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Sunrise Reveille at Kennebunk Plains, ME

Upland Sandpiper
Photograph by Henry Walters

Late spring into summer, the Plains are bursting with with life. The air resounds with the ping­-pong singing match between Prairie Warblers and Field Sparrows. After sunset, Whip­-poor-wills and nocturnal insects fill the quiet, taking over for the April sky-dances of the woodcocks. By late summer, Northern Blazing Star--a wild aster--explodes across the landscape in broad strokes of purple. By some accounts, Kennebunk Plains is home to 90% of the total population of this plant.
Photograph by Fred Weymouth

Imagine a vast expanse of grassland, punctuated with wildflowers and shrubs and framed by pine barrens and upland forests. It is the tense twilight of dawn; the eastern sky is beginning to flame with the first hints of the rising sun. The plains awaken to the eerie wolf­-whistle of an Upland Sandpiper, a cry taken up and echoed from near and far. As the sun crests the horizon, Eastern Meadowlarks embellish their flute­like phrases, Bobolinks bubble up in musical exuberance, while Grasshopper Sparrows buzz from the tussocks and bushes. Horned Larks scurry across the dirt paths and Vesper Sparrows prove they are not just evening songsters.

You don't have to travel far from New Hampshire to experience a morning like this! Kennebunk Plains, just a hop, skip, and a jump over the border in Maine, is the largest sand-plain grassland in New England: the home of rare plants, like white-­topped aster and upright bindweed, and several species of birds and reptiles on the Maine state threatened and endangered species list, like the Eastern Black Racer and the Grasshopper Sparrow.

We'll meet bright and early for this one. Sunrise shows Kennebunk Plains at its best, before the heat of the day quiets the morning chorus of songsters. We'll try to assemble between 4:45 and 5:00 a.m., a few minutes before sunrise, and continue our explorations until around 11:00 a.m. Bring binoculars, water, and a bite of breakfast, as we'll need sustenance!

Rather than driving through the night, there is the possibility for overnight camping in the area on June 6; there are also carpooling options the day of. Just let us know if you're interested!

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