Sunday, June 28, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 9-29 June 2009

Like most of the state, northern Maine has recently been stuck in a long stretch of gloomy weather. The amount of precipitation that has actually fallen however, has been quite variable thanks to spotty showers. Areas in southern Aroostook recently experienced heavy rainfall over the 19th through 21st. The Caribou weather station in central Aroostook county is currently reporting monthly total precipitation almost one half inch below normal for June. River and stream levels are only slightly above long term medians for this time of year.

Temperatures have been nearly normal for the latter half of the month.

Nesting activity is now at its peak with new fledglings appearing daily.

The birding festival at Aroostook State Park on the 13th was a success with great weather, good numbers of birds and lots of visitors. About 150 birders tallied over fifty species in the morning during 6 birdwalks. The highlight for me was a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird building a nest in a small birch tree near the campground road. Ken Lamb got this great photo and has posted more here.

So far, nesting waterfowl in central and northern Aroostook appear to have avoided the rising water levels that are apparently flooding some nests to the south. Lots of broods of Mallards, Black Ducks, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneyes and Hooded Mergansers have been seen.
Recent waterfowl highlights include appearances of one hen and three drake Redheads on the 28th and at least 5 displaying Ruddy Duck males on the 19th at Lake Josephine in Easton. Three pairs of Blue-winged Teal were seen in Limestone on the 23rd. Thought there are quite a few male Gadwall, American Wigeon and Northern Shovelers being seen at Lake Jo, females with broods of young have yet to make an appearance.

The Northern Goshawk that nested at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Presque Isle has raised its young to the point of fledging and its likely that bicyclists will again be able to ride the trails here, unmolested. Paul Cyr sent along a picture of one of the gangly blue eyed nestlings taken last week. American Kestrel males were seen in Caribou, Easton, Limestone, Presque Isle, Chapman and Woodland.

An Osprey nest in T16R5 was recently ravaged by a particularly wild thunderstorm and the nest platform was tipped and the contents lost. A Bald Eagle was seen fishing on the Fish River near the Hewes Brook Crossing in T14R7 on the 21st. Increasingly encountered in northern Maine, (as many as) four Turkey Vultures have been seen in the Fort Fairfield and Easton areas last week.

An American Bittern feeding in a roadside ditch in T14 R8 allowed a fabulous photo and behavior watching session on the 21st. The skulky wader was observed from as close as 20 feet as it fed on tadpoles, Dobsonfly larvae (hellgrammites), adult dragonflies and an apparent Ambystoma salamander. The bittern was most impressive as it snagged the fast moving dragonflies out of the air. Scott Surner was able to get this great shot just as the bird was putting the clamp down on another Odonate!

Broods of almost-flight-capable Ruffed Grouse chicks were seen in several spots in central and southern Aroostook County last week. A late drumming male was heard in Castle Hill on the 14th

A great discovery last week, two Common Moorhens were found in a wetland near Lake Josephine in Easton. This area once supported some Maine's only breeding Moorhens but this species hadn't been reported here since 2000. Sora and Virginia Rails were also well seen here on the 19th. Probably the eastern US's northern-most breeders, a pair of Upland Sandpipers on the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Limestone provided great looks last Friday (19th). Scott Surner got this nice shot as one passed by.

More young owls continue to turn up around the area. On the 19th, an adult Great-horned Owl was attending a youngster on the edge of a wetland in Easton in the gloomy mid afternoon. Scott Surner sent up a picture of the owlet.

Down in the Riviere-des-Chutes valley in Easton, a family of Barred Owls has left the nest box and are skulking around the woods there. Paul Cyr came upon one of the dour young and got the great picture up at the top of this post.

A pair of Common Nighthawks seen over Lake Josephine on the 19th were another nice surprise. As previously mentioned nighthawks are uncommon breeders in northern Maine.

Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers were heard in Stockholm on the 17th but have gone undetected since. This is not surprising considering both species are probably busily feeding young now. Another Black-backed was reported near Van Buren on the 16th. Plenty of Gray Jays were seen foraging with young last week (Stockholm, Sinclair, T14R8). Interestingly, all were attended by scolding Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Though probably not exceptionally rare in northern Maine, a Philadelphia Vireo is a difficult bird to ID by song. One particularly vocal individual distinguished itself from the Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos and was seen in Perham on the 18th.

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were widely encountered as they called in their favored dense cedar/spruce scrub habitat. Olive-sided Flycatchers were heard in Limestone, Stockholm T13R5 and T15R8. Since northern Maine is approaching the northern limit of their breeding area, Great-crested Flycatchers are always worthy of mention. This bird photographed by Patty Jennings in Stacyville apparently found a nest box to its liking.

Very rare in northern Maine, the Northern Mockingbird first discovered last month, was seen again at the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha on the 20th. A Brown Thrasher has seen regularly near the airport in Presque Isle.

Wood warblers continue in full song in northern Maine. Among the more sought-after species encountered last week in central Aroostook County: Tennesee Warblers were heard in Portage Lake and Woodland, Cape May Warblers were singing in New Sweden, Stockholm and T13R7, Bay-breasted Warblers were heard in Limestone, Sinclair and T13R7 and Mourning Warblers were encountered at Aroostook NWR in Limestone and near the Salmon Brook Bog in Perham. Palm Warblers were found in a regenerating clear cut off the McLean Brook Road in Sinclair and a male Wilson's Warbler was singing in an alder swale in T14R8. Singing Canada Warblers continue to be widely reported. Blackpoll Warblers were reported long the Stockholm to Van Buren Rail trail on the 16th.

The birding highlight this month was the discovery of Aroostook county's first-ever Clay-colored Sparrow in a shrubby field near the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The bird, first found on the 8th, lasted through at least the 17th and was seen and heard by many observers. Mike Fahay was there on the 16th and got this great picture. With plenty of appropriate habitat around, the bird may well still be in the area.

Another good sparrow find was 5+ singing male Fox Sparrows seen and heard on the 18th and 21st along the Rocky Brook and Hewes Brook Roads north west of Portage Lake. One dependable male has been singing near the Chase Brook bridge on the Rocky Brook Road in T13R7.

Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Caribou, Easton, Portage Lake and Woodland.

Good Birding

Monday, June 8, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 29 May -8 June 2009

The pattern of cool breezy weather continued through the first week of June here in northern Maine. Average winds were 5+ miles per hour with gusts in the teens to 20's mph on nearly every day. For temperature, most days started in the high 30s and peaked in the low sixties. A few showers punctuated the warmer days.

This sweater weather helped keep the biting bugs to a minimum. Trees are mostly leaved-out. A good cone set appears to be in the making...more on that later!

It appears to be an exceptional year for blossoming fruit trees and shrubs. Apples, Cherries, Cranberries and Mountain Ash have exceptional volume of flowers this year. Unfortunately there are very few pollinators around the trees.

Spring migration is winding down and though there were a few traveling individuals still trickling through or just arriving, most of the birds are now getting down to the business of raising young.

New and arriving species this week

Semipalmated Sandpiper (6/2)
Common Nighthawk (6/5)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (6/4)
Purple Martin (6/1)
Brown Thrasher (6/5)

The waterfowl highlight this week was a late migrant Brant that touched down for the day at Lake Josephine in Easton on the 3rd. This little goose is more commonly found in coastal setting and rarely seen inland. There are only a handful of records of Brant in northern Maine but this was the second found this spring! A close look at the great pictures that discoverer Paul Cyr took, shows some feather molt happening on the breast and neck. Shiny-black new feathers are replacing some of the worn remnants of its faded juvenal plumage. Also noteworthy, one last White-winged Scoter was also on the pond this week. Like the Brant, this individual seemed to be a youngster which explains the bird's slightly-behind-schedule movement northward.

A male Mallard x American Black Duck hybrid has been seen regularly here this week.

Other notables at Lake Josephine include Ruddy Ducks, Blue and Green winged Teal, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and Common Goldeneye. Lake Jo is rapidly becoming a boys club as the females disappear (presumably onto nests in the remote nooks and crannies of this large wetland complex). Pairs of later nesting species seen included Blue-winged Teal, 8 (!) pairs of Gadwall and a few Ring-necked Ducks.

The first broods of Mallards and American Black Ducks were reported in the area this week. One family made short work of a vernal pools-worth of tadpoles in T8R7 in northern Penobscot county.

Raptor species reported this week included Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Harrier, Broad Winged, Red-tailed , Sharp-shinned Hawks and Northern Goshawk. As predicted earlier, it looks like the Bald Eagles at the Stevensville area nest in Fort Fairfield abandoned without producing young. Ken Lamb found a vocal goshawk that would pose for him in Presque Isle.

At high noon on the 3rd, both Sora and Virginia Rails were heard at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield

A late-migrant Semipalmated Sandpiper at Nadeau late on the 2nd was a good find. Though regular along the coast in spring, they're a tough bird to see inland. A male American Woodcock was still displaying behind my house in Woodland on the 3rd.

My first Common Nighthawk of the season was spotted over a clearcut in western-most Caswell this week. The bird was flying and doing its booming display in the middle of the day. This display probably indicates a breeding bird on territory rather than a late migrant. Common Nighthawks are rare breeders this far north.

Several pairs of Barred Owls were reported this week. In addition to pairs seen in Presque Isle and Fort Faifield, a pair in the Riviere-des-Chutes area of Easton is being seen moving to and from a nesting box in a tree there. Again Paul Cyr was there in the early AM to document the birds as they hunted.

Most woodpeckers are feeding young now. Some bedraggled and stained females are showing up as incubation ends and the period of fledgling feeding begins. An American Three-toed Woodpecker was found near Martin Pond in Caswell this week.

With the late arrival of Eastern Wood-Pewee (Fort Fairfield) the full complement of breeding flycatchers are now present. Yellow-Bellieds were heard in Caswell, Cyr, Hamlin, New Sweden and Woodland and Olive-sideds are vocally proclaiming territories in Caswell and Hamlin. A Least Flycatcher nest with three eggs was found in a small birch near Lake Josephine this week. the Great-crested Flycatchers were carrying nesting material into a snag cavity in the Nature Conservancy's Woodland Bog Preserve here in Woodland.

Cedar Waxwings were widely reported this week. Small flocks were seen gobbling up apple blossom petals in many locations. Ken Lamb photographed this dour pair in Chapman this week. A Bank Swallow colony along the Aroostook River near Camp Nomacca in Mapleton had 40+ birds early last week. A former breeder in Aroostook County, the first Purple Martins (2) reported in the area several years are said to be visiting a house in Stockholm. The first Brown Thrasher reported this year was seen near the Presque Isle Airport.

A flurry of Eastern Bluebird reports and sightings seems to support the assertion that a late arriving wave of bluebirds moved into the area in late May. Pairs Eastern Bluebirds were seen in Garfield Plantation, Oxbow, Perham, Portage Lake, Presque Isle, Stockholm and Woodland. At the top of this post, Paul Cyr photographed a pair feeding young out on the Mouse Island Road in Perham on the 7th. Kathy Hoppe sent over a picture of her male as it posed from the railing of her porch in Portage Lake.

More Gray Jay families were seen this week. These included several in the Salmon Brook Bog in Perham and four in Hamlin on the 6th.

"Only" seventeen species of warbler were reported this week. Noteworthy were the late arriving Blackpolls that were heard in Fort Fairfield, Hamlin, Washburn and Woodland and continued through at least the 4th of June. Other good warblers including a singing Mourning in Cyr Plantation and a Wilson's in Perham on the 6th as well as several singing Blackburnian and Bay-breasteds in Aroostook State Park in Presque Isle on the 8th.

Singing Lincoln's Sparrows were heard in many locations north of Presque Isle this week. While most were located in regenerating clear cuts or fields, at least one Lincoln's was found down in the Salmon Brook Bog in Perham.

A recent addition to the list of species of to worry about, a Rusty Blackbird was seen carrying food across a recently flooded clearcut off the McLean Brook Road in Sinclair. It would appear this birds are now feeding fledglings!

A few Pine Siskins are still being seen amongst the American Goldfinches and Purple Finches wherever seed is still being doled out. A pair of Evening Grosbeaks continues to visit my yard in Woodland daily.