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!

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