The Maine Brew Bus was back on the road on Sunday, August 23rd, and their first trip in over five months was our Birds on Tap – Roadtrip: Shorebirds and Steins! The original Birds on Tap – Roadtrip! from way back in 2015 was a great way to get back on the road, but with 1/3rd capacity, masks, social-distancing, and as much time outside as possible.
As the name suggests, shorebirds were our focus, and of course that meant a visit to Scarborough Marsh. We began on the banks of Jones Creek at Pine Point on the incoming tide, where we were able to closely study some of our most common shorebirds, such as Semipalmated Plovers. But numbers and diversity here were a little lower than expected for the season, but not surprising knowing how perfect the conditions are in the salt pannes off of the Eastern Road Trail right now.
So off we went, and after a stroll through the woods, we arrived at the pannes to see birders fanned out across the marsh in search of a rare American Avocet that was found a few days prior. We stayed on terra firma, however, scanning from the trail and keeping our feet dry. But there were so many birds to look at, we did not need to go any further.
We arrived just in time for an American Golden-Plover to fly over, my first of the fall, and we wished it well on its epic journey to the southern reaches of South America. “Patches, Jr,” an extraordinarily rare combination of Tricolored Heron and 1-2 generations of one or more species of small white egret, was seen way out in the distance.
A Northern Harrier and wandering birders kept flushing shorebirds to and from, often delivering species within close proximity to us, including Least Sandpipers and side-by-side comparisons of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. The harrier also kept putting up flocks of shorebirds that really suggested the true abundance that was out there. I estimated 600-800 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 200+ Least Sandpipers, and at least 40 White-rumped Sandpipers.
When it was finally time to head back our grand finale was a dogfight between the aforementioned harrier and a young Peregrine Falcon! It was quite a show…unless you were a panicking shorebird.
Don took over as we headed over to nearby Nonesuch River Brewing where we added a variety of delicious hot appetizers to our usual offering, and sampled three of their beers: a hefeweizen, an IPA, and a very unique maple cream ale (that was my personal favorite). Well, that and the pretzel bites. The sampling of food gave Nonesuch River a chance to showcase their menu, while we had the chance to play around with food/beer pairings and how that affects different flavors.
Next up was Portland’s Brewery Extrava, which focuses on Belgian-style beers. There, we were treated to two half-pours of the beers of our choice. Since the majority of folks chose their Signature Saison and the Fruition Blueberry, I went with those as well. I was a big fan of the blueberry myself, with just the right balance of sweet and bitter tannins, and very refreshing without being “crushable.” I wasn’t the only one who left with a four-pack of the Belgian Quad, however.
It’s always a good sign when folks splurge for additional pours and take cans and merchandise to go, and this happened at both breweries. It must have been the Peregrine vs harrier dog-fight that people were celebrating.
So the trip was a resounding success in other words, and wet our appetite for the next Birds on Tap – Roadtrip: “Sod-pipers and Sips” that is coming right up this weekend, Sunday September 6th. A couple of spaces remain for what will often be one of our most interesting and exciting tours of the year.