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

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