Saturday, May 24, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 9 -22 May 2008

Slow to post lately. Its been a busy couple of weeks...

Almost two weeks of sunny weather and light breezes made short work of most of the remaining snowbanks in northern Maine. Temperatures were generally in the 50's and 60's with a couple days creeping up to 70. The 12th was the only night that I've seen frost here in Woodland. The only precipitation during the period was a good soaking rain shower on the 19th and some showers lately. A decent migrant pulse was sandwiched between weather systems to the north and south on the 17th and 18th and made for good birding on those days.

Water levels on area streams and rivers have receded but some lake levels remain higher than normal. Leaf-out remains less than 50% in northern and central Aroostook Co. Areas in southern Aroostook are over 50%.

New and arriving species

Redhead 5/17
Black Scoter 5/17
Sora 5/15
Semipalmated Plover 5/15
Spotted Sandpiper 5/11
Common Nighthawk 5/14
Chimney Swift 5/17
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5/14
Olive-sided Flycatcher 5/17
Least Flycatcher 5/15
Great-crested Flycatcher 5/17
Eastern Kingbird 5/17
Eastern Bluebird 5/12
Veery 5/18
Swainson's Thrush 5/17
Brown Creeper 5/17
Warbling Vireo 5/15
Red-eyed Vireo 5/12
Nashville Warbler 5/17
Northern Parula 5/11
Yellow Warbler 5/15
Chestnut-sided Warbler 5/15
Magnolia Warbler 5/15
Black-throated Blue Warbler 5/17
Black-throated Green Warbler 5/11
Black-and-White Warbler 5/10
American Redstart 5/17
Common Yellowthroat 5/15
Wilson's Warbler 5/17
Lincoln's Sparrow 5/11
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5/11
Bobolink 5/15
Baltimore Oriole 5/15

The waterfowl highlight this time is certainly the returning pair of Redheads at Lake Josephine in Easton. This is the fifth spring this species has appeared. The birds appear to be settling in and were first seen on the 17th and were observed copulating in a small pond nearby on the 19th. They were joined by a second pair on the 22nd! I was able to get a digiscoped documentation photo of the new arrivals with a drake Ring-necked Duck (and a speeding Bank Swallow). Also at Lake Jo, Ruddy Duck numbers jumped with a high count of 10 birds including 3 females.

Male Ruddies were displaying and jostling for the attention of the females. Other good finds here were 2 Black Scoters on the 17th and 19th, high counts of Blue-winged Teal (12), Gadwall (20+), American Wigeon (40+), Northern Shovelers (30+) and a lingering Lesser Scaup on the 17th. Canada Goose nests seem to be everywhere this year and more than one birder has reported exciting encounters with the agitated parents. Ken lamb got this action shot in Caribou...

Another Red-necked Grebe in alternate plumage was seen at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield on the 19th. The Great Egret remained at the ponds in Easton where it was found through at least the 15th. Ken Lamb got this great shot of the bird on the 9th. American Bitterns were found in Woodland, New Sweden and Fort Fairfield. Great Blue Herons remain on the nests at the rookery in Easton. The image above of an incubating heron comes from the camera (and big lens) of Paul Cyr.

A couple of late-ish Rough-legged Hawks were notable finds. A dark phase was seen on the 16th in Presque Isle and a light phase bird was hunting near Christina Reservoir on the 19th. Single northward straying Turkey Vultures were seen in Mars Hill and Island Falls on the 21st.

Bald Eagles were seen at the nests in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle but it appears both have failed this year. The Fort Fairfield nest is tilting precariously after one of the supporting branches appears to have broken in the recent wind. The female continues to sit in the leaning collection of branches... Interestingly, a Common Grackle appears to be building a nest of its own in the underside of the eagle nest. Red-tails seem to continue to increase their presence in central and northern Aroostook. In addition to birds found at nests in Westfield, New Canada and T16R4, individual Red-tailed Hawks were reported in Ashland, Caribou and Oakfield. These hawks were uncommon in the area in the 90's. Northern Harriers were also well represented recently with individuals at Dyer Brook (5/9), Presque Isle (5/11), Madawaska (5/15), Washburn (5/17), Woodland (5/17) and a pair at Christina Reservoir on the 17th. The Northern Goshawk is aggressively defending its territory at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Presque Isle. Several mountain bikers have reported close calls with the female on the trails here. American Kestrels were reported throughout the area from Sherman Station (Stacyville) in northern Penobscot County (5/9) to St. John Plantation on the northern border (5/19). Merlins were seen in Caribou, Presque Isle, New Sweden and Castle Hill.

A newly arrived Sora was well seen at a wetland near Lake Josephine on the 19th. Virginia Rails were heard here as well.

A decent assortment of shorebirds were seen recently including a rare-in-spring Semi-palmated Plover at Lake Jo from the 15th to the 17th. High counts of other species reported were: 6 Killdeer in Easton (5/15);10+ American Woodcock along the Sullivan Road in T17R5 (5/12);14 Greater Yellowlegs at Christina Reservoir (5/15) and 4 Lesser Yellowlegs and 11 Least Sandpipers at Lake Jo (5/15).

On the 17th I finally achieved a long time goal of seeing all seven of northern Maine's breeding woodpeckers in one day. That is, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Downy, Hairy, Pileated, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers. 5 Three-toed Woodpeckers in the Irving woodlot in New Sweden and 3 Black-backeds at the Muscovic Road in Stockholm were my highest counts ever for these species.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds seemed to arrive all at once this year with males and females reported. Patty Jennings got this stunning image at her yard in Stacyville in northern Penobscot Co. Arriving flycatcher species included Least Flycatchers on the 15th and Eastern Kingbird, Olive-sided and Great-crested Flycatchers on the 17th. Boreal Chickadees were seen near LaPomkeag Lake in T8R7 and a pair of Gray Jays were spotted along the Muscovic Road.

Only fourteen species of warbler have been seen in the area now. None of their arrival dates were particularly notable. Two singing male Wilson's Warblers in Stockholm were good finds amongst the commoner species. 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers were hard at work on a nest already on the Sullivan Road in T16R4 on the 17th. The nest was only about 6 feet off the ground in a small spruce tree.

American Tree Sparrows lingered through at least the 11th and the first Lincolns Sparrow arrived at my feeders on the same date. Mary Collishaw snapped one last picture of her departing Tree Sparrow in Caribou last week. Another Lincoln's was singing on territory in a regenerating clearcut on the Sullivan Road in T17R3 on the 17th. 17 Chipping Sparrows at my feeder on the 10th was a high count. White -crowned Sparrows built in numbers through the 15th and have seemed to dwindle in numbers since then.

Arriving Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were noted in Caribou, Houlton, New Sweden, Presque Isle and Woodland on the 11th and 12th. Singing Bobolinks have been heard in several locations in central Aroostook. Several were seen along the dike of Lake Josephine in Easton on the 19th. 6 Baltimore Orioles are visiting a feeder in Presque Isle. 4 Rusty Blackbirds were seen in Madawaska on the 15th and another was heard in a small wetland in T17R3. Small mixed flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds continue to make their way through the area and don't appear particularly anxious to get about the business of breeding.

What was probably the last Common Redpoll of the season, was lingering at a feeder near Echo Lake in Presque Isle on the 11th. Large numbers of Purple Finches (30+) and American Goldfinches (20+) arrived at my feeder over the past two weeks. A few Pine Siskins continue to be seen as well. Evening Grosbeaks continue to be widespread visitiors at feeding stations but no one has noted high counts. Evening Grosbeaks were reported at Caribou, Chapman Fort Kent, Frenchville, Madawaska, St. John, T17R3, Presque Isle, Mars Hill, Houlton and Oakfield.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 1 - 8 May 2008


Northern Maine enjoyed quiet weather this week. Temperatures were in the 50's and 60's during the day and dipped below freezing a couple times early in the period. Rain fell only twice this week but both were steady rains. A bit of a migrant wave was seen on the 7th and increased on the 8th. Otherwise, most migrants seemed to be moving through at a steady pace.

Almost all open areas are now snow free. Wooded areas in central and southern Aroostook have snow in isolated spots. Up to a foot still hangs on in the north Maine woods but the warm temperatures and predicted rain should finish it off within the next week. The ice melted off of most of the lakes this week.

Water levels remain high in northern-most Aroostook along the St. John and Fish Rivers following the record breaking flooding. Most damaged roads have been repaired in the settled areas, but dozens of wood roads and bridges were trashed and this will probably affect access to the North Maine Woods throughout the summer in places. The flood has left acres of standing water throughout the region and waterbirds are well dispersed across the region.

Deciduous trees are flowering across county and leaf buds are starting to open in south Aroostook locales.

New and Arriving Species this week:

Northern Pintail 5/7
Lesser Scaup 5/7
Surf Scoter 5/8
White-winged Scoter 5/8
Red-necked Grebe 5/4
Great Egret 5/8
Glossy Ibis 4/29
Broad-winged Hawk 5/1
Virginia Rail 5/4
Lesser Yellowlegs 5/8
Solitary Sandpiper 5/8
Least Sandpiper 5/8
Great-horned Owl 5/6
Northern Saw-whet Owl 5/8
Cliff Swallow 5/8
Bank Swallow 5/8
Blue-headed Vireo 5/7
American Pipit 5/6
Gray Catbird 5/2
Brown Thrasher 5/6
Hermit Thrush 5/4
Northern Parula 5/7
Northern Waterthrush 5/7
White-crowned Sparrow 5/7

The first week of May in northern Maine is usually a time when numbers and diversity of waterfowl are at their peak. This may be the case this year, but its hard to find any concentrations of waterfowl thanks to all the water left after the flood. Geese, dabblers and the fish eating diving ducks all seem to find the new habitat to their liking. It seems like only Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks are sticking mostly to their usual haunts.

A Canada Goose nest with two eggs was found on the 2nd near still-partially-ice-covered Barren Lake in Caribou. Another was found with 6 eggs on the 8th. The results of Ken Lamb's recent Canada Goose portrait session is above. Quite a bit of oil was spilled during the flood along the St. John River. An oil covered Snow Goose was recovered on the 4th in Van Buren during the cleanup.

Newly arrived species this week were pairs of Northern Pintails and Lesser Scaup on Lake Josephine in Easton. A Surf Scoter also at Easton and a pair of White-winged Scoters on Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle were firsts of the season. 6 Gadwalls and 3 Ruddy Ducks were also seen at Lake Jo on the 7th and 8th. Blue-winged Teal were spotted in Eagle Lake (5/6) and Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield (5/7). Noteworthy high counts this week included 22 American Wigeons, 15 Northern Shovelers, 60+ Common Goldeneyes and 280+ Ring-necked Ducks at Lake Josephine.

Common Loons arrived at area lakes immediately after (during?) the rain and subsequent ice-outs. 5 were on Eagle Lake and 3 were seen at Arnold Brook. Very rare inland, 3 Red-necked Grebes found at Christina Reservoir on the 4th and another on Arnold Brook Lake on the 8th were good finds. Pied-billed Grebes were also found at Christina Res.

The avian highlights this week were a couple of rare waders. A Glossy Ibis in Hodgdon from 30 April through 3 May was only the second record for Aroostook County and likely the northernmost record in the eastern US. Almost as rare, a Great Egret was discovered in a wetland near Lake Josephine on the 8th. Bill Daniels was able to document the big white bird with the image above.

Great Blue Herons are on the nests at a rookery in Easton and American Bitterns were seen and heard in Caribou, Easton and Woodland. Paul Cyr caught up with some courting herons on the 8th.

Eight raptor species were seen in the area this week. A high count of 6 Northern Harriers were seen in southern and central Aroostook county on the 4th. A Red-tailed Hawk was found on a nest in Westfield on the 8th.

A Virgina Rail calling in a wetland near Lake Josephine on the 4th was an early surprise. Wild Turkeys seen in the Sheridan section of Ashland and along Route 1 in Bridgewater show the birds are continuing to expand northward despite the severe winter. Drumming Ruffed Grouse were widely reported. A Chukar photographed by Alan Chalou at his feeder in Castle Hill in mid April was almost certainly an escapee, but noteworthy none-the-less.

Some newly arrived shorebirds set early date records. Four Least Sandpipers and two Solitary Sandpipers at Lake Jo on the 8th were the earliest ever by my records. Arriving Lesser Yellowlegs here were also a bit early. Greater Yellowlegs were seen in twos and threes in Caribou, Eagle Lake, St. Agatha, Houlton, Mars Hill and Easton this week. 6 Wilson's Snipe together in a wet pasture in Presque Isle led me to suspect that migrants of this species continue to pass through the area.

Owls made a good showing this week in the county. A Barred Owl was calling in the Woodland Bog most nights and a Barred and Great Horned Owls were heard in Amity in southern Aroostook county on the 6th. A Northern Saw-whet Owl calling at 3 in the afternoon was a first of the season for me. The bird was winding up some Northern Flickers and American Robins near Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle.

Belted Kingfishers were widely reported. Ken Lamb sent along this great shot of a kingfisher playing with her food.

A singing Blue-headed Vireo was reported in Caribou

Swallow numbers jumped this week with the warming weather and Cliff and Bank Swallows joined the Tree and Barn Swallows on the 8th. The Cliff's arrival date was the earliest ever for me in Aroostook Co. Rare in spring, an American Pipit was heard over Eagle Lake on the 6th. A Gray Catbird in Hodgdon on the 2nd and a Brown Thrasher in Bancroft on the 6th were new arrivals in this neck of the woods. Also in Bancroft, an Eastern Bluebird found on the 8th was the first report for the county this year. Hermit Thrushes are still only trickling in, but vocal.

The increasing numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers were joined by only two other species of warbler this week. A Northern Parula and a Northern Waterthrush were both first heard this season in Caribou on the 7th.

American Tree Sparrow numbers waned but they lingered through at least the 6th. Increasing Chipping Sparrows were quick to take their place. 13 was a high count in my yard on the 8th. Fox Sparrows also lingered through the 6th here in Woodland. White-crowned Sparrows arrived all at once on the 7th when flocks were seen in Caribou, Presque Isle and Woodland.

Common Redpolls were still being seen as of the 3rd in Caribou and the 2nd in Woodland. Purple Finches continue to increase throughout the area. Trina Coffin photographed both species at her feeder in Caribou. The Evening Grosbeak flocks were widely reported but seem to be dispersing. The grosbeaks were seen in Caribou, Chapman, Easton, Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Presque Isle and Woodland.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Glossy Ibis in Northern Maine

Sue Young, in southern Aroostook county, has discovered a Glossy Ibis in Hodgdon just south of Houlton. The bird is visiting one of the many huge puddles formed during the recent deluge of rain and snowmelt that hit the county. Sue's birdy puddle is located out on the Lincoln Road right along the Canadian border...The water is literally within 100 feet of Canada.

The bird was first seen on the April 30th but has remained through at least the 3rd of May.

The Glossy Ibis was probing around the margin of the puddle in the company of Canada Geese, Green-winged Teal, Mallards and Ring-billed Gulls. According to Sue, it didn't appreciate the attention she offered and stayed on the far side of the pool when she was trying to photograph it.
Even though it was uncooperative, Sue was able to document the bird well enough to eliminate the possibility of the similar (but much less likely) White-faced Ibis. A White-faced Ibis would show a more...white face(!) and pinkish rather than the gray legs seen on the bird in Sue's pics.

I checked with a few sources and it looks like Sue's ibis is not the first for Aroostook County. On 21 April 2002, Joe McDonald found the county-first ibis just a few miles away in Amity!

The Hodgdon bird does get the distinction of being the northern most record in Maine and the eastern US. The nearest breeding population of Glossy Ibises is 200+ miles to the south at Stratton Island just off the coast of Maine near Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach. Back in the 1980's a Glossy Ibis had a failed nesting attempt on the southern coast of New Brunswick near St. John.

Anyone interesting in looking for the bird shouldn't have much of a problem finding the spot. Sue sent along a great map showing the exact location. The pond is in a private farm field but easily visible from the very quiet Lincoln Road. Stay out of the wet field, even on foot... Birders shouldn't be surprised if they draw the attention of the Border Patrol at this location. There are remotely monitored cameras on the utility poles nearby!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 18-30 April 2008

The snow continues to melt quickly in northern Maine and parts of many area fields are now snow free. As much as a foot of snow remains in the woods. At Caribou temperatures have been in the 50's and 60's during the day and in the 30's at night. A couple of weak fronts have moved through and seemed to bring a good assortment birds. Winds were predominantly from the south during the period

Ice out on the bigger rivers was a protracted event this year, stretching over several days. Large parts of the lower Aroostook and St. John rivers were ice free by Saturday 19 April, but ice flows and minor jams continued coming downstream through the long weekend. At this time both rivers are at/near flood stage as our record breaking snowpack melts. Several inches of rain fell on the 28th which caused widespread flooding across the county. Large areas adjacent to streams and rivers are currently inundated. There is lots of good duck-watching to be had right beside the road in many spots.

Most larger lakes and ponds remain ice covered.

Some poplar trees have begun to flower and insects were increasingly emerging as the weeks progressed. It appears the early arriving insectivores lucked out so far this spring.

New and arriving species:

American Wigeon 4/26
Gadwall 4/20
Northern Shoveler 4/26
Blue-winged Teal 4/30
Common Eider 4/20
Red-breasted Merganser 4/20
Ruddy Duck 4/26
Common Loon 4/26
Pied-billed Grebe 4/20
Double-crested Cormorant 4/18
American Bittern 4/26
Greater Yellowlegs 4/24
Belted Kingfisher 4/23
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4/18
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4/21
Cedar Waxwing 4/26
Winter Wren 4/26
Pine Warbler 4/20
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4/21
Chipping Sparrow 4/19
Swamp Sparrow 4/23
White-throated Sparrow 4/18
Purple Finch 4/18

As noted above, waterfowl are dispersing across the area. Flooded areas are hosting a good variety of water fowl now. Canada Goose numbers are building and flocks of migrants numbering in the 100's have been seen in Caribou, Presque Isle and Washburn.

Though still ice covered, small wetlands near Lake Josephine in Easton held arriving American Wigeon (6), Northern Shoveler (2) and Ruddy Ducks (1) on the 26th. The first Gadwall pair of the season were seen near the Aroostook River in Washburn on the 20th and another pair was seen in Easton on the 23rd. A pair of arriving Blue-winged Teal were spotted flying over the flooded areas near the St. John River in Madawaska.

Rare inland, a Red-breasted Merganser drake arrived at Puddledock Pond in Fort Fairfield on the 20th and has remained here in the company of several Common and Hooded Mergansers. Ken Lamb got this picture of the bird calmly paddling across the pond earlier this week. Also uncommon inland, 14 Common Eiders were spotted flying up the Aroostook River in Washburn on the 20th. High counts of arriving Ring-necked Ducks (50+) and Green-winged Teal (40+) were found in the flooded areas adjacent to the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield. 38 Common Mergansers on the Aroostook River in Caribou on the 26th was a high count this week.

Arriving on the 26th, five migrant Common Loons crowded into a small stretch of the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield. No ponds or lakes are yet ice free. Pied-billed Grebes made an early showing with individuals on Puddledock Pond in Fort Fairfield on the 20th, Mars Hill's Town Pond on the 24th and Lake Josephine on the 26th. An early Double-crested Cormorant arrived on Collins Pond on the 18th and has been visiting daily since. Other early cormorants were seen along the Aroostook River in Caribou and Fort Fairfield on the 26th.

An arriving American Bittern in Chapman on the 26th, was on schedule by the calendar but a tad bit early for its frog hunting endeavors. The bird was seen off the Littlefield Road in a still-ice-covered wooded wetland. Great Blue Herons were seen in Caribou, Chapman, Easton and Presque Isle this week.

The prevalent southerly winds seemed to bring a steady stream of migrating raptors. Ospreys had reached central Aroostook by the 20th. Merlins and American Kestrels increased quickly with male kestrels becoming almost common in central Aroostook county by week's end. Merlins were spotted in Limestone, Presque Isle and in my yard in Woodland. Sharp-shinned Hawks also buzzed my feeders on various occasions in the past week. I was able to photograph this tardy Rough-legged Hawk that was hunting over fields in Washburn on the 26th. Still somewhat uncommon in northern Maine, Red-tailed Hawks were seen on 20th in Fort Fairfield and the 26th near Lake Josephine in Easton. A subadult Northern Goshawk was migrating through Washburn on the 21st and an adult unsuccessfully chased Green-winged Teal at Lake Josephine on the 26th. A Bald Eagle was seen catching a fish in a flooded potato field in Madawaska.

Greater Yellowlegs were seen in Presque Isle on the 24th and in Macwahoc in northern Penobscot county on the 30th. Belted Kingfishers trickled into the area by the 23rd. Reports of these came from Caribou, Fort Kent, Washburn and Presque Isle. Paul Cyr photographed the attractive female kingfisher at the top of this post at a wetland in Fort Fairfield. A high count of 14 Wilson's Snipe in a single waterway in Presque Isle was notable. The first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was first reported from T8R5 along Route 11. Within the week, drumming males were heard around the area. Five males were seen in Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle on the 26th. Northern Flickers performed similarly after arriving on the 20th.

Though not the first of the year, a Barn Swallow spotted feeding with Tree Swallows over the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield on the 23rd was still considered early. Ruby-crowned Kinglets seemed to arrive all at once with singing males reported in Limestone, Washburn and Woodland. A flock of 25 Cedar Waxwings in Washburn on the 26th were the first (and only so far). Singing Winter Wren appeared with the first bare ground in the woods. A male wren was singing in Woodland on the 26th.

A few Yellow-rumped Warblers have been heard but numbers have yet to arrive. Yellow-rumps were heard in Woodland (4/21), Limestone (4/23) and Mapleton (4/26).

Sparrows have dominated the bird action at area feeders over the past two weeks. Large concentrations of Dark-eyed Juncos appeared from the 17th through the 24th and then thinned out since then. Reports of hundreds of juncos coming to feeders came from several locations in central Aroostook. Numbers seemed to peak around the 20th. White-throated Sparrows now seem to dominate with reports of 30+ in Caribou, Woodland and New Sweden. Paul Cyr got this nice shot of white morph White-throated at his feeder in Presque Isle last week. American Tree and the very similar Chipping Sparrows are mixing together under my feeders.. Fox Sparrows were seen in Caribou, Presque Isle, Washburn and Woodland. Seven Fox Sparrows was the high count here on the 25th. The Swamp Sparrow vanguard had arrived to frozen wetlands in Caribou, Easton and Woodland by the 23rd. 76 Snow Buntings seen in Fort Fairfield on April 20 were probably the last of the season.

A flock of six Rusty Blackbirds was an unusual find in Washburn on the 26th. The birds were feeding on the muddy blocks of an ice jam that had pushed out into the woods along the Aroostook River.

Purple Finches appeared in numbers on the 18th and have been increasingly seen since. A rare-in-northern-Maine House Finch was heard, but not seen in Washburn on the 21st. Common Redpolls are still showing at my feeders in Woodland and so far, they continue to outnumber Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches. It seems unusual to see so few goldfinches by this point in the spring migration. Evening Grosbeaks are still coming to feeders in Chapman (30+), Caribou (1) and Woodland (12).