Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Mid-Winter Report

The days are noticeably longer and small hints of things to come are evident from local bird behavior. I’ve heard male Black-capped Chickadees doing some tentative singing and the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers have been drumming a bit as the sun rises. I’ve also noted the Common Ravens are starting to get a little territorial and crabby about trespass by others. Optimistic observations, yes…, but I know there’s still plenty of winter left.


So far, January weather has been quite varied. A record breaking warm spell in the second week brought steady rain and dropped snow levels by about half. The ice cover on some area streams opened up and wintering waterfowl took advantage and moved around a bit. Some icing at the tail end of the warm spell probably made it difficult for the birds that make a living picking cocoons and pupae out of crevices on trees... Recently, its been bitterly cold and snow depths have resurged back to their early January depths.

A notable observation this month, is the dramatic lack of birds out in the woods. Several northern Maine birders, who spend significant time outdoors, have noted the dearth of birdlife in most woodlots in eastern Aroostook County. The near complete cone failure coupled with an early winter onslaught of frugivores and finches have left little in the forest for passerines to eat. I’m sure the ice cover didn’t help the few gleaning species like chickadees, nuthatches and Brown Creepers.

The good news is, that things are busy at area feeders. Some county birders are reporting a fairly dynamic feeder population with regular changes in species and overall numbers. Seed sales have been brisk at the Presque Isle seed store.

The Mallard and American Black Duck flock has held steady in Presque Isle. Black Ducks were seen in Fort Fairfield and Mars Hill during the thaw. The Common Goldeneye flock at Caribou Dam on the Aroostook River grew to over 50 birds following the warm spell. A few Common Mergansers continued here as well. Some Common Goldeneyes were seen on the open water on the St. John River in Madawaska.

Bald Eagles continue to be seen in Ashland, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle, Island Falls and near Oxbow. An adult was eyeing the aforementioned Goldeneyes at the Caribou Dam on the 15th. The Coopers Hawk was reported in Presque Isle in the first week of January but not since.

A Ruffed Grouse was seen sunning itself in Westmanland on the 20th. Barred Owls were heard in Fort Fairfield in early January.

The Three-toed Woodpecker was seen on the 5th at the usual spot along the Muscovic Road in Stockholm. A group of three Gray Jays were also seen here. Pileated Woodpeckers were seen in Presque Isle, New Sweden and Woodland.

Blue Jays were one of the most widely reported bird species in Aroostook County this month. Ken Lamb photographed this jay at his feeder in Chapman. A few American Crows continue to winter all they way up to Madawaska and Fort Kent. The only waxwing reported so far this month was a window-killed Bohemian Waxwing found in Caribou on the 9th. Northern Cardinals were reported in Caribou and Presque Isle.

Several observers reported declining Mourning Dove flocks recently.

Large numbers of Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches have been reported at feeders across the area. White-breasted Nuthatches are being seen at feeders in Caribou and Presque Isle. An uncommon Brown Creeper was a one-day visitor to my yard in Woodland on the 6th.

An adult Northern Shrike was chasing redpolls at a feeder in Mt Chase.

Sparrow species seem well represented so far this winter. This is surprising considering the duration and depth of the snow cover we’ve experienced so far.

A sharp looking male Eastern Towhee over-wintering at a feeder in Sherman is only the fifth winter record/report for this species in Aroostook County. The bird was first seen in early fall and continues to show at this time. Patty Jennings got this great image on the 11th.

A White-throated Sparrow was reported in Presque Isle and American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were seen in several locations in the past week. Reports of Snow Bunting flocks have declined a bit but single birds were seen over last weekend in Caribou and Woodland.

Large numbers of Pine Grosbeaks continue to be reported from across the area. High counts included 35 in Mt Chase, 30+ in Castle Hill, 20+ in Portage Lake and 45+ in Woodland. Smaller counts were reported from Ashland, Caribou, Presque Isle and Stacyville, St. Agatha and Sherman. 62 Evening Grosbeaks were counted at my feeder in Woodland on the 17th.

Common Redpolls have been frequently reported in northern Maine this month, but the distribution has been spotty. One observer complained that he’d yet to refill his nyger feeder this winter and others, nearby, reported good numbers of the finches in their yards. A few American Goldfinches are visiting feeders in Presque Isle and Caribou. Purple Finches remain unseen.

Its not often that there are as many Hoary Redpolls to report as Pine Siskins but this was the case this week. Usually rare, Hoarys have been seen recently at feeders in New Sweden, Castle Hill and Mt Chase. Russell Mount got this good shot of "his" Hoary holding its own against the Pine Grosbeaks at his feeder in Castle Hill on the 22nd.

(The Siskins were visiting in Caribou, New Sweden and Woodland.)

1 comment:

Robin said...

I heard a woodpecker drumming this morning here in northeastern Maine. I haven't seen a pine siskin or brown creeper all winter. Even during the bitter cold days there are very few birds at the feeding stations this year.