Saturday, December 26, 2009

Northern Hawk Owls and a European Goldfinch

A bunch of interesting birds have been seen in northern Maine lately boding well for the Christmas Bird Count in Presque Isle next Saturday.

Always an exciting find, Northern Hawk Owls were seen on the 20th in Littleton and 24th a little further north in Blaine. The first hawk owl was spotted just off of Route 1 by observant birder from Massachusetts as he was returning from a weekend of cross country ski competitions at the Nordic Heritage Center in PI. Though the birder didn't have any binoculars with him, he recognized that this was a rare bird anywhere in New England and managed to use the optics at hand (his digital and video cameras) to document the owl! A link to a map location of the bird is here:,-67.8400612&ll=46.2666469,-67.8400612

After I sent the news of the Littleton owl around to some of Aroostook counties birders, Ken Lamb raised the ante with some gorgeous photos of another Hawk-Owl he found. The bird was hunting from a snag on the Pierce Road in Blaine just south of Mars Hill. The owl shown here is Ken's bird.

Derek Lovitch, owner of the Freeport Wild Bird Supply store, noted that there have been a "buttload" of early Northern Hawk Owl reports from northern states to our west and that this may indeed be winter with unusually high numbers of wintering hawk-owls.... Since these are active during the day and fairly easy to see, we should all be keeping an eye out for these over the next few months.

While these hawk owls were exciting, a Christmas Day visitor to Sue and Bob Pinette's feeder in Presque Isle was even more unusual. Sue discovered a gorgeous male European Goldfinch amongst the common American Goldfinches that are visiting her feeders. She was able to get a couple photos of the strikingly plumaged bird as it fed.

The European Goldfinch is a bonafide rarity, with only dozen or so records in Maine and just one previous record here in the county. However, this species is imported and kept as a cage bird in North American so its just about impossible to tell whether or not the bird is a true vagrant from its natural range in Europe and Asia or an escapee. The fact that this individual is surviving a northern Maine winter on its own would seem to indicate that this bird knows more than the average cage bird.... Cool bird no matter the origin!

Other good stuff recently seen included Paul Cyrs report and photo of Maine's hardiest Wild Turkey flock. The birds were recently spotted feeding on a piece of windswept ground just west of Presque Isle in Castle Hill.

A lingering Common Grackle looks determined to get tallied on the CBC next Saturday. The bird has been visiting Alice Sheppards feeder near Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Barrow's Goldeneye at Lake Jo

Most of central and northern Aroostook county dodged the snow that blanketed the "south" last night. However temperatures dipped below freezing again and judging by the weather service reports, it looks like our long indian summer is coming to a quick end. Temperatures are predicted to be in the teens at night and barely reach above freezing for the next few days.

While the smaller wetlands have frozen and thawed several times in the past 6 weeks, most of the small lakes and reservoirs frequented by migrating waterfowl have remained open. Now it looks like those too, will be freezing up and liquid water will be restricted the quicker rivers and streams in the area.

This afternoon I took a quick run around the area to check the lakes one last time and see what remained this late in the season...

Lake Jo came through one last time this year.

Though the pond was about 1/2 frozen over, a sizeable flock of diving ducks lingered in the middle of the biggest patch of open water. My spotting scope revealed that most (51) were Common Goldeneyes but among them were a pair of Barrows Goldeneyes and the latest Ring-necked Duck I've ever found in the county. The Barrow's Goldeneyes were my first ever at this location and the 29th species of waterfowl I've had here!

The flock was quite fidgety and the ducks flushed several times in the fifteen minutes I watched them.

I checked Christina Reservoir and it too was partially frozen. Though I admit a biting wind and vicious snow squall didn't encourage me to linger, it appeared the pond was devoid of birdlife.

The Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield offered up a dozen Hooded and two Common Mergansers. Trafton Lake in Limestone was still mostly ice free but birdless.

Collins Pond in Caribou had a few dozen Canada Geese and Black Ducks and Mallards....not much to exclaim about waterfowl-wise. The gull show is still excellent with a rare Lesser Black-backed Gull and at least 3 Iceland Gulls in the 300 Herring and Great Black-backs.

Tomorrow I'll see what remains.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Melanistic Black-capped Chickadees in Aroostook Co

Presque Isle birder, Sue Pinette, recently forwarded a couple of interesting bird pictures that she'd received from her friend, Susan Chandler. Sue C. had a small dark bird visiting her yard on the northeast side of town and got a couple images of the bird when it visited her feeders.

As you know if you read the title of this post, I believe the mystery bird is an unusually dark plumaged Black-capped Chickadee. A quick summary of the pertinent characteristics is probably in order to support this identification....

First, thanks to Sue's nice, clear shots, it was easy to get a good look at the bird's plumage: the bird had an all dark head, a dark gray back, wings and tail and a slightly lighter gray underside. The eye, beak and feet were also black.

This late in November there are a few bird species in northern Maine that look somewhat similar to Sue's bird. But the apparent best-fit is probably the Dark-eyed Junco. So this species should be compared with the bird in the photos. The junco is small bird with a dark head, dark gray back and a dark eye- like the bird in the pictures. Unfortunately, the similarities end there. Juncos also have a clean white belly and white outer tail feathers and a light pink bill. None of these were visible on the bird in the photos.

Though the plumage doesn't match any local bird species, before considering more exotic bird species we should look for subtler clues to the birds identity... Judging the bird in comparison with the feeder and sunflower seeds inside, its evident the bird is a small one. Looking at the bird's shape is helpful. The bird is stocky with a blocky head and short stout bill. The second photo shows the bird with a single seed and apparently ready to fly from the feeder.

All of these point to one of the commoner species around feeders in northern Maine these days: the Black-capped Chickadee. I'm sure if we could watch the bird flitting back and forth from the feeder to the woods and hear it vocalize we'd be able confirm this ID.

It appears Sue's mystery bird is an unusually plumaged chickadee possessing an abundance of the dark pigment melanin. This extra pigment causes areas that are normally light or white to appear black or dark gray. These melanistic birds are substantially rarer than the opposite form of aberrant albinism. Here is a look at a normal plumaged Black-capped Chickadee taken at my Woodland feeders for comparison with these dark ones.

Even though I tried to explain how I could come to the identification of Sue's bird above, in truth, I jumped to this conclusion fairly quickly. This wasn't because of any great insights on my part, but actually because there have been several dark chickadees reported in the northeastern parts of Presque Isle in the past ten years or so. I've sorted my way through this ID before!

Roberta Griffiths first reported an all dark chickadee at her feeder back in 2003. The bird stayed at her yard most of that winter and she was able to get a video of the bird and in the recording one can hear it give the classic Chick-a-dee-dee call of the Black-capped.

More recently, Roberta also brought me the photo of a dark chickadee seen here taken at a feeder on the Parkhurst Siding Road in Presque Isle. The picture was taken in January 2008. While not quite as dark as Sue's bird and certainly not all black, the bird also has an all dark head like the others.

Here is a cropped version of the same picture:

Though the observations of these melanistic chickadees were made in locations that are only a couple miles apart in the north eastern side of town, the span of time (7 years) and the apparent difference in relative degree of pigmentation would seem to indicate that there is a small population of melanistic chickadees in Presque Isle. I'm not sure but I don't think this has been reported before.

Though extremely rare, melanism in chickadees has been reported before. James Tanner (the famed Cornell ornithologist who filmed Ivory-billed Woodpeckers back in the 30's) found one in up state New York in 1933. His paper on the discovery can be found online here:

Alfred Gross, a Bowdoin College ornithology professor, wrote about the rarity of melanistic birds in an article for the Journal of Field Ornithology in 1965

Good stuff indeed

Monday, November 16, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 1-16 November 2009

Sunday's rain broke a two week dry spell in northern Maine. The weather has been balmy with warm temperatures for the season. Very little bird movement seems to be going on.

Passerines are in short supply and the general report is that feeding stations are slow.

Waterfowl numbers waned in late October thanks to cold temps, some heavy snow and frozen conditions on smaller ponds and wetlands. Geese numbers rebounded nicely as it warmed in the first week of November and a pulse of apparently "new" geese moved into the area. Canada Goose numbers have held around 12-15,000 in the central Aroostook area and flocks of over 3,000 birds are being seen at Collins Pond in Caribou, Lake Josephine in Easton and a private ponds in a couple Presque Isle locations. Paul Cyr photographed the scene at Collins Pond recently. Dozens of smaller flocks are being seen in other locales. With the exception of a couple Snow Geese seen on the 10th, none of the rarer species of geese have been seen this month. The Cackling Goose reported at Collins Pond in October was seen once more on the 26th and not again

Ducks have been in short supply since the October cold snap. Among those remaining, the most notable ducks were found at Lake Josephine as usual. Five Long-tailed Ducks was a high count here on the 2nd, but these had dwindled down to a single male by the 10th. The bird was in (what I believe to be unusually late) dark brown, breeding plumage. A White-winged Scoter had replaced the Long-tail on the 11th. Other good finds here was a lingering Gadwall, female Bufflehead, two Redheads and a Greater Scaup among 8 Un-ID'ed scaup on the 10th. 11 lingering Ring-necked Ducks continued here through the 16th. On the first a pair of uncommon Greater Scaup were seen in the mouth of McLean Brook at Sinclair and three bright male Buffleheads were on Long Lake at St. Agatha.

Large flocks of Common and Hooded Mergansers are being seen on the larger impoundments. Christina Reservoir at Fort Fairfield had high counts with 180+ Hooded Mergansers and 140+ Common Mergansers on the 3rd.

A single Double-crested Cormorant lingered late to the 10th at Christina Reservoir.

Ruffed Grouse were reported (and in some cases savored) at many locations. Though a likely release, this male Ring-necked Pheasant was none-the-less noteworthy and photographed in Fort Fairfield by Paul Cyr.

Christina's Merganser flock attracted the attention of Bald Eagles and as many as four adults and two sub-adults have been hanging around the pond. An adult Northern Goshawk was seen briefly on the Muscovic Road in Stockholm. Still uncommon in northern Maine, Red-tailed Hawks seen in Sherman on the 12th and Presque Isle on the 13th were almost as notable as a Rough-legged Hawk seen in Limestone on the 10th.

The only shorebird found in the area was a very late White-rumped Sandpiper seen on the 16th. The bird was flying over the shore of Lake Jo and would gone un-identified, but luckily, the bird vocalized and its high pitched squeak revealed its identity.

Gulls continue to move through the area and large concentrations are being seen a Long Lake, Collins Pond in Caribou and Echo Lake in Presque Isle. A high count of 192 Great Black-backed Gulls at Collins Pond was noteworthy. A first cycle Iceland Gull was associating with a few Herring Gulls here on the 14th.

A few Ring-billed Gulls continue to hang out in the area. Almost all Hooded Merganser flocks are being attended by at least a few of these gulls. The Ring-bills watch the feeding ducks and move in to steal food from these just as they surface with their meal. On Veterans Day, I watched Ring-billed Gulls deftly relieve a drake Hoody of a couple fine, large crayfish here at Collins Pond.

As noted earlier there are low numbers of passerines (the small perching birds) being reported in the area these days. It is unclear whether the birds are enjoying plentiful natural food supplies and aren't coming in to visit feeders, or the bird are just in short supply at this time. From my recent time spent birding in the very quiet woods, I suspect the latter.

Woodpeckers are a bit of an exception and the birds are being seen in "normal" numbers. Noteworthy among these, a Black-backed Woodpecker was found just outside of Aroostook NWR at Malabeam Lake in Limestone on the 11th.

The first Bohemian Waxwing flocks of the season were spotted around Presque in early November. Thirty were gobbling up high bush cranberries near the airport on the 4th.

Golden-crowned Kinglets were well reported during early November with small groups heard at Caribou, Limestone, Presque Isle and Woodland. Black-capped Chickadees have been reported to be in short supply around many of the areas feeding stations at this point in the season. However large foraging flocks are being encountered in the woods. The antics of a single feeding group of 22 chickadees was enjoyed in the woods in Caribou on the 11th.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are also well detected in the otherwise quiet woods. These birds nasal vocalizations are often the only bird calls heard these days.

A White-breasted Nuthatch and a Brown Creeper were a rare treat in Fort Kent on the 14th. These two uncommon birds were found feeding on the big silver maples along the shore of the St. John River, at times creeping along the same trunk. Paul Cyr got this nice shot of the fidgety creeper. Another creeper was seen later that day in the Woodland Bog, possibly indicating some movement of this rarely-found species through northern Maine.

Blue Jays have been dominating my feeders for over a month and others are reporting similar activity. Paul Cyr sent over this great action shot of some squabbling jays at his feeders in Presque Isle. I've only found two Gray Jays recently. One showed up at my freshly hung suet feeder in Woodland on the 11th and another was calling from the bog off the Muscovic Road in Stockholm.

With the exception of Snow Buntings, I have not seen any of sparrow family in over three weeks! Early Dark-eyed Juncoes and American Tree Sparrows seem to have pushed quickly through during the October cold snap and the snowstorm on the 25th really cleared them out.

A few of the "winter" finches are being encountered in the woods but I've yet to hear of much action around feeders. A Pine Grosbeak was heard and several flocks of White-winged Crosbills were seen over the Muscovic Road on the 14th. Again Paul Cyr was there to catch at little of the crossbill action... Purple Finches are occasionally heard flying overhead but do not seem to be about in any number. A few Pine Siskins are visiting a feeder in Presque Isle.

American Goldfinch numbers seem to be building a bit recently and are starting to show up at the thistle seed feeders.

A lonely Evening Grosbeak was calling as it passed high over my house in Woodland on the 8th.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cackling Goose, Rough-legged Hawk and Iceland Gull

After a week of slow birding, I had a good day in the field. There were a bunch of new arrivals in central Aroostook county... and good ones at that.

Just after sunup I located my first Cackling Goose of the year among a few hundred Canada Geese at Collins Pond in Caribou. A Bald Eagle had the flock quite nervous and the geese were leaving the pond in 10s and 20's. We were able to snap a few photos of the little goose before it departed.

In the cropped shots you can see the bird's small size, short neck, stubby bill, steep forhead and overall silvery tone of the plumage are all visible in the photos...enough to make this tough ID.

A single Lesser Scaup and a few dozen Hooded Mergansers were also milling with the geese.

Over in Easton at Lake Josephine, the duck flock seems to be reassembling after retreating from the gunfire earlier this month. Best of these was seven American Wigeon and 18 late Gadwall. 11 Lesser Scaup, 70 or so Ring-necked Ducks and 25 Common Goldeneyes were also present. My first-of-the-season Rough-legged Hawk was hovering over the field just north of Lake Jo. The dark phase hawk allowed a long viewing session and was quite spectacular in the morning sun.

Just north at Christina Reservoir my first-of-the-season Iceland Gull flew up as if to greet me when I had just arrived. The first winter bird did a lap around the pond with a small flock of Herring Gulls and then headed out towards the potato fields to the north. A White-rumped Sandpiper was a bit of a surprise as were a few lingering Lesser Yellowlegs. The Common Mergansers here numbered over 90.

In the afternoon I also found a medium sized flock of Horned Larks in a potato field on the Limestone and Fort Fairfield town line. Mixed in with the larks were 18 Snow Buntings and two colorful Lapland Longspurs. The longspurs landed very near the road and treated me to some of the better looks of these that I've had in a while.

Not too shabby.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Small Canada Geese in Maine

I've been using this rainy Saturday to catch up on correspondence and bird reports from the past couple weeks. As usual, I've been quite interested in all the recent goose sightings from around the state.

So far this fall we've found Canada, Snow, Greater White-fronted, Cackling and Pink-footed Geese here in Maine. (...Any Brant?) I also noticed quite a few reports this fall of smaller Canada Geese that astute birders are noticing amongst the larger individuals. I'm sure these get attention as we all sift through the flocks in search of a rare Cackler.

Though there have been quite a few reports of "Lesser" Canada Geese lately, I wanted to mention that this subspecies has yet to be definitively documented in Maine....This is not to say people aren't seeing groups of small Canada Geese in Maine just that these are probably not the true "Lesser" Canada Geese. (I know discussions of subspecies is often seen as the threshold to the realm of true bird nerd-dom but I still think there's a bit of confusion that bears clearing up.)

Size Variation: Real and apparent

In my experience, we currently see a wide variety of sizes of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in Maine. I think birders need to consider several things when evaluating the size of a goose and before assigning it to any one subspecies.

First is just the variation in body size of populations within any subspecies. Generally the birds in the northern reaches of the range tend to be smaller than those in the south. So larger and smaller birds within a migrating flock could be both from the same subspecies.

Sex, age, molt and diet can all work in various combinations to produce some real size extremes. Males are generally slightly larger than females and young birds are smaller than adults. Thanks to good food availability in some locales there are certainly some big, beefy geese out there and likewise there are some smaller birds that have struggled and end up true runts. These outliers usually are usually encountered in ones or twos (as opposed to whole percentages of flocks with differing sizes as is the case when subspecific size difference is in play).

Body posture, lighting, plumage erection and variation in the surface a bird is standing on can all also create some perceived differences in size. A relaxed or dozing bird can look a lot smaller than an alert or alarmed one. Likewise I've been fooled by geese that appeared small in a field, until they stepped out of a furrow and up beside a goose that seemed much larger moments earlier... A swimming bird that is angled slightly away can also look amazingly smaller than a similarly sized individual offering a true side profile. (This can also make bills seem stubby and Cackling-esque!)

Its also worth noting that some telephoto and digiscoped images have distorted perspectives that make birds further away from the camera appear disproportionately larger than those that are closer. (Ever notice how huge the batter and catcher look compared to the pitcher when the video camera in center field is being used during baseball games?)

Subspecies of Canada Geese in Maine

I'm quite confident that there are probably three subspecies that show up in numbers in Maine in the fall. I believe our locally breeding geese come mostly from the introduced "Giant" Canada Goose (B.c. maxima). As the name suggests, these are big geese. We also have another subspecies that breeds northeast of Maine known as the "Atlantic" Canada Goose (B.c. canadensis) that we see in migration. These are slightly smaller than the local birds but still quite large on average. Additionally there is a smaller subspecies called the "Interior" or "Hudson Bay" Canada Goose which generally breeds north and northwest of us (western Quebec and northern Ontario). The marked Canada Geese from Greenland, that I and others around New England have been finding, also seem to be from this subspecies rather than the geographically closer (to Greenland) "Atlantic" subspecies. Many flocks I see in October, here in northern Maine, are a fun mix of these subspecies and when these different varieties are found together the size differences can seem quite pronounced.

Lesser Canada Geese

As recognized by the current taxonomy, the true "Lesser" Canada Geese (B.c. parvipes) are breeders in the northwest parts of Canada and in Alaska and generally winter in the southwestern US. Though there probably have been a few found in the east, these are quite rare. I am not aware of any known Lesser Canada Goose, banded on the breeding grounds, that has turned up in the northeastern US or maritime Canada. Maybe someone can tell me otherwise!

Anyway, I wanted to offer this up to the inquiring minds of the blogosphere: lesser (small "l") Canada Geese in Maine are probably not Lesser (large"L") Canadas!

David Sibley has a great map on his website that shows, generally, the distribution of the various subspecies of Canada (and Cackling) Geese in North America. Its worth checking out:


Monday, October 12, 2009

Whimbrels in northern Maine

Back in late August, I had a really good day in the field.

I birded a route from Woodland and Caribou east to Limestone and then south through Fort Fairfield and Easton. The morning started off unremarkably and I was tallying most of the expected commoner birds and a few of the less common migrants here and there. Regardless of the apparent mediocrity in bird assortment, I was enjoying the morning and was taking my time and in no rush. As it turned out, I ended up at Christina Reservoir fairly late in the morning and even though I really didn't think there would be much to see, I decided to stop in anyway.

Surprisingly enough, there seemed to be quite a bit of bird activity at the reservoir. The first to draw my attention was some large rafts of ducks in the middle of the pond: about 430 Ringed-necked Ducks and well over 200 American Wigeon. It was an impressive group, and once I got a good look at them with my spotting scope, the number of molting wigeon in the raft was a bit of a surprise. A few molting Common Goldeneyes were also in the mix.

Once I turned my attention away from the ducks and started to scan other parts of the lake, I came across a gorgeous breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe tucked up in one corner. These grebes are quite rare but not unexpected in late summer as migration begins. Still it was a good find amongst all the Pied-billed Grebes that breed here.

3 young White-winged Scoters were my next find. They were asleep in the middle of the pond but slivers of white showing on the sides of their black velvet plumage revealed thier idenities. Early arrivals, too. Another good discovery.

Some midsized, dark birds bouyantly flying over the far side of the pond turned into Black Terns under my scope's high magnification. I hadn't seen one of these in northern Maine since the previous year...finding 3 was quite a coup! The birds were in partial winter plumage and had quite a bit of white on them. I was really cranking now!

If all this wasn't enough, there was a pretty good shorebird show going on here. The low water meant lots of bare mud along the shore and quite few sandpipers were working the waters edge. Small groups of these were cycling back and forth across the mud. Kept aloft, no doubt by a circling Merlin. Amongst them were Least, Spotted and a few Semipalmated Sandpipers, numbers of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and a bunch of Semipalmated Plovers and Killdeer.

I already thought this was banner shorebird day for this inland location when 7 large brown shorebirds flying over the east end of pond caught my eye. My binoculars revealed long downcurved bills and bold dark stripes on the head. Whimbrels!

Though there are a few records of this big shorebird in northern Maine (including Christiana Reservoir), I had never seen this species here. To find seven was thrilling to say the least. I watched the birds for 15 munutes as they landed on the dead wood piled on along the shore. The birds preened a bit then tucked in their heads and settled in for nap.

I underlined the date in my notebook...August 23rd 2009. I was going to remember this day!

Whimbrel redux

In first week of October, I received an email from Linda Alverson. She had forwarded me a couple pictures of an unusual bird she'd gotten from a local resident. In her message, Linda identified the bird as a Whimbrel and the images proved her out.

The bird had been photographed in a horse paddock in my hometown of Woodland by Jessica Belanger . On spotting the big brown shorebird, she had recognized it as unusual and spent 10 minutes sneaking up on the bird and snapping the great photos you see here. The dark brown eye and crown stripes and the long bill are clearly visible.

Recalling the Christina Reservoir Whimbrels, I thought this was a great coincidence that this rare species was found in twice in northern Maine this fall! Most amazing was the date the bird was photographed...23 August! The same date I had seen the 7 over in Fort Fairfield.

Clearly there was some weather and migratory phenomena that brought these rare birds down in central Aroostook county on the same day. Good stuff.

Whimbrel migration in Maine

In mid August, Charlie Duncan sent out a message about a satellite transmitter equipped Whimbrel that had just embarked on a marathon movement that took it over Maine then out over open ocean. The bird had, at that point, been flying for 4 days straight and had covered well over 1000 miles! The bird was marked as part of a collaborative effort by the Center
for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary - Virginia
Commonwealth University and the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to discover migratory routes that connect breeding and winter areas and to identify en route migratory staging areas . Amazing stuff

The link for a website that shows the paths of migratory Whimbrels that are tagged with satellite transmitters is well worth a look:

Good birding

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

6 October a Sixth Greenland Canada Goose at Collins Pond

I found GJY yesterday afternoon.

This was my sixth collared Canada Goose from Greenland so far this season. Again the bird was found in Collins Pond in Caribou. It was
with about 900 other Canadas. Attached is a photo (so I get the code

As always, when I report a marked goose to researchers Tony Fox and David Stroud, they respond quickly to me with the details of the birds travels. David Stroud wrote in part:

"...That's a really nice record, as we only had one sighting of
GJY last winter (in Connecticut) and this summer we saw it just once
(Lake L on 20 July) but even though it was evidently present in the
area, we didn't manage to retrap it. So that's only the third record
since we ringed it as part of our mega-catch that year." (that year was 2008).

It has been a bit frustrating this season that I can't seem to
relocate any of the other marked geese after I've spotted them once... I think I have spent more time, than ever before, monitoring the goose flocks in
the central Aroostook county area. In the past three days I have probably scoped 8,000+ geese in six different towns to no avail! I
wonder if most flocks are pushing through and continuing south rather
than staying in the area....

Due to the vagaries of agricultural markets, there seems to have been substantially less barley planted in the area this year in comparison with recent years. Many Aroostook farmers seem to have sown oats as a rotation crop (to their potato mainstay). While the oat crop offers the geese some spilled grain immediately after the harvest and, occasionally, clover (which is seeded with the oats and flourishes once the oats are cut), it can't compare to barley. This grain re-sprouts after the stubble is plowed under and in the past, offered the geese hundreds of acres of tender shoots!

Cull potatoes, left behind during harvest, also offer a favorite food
source for the geese but these are only consumable when there is a
steady cycle of freeze and thaw. The potatoes become soft in this
environment and the geese will nibble out any potato flesh they can
get. With an apparent early migration this year, the geese are bit
ahead of the cold temperatures and I rarely find geese in potato
fields yet.

So it appears food is a bit limited, as of yet, and it is possible that
the flocks aren't lingering as they usually do. Contra to my
hypothesis, I have relocated an unusual single adult Snow Goose and a
leucistic Canada Goose several times, so it appears at least some of these migrant birds are sticking around the area for a while.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Four Greater White-fronted Geese in Fort Fairfield and ANOTHER Greenland marked Canada Goose

Friday started off well for me with another quick visit to Collin's Pond in Caribou. I was on my commute to work and thought I'd stop in and try again to relocate the two marked Canada Geese I spotted earlier in the week. I was trying to atone for my mis-read of the codes on the two neck collars of these by relocating them and rechecking the alpha codes.

I was surprised to find the pond still quite full of geese and expected they were soon to depart for a morning of feeding in the ag fields around Caribou. The birds were quite alert and fidgety and appeared ready to fly in any moment, so I made a quick cursory scan of the birds with my bins. Sure enough, there was a thick necked Canada on the far side of the pond with a yellow collar!

After a slightly embarrassing dash to my truck and subsequent wrestling match with my increasingly testy tripod I was able to zoom my spotting scope in on the bird. The view revealed the alpha code on this collar was GLS. This wasn't one of the two I'd seen earlier but yet another new marked Canada Goose! The fifth for this little pond this year.

The birds held in the pond a little longer and I was able to digiscope this picture for the record. I love the slick of feathers in the background...these geese are obviously still molting a bit.

Later on in the day I took a late lunch hour, with my coworker Jim, to patrol a few of the goosier day roosts that I had been neglecting. We had another good find. At Puddledock Pond in Fort Fairfield, we encountered the first Greater White-fronted Geese of the season in Maine. The four adult birds were contentedly swimming amongst about 70 Canada Geese and 50+ Hooded Mergansers. Again I set up the scope and had a good long look.

After Jim and I had a good session observing these rare geese, I reached for my camera and then realized I'd forgotten it and couldn't photograph them! White-fronts are still rare enough in Maine that all sightings should be documented if possible. I cursed my bad luck a bit and folded up my tripod and got in the truck to drive away.

Then a great stroke of GOOD luck occurred.... As I pulled from the parking area of the pond Paul Cyr came over the knoll in his big black Hummer! For those who don't know, Paul is the outdoor photographer extraordinaire who has provided about half of the bird photos for this blog. In my experience, the man rarely travels without a full assortment of cameras and gear....

After a quick chat with Paul about eagles and geese, he headed out to the pond. When I left the spot, I knew there would be a good photo of these birds for the record...and, of course, Paul didn't disappoint!

That evening, I sent my digiscope of GLS and Paul's great photo of the White-fronts to Tony Fox in Denmark and David Stroud in the UK and they quickly provided feedback on both:

Like most of the yellow-collared Canada Geese I've found, GLS was first captured and marked in Greenland in July 2008. Unlike most, this bird had not been relocated since that time.

As for the Fort Fairfield White-fronts, they confirmed that these birds appeared to be individuals of the Greenland subspecies of the White-fronted Goose.

As before, the updates on these birds and the others found at Collins Pond can be found at the White-fronted Goose project's website here:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Collins Pond Geese: Another look at the Snow and MORE Greenland Canadas

Another look at Saturday's Snow Goose

As posted earlier, there were alot of Canada Geese flying into Collins Pond in Caribou last Saturday. I joined a bunch of goose enthusiasts and watched from the park on the south side of the pond as the flocks arrived. Apparently, others around town were also enjoying the spectacle from their vantage points. Nadeen Plourde sent me a note saying, she too, watched the geese flocks as they flew over her house on the way from the fields to Collins Pond on that same beautiful Saturday morning. Coincidently, Nadeen even saw the lone Snow Goose in a flock and got this nice photo of the sharp looking bird as it flew by!

MORE Greenland Canada Geese at Collins Pond

On Tuesday at 5:15 PM Collins Pond was as full of geese as I have seen it this fall. Probably 2,500+ geese. I didn't have much time, but I couldn't drive by with giving the geese a quick scan!
After a couple days of rain, the clouds had lifted and the geese were stretching and getting active in late afternoon sun. The birds were muttering to each other the way they do when its getting time to get up and out of the pond and off to the field to feed. Between the warm sunshine and slowly rising tenor of the combined goose chorus, it was quite nice and I wished I had an hour to spend!

Almost immediately I spotted two Canada Geese with yellow neck collars showing well in the sun. Expecting these to be the Greenland Canada Geese found here on Saturday (GLF and GLU), I was surprised to see these birds had different codes. GBH and GBI. Two MORE Canada geese from Greenland!

I was flushed with my quick success in finding something "good" so quickly on the pond. I gave the rest of geese (which were now mostly backlit) a once-over to make sure there there were no obvious other unusual birds in the mix and then headed home.

Of course I sent off a report of my discovery to Greenland goose researchers Tony Fox and David Stroud as soon as possible and they promptly replied. GBH and GBI were indeed some more Greenland Canada Geese!

However, the code combinations I reported were used on birds banded back in 1997...AND these birds were NOT fitted with collars and had only leg bands with these codes... Hmmm.

As much as I hate to think I mis-read the codes on the collars, the only alternative hypothesis I could come up with was that the geese marked GBH and GBI, on living to a ripe old age, had somehow gotten custom monogrammed neck collars and fitted themselves with these. Not especially likely.

Today I will try to revisit the pond, relocate these geese and recheck the collar codes. Maybe with my scope and camera I can get it right this time! Good birding.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Canada Geese from Greenland

Late Saturday AM, I stopped by Collins Pond in Caribou to watch the big flock of Canada Geese return to the pond after a morning of feeding. A dozen or so other people also had the same idea on this glorious morning. The birds didn't disappoint and started filing in almost as soon as I arrived... a dozen up to fifty at a time.

One of the early arriving flocks came in with a lone adult Snow Goose in its midst. This was only the second of this species I've seen this year. It was a nice bonus surprise.

After about 45 minutes, an estimated 1,800 Canada Geese had arrived back in the pond and the flow of geese slowed to a trickle. A thorough inspection of the pond-full of waterfowl revealed no other unusual species (beyond the Snow Goose), however, I did note a couple of the new arrivals that were sporting neck yellow neck collars.

With my spotting scope, I was able to get a much closer look and the Canada Geese and was able to make out three letter alpha codes on the yellow collars: GLF and GLU... It appeared these were some of the geese that are being marked in Greenland as part of Greater White-fronted Goose research there. (Last year a flock of five similarly-marked Canada Geese spent the latter half of the month of October in the Caribou area and were thoroughly blogged up here...).

When I returned home, I checked my records for the alpha codes on these 2008 geese and found that one (GLF) was one of these five seen last year.

I was able to snap a few pictures of the pair and sent one out, with news of the resighting, to the researchers Tony Fox and David Stroud. Tony and David responded to say that GLF (a female) had returned to Isunngua, in southwest Greenland after wintering in the US in 2008-2009. The crew there had spotted it with some other geese during their trapping/marking work in July 2009. GLU (a male) was also originally marked in 2008 but hadn't been seen since!

A straight line between Isunngua, Greenland and Caribou, Maine is 1,500 miles. I'm sure the path travelled by these geese was a winding one and more miles were covered.... A long trip to make once, let alone three times...

Amazing stuff right happens right in my home "patch".

A link to the Greenland Goose resighting page is here:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 1 -14 September 2009

Its been a while since I posted...

Lots of birds are departing and there has been little to slow the southbound migration over the past two weeks. Weather in northern Maine has been characterized by clear warm days and crisp nights with gentle and favorable breezes. Precipitation has been almost non-existent north of Presque Isle for a couple of weeks and rivers and streams are approaching record lows.

All the low water is making for excellent conditions for observing shorebirds this year. Substantial amounts of bare shoreline along streams as well as some farm ponds lowered by irrigation withdrawals have resulted in some nice spots for shorebirds to feed.

Most of the grain crop in the area has been harvested and potato harvest has begun. On cue, birds are congregating to take advantage of the abundant feed in the form of crop residue. The burgeoning fruit and cone crop is almost ripe and looks like a really good one. Fall insect swarms are being enjoyed by interesting mixed flocks of bug-eating birds.

Waterfowl highlights lately are as much about numbers as unusual species. A huge collection of waterfowl has assembled at Christina Reservoir this month to finish their molt back into the attractive plumages we know and enjoy. Over 600 Ring-necked Ducks were counted here on the 11th. 140 + Green-winged Teal were seen coming into the pond at sundown on the 9th. Over in Lake Josephine in Easton, Gadwall counts are regularly over 50 birds. Four nearly full grown juvenile Redheads have been frequenting a wetland nearby and at least 9 Ruddy Ducks, now in winter plumage, are also dependable here. A flock of 11 Blue-winged Teal were seen at Collins Pond in Caribou on the 4th.

Northern Shovelers and American Wigeon have been spotted in many locations around central and northern Aroostook County lately. Other than the dependable locations at Easton and Fort Fairfield, the Shovelers were reported in Ashland, Caribou and Mars Hill in the past two weeks.

American Wigeon have mostly completed their molt back into bright colors. During the molt as many as 270 were associating with the huge Ring-necked Duck flock in Christina Reservoir. These birds have dispersed a bit and wigeon are being spotted widely. 14 at Collins Pond on the 4th and 35 at Brise Coulotte Lake in St. Agatha were high counts.

Canada Goose flocks are building rapidly with new arrivals daily. Flocks roosting during the days in protected locations in Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Washburn are all approaching 1000+ birds. No unusual geese have been reported yet.

Common Loons were seen many locations recently. This year's juveniles seemed to do well and many have reached nearly adult size now. High counts of Pied-billed Grebes recently were 19 seen on Christina Reservoir on the 4th and 11 seen on the south end of Long Lake in Sinclair. The brood that hatched from a nest on Daigle Pond in New Canada appear to be doing well.

There were several exceptional wader reports this period. The highlight was a Least Bittern calling from the cattails on the south side of Christina Reservoir on the 10th. The bird was heard a dusk and refused to come into view despite some playback of the call. As far as I'm aware, this was only the second record of this species here. Up in Fort Kent an adult Black-crowned Night Heron was roosting in the big silver maples at the mouth of the Fish River on the 13th. Also noteworthy is a Great Egret that has been skulking around the wetlands on the north side of Christina Reservoir for the past couple weeks. Though not unprecedented here, this long stayer is still a rarity.

Great Blue Heron numbers have peaked with a dozen reported along the Aroostook river in Fort Fairfield on the 14th and as many as 5 crowded into Collins Pond this week. American Bitterns also appear to be on the move. This species was seen in several wetlands this week around Christina Reservoir and photographed nicely here by Paul Cyr.

The raptor highlight for early September was a Peregrine Falcon seen several times around Christina Reservoir over the past two weeks. The hawk was seen on one of the farm roads near the reservoir feeding on an adult Gadwall on the 4th.

Turkey Vultures were noted as far north as St. John Plantation near Fort Kent on Sept 3. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and American Kestrels were frequently reported. Paul Cyr sent photographed this gorgeous male harrier in Presque Isle as it finished up a meal. The latest Osprey report at this point in the season is one seen at St. Agatha on the 13th

Two Common Moorhens (an apparent adult and almost adult sized juvenile) were seen at Christina Reservoir on the 6th. A Virginia Rail was spotted at Lake Josephine on the 4th.

As mentioned, good numbers of shorebirds continue to be spotted this fall. Most tantalizing was a report of Red-necked Phalaropes landing in Christina Reservoir on the 4th. Though not yet confirmed, the presence of this species in Aroostook County would be noteworthy. Three Black-bellied Plovers at Christina Reservoir on the 6th were also a great find. Pectoral Sandpipers were seen at Collins Pond on the 7th (3); Limestone Stream impoundment in Limestone on the 11th (3) and Mars Hill Town Pond on the 13th (1).

Another uncommon shorebird in these parts, White-rumped Sandpipers were seen at Christina Reservoir (1) on the 6th and at the Limestone pond (1) on the 11th. A high count of Semipalmated Plovers was tallied along the south shore of Christina Reservoir on the 6th when 73 came to roost on a mud bar here. 28 Least Sandpipers were also counted here.

Gull numbers continue to increase. Though no true rareties have turned up yet, 6 Bonapartes Gulls seen at Long Lake in Sinclair back on August 29th are uncommon enough to be worth mentioning. Another juvenile Boney was seen on the north end of the lake in St Agatha on September 13th.

The saga of the brightly marked Ring-billed Gull photographed in Presque Isle by Ken Lamb last May continues. This gull was originally captured and marked as part of a study of gulls that winter on drinking water supplies in Massachusetts. The bird was captured in a rocket net baited with Cheezits in the parking lot of the Walmart in Northborough, MA on 7 October 2008.

Ken Lamb spotted it during its spring migration at the Walmart parking lot here in Presque Isle on 31 May 2009. The bird was next documented up in Port Daniel, Quebec on the south shore of the Gaspe peninsula on the 26th of July 2009.

Most recently the gull is on the move again, apparently heading south and was spotted at the Frederiction Wastewater Treatment plant in New Brunswick on the 9th and 10th of September! Good stuff!

The last Common Terns at the Long Lake nesting colony in St. Agatha were seen on the 29th of August.

The last pulse of migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds passed through the area in early September. Three, including an adult male, lingered at my feeders in Woodland through the 8th. The last juvenile departed on the 13th, a bit on the late side of things. Patty Jennings got this great shot of a juvie in Stacyville on the 11th.

Lingering swallows were also reported. A late-passing flock of swallows was seen feeding over the Pelletier Island causeway on 29 August. The flock was made up of a single, exceptionally late Bank Swallow, 2 Cliff Swallows and 6 Barn Swallows. Very late Barn Swallows were also seen on the 11th in Easton and on the 14th in Caribou. Two migrating Chimney Swifts over Caribou on the 29th of August were the latest by a week in my records.

The last Common Nighthawks reported in the county were two seen over Route 1 in Littleton at sundown on the 2nd. On the 11th, Gray Jays at the Muscovic Road in Stockholm and a family group of Boreal Chickadees at Madawaska Lake were noisy birds in otherwise quiet woods.

A female Black-backed Woodpecker was seen near Beardsley Brook in New Sweden on the 13th. The last Eastern Kingbird and Least Flycatcher were reported on 30 August and a somewhat tardy Alder Flycatcher was seen at Christina Reservoir on the 4th. Juvenile Eastern Phoebes are still being encountered through the end of the period.

A very late singing male Warbling Vireo spent a week at Collins Pond from the 7th through the 13th before departing. Blue-headed Vireos continue to be encountered and are also still mumbling some partial songs in the hours around daybreak.

Migrating thrushes have been moving through steadily with Veeries dominating the counts in early September. Pulses of American Robins have likewise been noted. A male Eastern Bluebird was seen near the golf course in Presque Isle on the 11th.

Warbler migration is winding down and appears to have gone very well for the birds in this area. Nearly the entire period of peak migration was favorable weather conditions and no large fallouts which would indicate traveling problems were noted. Currently Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green are apparently the only warbler species still passing through the area in numbers.

Chipping, Song and White-throated Sparrows numbers have increased recently. A Lincoln's Sparrow was seen on the Muscovic Road in Stockholm on the 13th. Absent from the area for most of summer a group of 8 White-winged Crossbills were also spotted on the Muscovic Road. With the ample cone crop, its likely these will become more common as autumn progresses.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Northern Maine Birds July 2009

Cool wet weather continued during most of July in northern Maine. As of the 29th, there had been precipitation on 19 days and the average temperature for the month was several degrees below normal. Water levels have remained above average in area streams and lakes but not exceptionally so.

While the cool weather certainly effected the availability of flying and terrestrial insects for the smaller birds to feed their young during this nesting season, it appears the vegetation has benefited from the frequent waterings. There is a heavy fruit, nut and cone crop ripening on some particularly lush plants.

Despite all the wet weather, water levels remained fairly stable in the nesting wetlands and it appears area waterfowl have had a productive season. The highlight is certainly the re-appearance of the hen Redhead with a brood of six ducklings at a wetland near Lake Josephine in Easton (7/24). Hatched much earlier, at least three different family groups of Northern Shoveler young are nearly adult size now and are being seen here regularly. Four Gadwall and 7 Ring-necked Duck families were tallied at Lake Jo on the the 24th. Hen Common and Hooded Mergansers with fuzzy young were seen at Gardner Pond in the Deboullie Ecological Reserve in T15R9 on 3 July. Three male Ruddy Ducks continue to be seen a Lake Josephine but there has been no sign of a hen for some time.

For the first time in a while the Common Loon pair at Madawaska Lake in T16 R5 successfully produced a chick. Dana Hallowell got a nice picture of the loon family and sent it over along with a picture of the nest and a dud egg that was left behind.

Large congregations of molting waterfowl are now being seen at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield and Lake Josephine. Recent high counts were 160+ Mallards at Lake Jo and 340+ Canada Geese, 270 Ring-necked Ducks and 130+ American Wigeon at Christina.

Though until recently were an uncommon sight in northern-most Maine, Turkey Vultures have put in a great showing this month. The birds were seen in Easton, Fort Fairfield Mars Hill, Garfield, St Agatha and T15R9. The latter bird was seen on the 3rd near Deboullie Mountain and was flying though the gloom on a rainy day.

A good assortment of raptors (9 species tallied) were encountered in the area this month.

Paul Cyr saw 21 Bald Eagles while on a powerchute trip down the Aroostook River from Presque Isle to Caribou to Fort Fairfield. One of the eagles received an escort by a particularly aggressive Merlin. Paul got a few pictures of the little hawk as it strafed the big young eagle.

Northern Harriers and American Kestrels are increasingly being seen in the fields and were each reported in many more localities than I'd like to list here. Paul Cyr's kestrel box in Presque Isle produced two young birds. The female kestrel pictured at the top of this post was hard at work feeding the growing chicks. A road-killed adult Northern Goshawk was found along the State Road in Ashland on the 26th. Other species seen were Osprey, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks.

The Common Moorhen pair continues at a wetland in Easton though the skulky pair are tough to glimpse. The birds were most recently seen on the 19th. Sora and Virginia Rails were both seen with young this month at Lake Josephine.

Southward shorebird migration began as a trickle in early July. A Least Sandpiper seen and heard over Lake Josephine on the 8th was the first definite migrant. This shorebird was followed by the first Solitary Sandpipers (4) and one each of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs seen at the same location on the 24th. Only a single Upland Sandpiper (seen at the Loring runway in Limestone) was reported in July.

An exciting report of a phalarope seen at Lake Josephine on the 27th has yet to be confirmed. A female Wilsons Phalarope was seen here back in May.

A Black-billed Cuckoo gave a fleeting glance as it glided over Greenlaw Stream at the Aroostook NWR on the 19th. This was the first for me this year in northern Maine.

Though Black-backed Woodpeckers were encountered at the western end of Gardner Lake in T15 R9 and along the Hewes Brook Road in T14 R8, Three-toed Woodpeckers went undetected this month. Regular visits to locations in New Sweden and Stockholm have produced little in the way of evidence that this species is still active in either area.

Though it has quieted down a bit, Marsh Wren continues to sing at the marsh in Easton where it has been seen since mid June. Always worth a mention when seen this far north, a Brown Thrasher was doing a little mid-day mumbling in some underbrush just outside the gate of Aroostook NWR in Limestone on the 19th. A strong singing Tennessee Warbler seen nearby was also a bit of a surprise this late in the season.

Thrush song seemed to surge a bit mid month, presumably as the birds completed production of this years crop of nestlings. American Robins were feeding their second round of nestlings in Stacyville and Presque Isle. Patty Jennings got a picture of one the parents feeding some hungry youngsters in her yard just before the birds fledged.

While all the commoner vireos continue to vocalize here in central Aroostook county, a singing Philadelphia Vireo observed in Mapleton on the ninth was a noteworthy discovery. An apparent migrant Cape May Warbler at Lake Josephine on the 24th and Mourning Warblers heard on the fourth in T14 R8 were also good finds. Yellow Warblers appear to be thinning out a bit already.

Sparrow sightings worth mentioning include a Vesper Sparrow seen in Limestone on the 9th and Fox Sparrows heard singing in T15 R9 and T14 R8 on the 4th and 5th respectively. A male Indigo Bunting singing in a clear cut in T14 R8 was a northernmost record for this species for me.

White-winged Crossbills have appeared in small numbers apparently in anticipation of the burgeoning cone crop. A few Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Ashland and Masardis on the 21st.

The End!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 9-29 June 2009

Like most of the state, northern Maine has recently been stuck in a long stretch of gloomy weather. The amount of precipitation that has actually fallen however, has been quite variable thanks to spotty showers. Areas in southern Aroostook recently experienced heavy rainfall over the 19th through 21st. The Caribou weather station in central Aroostook county is currently reporting monthly total precipitation almost one half inch below normal for June. River and stream levels are only slightly above long term medians for this time of year.

Temperatures have been nearly normal for the latter half of the month.

Nesting activity is now at its peak with new fledglings appearing daily.

The birding festival at Aroostook State Park on the 13th was a success with great weather, good numbers of birds and lots of visitors. About 150 birders tallied over fifty species in the morning during 6 birdwalks. The highlight for me was a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird building a nest in a small birch tree near the campground road. Ken Lamb got this great photo and has posted more here.

So far, nesting waterfowl in central and northern Aroostook appear to have avoided the rising water levels that are apparently flooding some nests to the south. Lots of broods of Mallards, Black Ducks, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneyes and Hooded Mergansers have been seen.
Recent waterfowl highlights include appearances of one hen and three drake Redheads on the 28th and at least 5 displaying Ruddy Duck males on the 19th at Lake Josephine in Easton. Three pairs of Blue-winged Teal were seen in Limestone on the 23rd. Thought there are quite a few male Gadwall, American Wigeon and Northern Shovelers being seen at Lake Jo, females with broods of young have yet to make an appearance.

The Northern Goshawk that nested at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Presque Isle has raised its young to the point of fledging and its likely that bicyclists will again be able to ride the trails here, unmolested. Paul Cyr sent along a picture of one of the gangly blue eyed nestlings taken last week. American Kestrel males were seen in Caribou, Easton, Limestone, Presque Isle, Chapman and Woodland.

An Osprey nest in T16R5 was recently ravaged by a particularly wild thunderstorm and the nest platform was tipped and the contents lost. A Bald Eagle was seen fishing on the Fish River near the Hewes Brook Crossing in T14R7 on the 21st. Increasingly encountered in northern Maine, (as many as) four Turkey Vultures have been seen in the Fort Fairfield and Easton areas last week.

An American Bittern feeding in a roadside ditch in T14 R8 allowed a fabulous photo and behavior watching session on the 21st. The skulky wader was observed from as close as 20 feet as it fed on tadpoles, Dobsonfly larvae (hellgrammites), adult dragonflies and an apparent Ambystoma salamander. The bittern was most impressive as it snagged the fast moving dragonflies out of the air. Scott Surner was able to get this great shot just as the bird was putting the clamp down on another Odonate!

Broods of almost-flight-capable Ruffed Grouse chicks were seen in several spots in central and southern Aroostook County last week. A late drumming male was heard in Castle Hill on the 14th

A great discovery last week, two Common Moorhens were found in a wetland near Lake Josephine in Easton. This area once supported some Maine's only breeding Moorhens but this species hadn't been reported here since 2000. Sora and Virginia Rails were also well seen here on the 19th. Probably the eastern US's northern-most breeders, a pair of Upland Sandpipers on the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone provided great looks last Friday (19th). Scott Surner got this nice shot as one passed by.

More young owls continue to turn up around the area. On the 19th, an adult Great-horned Owl was attending a youngster on the edge of a wetland in Easton in the gloomy mid afternoon. Scott Surner sent up a picture of the owlet.

Down in the Riviere-des-Chutes valley in Easton, a family of Barred Owls has left the nest box and are skulking around the woods there. Paul Cyr came upon one of the dour young and got the great picture up at the top of this post.

A pair of Common Nighthawks seen over Lake Josephine on the 19th were another nice surprise. As previously mentioned nighthawks are uncommon breeders in northern Maine.

Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers were heard in Stockholm on the 17th but have gone undetected since. This is not surprising considering both species are probably busily feeding young now. Another Black-backed was reported near Van Buren on the 16th. Plenty of Gray Jays were seen foraging with young last week (Stockholm, Sinclair, T14R8). Interestingly, all were attended by scolding Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Though probably not exceptionally rare in northern Maine, a Philadelphia Vireo is a difficult bird to ID by song. One particularly vocal individual distinguished itself from the Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos and was seen in Perham on the 18th.

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were widely encountered as they called in their favored dense cedar/spruce scrub habitat. Olive-sided Flycatchers were heard in Limestone, Stockholm T13R5 and T15R8. Since northern Maine is approaching the northern limit of their breeding area, Great-crested Flycatchers are always worthy of mention. This bird photographed by Patty Jennings in Stacyville apparently found a nest box to its liking.

Very rare in northern Maine, the Northern Mockingbird first discovered last month, was seen again at the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha on the 20th. A Brown Thrasher has seen regularly near the airport in Presque Isle.

Wood warblers continue in full song in northern Maine. Among the more sought-after species encountered last week in central Aroostook County: Tennesee Warblers were heard in Portage Lake and Woodland, Cape May Warblers were singing in New Sweden, Stockholm and T13R7, Bay-breasted Warblers were heard in Limestone, Sinclair and T13R7 and Mourning Warblers were encountered at Aroostook NWR in Limestone and near the Salmon Brook Bog in Perham. Palm Warblers were found in a regenerating clear cut off the McLean Brook Road in Sinclair and a male Wilson's Warbler was singing in an alder swale in T14R8. Singing Canada Warblers continue to be widely reported. Blackpoll Warblers were reported long the Stockholm to Van Buren Rail trail on the 16th.

The birding highlight this month was the discovery of Aroostook county's first-ever Clay-colored Sparrow in a shrubby field near the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The bird, first found on the 8th, lasted through at least the 17th and was seen and heard by many observers. Mike Fahay was there on the 16th and got this great picture. With plenty of appropriate habitat around, the bird may well still be in the area.

Another good sparrow find was 5+ singing male Fox Sparrows seen and heard on the 18th and 21st along the Rocky Brook and Hewes Brook Roads north west of Portage Lake. One dependable male has been singing near the Chase Brook bridge on the Rocky Brook Road in T13R7.

Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Caribou, Easton, Portage Lake and Woodland.

Good Birding