Monhegan Island, 2023

Last week, Tricia and I spent 7 fabulous days on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. The weather was spectacular, and while most of the birders on the island (and there are plenty of them) considered the birding to be on the slow side, there was still plenty of birds to be found. I observed a total of 73 species for the week (5 better than last year), and even managed to get a lifer (Philadelphia Vireo). I’ll include a complete species list at the bottom of this post.

~Yellow Warbler, Monhegan Island during the last week of September 2023.~
~Excellent bird. Lark Sparrow on Monhegan Island during the last week of September 2023.~

For me, there are two different birding approaches to take on the island. The first I’ll call birder-birding. It’s a very small island, and as I indicated above, there are loads of birders around. If you are a social birder, this is the style of birding you will excel at. It’s not my forte, but I did my best to stay in touch with the other birders and to hit all the known hotspots each morning to see if anything new came in. Interestingly, most of the hotspots are right in town. It’s definitely the most productive birding you can do on the island. Plus you get to meet some really great people. Some not-so-great people too, but that comes with the birding territory (and life in general, I guess). My best birder-birding species included: Lark Sparrow, Philadelphia Vireo, White-crowned Sparrow, Virginia Rail, Sora, Rusty Blackbird, and Northern Waterthrush.

~Common Yellowthroat on Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~Black Guillemot, Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~

The second approach is what I call adventure birding. This is my preferred style – I think I walked every single trail on the island this week. I wish I’d tracked all my hikes, but I estimate that I probably hiked 40-50 miles (and many of the trails are not easy going, especially along Cliff Trail #1). While it’s generally less productive, I really enjoy the sense of adventure and potential in this type of birding. I include doing a seawatch in this style because I get the same feelings while doing one – you never know what you’ll see looking far out over the ocean! Species highlights from this kind of birding included: Great Cormorant, Laughing Gull (Herring and Great Black-backed are the only expected gulls), Broad-winged Hawk (any buteo is considered rare on the island), Surf and Black Scoters, and plenty of Northern Gannetts. Plus, while I was at it, I got to see whales, dolphins, and seals.

~Common Eider, Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~

As always, I took loads of photos. I hope you enjoy them – I’m including a lot in this post, I hope it’s not overkill.

~Tricia and I were out at Pebble Beach, on the north side of the island when we had an excellent experience with a young Bald Eagle. The bird was perched out on a smaller island, but then started to fly. I said, c’mon fly to us. Well, it did! Not only that, it did an acrobatic maneuver right in front of us. It was really cool. Bald Eagle on Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~
~A not so typical look at a Bald Eagle. Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~Passing right by us on our left – not much of a crop on this shot. Bald Eagle, Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~I was not expecting to get a lifer on this trip. That said, I really should have gotten a Philadelphia Vireo by now, lol. Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~Black Guillemots were plentiful on the island this year. Last year I only had them on the ferry ride to and from. I love the plumage on this bird. Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~Common Eider with a snack. Monhegan Island the last week of September, 2023.
~Seal at Pebble Beach on Monhegan Island during the last week of September 2023. It’s tough to get good photos of these dudes, so we’ll settle for this one with flaring nostrils.~
There is a considerable population of Ring-necked Pheasants on the island. At one point, I was standing on a trail with nearly a dozen young pheasants grazing at my feet. It was pretty awesome. Monhegan Island, September 2023.~
~This Virginia Rail spent a morning in garden, of all places. I did my best to get a shot of the bird, but it came out a little crazy looking. Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~
~Great Cormorant, Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~
~Surf Scoters causing by during one of my seawatches. Monhegan Island, last week of September 2023.~
~How awesome is this? Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls on Monhegan Island, the last week of September 2023.~

10 thoughts on “Monhegan Island, 2023”

  1. Good stuff, Matt—and very fine photos! I’m especially impressed with your Broad-winged Hawk, since from what I gather broad-wings don’t typically like to fly over large bodies of water. (Oddly, I didn’t even keep a list this year, haha.)

    1. You may not have kept a list, but you looked as happy as I’ve ever seen you. Thanks for checking in. Matt

  2. WOW! A WHOLE week of doing what you Love…..What can be better than that?! Great Images of these Birds.
    Good for you, and Tricia.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Patty Kiersten

  3. It was great meeting you on the Island last week. I really like your photos of the bad eagle. Well, all the photos you posted up are really good. After seeing your images, I’m inspired to improve my bird photography!

    1. It was a pleasure to meet you Albert – I look forward to following you on the socials and seeing more of your work. Thanks for checking in. Matt

  4. Sounds like you had an amazing time…been on my list of places to visit for years!!! and

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