Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 21-31 March 2009

Things are gradually warming in northern Maine. Last weekend the mercury in the thermometer took its first trip across the 50 degree mark this year. Snow melt has been quite gradual thus far and snow cover remains intact in most places. A surprise snow "shower" left anywhere from an inch to a foot of snow in places on Monday.

Streams have come up a bit and open water is increasing. Some small and mid-sized streams have lost most of their ice. Mile-long stretches are now open on the Aroostook River in several spots.
A few waterways in fields have lost their snow as the runoff melted it from below. Southward facing banks are bare in many spots.

A few emerging moths were seen over the weekend.

New and arriving species this week:

Snow Goose 3/31
Canada Goose 3/27
Great Blue Heron 3/28 (early)
American Kestrel 3/22 (early)
Northern Harrier 3/27
American Woodcock 3/27
Killdeer 3/29
Ring-billed Gull 3/20
Herring Gull 3/26
American Robin 3/27

A single Snow Goose seen in the Aroostook River in Presque Isle on the 31st was an early bird and the waterfowl highlight this week. The first Canada Geese seen were a flock of 8 on the 27th in Caribou, 13 in Easton and 9 in Presque Isle on the 28th. Singles, pairs and small groups of Hooded Mergansers were reported from Bancroft to Limestone. Common Mergansers were seen in Fort Fairfield and Caribou. These divers are squeezing into leads in the ice where other ducks would be releuctant to land. Mallards and American Black Ducks continue to be the only dabbling ducks found in the area to date. Ken Lamb got some nice shots of these Common Goldeneyes courting in Presque Isle>

A very early Great Blue Heron was photographed by Ken Lamb in Presque Isle on the 28th. This was the earliest arrival of this species by more than a week and two weeks ahead of normal arrival dates in my record book.

Good raptors for the area included some early arriving falcons. A male American Kestrel seen at a nest box in Portage Lake on the 22nd was more than a week early and another eager arrival was found in Woodland on the 29th. A Merlin paused for a moment in Hersey on the 28th and then continued northward. An arriving male Northern Harrier was hunting over snow covered fields in Bancroft in southern Aroostook County on the 27th.

Bald Eagles continue to be seen at nests in Fort Fairfield, St Agatha, Van Buren and Presque Isle. The interesting plumaged 3rd? year bird at the end of this post was photographed by Paul Cyr.

The first Killdeer arrived on schedule in central Aroostook County on the 29th. The plovers appeared to regret their ambitious efforts the following day when 6+ inches of new snow made foraging difficult for these birds. By the 31st, Killdeer had been reported from Caribou, Easton, Portage Lake, Mapleton, Presque Isle and Woodland. An American Woodcock was probing the thin margin of bare and unfrozen sod along my driveway on the night of the 27th.

A pair of Barred Owls were vocalizing in Woodland on the 31st. Horned Larks have increased along roadsides in the open country. 2 were seen in Castle Hill and another small group was encountered in Fort Fairfield.

A noticeable pulse of Bohemian Waxwings pushed through the area this week. Flocks were seen in several locations in Caribou and Presque Isle and others were reported in Ashland, Chapman, Portage Lake, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Houlton and Island Falls. Paul Cyr photographed the waxwings as they tossed back the last bits of fruit in his yard.

A trickle of arriving American Robins on the 27th transformed into sizeable wave by the following day. Mentioned by many reporters as a true harbinger of spring, the robins were wallowing in deep snow by Monday. Most robins seen this week appeared to be the dark subspecies from Labrador and Newfoundland. Paul Cyr got the shot at the top of this post...a dark robin squeezing the juice from one last highbush cranberry.

Another Northern Shrike was seen in Danforth on the 24th.

American Crows continue to work on nests and several carrying twigs were reported in central Aroostook county.

American Tree Sparrow reports dropped substantially in late March and it appears this bird is making an early departure. In its place, Dark-eyed Juncos have started to appear in ones and twos under area feeders. A younger male junco was spotted in Caribou with an apparently injured foot. Plenty of Snow Buntings are still being seen. The largest group was 400+ seen in eastern-most Limestone on the 28th. Others were reported from Caribou, Castle Hill, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Washburn and Woodland.

Surprisingly no other migrant sparrow species has been reported in the area yet this year.

Right on schedule, substantial numbers of blackbird species arrived during the period and have been widely reported from throughout the region. Male Red-winged Blackbirds are already defending territories in central Aroostook wetlands, areas that remain frozen solid and covered in several feet of snow and ice. The season's first Brown-headed Cowbirds made timely arrivals in Caribou on the 21st and Woodland on the 28th.

Both Common Redpoll and American Goldfinch numbers increased at area feeders during the period. Several hundred redpolls were seen at a feeder in New Sweden. Males of both species are coloring up nicely. A few White-winged Crossbills made appearances but their numbers remain in the single digits. Crossbills were spotted at feeders in Caribou, Portage Lake, Presque Isle and Woodland. Evening Grosbeaks continue but numbers are dwindling.

Low on most birder's lists but none-the-less rare and noteworthy in northern Maine, House Finches and House Sparrows were reported again this week. The House Finch continues to make appearances at a feeder in Presque Isle and a pair of House Sparrows arrived in my yard in Woodland on the 31st.


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