It seems like the cold weather has finally settled in and things are changing rapidly -birdwise in northern Maine.
The month started out with a couple of warm-ish days but, since the passing of the remnants of Hurricane Noel on the 3rd and 4th, it seems to get colder with each passing day. Small ponds and wetlands across the area are now frozen and some of the larger ponds (Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield/Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle) are also skimmed over. The pattern of regular precipitation continued with over two inches of rain falling during the storm and some accumulating snow on the 6th. The snow did not last in southern and central Aroostook though some is still hanging on in the higher terrain in northern Aroostook. Water levels are still quite high in streams and rivers. Most lakes have recovered a bit from the dry fall.
As previously reported, the cone crop is quite meager following two bumper years and fruit supply is dwindling fast under the onslaught of the frugivores.
Waterfowl numbers have been declining throughout the period. Canada Geese flocks seem to have aggregated a bit with the freeze up. *Largest concentrations were 4000+* at Trafton Lake in Limestone and 2000+ in Mapleton and Washburn. Smaller flocks reported include 700+ at Long Lake in St Agatha, 400+ at Collins Pond in Caribou and 300+ in Westfield. No unusual geese were seen other than a white headed Canada that continues to be seen at Collins Pond.
Duck highlights were young *Black Scoter*, *4 Buffleheads*, 4 Lesser Scaup and a pair of *rare Greater Scaup* all spotted on the 3rd at Lake Josephine in Easton. Two late Wood Ducks and a lingering drake Gadwall were found on Presque Isle Stream on the 2nd. Diving duck numbers seemed to peak just before the storm. A high count of 220+ Hooded Mergansers were seen on Christina Reservoir and 59 Common Goldeneyes were tallied at Lake Jo.
Some late-season lake watching paid off with an *uncommon Horned Grebe* found on Madawaska Lake in T16 R4 on the 10th. More surprising, were two discoveries of the (usually) less-common *Red-necked Grebe, *one at Long Lake (10th) and another at Lake Jo (9th). A few Common Loons are lingering in whatever open water is available and probably the last Double-crested Cormorant of the year was seen on the 3rd at Christina Reservoir. A tardy juvenile Great Blue Heron was hanging out with some Mallards on the north end of Long Lake on the 10th.
*Rough-legged Hawks were seen regularly* across the area with reports from Hersey in southern Aroostook to St David in the northern part of the county. Of the seven Rough-leggeds seen, 5 were light morph and two were dark. Northern Harriers were reported from Caribou, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Presque Isle. A few Bald Eagles are still being spotted where the open water remains... An adult-like, fourth year eagle was seen at Long Lake and juvies were reported from Christina Reservoir and Presque Isle. Four were seen at LaPomkeag Lake Uncommon in northern Maine, Red-tailed Hawks were observed in Presque Isle and Easton this week.
An American Coot feeding on Lake Josephine on the 9th and 3 Dunlin at Christina Reservoir on the third were good finds for this late in the season. The premier Iceland Gull of the season was a first winter bird found with some lingering Ring-billed Gulls at Collins Pond in Caribou on the 12th.
A Black-backed Woodpecker was found at the boat launch of the newly re flooded Nadeau Pond in Fort Fairfield. A high count of 11 Pileated Woodpeckers were reported from locations across the county this week. A few Horned Larks continue to linger in area potato fields. Numbers are down from a high count of 120+ seen in Limestone at the beginning of the month. Five late-ish American Pipits were also seen at Limestone on the 3rd. An uncommon White-breasted Nuthatch was photographed in Presque Isle.
The early arrival of a few Bohemian Waxwings noted last month, has grown into widespread affair. These waxwings are being seen in medium sized flocks from Madawaska to Houlton consuming trees worth of crabapples and berries in a few hours. Largest flocks seen were *170+ at Presque Isle* and 120+ at Caribou. Most other groups were 20-50 birds. A few lingering American Robins also spotted nibbling fruit in Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield.
Gray Jays were seen at Madawaska Lake and Woodland.
Lingering sparrows included a Fox Sparrow in Woodland until the 8th, Song and Swamp Sparrows seen in Presque Isle on the 2nd and White-throateds reported through the 8th in Caribou and Woodland. Dark-eyed Junco numbers have thinned a bit recently but are still widely reported. American Tree Sparrows have settled in for the winter at my feeders in Woodland. Snow Buntings have been reported in Presque Isle and Grand Isle in flocks greater than 500 birds. A group of 50+ was seen in St. Agatha on the 10th.
A very late Brown-headed Cowbird was found with a group of House Sparrows in Presque Isle. A single Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle were in Woodland until the 4th.
Evening and Pine Grosbeaks are not hard to find this week. Small flocks of each have been reported from around the area. Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and a few reappearing American Goldfinches are starting to sample the thistle seed in Woodland. White-winged Crossbills are heard daily here. Purple Finches were reported from Caribou.