Cool, gray skies and a brief but steady shower didn’t put a damper on the group’s enthusiasm during our visit to the Kennebunk Plains on the birding portion of last Sunday’s Birds on Tap – Roadtrip: Grassland and Grains. However, bird activity was quite low, likely a combination of the day’s weather and our very later-arriving spring.
Nonetheless, we heard two Upland Sandpipers and a couple of Grasshopper Sparrows (and glimpsed the sparrows), two of the area’s specialties. However, Vesper Sparrows were remarkably conspicuous, and we took plenty of time to study and enjoy this uncommon and local species. Other plains denizens seen very well included Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, and especially Eastern Kingbird. But even Prairie Warbler and Field Sparrow weren’t seen as well as we expect here.
We did talk quite a bit about grassland (or in this case, blueberry barrens) ecology, comparing different sections of the preserve and the time since the last controlled burn or mechanized clearing. We also learned a few plants and flowers in between bird observations. And peeked into an Eastern Phoebe nest.
We made our first brewery stop at Funky Bow Beer Company in the woods of Lyman, where Greg took over the guiding duties. Paul, the father of the father-and-son team that is Funky Bow, led us through a tasting flight of their beers (plus one extra sample of their new Special Effect Session IPA that he was particularly proud of) and described some of the nuances and challenges of the craft beer business. A nice cross-section of beers were enjoyed, with different favorites for different people of course, but with the majority of the group enjoying their G-String Pale Ale the most.
Next up was Banded Brewing in Biddeford, in a beautifully restored and repurposed old mill. There, Gary poured us four samples that ranged from their Wicked Bueno Mexican Lager to At Ease Imperial Stout with Cinnamon and Vanilla. These two extremes were the two favorite beers of the group here and nicely demonstrated the range of what craft beer is today. But no, despite the best efforts of Gary, Greg, and I, we could not open up people’s minds to the fruited sour, Charms and Hexes (with passion fruit and guava)…for the record, I thought it was great!
Kennebunk Plains is one of the premier, and most unique, birding destinations in southern Maine, and while it might not have been in its full glory today, it teased us with the promises of grassland birds galore. Our two brewery visits then sampled the wide range of offerings both breweries produce, adding extra incentive to come back to try some more – or enjoy a full pour of a new favorite.