- Full Itinerary
- Photo Gallery
- Travel Details
- Trip Reports
- Know Before You Go
- Other Trips You May Like
Experience the joy of fall migration from Maine’s beloved Monhegan Island. Imagine a birding holiday on a remote and picturesque island where life slows down, and there are no roads and no cars. Monhegan’s geographic position forms a natural migration hotspot, and YOU can spend time here, with a bird expert, to learn, see, and do! We also visit the largest island in the Gulf of Maine, Mount Desert Island (MDI), home to Acadia National Park, where we explore pelagic species from the catamaran Friendship V and seek out fall migrants.
Birds flying south in migration, particularly if there are northwest winds, can get off track and find themselves at dawn out at sea. Once they correct, the almost 2-mile long island of Monhegan is a magnet, a patch of green where they can land for food and shelter. They find shelter in the island’s spruce woods as well as the ample food sources found in the village gardens—viburnum berries, lots of seeds, and insects existing in the clusters of branches and leaf litter. Migrants include a wide variety of warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers, such as Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Cape May Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and more! Mount Desert Island acts in a similar way attracting shorebirds, Neotropical migrants and rarities.
Monhegan is privately owned and has over a dozen miles of trails; 350 of its 513 acres are protected by an easement with a local conservation organization, the Monhegan Associates. In addition to the spruce woods to explore, there are gardens, rocky shorelines, 150+ ft. sea cliffs, raspberry tangles, two wet meadows, and a narrow band of red maple swamp. Less than 70 residents live here year-round. The lighthouse site goes back to 1824 while the current light structure dates from 1856 and was automated in 1959. A bench atop Lighthouse Hills affords a fine view!
We start at the Hampton Inn, near the Portland Airport on our first night before departing on our ferry to the island. The food on the island is truly fine dining, with some wonderful local dishes (yes lobster—even at breakfast with scrambled eggs). Take a peek at their menu on the Island Inn website. Our rooms have private bath, and most of our breakfasts and dinners are here, with a chance to sample other island fare at lunch time. The Inn has WIFI, a common phone in the lobby, and bring-your-own for alcoholic libations.
Buildings of the small village are colorful. So are the docks, fishing gear, stacks of lobster pots, and lichens which grown on rocks and aging wood structures. Rocking chairs on the large front porch lend a view of Manana Island which protects the quiet Monhegan harbor. For the first three years of Naturalist Journeys’ history, we made annual fall treks with our groups to Monhegan Island.
We also take the time to explore Acadia National Park on the magnificent coastal island of Mount Desert Island, visiting a Peregrine Falcon nest sight, looking for Spruce and Ruffed Grouse, and exploring wetlands and spruce forests for warblers, shorebirds, and sparrows. The pelagic tour leaves from Bar Harbor searching for Humpback and Fin Whales while birding 20 to 30 miles offshore for shearwaters, phalaropes, and Atlantic Puffin.
This Monhegan and Mount Desert Island birding trip has fantastic birding and a quaint, quintessentially “Maine” coastal village experiences, home to artists in the summer and some hardy fishermen year-round. Ten miles off the mainland, we take a one-hour ferry to get on and off the island and drive to the largest Gulf of Maine Island.
- “Our visit to Monhegan Island was wonderful. We loved the landscape, the food, the history, and the culture – as well as the birds.” — Bonnie Bowen & Rolf Kolford, 2023 Travelers
- “An easy-paced nature tour with lovely accommodations, great food, fantastic scenery and not much driving.” — Janet Mersey, 2023 Traveler
- “Monhegan Island is a place I would love to go back to for its birds, its peaceful atmosphere and the views of the coast on the south perimeter. We had the opportunity here to go on a whale watch tour, and saw some pelagic bird species like jaegers and Atlantic Puffins and also had some fantastic views of minke, humpback and fin whales.” — Kathy Ballhoefer, 2023 Traveler
- Bird wetlands, farmlands, and coastal areas near Portland, Maine, a major hotspot for migrating shorebirds and waders, en route to Monhegan
- Watch for seabirds such as Great Shearwater on the ferry ride to and from Monhegan Island
- Discover in-depth Maine’s top eBird hotspot over your island days
- Search for warblers, vireos, and flycatchers around Ice Pond, a freshwater inland pond
- Bird from Monhegan Island’s unpaved roads and well-established trail system
- Learn new skills with time to study fall plumage warblers, sparrows, gulls, and other groups in detail
- Relax and go with the flow of migration; each day brings a new surprise (porch time on the rocking chairs with a view allowed!)
- Discover Bar Harbor and the diversity of birding Acadia National Park and pelagic birds of the Gulf of Maine
- Bookend your island time with time in Portland and Bangor as we add twenty or more species to our island list
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sun., Sept. 8 Arrivals in Portland, Maine
Welcome to Maine! Your trip starts today from Portland where you are met at the airport by your guide. For birding today, please plan to arrive no later than 2:00 PM. If you arrive later, simply take the hotel shuttle and plan to meet the group for dinner, a lobby meet-up at 6:45 PM. From the airport we plan to stop at our hotel, check in, and then head out for some afternoon birding. Tonight, we kick off the trip with our welcome dinner, and a chance to meet all our traveling companions and guides.
Accommodations at the Embassy Suites (D)
Mon., Sept. 9 Morning Birding | Afternoon Ferry to Monhegan Island
This morning we depart by 7:30 AM after breakfast and packing up our gear. We check a few birding hotspots (mainly marshes and ponds, with hopes of secretive Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrow and some mainland-preferring shorebirds such as Dunlin) close to the city, and a few more as we head north to New Harbor to catch the Hardy Ferry, passing through New Brunswick. If we drove straight it’s about an hour and a half, so we have time for stops. If it’s good weather we pick up seafood or a picnic, if not, we find some nice fresh fish or lobster rolls indoors to sample.
The good news is the ferry ride is only about an hour, you may want to be up on deck to spot possible seabirds en route. Even if foggy we should get glimpses of Northern Gannet, Common Eider, Black Guillemot, Red-necked Phalarope, and perhaps all three scoters. With good light we may spot Great Shearwater or see big flocks of migrating Blue Jay. An excellent find would include Black-legged Kittiwake mixed in with the more common gulls–Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed being the most common of this clan.
We dock and have help to get our luggage up to the hotel, which sits imposingly over the harbor, commanding a lovely view. Immediately you are thrown back in time, and for the next few days the only thing you really have to do is to eat and bird! As time permits, we wander the few streets of the village where gardens provide food and shelter for migrants, getting an immediate read on the bird activity. Over thirty species of warblers have been noted on the island—you have a superb chance to see at least 25 on this trip.
The first glance at the Island Inn’s dinner menu will bring you a smile, thankfully you have several evenings to make a dent in it. Start with New England Clam Chowder, Lobster Bisque, or try the Heirloom Beets. Then how about halibut, haddock or fresh scallops, or if you prefer, pork chops or several vegetarian options including Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms and Lemon Risotto and watercress.
Accommodations at the Island Inn (B,L,D)
Tues., Sept. 10 & Wed., Sept. 11 Two Full Days on Monhegan Island
Fall migration is in full swing! While we never know if our check of the southeast facing beaches reveals scores of birds arriving, we do know we should find a steady stream of a variety of species, usually tallying about 100-120 species for the trip, depending on conditions and how we do on the mainland as well. Over the next two days, our daily plans are fluid, moving with the flow of migration and following up on sightings reported around the island. There is an excellent trail map, and we need time to both check the always-productive village and garden area, but to also make it over to sea watch areas on headlands where we gaze out for possible Cory Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Northern Gannet, and Northern Fulmar. Offshore ledges and coastlines are attractive to Double-crested and Great Cormorants sunning themselves, and in quiet coves we may find Great Blue Heron, Snowy or Great Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, or a Belted Kingfisher.
Raptors use the island, with Merlin being one of the most common, to hunt birds on the wing over land and sea. Osprey and Bald Eagle call, both fairly common, as well as Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Peregrine Falcon patrol the cliff areas.
Island trails are a mix, many are wide, well-marked and leisurely, some have steeper and rocky sections that when wet can require caution. All cliff edges and rocky sea areas require caution. But for the most part we move at ease, searching for bird activity. We may split up and talk by radio to survey more areas, meeting up at viewpoints. Some of the more common forest birds include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-headed, Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, White-throated and Swamp Sparrows, Baltimore Oriole, and more. Rusty Blackbird, Dickcissel, and Bobolink are all good and regular finds.
Possible warblers? The mix changes each week of this month as migration conditions lure them south. We should see Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cape May, Northern Parula, Yellow, Blackpoll, Pine, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, and Wilson’s Warblers. We watch avidly for Connecticut—often one of the most sought-after by our groups. Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, and Canada are all possible. This is a super opportunity to learn fall plumage of the fabulous New World Warblers, America’s avian darlings.
We typically do a walk in the morning, another in the afternoon, and we make quick trips to close-in areas such as the village gardens regularly. You are welcome to take a seat at the local brewery to chat with locals, browse the galleries or explore on your own. Our pace answers that of the birds, some years can be quieter than others, but all years are good! The basic recipe for a day on Monhegan starts with Earth, Wind, Sea and Sky, adding in birds, views, smells of the ocean, colors—natural and cultural, and always the sound of the bell buoy. We trust the island infusion kicks in to make this a most-memorable birding holiday.
Accommodations at the Island Inn (B,L,D each day)
Thurs., Sept. 12 Ferry Back to the Mainland | Bar Harbor
Today is a travel day to Mount Desert Island. We want to check around the Inn for any incredible migrants and begin our day with a traditional breakfast and an early departure on the Hardy Ferry to the mainland. As we backtrack to the mainland, we look for any pelagics we might have missed and enjoy the exceptional vistas of this unique ferry ride. Now that Monhegan Island is firmly etched into your lists of amazing places to bird, it is time to transfer to another gem along the Gulf of Maine archipelago.
Mount Desert Island (MDI) is the largest and most diverse island in a chain of 4600 islands left behind by the Wisconsin Glacier 1300 years ago, from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia. Monhegan is an island 1.7 miles long and .7 miles wide making the area 4.5 square miles. MDI has an area of 108 square miles and is 15 miles long and about 8 miles wide so birding opportunities are endless. Located in Hancock County, with 343 species reported in eBird, MDI is home to Acadia National Park (ANP) which supports 338 bird species and a wide variety of habitats from semi-alpine to saltwater estuaries and open ocean birds along the eastern seaboard. Considered one of the premier bird-watching areas in the country, Acadia is a favorite breeding ground for neotropical migrants and stop-over site for an incredible diversity of birds, from owls to shorebirds and from raptors to warblers.
Monhegan Island lies 66.8 miles from Mount Desert Island and takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive to once we land. There are a few stops we can make along scenic coastal Rt 1. We hope to visit the Peregrine Falcon nest site on Champlain Mountain this afternoon and possibly enjoy a coastal walk along the historic Bar Harbor Shore Path.
Dinner tonight is at McKays Public House, a quaint and beautiful restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining and a delicious, locally sourced menu. Get a good night’s sleep as we head out on a pelagic trip tomorrow.
Accommodations at the Atlantic Oceanside (B,L,D)
Fri., Sept. 13 Gulf of Maine & Outer Islands Pelagic | Mount Desert Island
After breakfast at the Bar Harbor Inn, we board the Friendship V, a double hulled catamaran built to smoothly maneuver through the Gulf of Maine waters. This is our day to see MDI from the ocean as mariners have for 1000s of years. We travel 20 to 30 miles offshore in search of Arctic and Common Terns, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, and Common Murre rounding out the list of alcids. We hope to encounter Humpback, Finback, and Minke Whales, and possibly encounter White-sided Dolphin, too.
Foraging among the whales, it’s possible to find swarms of Wilson’s and a few Leaches Storm-Petrels, Northern Gannet, Red and Red-necked Phalarope, Greater and Sooty Shearwaters, Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers, and other members of the ocean dwelling tubenose species.
This afternoon we head to Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park. The only national park in Maine, Acadia is surrounded by quaint coastal New England communities with strong ties to the ocean. Depending on what we have seen already today, we search for missing species and new island locations that highlight the unique aspects of Mount Desert Island and Down East Maine.
We are back to Bar Harbor tonight for another delicious dinner.
Accommodations at the Atlantic Oceanside (B,L,D)
Sat., Sept. 14 Exploring Acadia National Park & Mount Desert Island
After a leisurely breakfast at the Bar Harbor Inn, we gather together for a birding trip around Mount Desert Island taking in coastal and inland habitats known for good fall migrants. The first part of the morning we explore Eastern MDI and go into Acadia National Park.
The afternoon can be set aside for leisurely exploring around Bar Harbor or we have the option of birding the western side of MDI going to Seawall for migratory warblers and seabirds. Bass Harbor Marsh and Seal Cove are all excellent locations for ducks, warblers, and the first fall waterbirds.
We are back to Bar Harbor tonight for a final delicious and celebratory dinner.
Accommodations at the Atlantic Oceanside (B,L,D)
Sun., Sept. 15 Departures
Our journey comes to an end today as we travel north to Bangor International Airport for your departure flights. Afternoon departures allow time to visit the Orono Bog and Bangor Forest to better understand these northern habitats and look for a few birds before your flights. Please plan flights out after 1:00 PM from Bangor.
If you prefer to book roundtrip air to Portland, you can shuttle back with our guides, who are returning their vehicles. You would need to plan evening flights out of Portland. (B)
Lincoln's Sparrow by Nick Tepper
Magnolia Warbler by Nick Tepper
Orange-crowned Warbler by Nick Tepper
Palm Warbler by Nick Tepper
Cost of the Journey
The cost of this journey is $3990 DBL / $5250 SGL, from Portland, Maine, departing Bangor. This cost is based on double occupancy and includes all accommodations; meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, local park and other area entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. The cost does not include transportation to or from your home to Portland or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, porterage, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival Airport: Portland International Jetport (PWM)
Arrival Details: Plan to arrive September 8, no later than 2:00 PM
Departure Airport: Bangor International Airport (BGR)
Departure Details: Plan September 15 flights after 1:00 PM
You may also depart out of Portland International Jetport (PWM) if you prefer to book a roundtrip flight. You can shuttle back to Portland with the guides and plan on evening flights out.
Travel Tip: You may wish to arrive a day early and rest up from your travels. The easiest option would be to book an extra night at our first night tour hotel, the Hampton Inn Portland Airport https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/pwmmehx-hampton-portland-airport/. If you’d like to explore a bit, there are many interesting things to do in Portland. Portland Head Light, a historic lighthouse that is the most photographed in America, is a popular and scenic spot to visit that also has a museum. The Victoria Mansion is an Italianate villa known for its architectural significance and well-preserved lavish interior that can be toured. And if you’re into art, The Portland Museum of Art is a fascinating place to visit and has over 18,000 works of art including pieces from Andy Warhol and Claude Monet. All of these attractions are located within 20 minutes of the airport and can be reached via taxi, Uber, or rental car.
If you wish to arrive early and prefer to stay downtown, we recommend:
Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront
AC Hotel Portland Downtown Waterfront
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Michael has more than 25 years of experience studying the birds of North America, and brings a wealth of knowledge about Neotropical migrants and the avifauna of the Eastern United States. Michael has traveled extensively in the US, Alaska, Europe, Australia, South America and Cuba. He is also a regional business leader promoting sound ecologically practices in business and land development. Michael has been guiding professionally for many years, focusing on avian ecology in the Gulf of Maine bioregion. His fields of expertise include wetland ecology, ornithology, environmental education and developmental biology. Michael worked for many years at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, studied numerous aspects of the Gulf of Maine.
In his spare time, he maintains Three Pines Bird Sanctuary in Town Hill, Maine, studying micro-habitat of Neotropical migratory birds on Mount Desert Island, Maine and winter ecology in various Neotropical countries, when given the opportunity.
Other trips with Michael Good
Trinidad & Tobago: Incredible Birds & Wildlife FULL - See our June departure!April 4 - 13, 2024
Texas' Big Bend FULL - Check out South Texas: Birds & Nature in November!April 27 - May 5, 2024
New Hampshire's Mt. Washington Warblers & Bicknell's ThrushJune 4 - 10, 2024
Maine Northwoods RetreatJuly 10 - 16, 2024
- Trinidad & Tobago: Incredible Birds & Wildlife
Pat Lueders has been leading tours for Naturalist Journeys since 2014 after volunteering as the Field Trip leader and coordinator for St. Louis Audubon for 10 years. She has led tours regularly in the U.S. including Utah, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina, and New Jersey. Internationally, she has led groups to Central America (Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Guatemala), South America (Galapagos, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago), and Africa (Kenya & Uganda). For the fall 2023 & winter 2024, she’s excited to return to Trinidad and add New Zealand, Jamaica, and Portugal to her itineraries.
When home in St. Louis, she’s been the coordinator of the Great Rivers Trumpeter Swan Watch for 12 years, and she conducts Breeding Bird Surveys for the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Department of Natural Resources.
Other trips with Pat Lueders
Caribbean Endemics of JamaicaMarch 17 - 24, 2024
Portugal: Fabulous Birding & CultureApril 6 - 18, 2024
Ohio: The Biggest Week in Birding FULL - Check out New Hampshire's Mt. WashingtonMay 3 - 10, 2024
Cape May: Spring Migration FULL - See Cape May: Fall MigrationMay 14 - 20, 2024
Arizona Monsoon Madness: Birding & Nature in a Season of Wonder! A private tour for St. Louis Audubon Society.August 7 - 14, 2024
- Caribbean Endemics of Jamaica
Essential Information +
Packing List +
Suggested Reading List +
Useful Links +
Photo credits: Banners: Sailboat by Greg Smith; Harbor Seal by Peg Abbott; Lobster Cove, Valerie Gebert; Port Clyde, Valerie Gebert;Gray Jay, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Portland, Maine, by Greg Smith; Yellow-rumped Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Black-throated Green Warbler, Nick Tepper; Canada Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Philadelphia Vireo, by Nick Tepper; Blackburnian Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Song Sparrow, by Nick Tepper; Cape-may Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Yellow-rumped Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Chestnut-sided Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Black-throated Green Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Lincoln's Sparrow, by Nick Tepper; Bog, by Greg Smith; Magnolia Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Maine Shoreline, by Dan Donaldson; Orange-crowned Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Harbor, Walter Brust; Palm Warbler, by Nick Tepper; Island Inn, courtesy Islandinnmonhegan.com