I appreciate Maine birds even more after spending a month in Alaska

I just got back from Alaska. After a month of exploring America’s largest state, I feel qualified to make a few comparisons to Maine wildlife.

First, I like walking in the Maine woods better, because there is nothing here that wants to eat me. Alaskan bears seemed confused by the idea that I am at the top of the food chain — an argument I hoped not to have with them. Nothing hones your vigilance and powers of observation like hiking in grizzly-rich Denali National Park.

Second, Alaskan mosquitoes are wimps. Theirs are a little bigger, but ours are more aggressive and much sneakier.

Third, Maine has a lot more birds. For instance, on a good day in the woods, I can find up to 20 species of warblers in Maine. Over there, just about every warbler was orange-crowned, yellow-rumped, Wilson’s, yellow or blackpoll.

Ditto for sparrows. Maine has up to 16 sparrow species. In Alaska, Savannah and fox sparrows were ubiquitous. Lincoln’s and American tree sparrows were common. And that was about it.

Likewise, Maine has more flycatchers, swallows, thrushes, woodpeckers and hawks. They have more ducks, shorebirds and the uber-cute Lapland longspurs.

Alaska has more seabirds, including two species of puffins not found in Maine. I started the trip having seen only Atlantic puffins in my life. Now I’ve admired hundreds of horned and tufted puffins, plus many of their relatives, the murrelets and auklets that proliferate in the Bering Sea.

Fourth, I can stop complaining about Maine’s early sunrise in June. While I was in Nome, the sun set at 1:15 am, and rose again minutes later. It never got dark, which meant that the birds were singing at 2 am

Fifth, Maine is way hazel. Not only do we have more songbirds, but they all chorus together at dawn. It’s a cacophony, like an orchestra tuning up. I dunno, maybe Alaska birds would also have a dawn chorus if they had a dawn. Instead, they seemed to sleep late.

Maine birds sing strongly just before breakfast. Alaska birds seemed to sing strongest just before lunch. Go figure.

Sixth, birds don’t care about color. Except for humans, most animals don’t care. Some brown bears are black, some black bears are brown, and a few bears of both species tend toward blonde. To find a grizzly, all I had to do was look for a huge, lumbering haystack, preferably in the far distance.

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