Friday, April 18, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 10-17 April 2008


The snow cover remains intact and deep across northern Maine though recent warm days (and increasingly nights) have reduced it substantially. Almost 5 inches of new snow fell over the weekend in central and northern parts of Aroostook Co on Saturday. Snow free areas are still very limited in all but southern most areas of the region.

Snow melt and runoff has brought up water levels and most streams and brooks are ice free. Larger rivers are likely to open up in the next day or two. Small areas of open water are appearing on some ponds.

Warm temperatures have allowed a few insects to show but overall this food source remains very limited for arriving insectivores.

Most species are arriving on schedule despite the wintery conditions. A couple species even set new early date records this week! The snow is certainly creating some unusual concentrations of ground feeding species in the few areas that are snow free.

Arriving and new species this week:

Snow Goose 4/16
Wood Duck 4/10
American Wigeon 4/16
Green-winged Teal 4/16
Ring-necked Duck 4/16
Osprey 4/15
Peregrine Falcon 4/16
Great Horned Owl 4/12
Tree Swallow 4/16
Barn Swallow 4/17
Northern Flicker 4/17
Savannah Sparrow 4/17

Arriving waterfowl are crowding into any spot of liquid water to be found. Deep snow around water bodies is making it difficult to see the birds in many spots. Canada Goose numbers have increased to hundreds of birds in the usual spots of concentration in Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Caribou. A Snow Goose touched down along the interstate in T2 R8 NWP north of Lincoln on Wednesday and was photographed by Craig Kesselheim.

First arrivals this week include a male Wood Duck in Woodland on the 10th and pairs of American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks seen together at the confluence of the Aroostook River and Presque Isle Stream on the 16th. Wood Ducks had reached Fort Kent by the 17th. Hooded and Common Merganser numbers continued to increase across the area. Other waterfowl seen this week were Mallards, American Black Ducks and Common Goldeneyes.

Gentle southerly breezes brought a big pulse of arriving raptors on 14-16 April. Nine species were reported this week.

Bald Eagles are still on the nests at Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield. An adult was rallying the ducks at the mouth of the Fish River in Fort Kent on the 17th. An arriving pair of Ospreys had reached the nest near I-95 in Island Falls by Tuesday afternoon. Northern Harriers were reported in Monticello, Presque Isle, Stockholm and Westfield. Red-tailed Hawks were spotted in Wade, Hersey, Littleton and Ashland. Light phase Rough-legged Hawks were discovered in Washburn on the 13th and Caribou on the 14th. A Peregrine Falcon chasing Ring-billed Gulls over the ice of the Aroostook River on the 16th was an exciting find. American Kestrels overspread the area from Smyrna (4/14) to Fort Kent (4/16). A Merlin was seen in Wade on the 15th. Northern Goshawks are taking advantage of the ground feeding birds as they concentrate in small open areas. Goshawks were spotted chasing robins and killdeer along the side of Route 1 in Caribou and Presque Isle on the 15th and 16th.

Great Blue Herons worked their way north arriving at Caribou on the 13th, Portage Lake on the 15th and at Frenchville on the northern border by the 17th.

Killdeer were reported from Island Falls to Fort Kent. A peenting American Woodcock was heard at Wade on the 15th. Bohemian Waxwings are cleaning up the last bits of hanging fruit in the county. The waxwings were seen in Caribou (4/17), Presque Isle (4/13) and Houlton (4/15)

A Great Horned Owl was seen on a nest in Presque Isle. Another road killed Barred Owl was found on I-95 in Oakfield.

15 Horned Larks were feeding on the snowbanks in Limestone on the 14th.

Appearing out of place, Tree Swallows flying over snow covered fields and wetlands surprised observers across the area. Though they are right on schedule, these are likely to have a difficult few weeks until insects emerge in significant numbers. The Tree Swallows were reported first in Mt Chase in northern Penobscot Co. on the 15th and Bancroft in southern-most Aroostook County on the 16th. By the 17th, the swallows were seen as far north as Presque Isle, Caribou, Cross Lake and New Canada near Fort Kent and the border. Even more noteworthy, an extremely early Barn Swallow was photographed by Jim Gramlich at Presque Isle on the 17th. Previously, the earliest record I had for Barn Swallow was 27 April. Average arrival date in the past 10 years is 3 May. Jim's photo of arriving Tree and Barn Swallows can be seen above.

The Presque Isle Tufted Titmouse continues to be seen and increasingly heard at the feeder where it has overwintered. The first Belted Kingfisher passed through the county undetected until it arrived at Pickards Fish Hatchery in Frenchville on the 17th. Northern Flickers arrived in Caribou and Stockholm on the 17th. An Eastern Phoebe was heard in Fort Kent on the 17th.

Squeezed into the limited areas of snow free ground in central and northern Aroostook , thousands of American Robins have have concentrated in these small patches of sod as they feed . These concentrations have attracted the attention of migrating raptors.

American Tree Sparrows are still visiting feeders in Presque Isle Caribou and Woodland. Paul Cyr photographed this tree sparrow at his feeding station in Presque Isle. The first report of Savannah Sparrow in the county came from Caribou on the 17th. This was 7 days earlier than my previous early date and nearly two weeks earlier than average. Song Sparrows had reached Fort Kent by mid week and Fox Sparrows were reported at La Pomkeag Lake in T8R7 on the13th and Caribou (17th). This Song Sparrow was photographed in Woodland

A huge influx of Dark-eyed Juncos was reported in central Aroostook on the 16th and 17th. Several birders reported concentrations of 50+ juncos arriving at their feeders overnight. No juncos were found yet at several known breeding locations in central Aroostook. which might indicate these ground feeders are struggling to find natural feed.

Some Snow Buntings continued to be seen in small flocks in Caribou, Limestone, Presque Isle, Washburn and Woodland through at least the 14th. April 27th is the latest date these have lingered in the county by my records.

The overwintering Rusty Blackbird in Presque Isle continued though at least the 11th. Large flocks of Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackle were seen throughout the area. Ken Lamb photographed the inquisitive grackle at the top of this post at his feeder in Chapman last week.

For the first time in almost 6 months, no Pine Grosbeaks were reported in the area. Evening Grosbeaks continue to be seen in Fort Kent, Chapman and Woodland. Common Redpolls continue in large numbers at area feeders. 70+ are currently gobbling niger seed at my feeders in Woodland. A Presque Isle feeding station is hosting more than 40. Rare this spring, a Pine Siskin was photographed by one of Paul Cyr's game cameras amongst the flock. Can you find it?

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