PORTLAND — The Casco Bay Lines mail boat will double as a birding trip this weekend, carrying birders around the bay for a glimpse of the area’s feathered winter inhabitants.
Bob Bittenbender and Margi Huber are leading the trip on behalf of Oceanside Conservation Trust of Casco Bay. The couple has been taking friends out to see the winter birds of the bay for several years, and this year decided to invite the public.
“Ten or 15 years ago we took the mail boat out to see birds,” said Bittenbender, a seasoned bird and nature guide, and assistant property manager at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. In subsequent years, Bittenbender and Huber invited friends and other bird enthusiasts, and for a time led the trip through Maine Audubon, where Huber used to work as a trip coordinator.
Now the OCT, a nearly 30-year-old island conservation trust, is interested in offering educational events for people. The winter birding excursion seemed like a good start.
“We’d like to get people to feel connected,” Bittenbender explained. “This fits very well with Oceanside.”
Casco Bay attracts birds in the winter from the north, some making a “winter stop-off” on their migratory path and some migrating here as a destination, he said.
Great cormorants, surf scoters, bufflehead and eider ducks are just a few of the birds Bittenbender said can be found in the bay during the winter.
“We might also see some eagles, and evidence of osprey,” Bittenbender added. The couple also plan to share information about the islands in the bay, the history and preservation efforts.
Huber and Bittenbender have led birding trips in Kenya, taken people to see Monarch butterflies in Mexico, puffins in Newfoundland and on several trips to Churchill, Manitoba, to see polar bears.
The winter birding trip may lead to spring and summer birding trips, Bittenbender said; Casco Bay Lines has shown interest in partnering with Oceanside for such excursions.
Those interested in going on the winter birding trip on March 5 (rain/snow date March 6) should RSVP to email@example.com or call 699-2989. The trip costs $15 for OCT members and $20 for non-members. Hot soup and snacks will be served, and birders should bring their own binoculars, hot drinks and warm clothes.
The boat leaves the Casco Bay Lines terminal on Commercial Street at 10 a.m. and returns at 1:30 p.m.
For more information on OCT and upcoming events, go to oceansideconservationtrust.org.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org