Thursday, May 28, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 22-28 May 2009

It was alternately cold, wet or windy for most of the past week in northern Maine, making it a tough week for birding. Nonetheless, a bunch of new arrivals were discovered.

For the month thus far, temperatures were slightly cooler than normal and we had just a bit above average rainfall (3.14 inches). The cool weather slowed leaf development, which was helpful for getting looks at the newly arrived passerines. The chilly temps also caused some birds to concentrate around available food sources.

New and arriving birds this week:

Chimney Swift (5/25)
Great Horned Owl (5/26)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (5/24)
Alder Flycatcher (5/23)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (5/21)
Great-crested Flycatcher (5/23)
Eastern Bluebird (5/24)
Swainson's Thrush (5/24)
Wood Thrush (5/27)
Cedar Waxwing (5/21)
Philadelphia Vireo (5/24)
Blackpoll Warbler (5/28)
Mourning Warbler (5/21)
Wilson's Warbler (5/28)

Seventeen species of waterfowl were reported in Aroostook county this week. As usual, the highlights are the continuing Ruddy Ducks and Redhead pair at Lake Josephine in Easton. The Easton Redheads were present at dawn recently when Paul Cyr showed up with his camera. Noteworthy was a flock of 14 Common Eiders on Christina Reservoir on the 22nd. 2 White-winged Scoters at Lake Jo on the 22nd and 8 at Madawaska Lake on the 21st were also good finds this far inland. An uptick in the number of male Common Mergansers was noted in the area this week by several reporters. Small flotillas of the drakes were seen on waterways in Connor, Fort Fairfield, Limestone and Presque Isle.

Wood Ducks, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, both species of teal, Ring-necked Ducks and Common Goldeneyes were all seen in good numbers at Lake Josephine this week.

One of the nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in Presque Isle has ceased incubating their eggs and abandoned their nest. The pair in Fort Fairfield continues to sit on their nest, but it appears that the time for hatching has come and gone and they too, may fail to produce young again this year. For the third year in a row, a Northern Goshawk has nested on the hardwood ridge at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Presque Isle. As before, the bird does not take kindly to visitors near the nest whether they are on foot or pedaling mountain bikes.

A decent (and likely, final) wave of northbound shorebird migration moved through the area in the past few days. High counts of 22 Least Sandpipers and 80+ Short-billed Dowitchers were the peak numbers at Lake Jo on the 22nd. The last migrant Solitary Sandpiper was seen on the 25th in the Connor unit of the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.

A Great-horned Owl nest with an almost-ready-to-fledge youngster was found by a couple picking fiddleheads near the Aroostook River in Presque Isle. Paul Cyr checked it out and sent along a picture of the nest.

One last Snowy Owl was reported in Fort Fairfield on the 25th!

A few arriving Chimney Swifts were seen despite the nasty weather. The first arrivals include one in Sinclair on the 25th, another in Fort Fairfield on the 26th and numbers reported in Patten on the 27th.

The cold weather produced lots of action around area hummingbird feeders this week. Several observers noted highest-ever Ruby-throated counts in their yards as the birds struggled with the low temperatures and limited food availability. Nadeen Plourde sent over a shot of the activity at her feeder at Square Lake. The first females were reported over the Memorial Day weekend.

Most of the remaining breeding flycatchers arrived on schedule in central Aroostook. Alder Flycatchers were first heard near the Little Madawaska River Dam in Caribou on the 23nd, Great-crested's were loudly announcing their presence in Woodland on the 24th and Yellow-bellied's were picked up in a bog in New Sweden on the 25th. Still no sign of Eastern Wood Pewee or Willow Flycatchers...yet.

A Horned Lark was singing in a potato field near the Caribou Airport on the 25th. After a long absence, the first Cedar Waxwings have begun to reappear in the area. The first arrivals I found were a group feeding over a wetland in Cross Lake Township on the 21st.

A Gray Jay family, including at least 3 just-off-the-nest youngsters, was encountered near the Madawaska Dam in Caribou. The big sooty gray fledglings were clumsily crashing though the underbrush as they followed their parents around the woods. Blue Jays are busy gathering food for their nestlings which should start to appear away from the nests in the next week or so. One of Mary Collishaw's Blue Jays posed for her recently.

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds arrived in my yard in Woodland and checked out the accomodations for a while. Apparently they found none of my nest boxes to their liking and moved on. Other bluebirds were reported in Portage Lake, Stockholm and Oxbow. Swainson's Thrushes were quick to establish themselves in wooded wetlands across the area and a Wood Thrush was heard singing in Mt Chase.

Warbler migration has probably peaked this week with the arrival of Mourning, Blackpoll and Wilson's Warblers... In all, twenty one species of warblers were seen in northern Maine this week. Mourning Warblers were heard in Cross Lake Township (formerly T17R5) and at the Connor unit of the Aroostook NWR. Blackpoll Warblers were heard in Cyr Plantation and a male Wilson's Warbler was back on territory along the Muscovic Road in Stockholm.

Small mixed groups of migrant blackbirds are still showing up at my feeders in Woodland. These include Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds. The earliest-arriving local grackles have completed their nesting and are already feeding fledglings. Nadeen Plourde nicely documented a hungry fledgling on her hedge in Caribou

American Goldfinches and Purple Finches have started to disperse away from feeders but several of each are still making daily visits to my feeders.

A pair of Evening Grosbeaks are also stopping by, albeit more intermittently. Other Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Caribou, Cyr Plantation and New Sweden. After quite a few hours in the big woods this week I failed to encounter any White-winged Crossbills this week.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 15 -21 May 2009

Its been quite chilly for the past 6 days with below-normal temperatures on nearly everyday. There was frost in low spots on several mornings. High and moderate winds made birding difficult on occasion. Another good soaking rain fell on Sunday AM and got us through the the week without elevated fire warnings from the forest service. Vegetation growth slowed a bit in the cold weather and leaf development is still below 50% in central and northern areas. Aquatic insects are emerging in places and certain protected locations have produced first-of-year blackfly bites for some reporters.

Birds have been generally a bit difficult to find in early AM with lower temps and lots of wind but many expected species arrived on schedule. Numbers and diversity appear to be approaching peak. Some unusual species were found immediately following a wild and windy front that passed through the area late last week.

30 species of new and arriving birds this week:

Eurasian Wigeon (5/17)
White-winged Scoter (5/20)
Great Cormorant (5/17)
Sora (5/16)
Black-bellied Plover (5/17)
Upland Sandpiper (5/16)
Solitary Sandpiper (5/16)
Short-billed Dowitcher (5/20)
Wilson's Phalarope (5/15)
Bonaparte's Gull (5/17)
Common Tern (5/17)
Least Flycatcher (5/15)
Eastern Kingbird (5/15)
Bank Swallow (5/17)
Cliff Swallow (5/16)
Gray Catbird (5/16)
Northern Mockingbird (5/17)
Veery (5/17)
Warbling Vireo (5/15)
Red-eyed Vireo (5/20)
Tennessee Warbler (5/16)
Blackburnian Warbler (5/20)
Magnolia Warbler (5/16)
Cape May Warbler (5/16)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (5/20)
Bay-breasted Warbler (5/16)
Ovenbird (5/16)
Canada Warbler (5/20)
Bobolink (5/15)
Baltimore Oriole (5/15)

Nineteen species of waterfowl were seen in the area so far this week. Highlights include a beautiful drake Eurasian Wigeon in St Agatha, a White-winged Scoter at Trafton Lake in Limestone and Ruddy Ducks and the pair of resident Redheads at Lake Josephine in Easton. The Eurasian Wigeon was seen on the 17th and 18th feeding with 5 American Wigeon on the shores of Long Lake. Its seen here associating with a newly arrived Black-bellied Plover and an American Wigeon pair in this digiscoped shot I took on Sunday. A pair of Buffleheads were seen behind the St Agatha Town Office just up the street.

The pair of Redheads was seen several times during the week but the male is increasingly being found alone... presumably while the hen scouts out a nesting spot. Several Ruddy Duck males have begun courting a single hen on Lake Jo.

Also at Lake Josephine, double digit counts of Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Gadwall and Common Goldeneye have been the norm recently. Other notable waterfowl finds this week include Red-breasted Mergansers on Long Lake in St. Agatha on the 18th as well as a pair of Lesser Scaup and the first Canada Goose brood of the season found at Lake Jo. Ken Lamb discovered the gosling group on Wednesday and sent along a picture of the fuzzy chicks.

73 Double-crested Cormorants seen on the 17th was a high count for the small, partially-submerged islet on the north end of Long Lake in St. Agatha. Even more noteworthy were the two Great Cormorants keeping them company. There are only a couple other records of this species in northern Maine so I digiscoped a couple documentation shots. The huge size, light underbelly and white-er chin are visible on the left-most Great Cormorant in this crappy shot. The other Great seemed to do alot of preening and I was only able to get his apparently-headless body in the shot when the other was looking.

Pied-billed Grebes, Common Loons and American Bitterns were widely reported. The grebe photo at the top of this post was taken in Easton by Ken Lamb on the 20th.

It was quiet for raptor reports this week. A Cooper's Hawk reported in Crystal and Turkey Vulture in Easton were noteworthy individuals as they push the range limits for their species.

A good pulse of shorebirds moved into the area this week. Most exciting was a gorgeous female Wilson's Phalarope seen feeding at Lake Josephine last weekend. Unlike many birds, female phalarope is the more brightly colored of the two sexes. Wilson's Phalaropes are a rare find anywhere in Maine in spring but this bird is only the third or fourth recorded in Aroostook County. Though the phalarope was seen right beside the road by several birders, when I found it, the shorebird was entirely across the pond and also at the limits of my scope and camera set up...

Other new shorebirds included the aforementioned Black-bellied Plover in St. Agatha, 7 newly arrived Upland Sandpipers at the Loring runways in Limestone, 3 Solitary Sandpipers in Caribou and Short-billed Dowitchers seen in Mars Hill and Easton.

5 Bonapartes Gulls and 60 Common Terns at Long Lake in St. Agatha were high counts for these newly arrived species. The terns were hovering over the island where they'll nest later this season. The island is currently crowded with migrant Double-crested Cormorants....

The first of season Eastern Kingbird and Least Flycatcher were found with an Eastern Phoebe at Lake Jo on the 15th. No other flycatchers have been reported to date.

Huge congregations of swallows were seen around the large water bodies on recent cold days. Mixed flocks of several hundred birds were seen at Black Lake in Fort Kent, Daigle Pond in New Canada and Long Lake in St. Agatha. High counts at Lake Josephine on the 19th were estimated at 2,400 Tree Swallows, 60+ Barn Swallows and 20+ each Bank and Cliff Swallows.

Rare in northern Maine, two Northern Mockingbirds were exceptional finds this week. One was seen in Mt Chase in northern Penobscot county on Sunday the 17th and another was reported well to the north at St. Agatha the following day. Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos were heard in Caribou for the first time this season.

Eighteen species of warblers were seen this week, with eight of them newly arrived in the area. In northeastern-most Caribou, the Madawaska Dam unit of the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge held my first-of-year Ovenbird and Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Cape May and Tennessee Warblers on the chilly morning of the 16th. Down in the opposite corner of the town I heard my first singing Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue and Canada Warblers on the 20th.

White-crowned Sparrows continue in the area though it appears they are thinning out a bit. Lincoln's Sparrows are singing on territory in several local spots now. Bobolinks were quick to overspread the area with singing males found in Caribou Easton, Fort Fairfield and Limestone. Baltimore Orioles were also noisily announcing their arrival at Lake Jo (first) and then around Mantle Lake in Presque Isle on the 19th

Evening Grosbeaks were hanging tough in the northern parts of the region. Pairs were seen in Fort Kent, New Canada, Sinclair and Woodland.

Next week should be real good!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 8-14 May 2009

Bird activity continues to pick up in northern Maine as migration proceeds without any unusual weather systems to interrupt the flow of birds. A good soaking rain fell on the 9th and 10th and temps dropped to freezing on a couple recent nights. Otherwise its been pleasant spring weather in the region.

Insects are now abundant with the first blackflies making their seasonal debut on the warmer afternoons. Water levels have dropped significantly in area streams and the developing greenery is sucking up much of the precipitation these days. Leaf out is still below 25% at this point.

Birds have been trickling steadily and their net mass is growing daily. There haven't been any recent pulses that were noticeable.

Arriving and new species this week:

Pied billed Grebe (5/8)
Least Sandpiper (5/8)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5/8)
Winter Wren (5/9)
American Pipit (5/14)
Nashville Warbler (5/8)
Northern Parula (5/9)
Yellow Warbler (5/13)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (5/14)
Black-and-white Warbler (5/9)
American Redstart (5/13)
Common Yellowthroat (5/11)
Lincoln's Sparrow (5/10)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5/9)

Waterfowl numbers at Lake Josephine are approaching peak. Quite a few high counts for the more uncommon species were tallied here on the 8th. Noteworthy were 30 American Wigeon, 10 Gadwall, 28 Northern Shovelers, 78 Ring-necked Ducks, 11 Lesser Scaup and 9 Ruddy Ducks. The gorgeous big-lipped drake shoveler above was photographed in Easton by Ken Lamb.

All three species of merganser were seen at Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle on the 10th. A pair of uncommon Red-breasted Mergansers joined the Common and Hooded as they fed along the far (eastern) shore of this shallow impoundment. An adult Bald Eagle in on of the tall spruces on the west side probably helped concentrate the ducks on the far side.

Arriving Pied-billed Grebes were quick to join the noisy marsh chorus this week. The grebes were heard at locations in Caribou, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Mapleton and Presque Isle this week. Common Loon and American Bittern vocalizations were widely reported again. Paul Cyr sent along a great photo of a bittern stalking frogs in Presque Isle.

The Bald Eagles continue to incubate eggs at area nests. Paul Cyr was watching one in Fort Fairfield at sunrise recently and sent me the great photo at the top of this post. Noisy nesting Merlins were found in a Caribou and Fort Fairfield this week. The birds are making such a racket that locating them was hardly a challenge. Another Merlin buzzed through my yard in Woodland on the 10th.

Virginia Rails continue to call and grunt throughout the day in the cattail marshes behind Lake Josephine.

I heard 19 American Woodcock in T11R12 while conducting a Woodcock Singing Ground Survey for USF&W Service on Monday night. 12 of the birds said "peent!" and were tallied for the count. Wilsons Snipe were almost as abundant on the 3.6 mile stretch of road we surveyed with 14 winnowing birds heard. The first Least Sandpiper of the season was flushed off of some deadwood on the shore of Lake Jo by a Northern Harrier on the 8th. According to my records, this sandpiper was earliest by a couple days.

Though Barred Owls were heard in Woodland and T11R10 this week, an extremely late Snowy Owl photographed by Paul Cyr was significantly more exciting. The owl, (an apparent male) seen on the 9th south of Presque Isle was exceptional but not unprecedented. A check of the records showed that back in 1977, a Snowy was seen on 30 May in Presque Isle! Paul's picture of the owl with the emerging foliage in the background nicely document this rare occasion.

Ruby throated Hummingbird males arrived last Friday in Bancroft and Woodland. Numbers rapidly increased through the weekend. My first Winter Wren was heard in Stockholm at dawn on the 9th.

An arriving flock of 26 American Pipits were trading back and forth behind the tractors in a potato field in Woodland on the 14th.

Arriving warbler numbers are increasing daily. To date 10 species have been reported. Nashville Warblers were seen in Sinclair (5/9) and Presque Isle (5/13). Northern Parula's were first noted in Sinclair as well (5/9). Singing Yellow and Black-throated Green Warblers were heard at the airport in Presque Isle on the 13th. A small pulse of arriving American Redstarts and Black-and-white Warbler were noted on the 12th and 13th in Caribou and Presque Isle.

An Indigo Bunting was a great find at a feeder in Garfield. Normally quite rare, this is the second reported in northern Maine this spring. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks arrived in numbers on the 9ths and had reached the feeders in my yard by the 14th.

The last American Tree Sparrow departed after being seen my yard on the 9th. Arriving Lincoln's Sparrows were right on its heels (haluxes?). I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to photograph the skulky new arrival but only managed to come up with this blurry shot as one of the two birds dodged through my flower beds and hedges. Good numbers of White-crowned Sparrows continue throughout the area and currently number ~10 in my yard.

While plenty of mixed Common Grackle, Redwinged Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird flocks continue to move through the area, sightings of migrating Rusty Blackbirds have dropped off to near zero lately. Out in the North Maine Woods, in Soper Mountain TWP in northern Piscataquis County, a male Rusty was seen harrassing a Red-tailed Hawk which would seem to indicate a territorial breeding bird. Seen on the 11th, it was interesting to note the bird was in a regenerating upland woods cutting away from the boreal wetland habitat normally associated with this bird.

Evening Grosbeaks were seen in several locations this week but numbers continue to wane.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 28 April - 7 May 2009

Spring migration proceeds steadily here in northern Maine.

With the exception of a puff of hot air from the south back on the 28th, the transition week from April to May was seasonable. Temperatures generally ranged from the 60's in the day to the low 40's at night. Several rain events scattered over the week kept the dust down but water levels continued to slowly recede after the spring high flows.

Though a few remnant snow banks persist in the shadows of the rankest swamps and bogs, red maples and other trees have bloomed and poplars are starting to show some green. Area farmers are quickly sowing grain, potato and broccoli crops. On cue, the insectivores have begun to arrive in numbers. Waterfowl and sparrows continue to disperse across the area.

New and arriving species this week:

Red-breasted Merganser (5/7)
Red-necked Grebe (5/3)
Virginia Rail (5/4)
American Three-toed Woodpecker (5/3)
Blue-headed Vireo (5/3)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (5/2)
Palm Warbler (5/3)
Black-throated Green Warbler (5/6)
Northern Waterthrush (5/3)
White-crowned Sparrow (5/3)
Swamp Sparrow (5/7)

Waterfowl highlights this week were increasing numbers of rarer breeding ducks and a few seaducks passing through. On the 4th, a lunch hour visit to Lake Josephine in Easton produced a tally of 3 pairs of Redheads, 2 pairs of Gadwall, 10 American Wigeon, 10 Northern Shovelers, 11 Lesser Scaup and 9 Ruddy Ducks. This was in addition to the common-er Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Green and Blue Winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks and Common Goldeneyes and Mergansers.

Eleven Red-breasted Mergansers and three Common Eiders were an unusual aggregation of waterfowl found on a quiet stretch of the Aroostook River in Caribou on the 7th.

Rare inland, a Red-necked Grebe was found on LaPomkeag Lake in northern-most Penobscot county on Sunday the 3rd. Bill Hersey was able to document the bird with his digiscope outfit. American Bitterns were seen at Collins Pond in Caribou and at Jewell Lake in Monticello.

A Turkey Vulture seen near the Airport in Presque Isle on the 29th was pushing the limits of the species range.

Reports of Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks were only outnumbered by Osprey observations this week. Ken Lamb got a great shot above of a Broad-winged Hawk vocalizing on the wing.

Ospreys were reported from Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Island Falls, Orient, Portage Lake, Presque Isle, T16R5 and Van Buren. Paul Cyr got a shot of an Osprey visiting a platform at Madawaska Lake this week

Virginia Rails appear to have arrived all at once. A midday test with a rail call recording produced no less than six responses from a ~2 acre cattail marsh near Lake Josephine on the 4th.

Still on the early side of things, another Spotted Sandpiper was seen near the Aroostook River Dam in Caribou on the 7th.

After quite a bit of searching, an American Three-toed Woodpecker was found in a woodlot near Beardsley Brook in New Sweden. The bird was seen for a couple minutes on the 3rd. It drummed a couple times and then dropped back into the thick softwood growth.

Eastern Phoebes were reported in Caribou, Chapman, Easton, Presque Isle, Stockholm and Woodland. Hermit Thrushes are also showing up in numbers now though no singing has been reported. The thrushes were seen in Chapman, New Sweden in 2 locations, Orient and Woodland.

A Brown Creeper was a good find in Fort Fairfield on the 2nd.

The first arriving vireos and warblers added some long-missed music to area woodlots this week. Blue-headed Vireos arrived on the 3rd in numbers (Caribou, New Sweden, Westmanland, Woodland). Though the first individuals were trickling into the area on the 2nd, literally hundreds of Yellow-rumped warblers appeared on the landscape on the morning of the 3rd. Northern Waterthrushes were quick to occupy their territories and fill the alder swales with their song. Singing waterthrushes were heard at Collins Pond, New Sweden, Stockholm and Woodland. Other new warblers seen this week included an early Magnolia Warbler at LaPomkeag Lake, a Palm Warbler on the and a the first-of-season Black-throated Green Warblers in Woodland.

Most of the overwintering flock of American Tree Sparrows vacated my yard in Woodland on the night of the 4th and were quickly replaced by an equal sized group of arriving White-crowned Sparrows. The last Fox Sparrow left my yard on the 3rd. White-throated Sparrow song is a dominant part of the dawn chorus in the woods these days. A singing Swamp Sparrow was a new addition at Collins Pond on the 7th.

It was a good week for finches. A few White-winged Crossbills were encountered in New Sweden and Stockholm. Always a rare species in northern Maine, a singing male House Finch was a first for me at Collins Pond on the 7th. My last Common Redpoll lingered through the 4th but has not been seen again since. Evening Grosbeak and Gold and Purple Finch flocks remain regular visitors to my feeders.