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).

No comments: