My February Birding Re-Cap (2/16/15)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I sure hope you have taken that to mean that I have not been out birding! Quite the contrary in fact.

Yeah, it’s been bitter cold – we’ve yet to rise above freezing in February! And if you hadn’t noticed, we’ve had quite a bit of snow recently. Of course, strong winds with dangerous windchills (like yesterday) and heavy snow precluded birding on some days -well, except for feeder-watching, which has been truly excellent.

In fact, the feeder-watching has been so good of late, that Saturday’s birdwalk outing was mostly spent watching feeders. 50+ Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, a Carolina Wren, and more were enjoyed from a sheltered yard, or from the inside of our house. Yup, we went indoors for the birdwalk this week, defrosting for about a half hour – our feeders are only visible from inside the house, afterall.

And with several snow days and work-from-home writing days of late, I have been enjoying our feeder activity: a large number of American Goldfinches have been joined by varying small numbers of Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, and Common Redpolls. Still waiting for a big flock, however. And the second-ever, and first long-staying, Carolina Wren in the yard has been a treat – we’re pumping him full of mealworms to keep him around, and healthy.
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The feeders at the store have been active, as well, although non-goldfinch finch numbers have not been as good or as consistent at home. But, for mid-winter with this much snow on the ground, the diversity has been surprisingly good. (Weekly totals are posted to our store’s website).

Snowy Owls are around, and on 1/31 we finally added one to our all-time Saturday Morning Birdwalk list with a visit to Brunswick Landing: species #236. Meanwhile, our birdwalk to Winslow Park on 2/7 had Barred Owl, the continuing (despite all the ice) over-wintering Dunlin (12), and the 4 Barrow’s Goldeneyes (3 drakes and 1 hen) that had been present.

But the impressive ice cover in Casco Bay has greatly reduced the amount of waterfowl in the immediate vicinity over the last couple of weeks. The end of Winslow remains clear (barely) and the duck concentrations there are quite good, but as of today, however, the much-reduced area of open water now held only two drake Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Meanwhile, the small hole of open water at the base of the Lower Falls in Yarmouth is still somehow still hosting the merganser “hat-trick” (with varying numbers of all three species) as it does every winter – they’re running out of room though!

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Not all ducks are quite as concentrated as these hungry Mallards (with a few American Black Ducks) at Riverbank Park in Westbrook.

While the field trip portion of my Gull Identification Workshop has been postponed for the last two Sundays, gull-watching is pretty good right now, especially in and around Portland Harbor. Hatch Hill Landfill in Augusta on the 12th, however, had only about 100 Herring Gulls – gull numbers are drastically reduced here when there is little open water on the Kennebec River in downtown. The Bath Landfill is hosting a few Iceland and a couple of Glaucous Gulls, however.

Frugivores have been common, with large flocks of American Robins and goodly numbers of Cedar Waxwings stripping all available, palatable fruit. Bohemian Waxwings have been scattered about – although I have yet to catch up with any – but so far Pine Grosbeaks have mostly remained to our north. The rapidly diminishing fruit crop locally will likely concentrate these birds further, or push them southward.

My two best days of birding this month, however, were on Feb 1 and just this past Friday. On the 1st, a snowshoe at the Waterboro Barrens Preserve was awesome. I went there to refind the Red Crossbills that a friend and I had there in December, as my recordings from that visit were inconclusive as to “type.”

Not only did I find 14 crossbills, but many were in full song, and one male was apparently carrying nesting material! A light wind, and my huffing-and-puffing from snowshoeing in waist-deep snow drifts off trail, impeded the clarity of my recordings, unfortunately. However, one of the call types (as analyzed by Matt Young over at Cornell) was suggestive of the Type 8 Red Crossbill from Newfoundland, which has yet to be definitively recorded outside of that province. Intriguing -yup, I need to find time to go back and improve the recording.

The icing on the cake that day was a Hoary Redpoll teased out from a flock of about 40 Commons as they alighted in fed in the Pitch Pines with the crossbills. This was my first Hoary in Maine away from a feeder.

With all of these storms, and two “nice” days of northeasterly winds, I had alcids on my mind as Lois Gerke and I spent the morning in Cape Elizabeth on Friday (2/13). Apparently, my hunch was correct – we scored 4 species of alcids! This is not an easy feet in winter in Maine, although I have hit the total several times (not yet hit 5, however). Black Guillemots were scattered about, as usual, but the fun started with a fly-by Dovekie at Dyer Point.

A continuing (and apparently not very healthy) Thick-billed Murre was at nearby Kettle Cove.
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Our presence likely saved its life for now, as a 4th-cycle Bald Eagle had its eye on it – but also, us, apparently. The eagle even landed on the rocks a few inches from the murre, which, instead of diving to escape as a healthy alcid would, was apparently resigned to simply tucking itself into a corner of the rock.
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After checking for frugivores at Village Crossings (just a few American Robins on what was left of the crabapple, but we did enjoy a flock of 22 Common Redpolls), we decided to try for a Razorbill for our fourth alcid of the day. Lois’s time was limited, so instead of heading back down to Dyer Point (where the wind was also brutal), we rolled the dice and tried Portland Head Light. And sure enough, a Razorbill was offshore, feeding at the mouth of Casco Bay on the changing tide!

After lunch, I decided to procrastinate a little longer and slowly bird my way to the store, checking for open water on the Falmouth Foreside coastline. Although I was looking for duck concentrations, once again, alcids stole the show: a Thick-billed Murre flew into the cove on the south side of the Mackworth Island causeway. Perfectly strong and healthy, this bird was likely following some small fish into the bay on the incoming tide.

Even more surprising was another Thick-billed Murre in Falmouth, even further up the bay off of the Town Landing. This bird also looked fine, swimming steadily upstream with the tide, “snorkeling” to look for food.
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These Buffleheads looked just as surprised as I was.

So yeah, a 4-alcid day, with three different Thick-billed Murres in quite a day, and probably one of my best birding days of the winter. It just goes to show you what winter birding can bring in Maine, even during an impressive deep-freeze. So yeah, I’ll be out birding as much as I can, and signs of spring are certainly in the air: woodpeckers are drumming actively, Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches are singing frequently now, and Great Horned Owls are already nesting. Bald Eagles are probably starting some house-keeping, Common Ravens are reaffirming territories, and in only a month, the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch gets underway!

Until then, it’s finches, ducks, white-winged gulls, frugivores, and alcids. I’ll be out in the field, and I hope you will be too. (And don’t forget, you can check out what I have been seeing in near-daily posts to our store’s Facebook page).

GYRFALCON in Wells (January 2015)!

Gyrfalcons are one of those enigmatic birds of the high northern latitudes that are always a favorite among northern birders, and lusted over by those further south. I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a few in Alaska, one in Michigan, and even one in South Boston. And few sightings of mine will ever surpass the eyrie of three white morph juveniles that we saw in Kamchatka.

But I had yet to see one in Maine. Or, at least, seen one for certain: there was this large, dark falcon with shallow wingbeats that screamed by during a snow squall while birding at Fort Halifax in Winslow one winter morning with a friend. It probably was, but…

On January 13th, a dark morph Gyrfalcon was found ravaging a Herring Gull on a ballfield in Kennebunk by Shiloh Shulte. His crippling photos of this beautiful bird can be seen here.

We were in Georgia.

Meanwhile, the plot thickened. Shiloh’s photos were strongly suggestive of the dark morph Gyrfalcon seen in Madbury, New Hampshire on December 15th, with at least one more sighting later at the Rochester Waste Water Treatment Plant. Meanwhile, it came to light the bird was actually photographed in Maine on January 10th, in the Ogunquit River Marsh from Ocean Street in Ogunquit.

Then, yesterday (Saturday, 1/17), Bob and Sandi Duchesne, et al, refound the bird in the Webhannet Marsh, just north of Wells Harbor (via Harbor Road). Quite a few birders were able to make it down to the marsh, and observe the bird in the area through sundown.

Not surprisingly, a lot of birders converged on Wells Harbor this morning. Myself included.

I arrived at Harbor Road at about 8:00am, and a short while later, chatted with folks at the end of the road, at the marina and boat launch of the harbor. No sign of the “Gyr.” Several us decided to split up and search elsewhere, keeping in touch of course.

I walked Community Park, scanning the marsh along the way (9 Horned Larks, 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers). I then went up to Parson’s Beach, where there was a possible sighting a few days ago. No luck, but I was surprised to find a small flock of 6 Savannah Sparrows at the end of the road; unseasonable.

Next up, I drove Drake’s Island Road. A car was pulled over, and seeing that they were looking at a Rough-legged Hawk (also seen earlier by others from Harbor Road), I too pulled over. I watched the hawk for several minutes, before it took off rather abruptly. I thought I saw something streaking low across the marsh, but blocked by trees, I really assumed it was a figment of my imagination. Driving ahead to a better view of the marsh, I scanned to the south, spotting a dark lump in the middle of the marsh – a lump that I had not noticed before. Four Common Redpolls flew over. The lump moved. I scoped Harbor Rd and did not see any birders. It was dark, it seemed small-headed, and it was fairly big. But there was heat shimmer, and it was far, very far.

I called Noah Gibb, wondering where he was, and mentioning I spotted a “promising lump” to the north of Harbor Rd and I was racing over. As I pulled into the parking lot at the end of Harbor Road, at least a half dozen birders were now present, but looking in different directions, and clearly not excited. “Damn it,” I thought. Was my lump just a bona fide lump? My excitement waned.

But I set up the scope anyway, pointed it towards said lump, and turned to the other birders and said, “Do you guys know the Gyrfalcon is sitting out here?” After they all saw it, we enjoyed a good chuckle, but most importantly, we all knew where the bird was, and dozens of birders converged.

Between 9:55 and 10:50, many of us enjoyed this magnificent bird, which, through a scope, afforded more than satisfactory views. During the time, it made two sorties, one low over the marsh, taking a run at an American Crow, and another higher flight over the water, flushing up roosting gulls.

This is one beastly bird, almost certainly a female based on its size. Gyr’s don’t have narrow wings like a lot of falcons, but big, broad (especially at the base) wings that seem to fight tapering to a point. In many angles, they even suggest buteos or goshawks. The flight of a Gyr is incredibly fast and seemingly effortless. Its shallow wingbeats generate a lot of power. It’s really like a Peregrine Falcon on steroids.

After each flight, the bird returned to a piece of driftwood in the marsh, north-northwest of the end of the parking lot at the end of Harbor Road (Wells Harbor), about 1/3rd the way between here and Drake’s Island Road. From the boat launch on the north side of the parking lot, looking out at about 11:00, somewhat in line with a marsh-edge house along the western end of Drake’s Island Road.

This phone-scoped photo was the best that I could muster:
GYRF1,Wells Harbor, 1-17-15

And this was the best flight shot I got of the bird in flight with my Nikon:
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On a couple of occasions, the bird took off to the west, and we all lost site of it behind trees and buildings. It crossed the road once, heading over the salt pannes near the beginning of Harbor Road, and disappearing to the south. Several of us failed to locate it in the marsh to the south, and eventually, Luke Seitz and I gave into the call of second breakfast at Congdon’s Donuts.

When we returned to Harbor Road at 12:25, the Gyrfalcon was once again on her low driftwood perch to the north. At least today, the bird seemed to come back to this spot reliably, and it was observed there on and off through a little before 3:00pm. In other words, for birders seeking the bird, spending time patiently looking north from the end of Harbor Road (also, the parking lot at the end Atlantic Road in Wells Beach, accessed from Mile Road off of Rte 1) would likely be a good idea – and keep an eye out for promising lumps! And clearly, the bird covers some ground, so if it is not being seen, spreading out would be useful eventually. Hopefully, my description of the day’s sightings (and lack there of) offers some help in directing the next search, if necessary.

This was my 366th species in Maine, and Gyrfalcon was #5 on my personal “next birds” for my state list, as I wrote about earlier this month. But it was a Gyr, and Gyrs are awesome, no matter what list they are or are not on.

Several dozen birders came and went today, and not surprisingly, with so many birders in an area, and with so many people spread out and looking for the bird, there was a classic “Patagonia Picnic Table Effect” underway: when birders seeking one rare bird start finding others nearby. In addition to the Rough-legged Hawk (not many have been around this winter so far) seen on all three days, 2-3 Yellow-rumped Warblers at Community Park, and scattered Horned Larks, some of the other birds in the area that were reported included:

(Updated, 11:00am, 1/21)

1/18:
– 1 Eastern Meadowlark on Furbish Road in Wells (presumably the same bird that Kristen Lindquist and I found there on the York County CBC in December and has been seen at least once since).
– 6 Savannah Sparrows, Parson’s Beach.
– 2 Bohemian Waxwings, Wells Library.
– 1 Northern Flicker, Drake’s Island Road.
– 1 Snowy Owl, Drake’s Island Beach.

1/19:
– 1 Swamp Sparrow, Eldridge Road.
– 1 Merlin, Wells Harbor.
– 2 Dunlin with 128 Sanderlings, Ogunquit Beach.

1/20:
– Snowy Owl, over Wells Beach.
– 128 Sanderling, Ogunquit Beach.

Meanwhile, the overwintering drake King Eider at The Cliff House in York had quite a bit of visitation during these few days.

While dozens, if not hundreds, of birders from throughout New England were looking for the bird in the afternoon on the 19th and all day on the 20th, the Gyr apparently moved on. Late in the afternoon on the 20th, it was reported back in New Hampshire, in the marshes of Hampton – not far from where it was first spotted last month! Will the bird stick around there? Will it be back in Wells? Who knows, but hopefully, people will continue to enjoy the bird, and when its not being seen, spread out and look throughout all of the marshes of both states. Gyrfalcons travel widely in search of food, and there’s no reason why the entire area from Hampton through Kennebunk can’t be part of this bird’s winter range.

In the meantime, please enjoy Luke Seitz’s photos of the Gyrfalcon from Harbor Road on the evening of Saturday, January 17th (note especially the bird’s massive size and girth, and broad wings in relation to a Red-tailed Hawk that it took a run at).
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2014-15 Freeport-Brunswick CBC: West Freeport Territory.

The Freeport-Brunswick Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, January 3rd. With the exception of the last two winters in which we were away visiting family during the count, Jeannette and I have taken part in the count since 2004.

In our first year, as newcomers to the count, we were assigned the least-popular “West Freeport” territory, which includes all of Freeport west of I-295, a corner of Yarmouth and Durham, and a sliver of Pownal. With open water (in some winters) limited to a small stretch of the Cousin’s River and Pratt’s Brook and adjacent brackish marsh, the territory doesn’t get the diversity of the other sections, that include productive places like Cousin’s Island, Winslow Park, and Harpswell.

While Hedgehog Mountain Park and Florida Lake Park are included, these are not usually very productive places in the middle of winter. But I still enjoy being able to cover two of my favorite patches, plus our own backyard (which makes for a good excuse to take a mid-day break for a hot lunch while counting at our feeding station). But in order to adequately sample this large area, with lots of yards, woodlots, and scattered fields, adequately, Jeannette and I spend a lot of time walking.

And whether it’s a CBC or any other birding, I always prefer more time walking than driving. So instead of driving all of these suburban and exurban roads, we walk them. And we walk a lot. Leap-frogging each other with the car, walking one mile stretches at a time, we walk about 20 miles (about 11-12 miles each) in all, and drive only 18-20. In doing so, we pass by a lot of feeders, and encounter mixed species foraging flocks that we would most likely never detect by just driving around.

And so we count a lot of birds. We sift through hundreds of Black-capped Chickadees as we pick out the other members of the winter flock. We listen for finches, check out feeders, and otherwise just go birding! This is how I like to CBC!

One of the other things I particular enjoy about covering this territory is that I am able to quantify some of my impressions of the winter’s birding that I have been noting walking Sasha at the ‘Hog, or watching my own feeders, and just while birding in general.

This year, a lack of snowcover made for easy walking, but reduced concentrations of birds, especially at edges and feeders. Some of the impressions that I have had turned out to be true: although feeders are often a little slower than usual, there are plenty of birds around. Red-breasted Nuthatches are abundant, but Golden-crowned Kinglets are nearly absent. Irruptive finches are still in short supply, but I expect them to now increase as winter returns. There also seem to be a lot of Red-tailed Hawks around, Wild Turkeys and Red-bellied Woodpeckers continue to increase, and the daily “commute” of gulls overhead (which I often note from the yard and Florida Lake Park in particular) no longer occurs following the closing of a feed lot in Auburn (gulls used to travel from Casco Bay to and from this and other Lewiston-Auburn feeding locations).

Dan Nickerson joined us this year, also welcoming the opportunity to bird his neighborhood as well, and making sure his feeder birds get counted. And we really lucked out with the weather. It was indeed the calm before the storm, with light winds all day and the first flurries not falling until we were at the wrap-up in the evening. It was cold though: 10F to start, with a high of only 21F. Increasing humidity and cloud cover made for a very raw afternoon, and a bone-chilling day. That lunch break at our feeders was a necessary respite today, as was some hot chai.

Due to the complex geography of the circle, we actually have two compilers, and two compilations, splitting the long peninsulas of the eastern edge off from the rest of the circle. Therefore, we usually speak of the western half of the circle (nicknamed “The Bean Count”) when comparing our numbers. Of the western half teams, we tallied 9 high counts, and had the only Common Redpolls, White-winged Crossbills, and Northern Shrike of the parties in our area.

The bird of the day was definitely the four White-winged Crossbills that Dan and I had departing a feeder on Beech Hill Road in Freeport. Jeannette and I were very excited to find a shrike at Hidden Pond Preserve where we also hope to see one, and hopefully the two Common Redpolls that flew over us on Granite Road in Yarmouth are a sign of things to come.

But my highlight was the Red-bellied Woodpecker that Dan and I found along Hunter Road. As we were coming up onto the Hunter Road Fields, the Red-bellied called and we spotted it at the edge of the road. I greatly amused Dan, apparently, as I sprinted across the road, got my feet onto the Hunter Road Fields property – which is part of my Hedgehog Mountain Patch List area – and logged the Red-belly for my 148th Patch Bird! …A long overdue, border-line nemesis patch bird at that!

Good conversation throughout the day, and Stella’s chili at the wrap-up at the store, were icing on today’s frosty cake. While our crossbills were one of the best birds of “The Bean Count” area, one could argue the Snowy Owl found at Brunswick Landing would take the crown. 31 Northern Pintails in the “Winter of the Pintail” at Simpson’s Point may have been the most unexpected, along with a Common Grackle in Brunswick, and two Barrow’s Goldeneyes were other highlights.

Because Jeannette and I conduct the CBC with such a consistent route and methodology, I find it unusually valuable to compare data from year to year. Therefore, as I offer the list of this year’s sightings, in parenthesis, I also offer the average for our territory. An *asterix signifies a new record high for our territory.

American Black Duck (8): 4
Wild Turkey (12): 23
Cooper’s Hawk (<1): 1
Red-tailed Hawk (1): 4*
Herring Gull (23): 3
Rock Pigeon (14): 19
Mourning Dove (47): 54
Red-bellied Woodpecker (<1): 2*
Downy Woodpecker (12): 26*
Hairy Woodpecker (7): 27*- by almost triple the previous high!
Pileated Woodpecker (2): 1
NORTHERN SHRIKE (1): 1
Blue Jay (66): 97
American Crow (76): 66
Common Raven (2): 3
Black-capped Chickadee (283): 380
Tufted Titmouse (24): 48*
Red-breasted Nuthatch (13): 44*- by more than triple!
White-breasted Nuthatch (20): 45*
Brown Creeper (3): 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet (13): 0 – our first-ever miss of this species
American Robin (42): 7
European Starling (14): 7
American Tree Sparrow (24): 30
Song Sparrow (1): 3*
White-throated Sparrow (1): 1
Dark-eyed Junco (15): 34
Northern Cardinal (5): 21* – more than double the previous high
House Finch (6): 3
COMMON REDPOLL (9): 2
American Goldfinch (63): 66
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 4* 1st territory record.
House Sparrow (12): 22

Total (31): 33 species.

The “West Freeport” section of the Freeport-Brunswick CBC doesn’t offer the rarities of the “Moody” section that I annually cover on the York County CBC, nor does it offer the intrigue and surprises when I cover the Portland Peninsula on the Greater Portland CBC. However, this is our “home field” CBC, and with thorough coverage, we quantify a nice sample of what occurs away from the shorelines in the winter. I look forward to learning more, counting lots of chickadees, and getting my exercise on next year’s CBC.

2015 Maine State List Predictions

It’s that time of the year again! Time for me to look into my birding crystal ball, and make random guesses…err, insightful, educated, prognostications about what the next year will bring to Maine and birders’ state lists.

But first, let’s, as usual, review the previous year. For the full list of 2014 species predictions, you can visit my blog from last January here.

Two species were added to Maine’s all-time list in 2014, a Brewer’s Sparrow on Monhegan in May, and a Crested Caracara in Unity (and later in Norridgewock) in August. While both species were on my “long list” for future additions, neither made the top 25. Following the report in the spring of 2014 of a Crested Caracara in New Brunswick (the 2013 caracara in Nova Scotia – and NJ – was apparently not a fluke…albeit distinctly possible to have been the same individual), there’s little doubt Crested Caracara would have made it onto the list this year. But I don’t update the list as the year progresses, so alas, no credit for me.

Meanwhile, perhaps even more remarkable, was the Tufted Puffin seen sporadically off of Machias Seal Island in June and July. Without getting into geopolitical boundary disputes, I believe both Maine (waters to south and east of island at least) and New Brunswick (definitely when it was on land) can claim this bird. While the puffin was not technically new for Maine, it was the first record – and unequivocal record – since a somewhat-disputed record claimed by Audubon in 1834.

Next, I would like to call attention to #23 – Bermuda Petrel, an annual species that is on my list, but this is the lowest it has appeared. However, it very already occurred in Maine. Geolocator (“data-loggers”)data from researchers puts the birds well into the Gulf of Maine, and even within the margin of error, perhaps several birds have appeared within the usual boundaries association with state bird lists (it is well beyond the 3 mile political zone).

“Conservation and At-Sea Range of Bermuda Petrel” by Jeremy Madeiros, Bob Flood, and Kirk Zufelt in the June-July 2014 issue of North American Birds (V.67, no. 4) includes a map (p.555) of hundreds of locations from around the Atlantic Basin, including about a half-dozen within the Gulf of Maine.

(Members of the American Birding Association can read the article in its entirety here)

Whether or not we “believe” geolocators are accurate enough to document an occurrence is a discussion for another time, but I predict a bird will be seen or confidently tracked into nearby waters in the future. Therefore, that species has moved up the list. Neotropic Cormorant’s continued increase to the north and east, with increasing frequency of vagrants, bumps that species up quite a bit as well. I shuffled things around near the end as well, including replacing Yellow-legged Gull with Black-tailed Godwit

Otherwise, I have made few changes to my list of the next 25 species to appear in Maine:
1) California Gull
2) Graylag Goose
3) Neotropic Cormorant
4) Roseate Spoonbill
5) Ross’s Gull
6) Fieldfare
7) Hammond’s Flycatcher
8) Bermuda Petrel
9) Black-chinned Hummingbird
10) Spotted Towhee
11) Audubon’s Shearwater (on “hypothetical” list, but I think the record is a good one)
12) Little Stint
13) Anna’s Hummingbird
14) Redwing
15) Barolo Shearwater
16) Allen’s Hummingbird
17) Black-tailed Gull
18) Common Ground-Dove
19) Western Wood-Pewee
20) Spotted Redshank
21) Gray Flycatcher
22) Black-tailed Godwit
23) Brown-chested Martin
24) Long-billed Murrelet
25) Common Scoter

Personally, I added two species to my own “State List” this year, the Brewer’s Sparrow (not on my predictions list) during my MonhegZen Spring Migration Weekend:
DSC_0124_BRSP1,Monhegan,5-25-14_edited-1

And, on the MonhegZen Fall Migration Weekend, I finally added Yellow-headed Blackbird to my state list (after moving it out if the top 10 for the first year, dropping it all the way down to #24 for some reason – probably out of frustration about still not having seen one…it worked!)
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(And yes, this is why birders go to Monhegan Island!)

Once again, I didn’t make it up north to look for American Three-toed Woodpeckers (#2), which were again reliable near Baxter State Park, and despite Great Skua (#3) being seen regularly off of Bar Harbor this summer, I only made it offshore on a whale watch there once in October – on a skua-free day. I did not see the reported Western Grebe (#9) off of Harpswell last week, and I missed the Crested Caracara three times! I also did not chase a Tundra Swan (#12) in Winterport in October, or a Virginia’s Warbler (long list) on Monhegan. I also did not see a Cerulean Warbler (long list) that was on Monhegan this fall as well.

So, without any further ado, here are my predictions for the next 25 species to be added to my personal list here in Maine (with quite a bit of reshuffling this year):
1) American Three-toed Woodpecker
2) Great Skua
3) Eurasian Collared-Dove
4) Slaty-backed Gull
5) Gyrfalcon
6) Graylag Goose
7) Say’s Phoebe
8) Western Grebe
9) American White Pelican
10) Boreal Owl
11) Fork-tailed Flycatcher
12) Tundra Swan
13) Yellow Rail
14) Sabine’s Gull
15) Franklin’s Gull
16) Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
17) California Gull
18) Ivory Gull
19) Calliope Hummingbird
20) Cerulean Warbler
21) White Ibis
22) Gull-billed Tern
23) Hammond’s Flycatcher
24) Loggerhead Shrike
25) Neotropic Cormorant

So there it is, the annual list. Now, it’s time to go birding!

2 Early-Season CBC’s in 2014

Thanks to the calendar, for the first time in 7 years, I was able to partake in the Greater Portland Christmas Bird Count on Sunday. Normally a Saturday event – not something someone in retail can pull off in the last weeks before Christmas! – this year the count was held on the first day of the count period.

I covered my old CBC – and usual outside of the CBC – stomping grounds of the Portland peninsula, joined for half of my day by Luke Seitz.  As usual, the scrubby thickets, warm microclimates, and patches of fruit in the big city did not disappoint.

A second-count record Brown Thrasher in a parking lot crabapple along Spring Street was the highlight…

BRTH,SpringSt,Luke_Seitz_phone-binned,12-14-14_edited-1
Phone-binned photo by Luke Seitz.

…followed closely by a total of 6 Hermit Thrushes. The previous circle-wide high count was 5!  This bird feasted on Virginia Creeper climbing up a brick wall along Free St.

HETH,FreeSt,Luke_Seitz_phone-binned,12-14-14_edited-1
Phone-binned photo by Luke Seitz.

Two Swamp Sparrows (1 along the Eastern Promenade and 1 at Mercy Pond) were noteworthy, as were our tallies of 44 Northern Cardinals and 26 Northern Mockingbirds in particular, for a total of 42 species.

7:15-3:15.
(Luke Seitz 8:20-12:45).
Miles by foot: 8
Miles by car: 5.7
Start: 34F, cloudy, NW 7
End: 45F (high of 46), clear, NW8

American Black Duck: 4
Mallard: 112
ABDU x Mallard: 3
Common Eider: 176
White-winged Scoter: 1
Long-tailed Duck: 32
Bufflehead: 81
Common Goldeneye: 9
Red-breasted Merganser: 35
Red-throated Loon: 2
Common Loon: 10
Great Blue Heron: 1
Cooper’s Hawk: CW
Red-tailed Hawk: 5
Ring-billed Gull: 42
Herring Gull: 360
Iceland Gull: 2
Great Black-backed Gull: 51
Rock Pigeon: 484
Mourning Dove: 14
Downy Woodpecker: 3
Hairy Woodpecker: 1
Blue Jay: 9
American Crow: 40
Black-capped Chickadee: 46
Tufted Titmouse: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 2
Carolina Wren: 3
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET: CW
Hermit Thrush: 6 (!)
American Robin: 7
BROWN THRASHER: 1 (2nd Count Record)
Northern Mockingbird: 26
European Starling: 257
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 1
American Tree Sparrow: 2
Song Sparrow: 22
Swamp Sparrow: 2
White-throated Sparrow: 44
Dark-eyed Junco: 9
Northern Cardinal: 44
BALTIMORE ORIOLE: CW
House Finch: 82
Pine Siskin: 1
American Goldfinch: 84
House Sparrow: 247

Portland was birdier than usual for mid-December, likely due to an abundance of fruit (especially crabapples) and overall relatively mild temperatures this fall, allowing things like thrushes to stick around/survive in the area.

FullSizeRender1_edited-1
Sunrise at Moody Point.

Today, Kristen Lindquist and I covered the Moody (Wells-Ogunquit) area for the Southern York County CBC – my usual, exceptionally productive, territory for this count.  Again, it was a very birdy day, but unlike Portland, the birding was a little more challenging. The lack of snow cover and limited ice in the marsh reduce concentrations of birds, and the mild temperatures minimized concentrations at sunny edges. There was a lot of food to be found, so birds weren’t packed together at feeders or dense thickets in warm microclimates.

Nonetheless, we tallied 59 species (below average for this section), and several “good” birds. The best of which was an Eastern Meadowlark in the saltmarsh off of Furbish Rd, a 5th count record. A Common Yellowthroat (10th count record) was in a cattail marsh at Moody Point where I have had yellowthroats on this count more often than not. 8 Dunlin among a goodly 188 Sanderling on Ogunquit Beach were a 7th count record, and other good birds included a Hermit Thrush, 5 American Pipits (Eldridge Rd), a male and female Northern Pintail, and two Harlequin Ducks at our dawn seawatch at Moody Point. Five Black-legged Kittiwakes off Moody Point and 3 Razorbills off of Ogunquit Beach were expected, but always nice to see.
me,OgunquitBeach,12-15-14,K

7:17-2:45
With Kristen Lindquist
Miles by foot: 10.
Miles by car: 8
Start: 28F, clear, calm.
End: 37F (high of 42), clear, very light Var.

Canada Goose: 80
American Black Duck: 91
Mallard: 251
ABDU x Mallard: 2
NORTHERN PINTAIL: 2
Common Eider: 67
Harlequin Duck: 2
Surf Scoter: 26
White-winged Scoter: 100
Black Scoter: 45
Long-tailed Duck: 47
Bufflehead: 15
Common Goldeneye: 11
Red-breasted Merganser: 9
Red-throated Loon: 1
Common Loon: 7
Horned Grebe: 18
Red-necked Grebe: 65
Great Cormorant: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 6
Sanderling: 188
DUNLIN 8 (7th count record)
Ring-billed Gull: 8
Herring Gull: 171
Great Black-backed Gull: 13
Black-legged Kittiwake: 5
Razorbill: 3
Rock Pigeon: 55 (very low)
Mourning Dove: 58
Downy Woodpecker: 14
Hairy Woodpecker: 2
Blue Jay: 25
American Crow: 46
Black-capped Chickadee: 104
Tufted Titmouse: 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 10
White-breasted Nuthatch: 18
Carolina Wren: 2 (very low; presumably affected by last winter)
Eastern Bluebird: 7
Hermit Thrush: 1
American Robin: 18
Northern Mockingbird: 2
European Starling: 582
AMERICAN PIPIT: 5
Cedar Waxwing: 45
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 3
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT: 1 (10th count record)
American Tree Sparrow: 19
Song Sparrow: 38
Swamp Sparrow: 2
White-throated Sparrow: 30
Dark-eyed Junco: 92
Northern Cardinal: 39
EASTERN MEADOWLARK: 1 (5th count record)
Purple Finch: 1
House Finch: 142
Pine Siskin: 1
American Goldfinch: 257
House Sparrow: 188

My next CBC will be Freeport-Brunswick on January 3rd.  Until then, Merry Christmas-counting everyone!

The Deal With Alpha Codes, and some Florida Pics.

This week, my blogging was hosted by the American Birding Association. A synthesis of the results of a query that I put out to the Maine-birds listserve regarding why the use of “four-letter (or “alpha” or “banding”) codes on listserves elicits such strong responses is featured in “Open Mic: The Deal With Alpha Codes.” I hope you’ll check it out, and I hope you’ll enjoy (or at least be thought-provoked by it).

Part 1 is here.

And Part 2 is here.

Please consider joining in on the discussion in the comments field of the ABA blog.

Meanwhile, Jeannette and I escaped the ice for a quick four-day trip to Florida for a wedding, a day with family, and an all-too-short day and a half of birding. I’m not sure if I will get a chance to write much of a blog about it, so let me quickly summarize the highlights:
Me_with_jay,ArchboldBioSation,12-8-14_edited-1

Florida Scrub-Jay was a life bird for Jeannette.  I think this is a “countable” view!
J-Mo_with_jay1,ArchboldBioStation,12-8-14_edited-1

Jeannette’s first ABA-Area Limpkins were among a lovely diversity of birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, one of which posed nicely.
Limpkin on snag,Circle B Bar Reserve,FL, 12-8-14

And while our mutual-lifer Nanday Parakeets were serendipitously spotted as we stepped out of breakfast at a Waffle House (itself a successful “twitch”), a stop in Gulfport for another look (also successful), presented an unexpected photo session with some, let’s say, very cooperative Wood Storks.
WOST_handouts,GulfportMarina,12-9-14_edited-1

As for local birds, I was happy to see the Townsend’s Solitaire was still at Florida Lake Park in Freeport this morning as I took Sasha for a stroll. I spent about 25 minutes with it today, as it alternated feeding on Winterberry and Multiflora Rose, and in classic solitaire-style, perching up on the tallest trees around. That was a nice welcome home.

Finally today, I wanted to steer you over to the Tri-Town Weekly (Freeport-Pownal-Durham) which ran this nice little feature on our store’s 6th Annual Snowbird(er) Contest for our Saturday Morning Birdwalks.

The All-Time Saturday Morning Birdwalk List

Last Update: 1/31/15.

Our store, Freeport Wild Bird Supply, offers free birdwalks every Saturday morning, all year long. Meeting at 8:00am, we carpool to a local park of seasonal interest, and return to the store for bird-friendly coffee between 10 and 10:30. With the exception of inclement weather, we limit the drive to about 10-15 minutes away, and visit a variety of parks, waterfront overlooks, and other hotspots.

Over the years, we have seen a lot of good birds. We’ve “chased” as species or two, but we have found our fair share of “good” birds.  Encompassing a wide variety of habitats each season, we have seen an impressive array of species. Spurred on by the Townsend’s Solitaire that the Saturday Morning Birdwalk group enjoyed this past weekend, I have finally compiled a list of all of the species seen on Saturday Morning Birdwalks over the past 10 ½ years (and not including any other trips, tours, or special walks).

This is the “unofficial” list at the moment. UPPERCASE is for species seen only once or twice. I am hoping participants will take a look at the list and see if I have missed anything, or made any errors. I’ll edit the list as changes come in, so please let me know what I missed!

    1. Greater White-fronted Goose
    2. Snow Goose
    3. BARNACLE GOOSE
    4. Cackling Goose
    5. Canada Goose
    6. Wood Duck
    7. Gadwall
    8. EURASIAN WIGEON
    9. American Wigeon
    10. American Black Duck
    11. Mallard
    12. Blue-winged Teal
    13. Northern Shoveler
    14. Northern Pintail
    15. Green-winged Teal
    16. Canvasback
    17. Ring-necked Duck
    18. Greater Scaup
    19. Lesser Scaup
    20. Common Eider
    21. HARLEQUIN DUCK
    22. Surf Scoter
    23. White-winged Scoter
    24. Black Scoter
    25. Long-tailed Duck
    26. Bufflehead
    27. Common Goldeneye
    28. Barrow’s Goldeneye
    29. Hooded Merganser
    30. Common Merganser
    31. Red-breasted Merganser
    32. Ruddy Duck
    33. Ruffed Grouse
    34. Wild Turkey
    35. Red-throated Loon
    36. Common Loon
    37. Pied-billed Grebe
    38. Horned Grebe
    39. Red-necked Grebe
    40. Double-crested Cormorant
    41. Great Cormorant
    42. American Bittern
    43. Great Blue Heron
    44. Great Egret
    45. Snowy Egret
    46. Little Blue Heron
    47. Green Heron
    48. Black-crowned Night-Heron
    49. Glossy Ibis
    50. Turkey Vulture
    51. Osprey
    52. Bald Eagle
    53. Northern Harrier
    54. Sharp-shinned Hawk
    55. Cooper’s Hawk
    56. Northern Goshawk
    57. Red-shouldered Hawk
    58. Broad-winged Hawk
    59. Red-tailed Hawk
    60. Rough-legged Hawk
    61. GOLDEN EAGLE
    62. American Kestrel
    63. Merlin
    64. Peregrine Falcon
    65. SANDHILL CRANE
    66. Black-bellied Plover
    67. American Golden-Plover
    68. Semipalmated Plover
    69. Killdeer
    70. Greater Yellowlegs
    71. Lesser Yellowlegs
    72. Solitary Sandpiper
    73. “Eastern” Willet
    74. Spotted Sandpiper
    75. Whimbrel
    76. MARBLED GODWIT
    77. Ruddy Turnstone
    78. Red Knot
    79. Semipalmated Sandpiper
    80. Least Sandpiper
    81. White-rumped Sandpiper
    82. Baird’s Sandpiper
    83. Pectoral Sandpiper
    84. Purple Sandpiper
    85. Dunlin
    86. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
    87. Short-billed Dowitcher
    88. LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER
    89. Wilson’s Snipe
    90. American Woodcock
    91. RED PHALAROPE
    92. Laughing Gull
    93. Bonaparte’s Gull
    94. Ring-billed Gull
    95. Herring Gull
    96. Iceland Gull
    97. Lesser Black-backed Gull
    98. Glaucous Gull
    99. Great Black-backed Gull
    100. Common Tern
    101. FORSTER’S TERN
    102. DOVEKIE
    103. THICK-BILLED MURRE
    104. Razorbill
    105. Black Guillemot
    106. Rock Pigeon
    107. Mourning Dove
    108. Black-billed Cuckoo
    109. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
    110. Great Horned Owl
    111. Barred Owl
    112. Chimney Swift
    113. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
    114. Belted Kingfisher
    115. Red-bellied Woodpecker
    116. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
    117. Downy Woodpecker
    118. Hairy Woodpecker
    119. Northern Flicker
    120. Pileated Woodpecker
    121. Eastern Wood-Pewee
    122. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
    123. Alder Flycatcher
    124. Willow Flycatcher
    125. Least Flycatcher
    126. Eastern Phoebe
    127. Great Crested Flycatcher
    128. Eastern Kingbird
    129. Northern Shrike
    130. Blue-headed Vireo
    131. Warbling Vireo
    132. Philadelphia Vireo
    133. Red-eyed Vireo
    134. Blue Jay
    135. American Crow
    136. Fish Crow
    137. Common Raven
    138. Horned Lark
    139. Tree Swallow
    140. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
    141. Bank Swallow
    142. Cliff Swallow
    143. Barn Swallow
    144. Black-capped Chickadee
    145. Tufted Titmouse
    146. Red-breasted Nuthatch
    147. White-breasted Nuthatch
    148. Brown Creeper
    149. Carolina Wren
    150. House Wren
    151. Winter Wren
    152. Marsh Wren
    153. Golden-crowned Kinglet
    154. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    155. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
    156. Eastern Bluebird
    157. TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE
    158. Veery
    159. GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH
    160. Swainson’s Thrush
    161. Hermit Thrush
    162. Wood Thrush
    163. American Robin
    164. Gray Catbird
    165. Northern Mockingbird
    166. Brown Thrasher
    167. European Starling
    168. American Pipit
    169. Bohemian Waxwing
    170. Cedar Waxwing
    171. Lapland Longspur
    172. Snow Bunting
    173. Ovenbird
    174. Louisiana Waterthrush
    175. Northern Waterthrush
    176. Black-and-white Warbler
    177. Tennessee Warbler
    178. Nashville Warbler
    179. Common Yellowthroat
    180. American Redstart
    181. Cape May Warbler
    182. Northern Parula
    183. Magnolia Warbler
    184. Bay-breasted Warbler
    185. Blackburnian Warbler
    186. Yellow Warbler
    187. Chestnut-sided Warbler
    188. Blackpoll Warbler
    189. Black-throated Blue Warbler
    190. Palm Warbler
    191. Pine Warbler
    192. Yellow-rumped Warbler
    193. Prairie Warbler
    194. Black-throated Green Warbler
    195. Canada Warbler
    196. Wilson’s Warbler
    197. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
    198. Eastern Towhee
    199. American Tree Sparrow
    200. Chipping Sparrow
    201. CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
    202. LARK SPARROW
    203. Savannah Sparrow
    204. Nelson’s Sparrow
    205. Saltmarsh Sparrow
    206. Fox Sparrow
    207. Song Sparrow
    208. Lincoln’s Sparrow
    209. Swamp Sparrow
    210. White-throated Sparrow
    211. White-crowned Sparrow
    212. Dark-eyed Junco
    213. Scarlet Tanager
    214. SUMMER TANAGER
    215. Northern Cardinal
    216. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
    217. BLUE GROSBEAK
    218. Indigo Bunting
    219. Dickcissel
    220. Bobolink
    221. Red-winged Blackbird
    222. Eastern Meadowlark
    223. Common Grackle
    224. Brown-headed Cowbird
    225. ORCHARD ORIOLE
    226. Baltimore Oriole
    227. Pine Grosbeak
    228. House Finch
    229. Purple Finch
    230. White-winged Crossbill
    231. Common Redpoll
    232. Pine Siskin
    233. American Goldfinch
    234. Evening Grosbeak
    235. House Sparrow

236. SNOWY OWL, Brunswick, 1/31/15.

I could not find any records of the following species in my notes, but they are all plausible. Does anyone have any notes suggesting we saw any of the species on this list together?

  1. Virginia Rail
  2. Sora
  3. American Coot
  4. Sanderling
  5. Common Nighthawk
  6. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  7. Yellow-throated Vireo
  8. Orange-crowned Warbler
  9. Red Crossbill

And finally, these are known “holes” on the list that we very well might have to “seek” in the coming years!

1. Snowy Owl

2. Mourning Warbler

3. Hoary Redpoll

236 – and counting! Not to shabby!

And with the 2014-2015 Snowbird(er) Award contest about to get underway, there’s even more incentive to join us on Saturdays.