Back Cove in Winter

maine, nature, landscape

Hands down, one of my favorite places to bird in all of Maine is Portland’s Back Cove. Making a complete loop is always satisfying in some way, and just over three miles of walking creates in me a sense of accomplishment, but not exhaustion. Though it’s beautiful all year round, winter on the cove is the best season for birding.

My mom, husband, and I climbed out of the car after doing some shopping in downtown Portland. The wind off the ocean felt brisk, and we pulled on hats, jackets, and gloves. The path is well-used all year round, and had been packed down in a layer of ice by many pairs of feet before us. Walking felt a bit precarious, but we managed to complete the entire loop without falling!

Seabirds and waterfowl flock to the sheltered waters of the cove in the colder months. As we moved forward, we lifted binoculars to identify dozens of diving Buffleheads, beautiful silhouettes of Red-breasted Mergansers, as well as the iconic lines of Common Loons. On the far side of the trail – where warmer water flows into the cove – Mallards sat on exposed grasses or on the ice and snow, forming dense clumps of quacking ducks.

maine, nature, landscape

As we walked, the sun descended past the horizon, casting pinkish hues across the cloud-painted sky. Lights from the tall buildings in Portland began to blink on, while the rosy glow from nearby living rooms spilled out across the street.

By the time we reached the parking lot once more we were invigorated both by the exercise and the bird sightings. No matter how many times I’ve done this walk, I am always eager to complete it again. From birds to joggers to dogs to weather, there is something new to see!

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.