Friday, January 30, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 15-30 January 2009

The second half of January was bitterly cold and snowy in northern Maine.

Temperatures remained well below average most of the period with temps below zero (F) on 12 of the past fourteen nights and -40 F widely reported on a couple nights. It has not yet reached above freezing at any time so far this year.

Some snow fell on 12 days during the past two weeks with the most recent storm (on the 28th) dropping about a foot. There is currently between 30 to 36 inches of snow in the woods and about 15 to 18 inches in windswept open areas.

As previously reported, most bird observations are being made around feeding stations and at in-town locations. Natural food sources remain limited. The chilly American Tree Sparrow, pictured above was at Patty Jenning's feeders in Stacyville in northern Penobscot County. The finches have been a dynamic group with flocks of different species appearing and leaving at some feeders. A few signs of breeding behavior were reported.

Waterfowl were in short supply in northern Maine. Nearly all water is now frozen with the exception of a few short leads along the swiftest stretches of water and a spring hole or two. Only Mallards and American Black Ducks were reported.

The only Ruffed Grouse reported were in Reed Plantation on the 16th and Woodland on the 24th

Bald Eagle reports have dropped a bit since early in the month. The loss of most of the open water and the dwindling supply of waterfowl in the area probably had something to do with this.
Again, reports are of adult eagles only. Bald Eagles were seen in Presque Isle (~1/16), Benedicta (1/21), Bridgewater (1/29), Hersey (1/18) and Island Falls (1/21). A Northern Goshawk was cruising along the ridge of Mars Hill on the 17th, staying well clear of the wind turbines there. A apparent Sharp-shinned Hawk continues to hunt around the feeding stations in Presque Isle and was most recently seen on the 22nd. On the 16th, an other (an adult) was marauding some chickadees at a feeder on Hardison Road on Green Ridge in Caribou. Bill Hersey was able to get its mugshot with the help of his spotting scope.

Though Mourning Doves were thought to be dwindling by some observers, reports of flocks at a couple feeders in southern Aroostook still number over 30. 41 were counted at a feeder in Littleton on the 29th.

Another Snowy Owl was seen along Route 10 in Easton on the 30th. Paul Cyr was able to snap this shot before the bird was flushed by a loud log truck. This is at least the 10th reported in Aroostook county so far this season. A species that hasn't been mentioned in a while, a Barred Owl was seen in Linneus on the 19th of January. Sue Young sent along this image of the nocturnal hooter. The Stockholm Northern Hawk Owl was not seen.

The hardy Northern Flicker survived some -30 F nights and continued at a feeder in Caribou through the 30th. Downy, Hairy and Pileated were all well reported again!

In Fort Fairfield, a Northern Shrike was chasing chickadees around the feeders on the 19th.

After my comments about the dearth of White-breasted Nuthatches being reported at mid-month, I have been made aware they are well and thriving here in northern Maine! White-breasts were reported from Caribou, Easton, Presque Isle and Washburn. Red-breasted Nuthatches were also noted from across the region.

Bohemian Waxwings are all over the area but numbers seem highest in the south. Multiple flocks numbering 50-70, were seen in Caribou, Houlton and Presque Isle. Other smaller groups were seen in Amity, Fort Fairfield, Hodgdon, Mapleton, Portage Lake and Woodland. Two Northern Cardinals continue near Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle and another is being seen in Caribou.

A single Lapland Longspur was hiding in a huge flock (1,200+) of Snow Buntings at a small feedlot along Route 1A in Easton. The flock was seen on the 17th and again on the 29th. My overwintering White-throated Sparrow continues to make forays out to the feeders from under my deck here in Woodland. The bird was seen as recently as the 29th. American Tree Sparrow numbers remain high across the area.

Rare anytime of year, but truly noteworthy is a Rusty Blackbird that has been reported overwintering at a feeder in Easton. The bird was most recently observed last week. this comes on the heels of Aroostook's first wintering record last year!

The northern finch show continues to please area birders. Pine Grosbeaks were reported in good numbers from Benedicta and Amity north to Fort Kent. A large flock of 40+ was seen in Washburn on the 22nd. Trina Coffin has this nice male visiting her feeders in Caribou. White-winged Crossbills were reported from Caribou, Easton, New Sweden, Presque Isle, and Woodland. Of the smaller finches, American Goldfinches are the most widely reported but Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls are being seen regularly as well. Larger Evening Grosbeak flocks seen were: 30+ in Chapman on the 18th, 18 in Stockholm on the 19th and 19 in Woodland on the 24th.

A pair of possible House Finches were well described as they visited at a feeder in Presque Isle on the 17th. The sighting was noteworthy considering the rareity of this species in northern Maine.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 1-14 Jan 2009

The first couple of weeks of January were a bit colder than average in northern Maine. Recent nightime temperatures reached -20 F in my valley. Obviously, all precipitation in this period came in the form of snow. The snowstorm on the 7th and 8th dropped about 4 inches in southern parts of the county but almost a foot in the St. John River valley.

Most water is frozen now and snow depths range from about 10 inches in some open fields up to 2+ feet in the woods in the northern parts of the county.

As previously mentioned, I've received lots of reports of very busy feeders. Though I haven't been spending much time off of the plowed roads, my impression is that the woods are still very quiet. The increasing daylength has apparently helped to get some chickadees singing and woodpeckers drumming.

Despite the dwindling open water, there are still a few waterfowl being seen in the area. A small group of Mallards and American Black Ducks is wintering in Presque Isle and appearing near the hospital there. Several male Common Mergansers and a four Common Goldeneyes were seen recently at the dam in Caribou. Three Common Goldeneyes were also seen feeding just below the dam on Presque Isle Stream in Presque Isle.

Ruffed Grouse have been widely reported and the population appears to have done well surviving the winter thus far. Four were seen together "budding" in some alders at dusk in Caribou on the 3rd. Others were seen in Chapman, Reed Plantation and Stockholm. Paul Cyr got the nice picture above of a high stepping grouse earlier in the winter.

A few raptors have been observed Aroostook county lately. An adult Northern Goshawk was spotted cruising low over the woods on a ridgetop in New Sweden on the 10th. Bald Eagles continue to be spotted around the county (though they seemed to have dispersed a bit since early December when the concentrations of waterfowl were easy pickings). Most sightings are of adult birds and their appearance well away from open water would suggest these birds are now scavenging. Bald Eagles were seen in Caribou (1/9), Monticello (1/9), Presque Isle (Jan 2,3,6,7,9) and Stockholm (1/3). A Sharp-shinned Hawk has been spotted around the Mantle Lake area of Presque Isle (1/2). Though numbers of Red-tailed Hawks lingered into December, no new reports have come in in January.

No gulls (of any type) have been reported in the area in January.

Mourning Doves were well reported lately but a couple observers who live out of town noted a drop in numbers with the declines in temperatures.

The Stockholm Northern Hawk Owl continues and was spotted as recently as the 10th of January but it appears to be roaming a bit more than when it was intially seen. There have been no new reports of Snowy Owls since the last update.

Vying for the notable bird of the month, the hardiest Northern Flicker in the state continues to be seen at a feeder off the Hardison Road in Caribou. First seen in early December, the bird has survived some painfully cold weather so far. Bill Hersey sent me some photos of the bird last weekend. The other common woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Pileated) were all well represented in the reports I received. All three species have already begun to drum. On January 4th, some noise from an unknown woodpecker in the Stockholm area was suspected to be an Black-backed or American Three-toed Woodpecker but the bird remained un-ID'ed.

Plenty of Northern Shrikes are being reported. Adults were seen in Caribou (1 Jan)Presque Isle (9 Jan), New Canada (10 Jan) and Woodland (11 Jan). The Presque Isle shrike was chasing a chickadee. Another shrike was harassing the small finches at a feeder in Mapleton last week.

Bohemian Waxwings continue their strong showing in central and southern Aroostook county in early January. In addition to undated reports last week in Fort Fairfield and Caribou, 50+ were seen in Hodgdon on January 9th and 87 were in Presque Isle on January 11th. No Cedar Waxwings were mentioned in this neck of the woods.

Several Gray Jays were spotted in Stockholm on the 3rd and one was heard in the Woodland Bog in Woodland on the 11th. However, Blue Jays continue to dominate many area feeders. Substantially fewer American Crows have been reported thus far this winter, as compared to the last two winters. Common Ravens are a bit more vocal and visible recently as their early breeding season approaches.

Three Horned Larks were feeding in a windswept potato field on Green Ridge in Caribou on the 3rd. These birds are an uncommon sight in winter in northern Maine

A couple of interesting plumaged Black-capped Chickdees have showed up recently. In Caribou an exceptionally white-tailed chickadee was found and photographed by Bill Hersey. This picture, taken on the 7th shows the normally black tail is clearly lacking some pigment. Six miles south in Presque Isle, individuals of the melanistic population continue to be spotted. These chickadees are showing all black head though an entirely black individual was reported.

Several Boreal Chickadees were encountered in the Stockholm area on the 3rd. Remaining in the hard-to-find category lately, a few White-breasted Nuthatches were finally reported this winter. One was seen in Presque Isle and 2 in Caribou on the 3rd and another visited a feeder for a single day in Mapleton last week.

A male Northern Cardinal appeared at a feeder in Caribou last week. There have been substantially less reports of cardinals in the county this winter after a couple of banner years.

American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos of the slate-colored type continue in small numbers at many locales. Snow Bunting numbers also remain good across the county. Larger flocks were 80+ at Westfield on the 3rd, 120 in Presque Isle on the 9th and 60+ in Chapman on the 11th. Patty Jennings found this handsome couple of Snow Buntings visiting her feeder in Stacyville. Patty's photo even made the local evening news!

A single American Robin lingering in Linneus was spotted near Grammies Restaurant on the 9th. One of a pair of hardy Common Grackles that showed up on the Presque Isle Christmas Bird Count continues to visit a feeder off the Chapman Road in Presque Isle.

There has been a steady increase in the numbers and diversity of finch species observed around the county. Pine and Evening Grosbeaks are widespread and numerous. Flocks of Pines were seen in Ashland, Bridgewater, Caribou, Chapman, Easton, Fort Kent, Haynesville, Houlton, Perham, Presque Isle, Stockholm, Washburn and Woodland. A few Common Redpolls have joined the American Goldfinches at the thistle socks. Numbers of Pine Siskins are being seen in southern Aroostook but only a few have be reported in central and northern parst of the region. Small numbers of White-winged Crossbills have been encountered lately, pairs were seen in Presque Isle and Washburn on the 12th and a flock was reported from Stockholm on the 2nd and 3rd.

Purple Finches remain undetected this winter.