6 easy ways to see wildlife in Maine this spring

This story was originally published in May of 2019. The program dates have been updated for the 2022 season.

As the days warm and long in spring, the woods around my house come alive with the sounds of birdsong, pulling me outside with my camera in hand.

A number of animals stick to the long, harsh winters in Maine, but the number of active wildlife in the state increases significantly during April and May as birds migrate from the south, black bears climb out of their dens and frogs emerge from the mud.

BDN image by Aislinn Sarnacki. Hancock County, Jun.

This is a particularly exciting time to see wildlife. During the spring you can watch the animals build nests, dance and sing to impress your mates, and later in the spring – raise their young. There is nothing quite as adorable as baby ducklings that follow their mother’s every move.

If you’re new to wildlife watching, here are some ideas for finding the critters in spring. Just remember to keep a good distance. Try using a binoculars or a long viewfinder. And after having fun in the wild (even in a city park), double-check for ticks. Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose which creatures wake up in spring. If we could, I would tell the ticks to go back to bed.

1. Visit the swamp

Many public trails visit the edge of the swamps, where springtime wildlife spotting is almost guaranteed. This type of wetland, lush with plant life, is an ideal nesting area for many bird species. Some of the species commonly spotted in swamps include duckweed, woodland ducks, red-winged blackbirds, and grouse. Muskrats and beavers are also commonly spotted in the swamps, and in the evening, many of the swamps come alive with the high-pitched calls of spring peepers, a small, loud frog.

Take a look at this Photo Gallery One of the animals I found in a swamp at the Essex Woods property in Bangor in early April 2019. This is Photo Gallery of animals on the same property in late May – including ducklings!

BDN image by Aislinn Sarnacki. Female duckling with ducklings, Bangor, June 2015.

2. Take a paddle slowly

I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to spot wildlife is by water, and it doesn’t have to be an epic adventure. A small pond or quiet stream can offer many changes for animal viewing. Turtles basking on logs and half-submerged rocks is one of the most common sightings I’ve seen kayaking in the area’s ponds during the spring. I also often see belted fisherman, a bird that nests in the burrows they dug in banks, often near water. This bird has a distinctive rattling cry and admirably dives into the water to grab fish, making it hard to miss. Spring is also the time when reptiles return to the Lakes of Maine to inhabit. Likewise, many bald eagles return to nests built over the years in tall trees by the lake (usually white pines).

Canada goose on a nest in May.

One year, I came across a Canadian goose sitting on a nest on the edge of an island in Lake Maine. For my ignorance, I thought that the bird had died until it raised its head! She ran away quickly, afraid to disturb her.