Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 23-30 Jan 2008

The achy-cold, sinus freezing weather northern Maine felt this week has got to be hard on birds. Taking in enough calories to sustain their bodies for another frigid night is serious business for the small passerines these days.

It was barely light enough to see, on another -20 morning this week, and the American Tree Sparrows were already hunched in the gloom, scratching under my feeders. Likewise, the ever-growing Black-capped Chickadee flock here in Woodland starts its sunflower seed-shuttle early and runs late. Feeding looks like desperate business for these birds and they’re singularly focused on the process of grabbing a seed, flying to a perch, shelling and eating it and getting back to the feeder for another…If the feeders run low, few will even flit in and grab a seed before I’m finished pouring the refill.

I noticed that, early in day, some of the chickadees tail feathers are bent in a curve, I assume from a night of roosting in a tight cavity somewhere.

The Pine and Evening Grosbeaks use a different tactic on really cold mornings. The birds arrive in small groups from their roosting spots down in the bog and assemble in the top of the tallest tree in my yard. Here they wait for the sun to crest the hill to the east and provide some solar heating prior to feeding. Once they warm up a bit, they’ll start to descend down to the platforms a few at a time.

My last remaining Mourning Dove just sits in the sun and looks miserable. Not much of a cold weather survival strategy for these late-comers to northern Maine... Though the dove population has seemed to build in the area in the past few years, the reports would indicate they are taking a hit this year.

Most water remains frozen. This should be no surprise, when you look at the map of low temperatures for the 24th and 25th prepared by the NOAA weather guys in Caribou.

Snow levels remained about the same as last report (prior to the current rainy weather we had today). There is about 2 to 2.5 feet in the woods and around a foot in the open areas.

The Common Goldeneyes haven’t been reported in Caribou this week, but a few Common Mergansers continue there. The regular crowd of Mallards and Black Ducks continue on Presque Isle Stream An adult Bald Eagle was seen on Sunday near the nest east of Presque Isle.

This apparent Sharp-shinned Hawk was puffed up against the cold in a yard in Presque Isle when Alice Sheppard photographed it. The dark red iris indicates the little hawk is an adult.

Unusual in January, 17 Great Black-backed Gulls were spotted on the ice of the Aroostook River in Presque Isle on the 28th.

As previously mentioned, Mourning Dove numbers have been thinning out in January’s cold weather.

10 Bohemian Waxwings were seen in Caribou on the 28th. Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches are frequenting feeders in Caribou and Presque Isle. The Tufted Titmouse continues to over winter in Presque Isle and was visiting as recently as the 26th.

Northern Cardinals are still being spotted at two locations in Presque Isle. No reports of this species were received this week from other locales. Snow Bunting flocks were seen in Cross Lake (T17R5), Van Buren and Easton. A White-throated Sparrow lingers on in a yard in Presque Isle.

The Sherman Eastern Towhee was photographed again this week by Patty Jennings. The bird obligingly showed off its diagnostic wing pattern that separates this species from its western counterpart, the Spotted Towhee. A sparrow authority looked at Patty’s pictures of the Sherman bird and noted the white on the bases of the primary wing feathers. The degree of white varies geographically and he indicated this bird appeared typical of northern populations of the Eastern Towhee.

Pine Grosbeaks continue to be so common and widespread that they are barely noteworthy. An unusually bright yellow Evening Grosbeak showed up in the flock at my feeder in Woodland this week. The bird didn’t have the usual “sooty” look to the yellow of the upper parts. Pine Siskins are increasing but still only showing in single digit flock sizes. No new Hoary Redpolls were reported but some bright male Common Redpolls are being seen. Ken Lamb photographed this guy at his feeder in Chapman.

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