Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 10-20 April 2009

The past ten days was a cool dry stretch here in northern Maine. Temperatures averaged a few degrees lower than normal. Slow melting occurred in the afternoons and night time lows in the mid twenties re-formed ice when the sun went down. A three inch snow on the 13th was the only precipitation of significance during the period.

All streams and rivers are open and water levels have remained stable or dropped. Most ponds and lakes remain predominantly ice covered. Snow cover has retreated from most open areas but more than a foot remains in the woods.

A couple small pulses of migrants occurred during the past 10 days but generally migration has been a slow and steady affair so far.

New and arriving species during this period:

Brant (4/10)
Blue-winged Teal (4/18)
Redhead (4/18)
Lesser Scaup (4/18)
Osprey (4/16)
Broad-winged Hawk (4/18)
Iceland Gull (4/13)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (4/14)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (4/12)
Eastern Phoebe (4/14)
Tree Swallow (4/11)
Brown Creeper (4/19)
Fox Sparrow (4/19)
Purple Finch (4/17)

Waterfowl migration hasn't been much to talk about yet this season but what has showed up included some great birds. The highlight of period was certainly a wayward Brant found in association with some Canada Geese in Washburn on the 10th. The little goose remained here through at least the 13th. A flock of about 800-1000 Snow Geese is feeding on the flats along the St. John River in Grand Isle. The group was spotted from the Canadian side of the river by Roy and Charlotte LaPointe. Between 12 and 14 "Blue" Geese were seen in the horde. Canada Goose migrants continue to pass thorugh and some residents are already acting territorial.

A pair of drake Redheads were discovered on the 18th at Puddledock Pond in Fort Fairfield. The handsome males were loafing in the pond with a newly arrived drake Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck. The tall wooden fence that was put up to exclude geese from the park here worked effectively as a blind and allowed Peter Vickery to get good photos of this fine looking pair.

Another good find was a crisp drake Barrow's Goldeneye that remained at Collins Pond from the 12th through the 15th. The bird was courting a hen Common Goldeneye which was clearly not to the liking of a nearby drake Common.

Seen first on the 18th, a newly-arrived Blue-winged Teal on a small pond near Trafton Lake in Limestone was early by a week. Wood Duck, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal numbers are increasing. An apparent Green-winged Teal X Eurasian (Common) Teal hybrid was seen at the same small pond near Trafton Lake. The male possessed both a white vertical stripe on the side and a partial white horizontal scapular stripe along the wing. Unfortunately no photos were possible before the bird flushed and flew away (thanks to an eagle).

Lots of Common and Hooded Mergansers are being seen throughout the area. Paul Cyr captured the great images of drake Hooded Mergansers at the top and bottom of this post.

Great Blue Herons were reported from Caribou, Grand Isle, Presque Isle and Mars Hill. Paul Cyr also sent along the image of the flying heron above.

For the first time since last year, ten species of raptors were encountered in the county this week. Rare in northern Maine, Turkey Vultures were seen in Monticello and Sherman on the 17th. Newly arrived Ospreys went right to work sprucing up their nests in Easton and Island Falls. Other Ospreys were seen in Caribou and Fort Fairfield. Patty Jennings got this great action shot of an Osprey about to add another twig to the nest in Island Falls. The first Broad-winged Hawk of the season was spotted in Easton on the 18th. Following the trend this spring, it was also an early arrival by about a week.

A substantial wave of American Kestrels, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned and Rough-legged Hawks moved into the area over the weekend. On the 18th, Rough-legs were seen in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle, Van Buren and Woodland (one each). A pair of Kestrels has set up residence in a nest box in Portage Lake over the weekend. Other raptor species encountered were Merlin, Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

American Woodcock have not been reported much yet this season here in the north. A twittering male was heard in Woodland on the 17th. A handful of Wilson's Snipe and Killdeer remain the only other shorebird types mentioned so far.

The two Lesser Black-backed Gulls mentioned earlier this month at Collins Pond in Caribou were joined by a third (!) adult bird on the 11th and all continued through at least the 18th. A first cycle Iceland Gull also joined the flock on the 13th and was spotted several times around Caribou through the week. Migrant Ring-billed Gull numbers are near peak and these now dominate the gull flocks in central Aroostook.

Two nights (4/17-18) of owl surveys in New Sweden, Perham, Stockholm, Westmanland, Woodland and T14 R5 produced 11 Barred and 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls. Other than the owls and an occasional coyote it was still very quiet in the woods.

Several American Crows were seen attacking a Rock Pigeon in Caribou this week. The ultimate fate of the unlucky bird was unknown.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers had reached the central Aroostook area (my yard in Woodland) by the 12th. Eastern Phoebes were seen in Linneus on the 14th, Caribou on the 18th and Woodland by the 19th. A mid-spring surge of northbound Bohemian Waxwings was noted this week. 30+ Bohemians were seen at Lake Josephine in Easton and others were encountered in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle.

Newly returned Tree Swallows also overspread the area quickly this week. A Brown Creeper was heard singing near the Woodland Bog in Woodland on the 19th.

In my yard in Woodland, the first Fox Sparrows (2) and a Rusty Blackbird were right on schedule. Dark-eyed Junco numbers continue to build and American Tree Sparrows show no signs of dwindling through today.

A good assortment of finches continue to show well at central Aroostook feeding stations. The first Purple Finches seen since last fall arrived at area feeders on the 17th. Common Redpoll numbers seemed to surge and wane quickly in a weeks time. My thistle feeder went from hosting a few to 200+ bird and then down to about 40 redpolls in about 8 days. A sickly redpoll, an apparent victim of the recent avian salmonella outbreak, was huddled in a bush in my yard on the 20th. A few Pine Siskins were reported at Ashland, Presque Isle and Woodland. White-winged Crossbills were heard in Woodland on the 19th. Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Caribou (3), Fort Fairfield (12) and Woodland (20).

A House Sparrow male has successfully dodged two Sharp-shinned Hawk assaults thus far this week.

Good Birding



wfowler said...

Hey Bill, love reading your blog and checking out your pics. The waterfowl info is especially interesting. Have you noticed an increase in snow goose sightings over the past few years or have the sightings been consistent for many years. Do you think with the expanding Quebec population that snow goose sightings will become quite common in the future. Keep up the good work.

Bill Sheehan said...

Glad you enjoy it!

Snow Geese are not very common around here. I really haven't had enough experience with them to tell if there any changes in the population locally. My impression is that they are rare but regular on their annual migrations. In the fall, the Snows have a major staging area just to north of us along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and they are decidely less common in numbers during that season. I think they pass over us undetected as fly southward and only come down if they encounter bad weather.

wfowler said...

Thanks for the insight Bill. I am curious if you could tell me about the White Fronted geese you have seen in the area in the past. How rare are the sightings compared to the snows geese, how do these birds end up in our area and how regular do you see these birds in our area. Thanks