Friday, October 26, 2007

Northern Maine Birds 19-25 October 2007

A busy week but managed to squeeze in some birding here and there.

The best waterfowl this week were a *pair of early-arriving drake Barrow's Goldeneyes* seen with a flock of about 25 Common Goldeneyes on Long Lake in St Agatha on the 25th. 32 Snow Geese were regulars in Mapleton and Washburn early in the week. Surf Scoters and a single White-winged Scoter were seen on Cross Lake on the 21st. A small group of Black Scoters were reported at Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle Thursday.

Canada Goose numbers remain at ~16-18 thousand birds in central Aroostook Co. Still no unusual goose species have been seen but there is plenty of opportunity to study the many subtle differences in plumages of the Canada's. Flock subspecies breakdown seems about 40% /Branta canadensis maxima/ (the locally breeding Giant Canada Goose) and 60% /B.c. canadensis/ (the Atlantic Canada Goose). The Atlantic Canada Geese are slightly smaller and and more delicate than the hulking Giants. I recommend David Sibley's write up on Canada/Cackling Geese for the waterfowl nerds in the group!

Two lingering Gadwall at Long Lake and a pair Northern Pintails at the Town Park Pond in Mars Hill were other notable ducks seen this week.

A late-ish Pied-billed Grebe was seen at Daigle Pond in New Canada on Sunday. A *late Black-crowned Night Heron* was seen and heard at Arnold Brook Lake on Tuesday early AM.

*Arriving Rough-legged Hawks* appeared en mass, in northern Aroostook County. Three dark phase individuals were seen off the Chasse Road in St Agatha Thursday AM and another was spotted minutes later on the Ouellette Cross Road in T17R5. A *notably late American Kestrel* was seen in Monticello on the 24th. Northern Harriers continue to be reported from across the region including Bridgewater, Mapleton, Presque Isle and Woodland. A Red-tailed Hawk was seen in New Sweden.

The *American Avocet on Long Lake* in St. Agatha was the shorebird show this week. The bird was found on Sunday but has not been relocated since. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are still being seen. There was a definite increase in gull numbers in northern Maine this week. A mixed flock of about 800 gulls is now present at Long Lake in St Agatha and Several hundred were seen at Arnold Brook Lake. Great Black-backed Gulls seem to dominate the flocks and Ring-billeds are thinning out a bit.

Great Horned (Presque Isle) and Barred Owls (Woodland) were heard this week. 40+ Horned Larks and 4 American pipits were flushed by a low-cruising Rough-legged Hawk off the Flat Mt Road in St. Agatha. A *young Northern Shrike* spotted in Orient on the 24th was the first for me this season. Likewise, *arriving American Tree Sparrows* seem to pop up overnight with individuals appearing in Frenchville, Sinclair and Woodland on Thursday. Other than the Dark-eyed Juncos which remain in numbers, Song and Swamp Sparrows were the only other species encountered this week.

Always a good find in northern Maine, a Northern Cardinal was reported at Collins Pond in Caribou. A late Yellow-rumped Warbler was seen hawking insects near Baskahegan Stream in Danforth in northern-most Washington County on the 24th.

*Pine and Evening Grosbeaks continue* to being found in small numbers around central and northern Aroostook County. 5 Pine Grosbeaks visited my yard in Woodland on the 25th. White-winged Crossbill flocks were heard in Presque Isle, Stockholm and Woodland this week. The Pine Siskins have seemed to thin out a bit after a good pulse earlier this month.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

American Avocet in St. Agatha

It was slow birding in the wind this AM so I spent some time lakewatching at Long Lake in St. Agatha. St Agatha is located in northern-most Maine about three miles south of the Canadian border.

I was surprised (to say the least) when I came upon a nonbreeding/juvenile plumaged AMERICAN AVOCET feeding with a Greater Yellowlegs in the shallows on the northwest end of the lake. I believe this is the first record for the county maybe for even inland Maine. I got a few documentation photos through the scope but the vibration from the wind gusts was ridiculous.

The bird can be found behind the St. Agatha municipal building in "downtown" St. Agatha off Route 164. The bird was visible in the cove to the northwest of the small park behind the office building. A spotting scope helps. The bird was feeding on the opposite side of the lake for a time but it obligingly flew across and landed on our side of the lake eventually.
Other notables at Long Lake were a juvie White-winged Scoter, three Surf Scoters, all three species of Mergansers and a few Gadwall amongst the commoner gulls, geese, loons and ducks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Northern Maine Birds October 10-18, 2007

The past week gave us more seasonable temperatures in northern Maine but we are still a bit warmer than normal. Just one morning of frost at Caribou in past seven days. We received the first significant precipitation in a long while with 1.5 inches falling on the 11th and 12th. The rain brought stream and river levels up and stripped some of the leaves. The south winds seemed to pile up the migrants for a couple days leading up to the rain and a large pulse followed the storm.

Dabbling waterfowl seem to be thinning out a bit but the divers are increasing. Geese are at or approaching peak numbers in central Aroostook with ~16,000+ Canada Geese being seen at the day roosts. Collins Pond in Caribou is currently hosting ~4,500 and a similar number is being seen roosting on the Aroostook River in Mapleton and Washburn. Around 3000+ were seen landing in harvested grain/potato fields in the northern part of Presque Isle. Trafton Lake in Limestone is hosting about 2,700 birds. 750+ Canadas are coming into the mill pond in Washburn and 550+ are roosting at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield. About 500 Canada Geese are also crowding into the Town Pond at Mars Hill. Ashland, Bridgewater, Easton, Eagle Lake, Portage Lake and St Agatha are also reporting small to medium sized flocks of geese. Snow Geese were reported in Ashland on the 12th

I have spent lots of time looking at geese and have yet to find an unusual species. Two Canadas with yellow neck collars and one with white neck collar were seen at Collins Pond this week. There is also an apparent leucistic (albinistic) Canada Goose with a white neck and head showing itself at Collins Pond.

Duck highlights this week were Black (1) and White-winged Scoters (3) continuing at Lake Josephine in Easton. A young Bufflehead and a lingering group of 9 Northern Shovelers here were also notable. A late-ish and showy drake American Wigeon is squeezing its way through the gaps in the Canada Geese horde at Collins Pond. Merganser numbers took a tick upward with 130+ Common Mergansers and 80+ Hoodeds seen at Christina Reservoir on the 17th. A few Lesser Scaup were associating with the 140+ Ring-necked Ducks at Lake Josephine.

Double-crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons have thinned out rapidly with a few stragglers of each still being reported. Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers were seen in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle. A Sharp-shinned Hawk did a low elevation pass through my yard in Woodland on the 14th.

There still a good assortment of shorebirds around though numbers are thin. A Black-bellied Plover, 2 Semipalmated Plovers and 9 lingering Killdeer were good discoveries at Christina Reservoir on the 12th. Nine Dunlin was a high count seen at this location on the same day. A tardy Spotted Sandpiper and a Pectoral Sandpiper were seen at Lake Josephine on the 17th. Both yellowlegs and Wilson's Snipe make up the balance of reported shorebirds.

Time was well spent birding in the harvested fields of central Aroostook this week. Horned Larks , American Pipits, Lapland Longspurs and some early Snow Buntings were found. The larks numbered in the hundreds in several locations including Caribou, Presque Isle and Easton. On the 17th 15 pipits were seen in the same potato field in Presque Isle with 6 longspurs. Single Snow Buntings were seen in Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Woodland.

A lingering Gray Catbird was heard in Easton and the last few Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen in Woodland and Easton. The first Bohemian Waxwings of the season were reported from Wade on the 10th.

The White-crowned Sparrow masses had thinned a bit by mid week but Dark-eyed Juncos continue to dominate the hedgerows and yards in central Aroostook. A Fox Sparrow made a brief, one-day appearance in my yard on the 14th. A lingering Chipping Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow were also at my feeders this week. Gray Jays were seen in New Sweden and Woodland.

The finches are starting to show up. 7 Evening Grosbeaks are regular at my feeders. Pine Siskins are being reported from around the county. The first of season Pine Grosbeaks and White-winged Crossbills were heard in Woodland on the 17th.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Northern Maine Birds 25 Sept- 2 Oct 2007

Some good birds are being seen in Aroostook County lately and I thought it was worthy of a note.

September was dry and warm. Record high temperatures were recorded in Caribou last week. Half of the month's rain fell on the 27th and 28th, though streams and rivers are still very low. Water levels in many of the northern lakes are also down a foot or two. Fruit and cone crops are looking lackluster this season after the past two very good years. There are still plenty of insects about and I even saw a Mink Frog basking in the sun on Monday afternoon.

Migrant waterfowl are appearing in numbers in northern and central Aroostook now. High counts of Canada Geese last weekend were *1900+* on Collins Pond in Caribou and 780+ at Long Lake in St. Agatha. Two geese with yellow neck collars were seen. No Snow Geese have been reported yet though the first ten days of October is typically the period when many flocks are seen.

Duck highlights included 4 *White-winged Scoters*, 12 juvenile *Surf Scoters* and 2 young *Black Scoters* all seen at Lake Josephine in Easton. 2 Lesser Scaup and *3 Buffleheads* were also being seen there. Long Lake hosted all three species of merganser on Sunday the 30th. Commons and Hoodeds were seen near Sinclair and a young *Red-breasted* was seen at the north end of the lake at St. Agatha. *3 Northern Pintails* are being seen daily at Collins Pond. (an aside: ME Dept of IF&W waterfowl biologists banded a young Pintail at Lake Josephine, in early September, that they thought was probably hatched in the area. There are only one or two breeding records for this species in Maine). Other locally breeding waterfowl seen on or around Lake Josephine included a Gadwall, 20+ American Wigeon, 8 Blue-winged Teal, 30+ male Wood Ducks, 130+ Ring-necked Ducks and 6 Ruddy Ducks.

The raptor flight was quite good last week with 8 species reported. The Fort Fairfield Bald Eagles have begun to *rebuild their nest ** *since it blew down again in August. *Local observers say this is probably the fourth time they have rebuilt in seven years(!)*. A late-ish Osprey was seen flying down the Aroostook River in Presque Isle on the 27th. Northern Harriers, mostly juveniles, were seen at Easton, Presque Isle, St. Agatha and Woodland. American Kestrels lingered at the Muscovic Road Bog in Stockholm and in Woodland. Merlins were buzzing shorebirds at Lake Jo and Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle.
The raptor highlight for the week had to be an *adult Peregrine Falcon *seen* *in St Agatha on Sunday. The bird put on a good show chasing Horned Larks over the harvested grain fields on the Flat Mountain Road . A Northern Goshawk in Woodland Bog and a lingering Broad-winged Hawk at Arnold Brook Lake round out the tally.

A pair of *rare Dunlin* at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield on the 27th and high count of *21* Lesser Yellowlegs at Lake Josephine were the shorebird highlights for the week. Its interesting to note all my fall Dunlin records for Aroostook County (only 5), fall in the last week of September.

Gull numbers continue to build with lost of young birds showing up on area lakes. Uncommon Bonapartes Gulls were seen on Long Lake, Arnold Brook Lake and Christina Reservoir in small flocks of up to ten.

All the breeding woodpeckers were seen again this week in Aroostook County. The *male and female Three-toed Woodpecker* were seen on the Muscovic Road in Stockholm and were joined by an attractive male *Black-backed Woodpecker* on Sunday. The Muscovic Road also hosted its usual suite of boreal species including Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos and both species of Kinglets.

The biggest flock of Horned Larks I have seen in Aroostook County was trading back and forth over the grain stubble in some St Agatha fields last Sunday. It was hard to get a close count, thanks to the attention of the aforementioned Peregrine, but conservatively *600+ larks* were feeding in the fields. An *early Lapland Longspur* and 20+ American Pipits were also seen here.

Very few Yellow-rumped Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos continue to linger after what seems to have been a good migration season. There were very few passerine "fallout" days in the past month. It seemed that the small birds had good weather for travel and passed through/from northern Maine rather quickly.

White-crowned Sparrows were reported to be seen in many spots in central and southern Aroostook

A single *Rusty Blackbird* was feeding on the shore of Arnold Brook Lake on October 2nd. *3 Evening Grosbeaks* were seen here as well.