Friday, December 20, 2013

Biddeford Pool, Snowy Owl, Cape Porpoise

Do I look cold?  Because I am!
Winter can be a really interesting time on the coast of Maine.  Saturday we threw on our long-johns and headed south to check out Biddeford and Kennebunkport on a frigid cold day.  We figured it was awfully cold for a dog from Florida to come along, so she wasn't invited.

Biddeford Pool, a giant mudflat with a single tiny outlet into Wood Island Harbor, is well-known for its birds.  I'd like to go there sometime when the sandpiper migration is in full swing (in August and September), but we had a wonderful treat there on this December day:  a snowy owl.

A poor photo of an amazing bird.
We knew some interesting bird was around as soon as we pulled off Rt 208, because a crowd of birders lined the streets.  It was easy to find their quarry, a snowy owl, just by following the line of their spotting scopes to the top of a chimney on a roadside house.  Apparently snowy owls commonly visit New England barrier islands and dune habitats in winter, especially when food is scarce on the tundra.  My old friend, Lisa Hutchings, who teaches down at Joppa Flats Mass Audubon Center in Newburyport, tells me that between Salisbury and Sandy Point they have counted 27, and someone counted 7 in one day on Crane's Beach.  Pretty amazing.  This guy was a cool customer, ignoring the swarms of binocular-laden spectators.  I  clicked a quick (and not so good) photo and we left the birders to their nirvana.

We headed out to the end of the neighborhood of Biddeford Pool and the Maine Audubon's East Point Sanctuary.  It was cold, but we were determined to get out and enjoy a walk, even if it was short.  The trails at East Point start by paralleling a golf course,  but soon take you to the eastern tip of Biddeford Pool, with views across the harbor and Wood Island Light.  There were some intriguing cobble beaches and rocky outcrops, and if it'd been warmer I'd have been more interested in them.  Whenever I go out to the coast on days like today I appreciate even more the hardiness of intertidal animals.  Not only do they face extreme heat and desiccation in summer when the tide is out, they face freezing on bitter days like this.  Pretty amazing physiology.

Unfortunately I'm not a hardy intertidal animal.  It didn't take too long to decide the weather had gotten the best of us, so we headed back to the mighty Kia and on to our next stop, Cape Porpoise.

The parking area.  Only 2-3 cars fit here.
The trail paralleling a golf course.
Winter storm moving in.  About four hours later those clouds were dumping a foot of snow on us.
There's nothing like a good warm pub to make winter more attractive, and The Ramp on Cape Porpoise fits the bill nicely.  After checking out the town landing, we headed for cover and lunch.  The Ramp was packed, not surprisingly, with a lot of other people trying to fight cabin fever.  We sat at the bar, had a great talk with some visitors from New Jersey, and enjoyed mussels and a lobster roll.  (The lobster roll was great -- with scallions, celery, light dressing, and a bed of finely chopped lettuce in a buttery roll.  And the home-made chips were a great accompaniment.) The snow-heavy clouds rolled in over the harbor, night fell, and we headed for home and the wood stove.

Winter in Cape Porpoise -- starkly beautiful.
Some color on a gray day.
An excellent seaside pub.
Low tide.
Landing catch even in frigid temps -- these guys are tough.
Clouds closing in over us.
Looking desolate.
One of those chairs has my name on it next August.
A pub packed with people, great food, interesting conversation, and sports/political stuff.  Let's stay for just one more beer.
To get there:

Biddeford Pool -- From US1 in Saco take Route 9 south.  Once you leave the city go south 5 1/2 miles and follow Rt 208 left into Biddeford Pool. At the end of Bridge Avenue, turn left onto Mile Stretch Road and continue to the end (keep taking the right hand forks in the road once in the neighborhood. Park with the flow of traffic on First Street or you will be ticketed.

Cape Porpoise -- From US1 in Kennebunk, follow Rts 35/9A east.  Turn north on Rt 9 for 2 1/2 miles; turn right onto Pier Rd and follow it to the end.


  1. I'm hoping to see a snowy this luck yet..

  2. It was pretty cool. I think if you took a trip south to Newburyport you'd have trouble avoiding them! I hear it's quite the "irruptive" year for them.