productive and get better results in the field along with a brief discussion of his in-field workflow and his general approach to setting exposure in various situations.  The goal is to provide some insight into the many different components that must come together to create a compelling bird photograph. FMI:

York County Audubon programs are held at 7 p.m. in the Mather Auditorium at the Wells Reserve.  There’s no charge and all are welcome!  No reservations required.

Michael Milicia -Gentoo Penguin Michael Milicia - Piping Plover Chick Michael Milicia - Wood Duck

Posted in Uncategorized

Global Big Day – Saturday, May 14th

York County Audubon joins the Global Big Day – And so can you!

For years, YCA has held an annual Birding Challenge in mid-May. It’s been a fund-raiser for our wildlife protection efforts and a day for birders to join together and have fun.  This year, we’re changing things up a bit, by joining with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in a citizen-science project called “The Global Big Day 2016.”  The idea is simple: people all over the world will go birding on May 14, 2016, and record what they see.  Then they’ll enter that data into eBird, where it will give a global image of bird populations and locations. There’s no requirement as to when, where, or how long during that day that one looks for birds.

Eagle and Terns MJ     oystercatcher KJ        Eagle with Common Terns by Marie Jordan                     American Oystercatcher by Ken Janes

YCA is always hoping to increase awareness of the fantastic birding opportunities in York County, so we’re adding an additional focus to our Big Day.  Following suggestions by Louis Bevier and Nathan Hall, we’re going to limit our efforts to York County, and are challenging birders in Cumberland County to discover which county can log the most species that day. On last year’s first Global Big Day, York County recorded 145 species, slightly ahead of Cumberland County’s 139. One more special feature of the YCA count is the participation of the Hard Core Birders, a group of Middle School of the Kennebunks students, organized by Nathan Hall.  We especially hope that many young people will join us on our Big Day.

You are invited to join a team, or to go out on your own; to start before dawn and go all day, or simply spend an hour or two in your backyard.  Whatever suits you suits the Global Big Day.  The count day runs for 24 hours starting at 12:00 a.m. on the 14th.  Birders from all over the world will join in the effort, and you can follow the progress of the Big Day on the Cornell Lab’s Global Big Day 2016 website:   The Cornell Lab website also has great information on how to get started with eBird, how to use it in the field, and how to record your sightings. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it before the Big Day.

Although we encourage everyone to give eBird a try, if you are unable to submit your list for any reason, YCA members will be happy to submit it for you. However, please note where and when you were birding, so that your list can be logged correctly.  More information on this will be available on our website,, and on our Facebook page.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology began the Global Big Day in 2015, when people from over 100 countries participated, logging over 6,000 species of birds! The hope is that this year will be even bigger. Your participation is a real contribution, and birding in York County in mid-May is a pleasure not to be missed. If you’d like to join a team of birders, or for more information, contact us through our website or Facebook page, or call Monica Grabin at 985-3342. All levels of experience and all ages are welcome.

There is no donation requirement to participate, although they are always very welcome.  All donations help us fulfill our mission to educate the public and preserve our irreplaceable natural world.

Posted in Uncategorized