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.

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