Thursday, February 28, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 14-27 February 2008

The pattern of regular precipitation in northern Maine continued in the second half of February. Of course, most of that precip has come down in the form of snow. Despite a brief thaw and rain event on the 18th, snow depths weren’t impacted much and remain at about four feet in the woods. The Caribou weather station noted a couple of daily record snowfalls during the period and totals now stand at about 12 feet of snow this season. About four feet of this snow came down in February. Southern portions of Aroostook County seemed to get more snow than the north. A couple of recent storms also resulted in some significant icing there. Patty Jennings photographed this Hairy Woodpecker in Stacyville after one of the ice storms.

Though the expected late-February warming trend is being experienced, most streams and rivers remain locked up in a thick layer of ice. The lowest and warmest temperatures of the month occurred on Presidents Day weekend (16-18th) and made it interesting for travelers.

With the increasing day length and sun intensity, the birds appear to be getting restless and some movement is already being seen. Some early bird song, territorial behavior and breeding displays were noted by reporters. The Great Backyard Bird Count turned up some good birds in northern Maine this year.

Common Goldeneye drakes have started doing their bizarre breeding display for the hens at the Aroostook River dam in Caribou. Mallards and American Black Ducks were seen in a couple of locations in Presque Isle. A mixed flock of ~30 were seen in a pond behind the hospital here.

Judging from the up tick in reports, it appears that Bald Eagles have begun returning to the area and have even started to show up at some nest sites. Adults were seen at the nest on Crystal Lake in Hersey in southern Aroostook County and at the nest on the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield. Others were seen Ashland, Caribou, Island Falls, Houlton, Littleton and Presque Isle. Paul Cyr photographed this adult in Fort Fairfield on the 17th.

A Northern Goshawk buzzed some feeders in Caribou on Sunday the 24th. An early (overwintering?) Red-tailed Hawk was spotted along Interstate 95 in New Limerick on the 26th. The Presque Isle Cooper’s Hawk continues.

The only gull species reported in the area was a small flock of 16 Great Black-backeds that returned this week. They have been seen in Caribou and at the Tri-Community Landfill in Fort Fairfield.

A Barred Owl was heard calling in the Woodland Bog Preserve in Woodland on the 24th.

With the onset of the breeding season, the woodpecker species have featured prominently in many reports. Literally dozens of Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers were reported drumming from around the county. Pileated Woodpeckers were also seen in good numbers especially at in-town locations.

Northern Shrikes were seen in Caribou (21st), Woodland (23rd) and Chapman (24th). As Ken Lamb's picture shows, the weak mask, barring on the belly and bi-colored bill all indicate the Chapman Shrike was an immature bird.

As of yet unsubstantiated, a Black-billed Magpie was reported to have been photographed in Limestone on the 18th. If it can be confirmed, this would be a first for northern Maine.

Gray Jays were seen last week near Chamberlain Lake in northern Piscataquis county and 5 were reported from the Houlton area over the President’s Day weekend. American Crows appear to be increasing in numbers and spreading out around the countryside. A Common Raven was seen carrying a stick in Mount Chase…an early nest builder for sure!

The Great Backyard Bird Count produced a bunch of interesting discoveries during the count weekend of the 15th through the 18th. Reports included the first returning Horned Larks in Fort Fairfield, Boreal Chickadees found in Mars Hill and a Brown Creeper in Island Falls. A second over-wintering Tufted Titmouse for northern Maine, was reported in Island Falls on the count. The long-staying Presque Isle titmouse continues as the northern-most in the US!

Both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches turned up on the count in good numbers. Rare away from feeders in northern Maine, a White-breasted Nuthatch was seen near Chamberlain Lake northwest of Baxter Park last week. Ken Lamb and Trina Coffin photographed these nuthatches in Presque Isle (White-breasted)and Caribou (Red-breasted).

Northern Cardinals were seen in Caribou, Houlton and Presque Isle. The Caribou bird has begun to sing.

The Eastern Towhee continues on in Sherman Mills and according to the GBBC maps, appears to be the northern-most individual of this species on the continent! The bird is reported to be coming to the feeder daily.

Snow Buntings are reappearing in good numbers as winter winds down. Double digit counts were reported from flocks in Ashland, Caribou, Patten, Presque Isle, Smyrna, Washburn and Woodland. Paul Cyrs Game camera captured a couple of squabbling buntings at one of his feeding stations in Presque Isle.

The over-wintering Rusty Blackbird continues in Presque Isle and was seen as recently as the 26th.

Finch highlights this period included three Hoary Redpolls at a feeder in Mount Chase, a Red Crossbill in Island Falls and House Finches at northern outposts in Caribou and Houlton. Carroll Knox documented his House Finch in Caribou with this photo. Both American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins were seen as increasing in numbers, following the lead of Common Redpolls which are dominating counts at many area feeders. Rare this winter, Purple Finches were seen in Washburn and Mars Hill.

Pine Grosbeaks remain widespread and numerous throughout the county. Evening Grosbeaks are more spotty, but good sized flocks are still being reported. 50+ of each species visit my feeders daily in Woodland.


Sandpiper said...

Great report! I'm itching to get back up to Acadia again. You have some great shots. I like the lead picture of the Hairy, and are those Snow Buntings? I've only seen one Snow Bunting ever, so I'm not sure.

Bill Sheehan said...

Thanks Sandpiper. I too, love Patty's HAWO shot. Its a great image of a common bird and I think it tells a story if you look close.

This is an unusual pose for a woodpecker-on a small branch, rather than clinging to a trunk or larger branch. I imagine after an ice storm, the trunks are probably covered with ice and tough to hold on to... I think the bird looks unsure of what its going to do and is checking things out. The sparkling ice in the background and the dripping icicles show the sun is strong and worst is probably over...

As for Paul's Snow Bunting shot, I like that you get a good close look at the variable winter plumage of these birds. Though you probably wouldn't know it from seeing just one they have a lot of brown on them in winter.

Sandpiper said...

Thanks for explaining things so nicely, Bill. I enjoy your blog.