The past week has brought some long-overdue seasonable weather to northern Maine. Temperatures have been consistently in the 40's during the day and low 20's at night. The sun has put a small dent in the record breaking snowpack but only small bare spots of ground have appeared so far.
Many smaller streams have opened up and significant leads are developing in the river ice. Southerly winds on the 4th and 5th brought a good pulse of migrants but otherwise its been fairly steady rate of arrival for returning birds.
New and arriving species:
Great Blue Heron 4/7
American Kestrel 4/7
Northern Harrier 4/6
Red-tailed hawk 4/6
Rough-legged Hawk 4/6
American Woodcock 4/4
Wilson's Snipe 4/7
Ring-billed Gull 4/8
Herring Gull 3/31
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4/8
American Robin 4/6
Fox Sparrow 4/1
Common Grackle 3/27
Red-winged Blackbird 3/27
Brown Headed Cowbird 4/2
Waterfowl numbers seem to be increasing proportionally with the area of open water in the county. Small flocks of Canada Geese were seen in Presque Isle, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Mars Hill. A dozen stood on the very much frozen Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield this weekend. Hooded and Common Mergansers were seen in small groups. Common Goldeneyes increased with 20+ on Presque Isle Stream and on the Aroostook River in Presque Isle . Both Mallard and American Black Duck numbers increased quickly in first few days of the month with flocks of 50+ seen in Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Easton... Alice Sheppard photographed this hardy Black Duck wallowing through the snow in Presque Isle. Ring-necked Ducks are overdue but they'll have to wait a few more days till some ponds open a bit.
The first Great Blue Heron of the year was reported in Presque Isle on the 7th.
A good pulse of arriving raptors appeared on the 6th with Presque Isle being the center of the action. The first American Kestrel was seen in Mapleton on the 7th. 2 Red-tailed, a light phase Rough-legged Hawk and 2 Northern Harriers were all newly arrived in Presque Isle. Bald Eagles appear to be tending nests at Fort Fairfield, Portage Lake, Presque Isle (2 locations) and near Mud Lake in Sinclair. Young eagles were seen at deer carcasses in Ashland and Benedicta.
Seen in Mars Hill on March 27th, the first Killdeer of season was a bit early by the calendar and very early judging by the conditions. The bird was circling over completely snow covered fields not far from Mars Hill mountain. At this time, Killdeer have overspread the county and are quite visible in the few patches of bare ground. Wilson's Snipe arrived on the 7th at Presque Isle and the first American Woodcock was flushed from a Chapman road on the 4th. Both were on schedule despite the conditions. Ken Lamb shared these pictures of the snipe and killdeer which he saw in the same waterway in Presque Isle.
Gull numbers have increased quickly in the past two weeks. Herring Gulls returned by the 31st at Caribou and Ring-billeds followed shortly thereafter on the 8th. Best of all, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull seen roosting on the ice at the Caribou Dam on the 8th and 9th. Uncommon inland and very rare in northern Maine, this gull is being seen with 100+ Great Black-backed, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.
The first Eastern Phoebe of the season was seen picking cluster flies off the south side of a house in Mt Chase on the 8th.
Northern Shrikes seemed to be passing through the southern Aroostook area in the first few days of the month. 2 were spotted at Bancroft in southernmost Aroostook on March 30th, another was photographed in Mt Chase on the 1st and yet another shrike was seen in Littleton on the 3rd. Horned Larks were seen in Westfield (3/29) and Mapleton (4/1)
Most Common Ravens in central Aroostook have quieted down and are currently incubating eggs at their nests. Most reports indicate American Crows are still constructing nests.
50 Bohemian Waxwings were seen in Presque Isle on the 8th. The Presque Isle Tufted Titmouse continued through the period. Three Boreal Chickadees were seen with a flock of Black-cappeds in Woodland.
American Robins apparently arrived all at once on the 4th. First of year Robins were reported on that date in Bancroft, Houlton, Smyrna, Westfield, Presque Isle, Caribou and Madawaska. Northern Cardinals have paired in Presque Isle and Caribou. The Presque Isle male is singing.
American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are increasingly seen. Both species are singing now. Numerous small flocks of Snow Buntings are being spotted across northern Maine. The largest flock was 130+ in Chapman. Several males were almost in complete breeding plumage. Singing Song Sparrows reached Collins Pond in Caribou on the 8th and Woodland by the 9th. Two newly arrived Fox Sparrows were foraging beside the road in Caribou on the 1st.
Blackbird species have also quickly overspread the area. The first Red-winged Blackbird was reported at a feeder in Caribou on the 27th and large flocks were being seen by the 4th. The female Rusty Blackbird in Presque Isle has darkened up and is becoming quite vocal. The bird posed for Paul Cyr's camera again last week. Common Grackles were first reported in Littleton on the 27th and had reached Madawaska in northernmost Aroostook by the 28th. Male Brown-headed Cowbirds were at feeders in Woodland and Presque Isle on the 2nd.
Pine Grosbeaks have dwindled to twos and threes but are still being seen in Woodland and Caribou. Common Redpolls continue in small flocks but the consensus of reporters is they are starting to wane. Pine Siskins were seen at New Sweden (2) and Presque Isle (8) and single American Goldfinches were reported at Woodland and Caribou. An Evening Grosbeak flock of 40+ is regular at my feeder in Woodland.