Wildlife Watching in the Bold Coast

The Bold Coast lies at the interface between two vast and highly productive wildlife habitats – North Maine Woods and the Gulf of Maine.

The Bold Coast retains a highly visible concentration of glacially influenced landscape features. Ocean tides in the Bay of Fundy (the northern section of the Bold Coast) often fluctuate over 25 feet twice a day. Rivers and streams fed by inland lakes enter the sea at numerous points along the coast – sometimes gently, sometimes in great torrents and waterfalls, and estuaries harbor migrating fish. Bear, coyote, deer, bobcats, moose, beaver, eagles, loons, salmon, puffins, seals, and whales are just a few of the multitude of animal species that call the Bold Coast home.

Food and shelter for wild animals is abundant along the Bold Coast, making it an environment teeming with a huge diversity of flora and fauna. Fields grow lush with wild blueberries and blackberries. Forest floors push up mushrooms and trees grow nuts. Rocky shorelines sprout wild peas and goldenrod. Ponds fill with fish and frogs.   Lupine, beach roses, lady slipper orchids, and ferns and mosses of all kinds grow lush along the shoreline and in coastal forests.  Check in with the Downeast Coastal Conservancy or Cobscook Community Learning Center for guided botany walks or opportunities to learn about harvesting edible native plants and mushrooms. Visit the virtual Maine Wild Blueberry Museum to learn about the importance of wild blueberries to wildlife and people on the Bold Coast.

Maine is one of North America’s top birding destinations; the Bold Coast region is at the far edge of many migratory species’ range, and the coastline serves as an International Flyway for migratory birds. For a self-guided birding trip, follow the Downeast and Acadia Birding Trail. The Downeast Spring Birding Festival occurs during spring migration and the breeding season, and includes self-guided explorations and guided hikes, boat tours and presentations led by area experts.

Guided nighttime walks and paddles offered through local land trusts provide for owl watching and a rare chance to view marine phosphorescence. Nighttime is also a great time for watching fireflies light up the meadows. In spring and early summer, the nights explode with the choruses of breeding frogs.

Wildlife research, education, and preservation facilities

Several wildlife research, education, and preservation facilities in the region offer guided tours, workshops, and classes on local wildlife, including ecology, biology, botany, and fisheries. Opportunities range from family adventures to educational immersions.

Eagle Hill Institute: Eagle Hill is a scientific organization offering year-round scientific seminars, immersive natural history workshops, and evening classes.

Schoodic Institute: Located within the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park, the Institute offers year-round outdoor education classes, walks and talks for all ages and interests.

Downeast Institute: The Downeast Institute on Great Wass Island is a research facility and a shellfish hatchery supplying local municipalities with clam seed and shellfish educational programs. Guided tours of the facility can be arranged.

East Machias Aquatic Research Center:  A research and community outreach facility on the East Machias River that includes a fish hatchery, a flow-through fresh water experimental facility, a state certified water quality testing laboratory, a Technical Resources Center, and a small Historic Museum/Education Center.

Following are a few favorite spots for exploring the local wildlife, including animals and plants. Whatever you choose for your wildlife adventures, don’t forget the bug spray, because mosquitoes and blackflies are part of the resident wildlife here!

Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge: Spans a total of 8,200 acres. Refuge trails wind through pine forests, peatlands, blueberry barrens, marshes, cedar swamps, granite shores, and cobble beaches.

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge: One of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges, with over 50 miles of dirt roads and trails, 3 self-guided interpretive trails, and opportunities to tour with wildlife biologists.

Bog Brook Cove Preserve: A 1,780-acre preserve characterized by rocky knolls, swampy flats, wet meadows, and small brooks.  The diverse habitat is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bear, bobcat, and fisher.  Visitors to Bog Brook Cove have documented sightings of two birds rarely seen in Maine: yellow rail and upland sandpiper.

Great Wass Island Preserve: A 1,540-acre tract with 4.5 miles of trails winding through moss-floored forests, traversing open ledges, and skirting the shoreline with spectacular views of the islands of Eastern Bay.

Hamilton Cove Preserve: A 1225-acre preserve providing opportunities to experience some of Maine’s most remote and wild terrain – cobble beaches, sheer cliffs and rocky promontories.  More than 25 different types of plant communities thrive at Hamilton Cove.  The preserve’s diverse habitats support numerous migratory and resident birds including bald eagles.

Quoddy Head State Park: A 541-acre park situated on the easternmost point of the United States, with 5 acres of trail winding through forests, bogs, and along the coastline, with the famous Quoddy Head Light.

Lost Fishermen’s Memorial Park: Built in honor of those lost at sea in pursuit of their livelihood, this memorial sculpture park is located in the heart of downtown Lubec with intimate views of the turbulent waters of Lubec Narrows, the Roosevelt Campobello International Bridge, and Campobello Island. The Narrows are lively with seals and seabirds during certain times of the tidal shift.

Treat Island Preserve: A 71-acre island featuring open meadow and spruce forest, stunning views, bold headlands, and gravel beaches.  Meadows provide good vantage points to view resident wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, bald eagles, and northern harriers. Despite close proximity, access from both Lubec and Eastport is made challenging by very strong currents in this part of Passamaquoddy Bay.  The use of an experienced guide is highly recommended. Read more about safety tips for paddling on the Bold Coast.

Maine Island Trail: Paddle amongst the numerous islands making up this recreational waterway that spans the entire coast of Maine. View seals, whales, and seabirds up close and personal. Read more about safety tips for paddling on the Bold Coast.

Great Heath: A 6,000-acre wilderness area containing the largest raised bog ecosystem in Maine, offers remote paddling and bird watching opportunities just a short drive out into the wild blueberry barrens from Cherryfield—but you’d better ask a local for directions!

Corea Heath: 600-acres of wetlands and uplands provides habitat for numerous birds and rare and unusual plants. The wooded trail forms a 1.25-mile loop past bogs and beaver dams.  Bird watching in this preserve can be outstanding.

Frances Wood Preserve: 438 wooded acres with a 1.5-mile loop trail past streams and bogs that support deer, beaver and bobcats, warblers, and abundant wildflowers.

Schoodic section of Acadia National Park: Many trails skirt the rocky coastline throughout the park, providing excellent waterfowl watching vantage points.

Black Woods Scenic Byway: Breathtaking scenery and numerous opportunities for paddling, fishing, wildlife-viewing, hiking, camping, and swimming in clear, quiet lakes are just a few minutes drive out of Cherryfield. Local favorites for paddling, fishing, and wildlife watching include Donnell Pond, Tunk Lake, and Spring River Lake.

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