Birding My Neighborhood

Though I have birded across Maine and across the United States, there’s something special about birding in my very own neighborhood. I grew up in the town of Cumberland, and am lucky that my parents still live there. Behind our house is a large tract of unbroken forest, dominated by the deep green of hemlock trees and signs of deer herds. Over the weekend, my dad and I took a brief walk on some of the wooded trails to listen for the birds of spring.

The landscape is fairly open beneath the canopy, and usually it’s not super obvious where the trail ends and the forest floor begins.  Brown leaves from the previous fall created a crinkly, crackly layer underfoot, a sound made even louder by the generally dry conditions throughout the previous weeks.

nature, forest, birding, maine

Spring is an amazing time to bird in Maine, as the neotropical warblers arrive and breed in all their splendid, rainbow colors. A few seconds into our walk, I heard the buzzy call of the Black-throated Green Warbler. While it’s true that their throats are the color of ink, I am always struck by the lemon-like-hue of their faces, and only take note of their olive-green crowns and backs as an afterthought.

An Ovenbird – another member of the warbler family – called beseechingly as we strode quietly though the trees. Its song, gradually rising in intensity, surrounded our steps as the bird projected upward from its place on the ground. Given my previous experience trying to photograph an Ovenbird, I was content to enjoy its sounds without trying to catch a glimpse of its form.

nature, forest, birding, maine

The path quickly made its way to a pond, a favorite for my brother and his friends during elementary school when they sought to catch frogs and whatever little fish resided within its calm borders. Dad and I intended to relax on a nearby bench, taking in the luminescent green of deciduous leaves first unfolding for the season. Unfortunately for us, leaves aren’t the only things emerging in the spring. Great hordes of mosquitoes found us the moment we sat down, and we high-tailed it away from the clearing in an effort to escape their blood-thirsty appetites.

Though the warblers bring variety to the spring landscape, they never replace the resident birds for me. I still delight in the giggles of a Black-capped Chickadee, even though I’ve heard them thousands and thousands of times before. I grinned when we stopped to listen to the reverberating whacking of a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance.

I love birding wherever I go, but there’s no place like home!

Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.