Friday, April 20, 2007

Northern Maine Birds 3-18 April 2007, Lesser Black-Backed Gull


Early spring bird migration seemed to come to a virtual standstill after the first pulse of arriving birds back in late March. The first two weeks of April were cold and was regularly punctuated with snow storms. Caribou received precipitation on 12 of the last 15 days and temperatures were well below average throughout the period. Northern Maine was lucky and mostly avoided the deluge and high winds that the rest of the state experienced during the April 15-17 storm.

Snow cover continues throughout the area, with open areas only just now appearing. Though small and medium sized streams have opened up, ice cover on some rivers, ponds and lakes has a long way to go.

Some migrants appeared quite stressed during the past two weeks and new arrivals were few. Arriving/New species in the area:

Wood Duck (4/14)
Ring-necked Duck (4/11)
Black Scoter (4/18)
Osprey (4/18)
Rough-legged Hawk (4/14)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (4/16)
Fox Sparrow (4/16)

Despite the limited open water and restricted feeding opportunity, waterfowl numbers increased. But overall numbers and variety are below normal for this time of year. Canada Goose flocks crowded into any open water they could find and flocks of 75-100 are being seen regularly now. Pairs have been seen visiting still-frozen nesting sites. An arriving male Wood Duck was seen swimming in a narrow lead in the ice on the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield on the 14th. Male Ring-necked Ducks were first spotted on the 11th in Mars Hill. Also in Mars Hill, a *drake Black Scoter* was an early record for this uncommon species on the 18th. Hooded and Common Mergansers are widespread with reports of both species coming in from across the county. Mallard, Black Duck and Common Goldeneye numbers seem to have increased slightly but the winter concentrations in Presque Isle and Caribou seem to have dispersed.

The first Osprey in Aroostook Co. was seen at a nest site near Fish Stream in Island Falls on the 18th. This same nest was reported to be empty and snow covered on the 11th. Bald Eagles were seen in Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Oakfield. An eagle is currently incubating eggs on the nest in the Stevensville area of Fort Fairfield. A light phase Rough-legged Hawk was seen hunting over a field in Fort Fairfield on the 14th. No American Kestrels or Northern Harriers have been reported since they were first seen in the beginning of the month.

A few, very stressed Killdeer survived the ice and snowy periods by feeding on bits of flotsam collecting along the downstream ends of open spots in stream ice. Several drivers reported the birds standing in the roads during the larger snowstorms.

An *adult Lesser Black-backed Gull* at Collins Pond in Caribou photographed and is apparently the first county record for this species. The bird was first seen on 16th roosting on the ice with 200 Great Black-backed, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. It continues to be seen.

Pileated Woodpeckers were reported in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Oakfield and Presque Isle. At least one early Eastern Phoebe survived through the 7th in Mount Chase by flycatching on the south facing side of a house. A* lingering Northern Shrike* was seen at the same location the following day. Most Common Raven pairs in the area have begun incubating eggs and nest building and some incubation has been seen for American Crows in the area. A lone Gray Jay visited my feeder in Woodland on the 16th. Six Horned Larks were seen feeding in the road in Fort Fairfield on the 14th and a group of four was seen in Woodland on the 18th.

American Robins were widely reported and had overspread the area early in the month. The birds appeared very stressed with snow covering ground and the limited fruit supply. Several robins were seen eating bird seed at my feeder and numbers were crowded into any snow-free piece of sod they could find. Two hundred American Robins were seen huddled along the foundations of buildings on the UMPI campus in Presque Isle on the 16th.

Sparrow numbers seemed to hold steady over the past two weeks. American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos made up the bulk of the reports. Song Sparrows are singing in Presque Isle, Washburn and Woodland. A *first-of-the-year Fox Sparrow* was seen on the UMPI Campus on the 16th. An apparent final wave of northbound Snow Buntings pushed through the area over the past two weeks. Flocks as large as 350 birds were seen and were reported from Castle Hill, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle , Washburn and Woodland.

American Goldfinch flocks continue to dominate the feeder activity in the area. 50 were reported at a feeder in Portage Lake and 120 were seen in Woodland. Singing male White-winged Crossbills were heard in Fort Fairfield and Woodland. Purple Finches have thinned out a bit put were still represented in reports from Chapman, Caribou and Woodland. A *few Evening Grosbeaks* continue to be seen in Chapman and Woodland.
Several House Sparrows successfully overwintered at the Walmart parking lot in Presque Isle.

This should be a good week for arrivals.

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