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Backpacker Magazine – April 2003

10 Best Bird Watching Hikes In America

Spring is for the birds. Here's where to find a flock near you.

by: T. Edward Nickens


Alaska,
Copper River Delta

In late April and early May, the Copper River Delta near Cordova hosts 6 million squawking visitors--the largest gathering of shorebirds in North America. Throughout the year, about 20 million shorebirds and waterfowl will take a rest break or nest here. But the birds are just one of many amazing sights. The Copper River is Alaska's fourth largest and drains all the wild mountains in the southeastern corner of the state, including the Wrangell, St. Elias, and Chugach ranges. Best bet: Take a multiday float trip, then head for the hills, where hundreds of miles of trail and several backcountry cabins await.

guides:Trails Illustrated maps Prince William Sound-Eastand Prince William Sound-West (800-962-1643; www.backpacker.com/mapstore; $10 each).

contact: Chugach National Forest, (907) 743-9500; www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach.

Maryland
Assateague Island National Seashore

This barrier island may be famous for its wild horses--and the hordes of summertime tourists--but it's pleasantly quiet during the springtime arrival of migrating birds. Off the coast of the Delmarva Peninsula, the island includes 37 miles of dunes, marshes, beach grass, and pine forest with room to roam. Backcountry camping is allowed, and a handful of trails will take you to prime viewing spots for tricolored and little blue herons, great and snowy egrets, pelicans, clapper rails, osprey, loons, American oystercatchers, and dozens of songbird species.

guides: Assateague Island Handbook (available from contact below; $8). A free map is available at the park headquarters.

contact: Assateague Island National Seashore, (410) 641-1441; www.nps.gov/asis.

Maine
Acadia National Park

More than 250 bird species, including half the warblers found in the United States, can be seen along Maine's battered coast. Rugged cliffs above the ocean offer great views of shorebirds, while a handful of freshwater lakes, salt marshes, and a dozen forested mountains harbor trails that will let you see and hear the park's land birds. Acadia's best birdwatching is from May to September. Look for ruby-throated hummingbirds in the low branches of trees or shrubs. Or, beginning in May, attend a guided peregrine falcon watch or bird walk (for more information, contact the park).

guides: Hiking Acadia National Park, by Dolores Kong and Dan Ring ($17). Trails Illustrated map Acadia National Park #212 (800-962-1643; www.trailsillustrated.com; $10).

contact: Acadia National Park, (207) 288-3338; www.nps.gov/acad




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