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.