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.