Sunday, August 17, 2008

Northern Maine Birds 1-14 August 2008

The wet weather continued in northern Maine over the first two weeks of
August. Rain fell in Aroostook County on nearly every day and added
three and half inches of water to the already-sodden landscape. Lakes
and river remain very high with many of the major watercourses setting
record high flows for the dates during this period.

Temperatures are a tick or two below normal values thanks to the ample cloud cover.

Passerine migration has begun in earnest. On two recent evenings, when it was not raining, a few nocturnal migrants were heard overhead. There are still plenty of family groups and youngsters being seen around the area.

The fruit and berry crop is very heavy. Chokecherry, Mountain Ash and Highbush Cranberry shrubs are lush and loaded. The nut and cone crops look good as well. Wet conditions are threatening the grain and potato crops but have made for an unusually vibrant wild flower show as summer winds down. Ken Lamb captured some of the colors in this gorgeous image of New England(?) Asters and Black-eyed Susans. The Jewelweed (Impatiens) favored by migrating hummingbirds is especially impressive with head-high drifts in most wetlands

High counts of waterfowl continue to be the norm at the usual favored spots in central Aroostook county. Ring-necked Ducks numbered in the mid-hundreds at both Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield and Lake Josephine in Easton.

300+ American Wigeon at Christina on August 8th was new high for me here. Molting drake Wood Ducks have congregated at Lake Jo and a visit on the 13th tallied more than 40 of these.
Mid-sized (100+) Canada Goose assemblages were noted by observers in northern and central areas of the county.

Very rare inland in mid summer, a young White-winged Scoter was associating
with the wigeon crowd on the north shore of Christina Reservoir on the
8th. Most of the usual unusual species were seen at Lake Josephine,
including both species of teal, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall and Ruddy
Ducks. The family of Redheads discovered in a small wetland near Lake
Josephine last month was not relocated.

A Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage was seen at Christina Reservoir
on the 8th. Mid summer sightings of this species seem more frequent in the past couple years here. The Pied-billed Grebe count at Christina Reservoir was over 30 individuals. 45 Double-crested Cormorants were counted at Long Lake in St. Agatha and a group of 18 were roosting at Lake Josephine.

At least 1 of the Great Egrets, seen late last month in Fort Fairfield, lingered through the first weekend of August.

Raptor migration began with a few early-moving Broad-winged Hawks heading south over Woodland and Presque Isle late last week. American Kestrels are likewise on the move and numbers are building. A couple of observers traveling through the eastern part of the county tallied 20+ kestrels along rural roads here in a single morning. The bumper crop of grasshoppers appear to be the food of choice for foraging kestrels.

A juvenile Northern Goshawk was seen in Mars Hill on the 14th. Bald Eagles were widely seen with reports coming from Haynesville, Caribou, Presque Isle, Island Falls, Fort Fairfield and Portage Lake. The nest along the Mattawamkeag River in Haynesville was reported to have been successful again this year with a single chick raised.

Once a fairly rare sight here in the north, Red-tailed Hawks seem to be increasingly abundant in eastern Aroostook county. Adults as well as several sub-adult (just beginning their second year) Red-tails were seen in Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle last week. As you can see in Paul Cyr's piture of one of these birds, wing and tail feathers have begun to be replaced and hint at the plumage to come.

Both Sora and Virginia Rails were found in a small wetland north of Christina Reservoir on the 13th

Spotting migrating shorebirds continues to be a difficult endeavor thanks to the high water levels and inundated shorelines. Rare at any inland location in Maine, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper was a good find at Lake Josephine on the 13th. Least Sandpiper and both species of Yellowlegs were also seen in small numbers. Adult Solitary Sandpipers were observed in Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Woodland and at Collins Pond in Caribou. Paul Cyr found this Solitary Sandpiper adult behind his house in Presque Isle this week.

Gull numbers are increasing and small mixed species flocks of Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull are being seen in central and northern Aroostook sites. 3 Bonaparte's Gulls were feeding at Lake Josephine on the 8th and 13th. Common Terns have mostly departed from the breeding colony on Long Lake and only 4 individuals were seen there on the 14th. Pairs of Common Terns were also seen at Christina Reservoir.

Migrating Common Nighthawks were seen in Wade and Washburn on the 10th and in Caribou and Woodland on the 14th. All observations were of single birds.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers seem to have peaked late last week in central Aroostook and now appear to be waning. Patty Jennings captured some great images of the hummers in her Stacyville yard including this apparent juvenile and the long tongued male in the top photo. The last report of a male came in on the 10th.

Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Kingbirds were seen feeding fledged young at many locations in the county this week. Patty Jennings got one last picture of her Eastern Phoebes in Stacyville before they fledged. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was still vocalizing in Presque Isle as of the 14th.

Tree and Bank Swallows have mostly departed from the area. Eastern Bluebirds were seen at breeding locations in Bancroft and Portage Lake. Cedar Waxwings have been dedicated flycatchers lately and are being seen hawking insects from exposed perches, usually near a water body of some sort. Ken Lamb photographed this waxwing on the 13th.

Bobolinks have flocked up and begun to leave northern Maine. Over thirty were seen in a field in Fort Fairfield on the 13th and smaller groups were seen in Castle Hill and Woodland on the 14th. Large mixed flocks of European Starlings, Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds have also begun to move out.

5 Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Portage Lake on the 14th. White-winged Crossbills continue to be reported but it appears they have thinned out a bit since last month.

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