Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Collins Pond Geese: Another look at the Snow and MORE Greenland Canadas

Another look at Saturday's Snow Goose

As posted earlier, there were alot of Canada Geese flying into Collins Pond in Caribou last Saturday. I joined a bunch of goose enthusiasts and watched from the park on the south side of the pond as the flocks arrived. Apparently, others around town were also enjoying the spectacle from their vantage points. Nadeen Plourde sent me a note saying, she too, watched the geese flocks as they flew over her house on the way from the fields to Collins Pond on that same beautiful Saturday morning. Coincidently, Nadeen even saw the lone Snow Goose in a flock and got this nice photo of the sharp looking bird as it flew by!

MORE Greenland Canada Geese at Collins Pond

On Tuesday at 5:15 PM Collins Pond was as full of geese as I have seen it this fall. Probably 2,500+ geese. I didn't have much time, but I couldn't drive by with giving the geese a quick scan!
After a couple days of rain, the clouds had lifted and the geese were stretching and getting active in late afternoon sun. The birds were muttering to each other the way they do when its getting time to get up and out of the pond and off to the field to feed. Between the warm sunshine and slowly rising tenor of the combined goose chorus, it was quite nice and I wished I had an hour to spend!

Almost immediately I spotted two Canada Geese with yellow neck collars showing well in the sun. Expecting these to be the Greenland Canada Geese found here on Saturday (GLF and GLU), I was surprised to see these birds had different codes. GBH and GBI. Two MORE Canada geese from Greenland!

I was flushed with my quick success in finding something "good" so quickly on the pond. I gave the rest of geese (which were now mostly backlit) a once-over to make sure there there were no obvious other unusual birds in the mix and then headed home.

Of course I sent off a report of my discovery to Greenland goose researchers Tony Fox and David Stroud as soon as possible and they promptly replied. GBH and GBI were indeed some more Greenland Canada Geese!

However, the code combinations I reported were used on birds banded back in 1997...AND these birds were NOT fitted with collars and had only leg bands with these codes... Hmmm.

As much as I hate to think I mis-read the codes on the collars, the only alternative hypothesis I could come up with was that the geese marked GBH and GBI, on living to a ripe old age, had somehow gotten custom monogrammed neck collars and fitted themselves with these. Not especially likely.

Today I will try to revisit the pond, relocate these geese and recheck the collar codes. Maybe with my scope and camera I can get it right this time! Good birding.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Canada Geese from Greenland

Late Saturday AM, I stopped by Collins Pond in Caribou to watch the big flock of Canada Geese return to the pond after a morning of feeding. A dozen or so other people also had the same idea on this glorious morning. The birds didn't disappoint and started filing in almost as soon as I arrived... a dozen up to fifty at a time.

One of the early arriving flocks came in with a lone adult Snow Goose in its midst. This was only the second of this species I've seen this year. It was a nice bonus surprise.

After about 45 minutes, an estimated 1,800 Canada Geese had arrived back in the pond and the flow of geese slowed to a trickle. A thorough inspection of the pond-full of waterfowl revealed no other unusual species (beyond the Snow Goose), however, I did note a couple of the new arrivals that were sporting neck yellow neck collars.

With my spotting scope, I was able to get a much closer look and the Canada Geese and was able to make out three letter alpha codes on the yellow collars: GLF and GLU... It appeared these were some of the geese that are being marked in Greenland as part of Greater White-fronted Goose research there. (Last year a flock of five similarly-marked Canada Geese spent the latter half of the month of October in the Caribou area and were thoroughly blogged up here...).

When I returned home, I checked my records for the alpha codes on these 2008 geese and found that one (GLF) was one of these five seen last year.

I was able to snap a few pictures of the pair and sent one out, with news of the resighting, to the researchers Tony Fox and David Stroud. Tony and David responded to say that GLF (a female) had returned to Isunngua, in southwest Greenland after wintering in the US in 2008-2009. The crew there had spotted it with some other geese during their trapping/marking work in July 2009. GLU (a male) was also originally marked in 2008 but hadn't been seen since!

A straight line between Isunngua, Greenland and Caribou, Maine is 1,500 miles. I'm sure the path travelled by these geese was a winding one and more miles were covered.... A long trip to make once, let alone three times...

Amazing stuff right happens right in my home "patch".

A link to the Greenland Goose resighting page is here:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 1 -14 September 2009

Its been a while since I posted...

Lots of birds are departing and there has been little to slow the southbound migration over the past two weeks. Weather in northern Maine has been characterized by clear warm days and crisp nights with gentle and favorable breezes. Precipitation has been almost non-existent north of Presque Isle for a couple of weeks and rivers and streams are approaching record lows.

All the low water is making for excellent conditions for observing shorebirds this year. Substantial amounts of bare shoreline along streams as well as some farm ponds lowered by irrigation withdrawals have resulted in some nice spots for shorebirds to feed.

Most of the grain crop in the area has been harvested and potato harvest has begun. On cue, birds are congregating to take advantage of the abundant feed in the form of crop residue. The burgeoning fruit and cone crop is almost ripe and looks like a really good one. Fall insect swarms are being enjoyed by interesting mixed flocks of bug-eating birds.

Waterfowl highlights lately are as much about numbers as unusual species. A huge collection of waterfowl has assembled at Christina Reservoir this month to finish their molt back into the attractive plumages we know and enjoy. Over 600 Ring-necked Ducks were counted here on the 11th. 140 + Green-winged Teal were seen coming into the pond at sundown on the 9th. Over in Lake Josephine in Easton, Gadwall counts are regularly over 50 birds. Four nearly full grown juvenile Redheads have been frequenting a wetland nearby and at least 9 Ruddy Ducks, now in winter plumage, are also dependable here. A flock of 11 Blue-winged Teal were seen at Collins Pond in Caribou on the 4th.

Northern Shovelers and American Wigeon have been spotted in many locations around central and northern Aroostook County lately. Other than the dependable locations at Easton and Fort Fairfield, the Shovelers were reported in Ashland, Caribou and Mars Hill in the past two weeks.

American Wigeon have mostly completed their molt back into bright colors. During the molt as many as 270 were associating with the huge Ring-necked Duck flock in Christina Reservoir. These birds have dispersed a bit and wigeon are being spotted widely. 14 at Collins Pond on the 4th and 35 at Brise Coulotte Lake in St. Agatha were high counts.

Canada Goose flocks are building rapidly with new arrivals daily. Flocks roosting during the days in protected locations in Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Washburn are all approaching 1000+ birds. No unusual geese have been reported yet.

Common Loons were seen many locations recently. This year's juveniles seemed to do well and many have reached nearly adult size now. High counts of Pied-billed Grebes recently were 19 seen on Christina Reservoir on the 4th and 11 seen on the south end of Long Lake in Sinclair. The brood that hatched from a nest on Daigle Pond in New Canada appear to be doing well.

There were several exceptional wader reports this period. The highlight was a Least Bittern calling from the cattails on the south side of Christina Reservoir on the 10th. The bird was heard a dusk and refused to come into view despite some playback of the call. As far as I'm aware, this was only the second record of this species here. Up in Fort Kent an adult Black-crowned Night Heron was roosting in the big silver maples at the mouth of the Fish River on the 13th. Also noteworthy is a Great Egret that has been skulking around the wetlands on the north side of Christina Reservoir for the past couple weeks. Though not unprecedented here, this long stayer is still a rarity.

Great Blue Heron numbers have peaked with a dozen reported along the Aroostook river in Fort Fairfield on the 14th and as many as 5 crowded into Collins Pond this week. American Bitterns also appear to be on the move. This species was seen in several wetlands this week around Christina Reservoir and photographed nicely here by Paul Cyr.

The raptor highlight for early September was a Peregrine Falcon seen several times around Christina Reservoir over the past two weeks. The hawk was seen on one of the farm roads near the reservoir feeding on an adult Gadwall on the 4th.

Turkey Vultures were noted as far north as St. John Plantation near Fort Kent on Sept 3. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and American Kestrels were frequently reported. Paul Cyr sent photographed this gorgeous male harrier in Presque Isle as it finished up a meal. The latest Osprey report at this point in the season is one seen at St. Agatha on the 13th

Two Common Moorhens (an apparent adult and almost adult sized juvenile) were seen at Christina Reservoir on the 6th. A Virginia Rail was spotted at Lake Josephine on the 4th.

As mentioned, good numbers of shorebirds continue to be spotted this fall. Most tantalizing was a report of Red-necked Phalaropes landing in Christina Reservoir on the 4th. Though not yet confirmed, the presence of this species in Aroostook County would be noteworthy. Three Black-bellied Plovers at Christina Reservoir on the 6th were also a great find. Pectoral Sandpipers were seen at Collins Pond on the 7th (3); Limestone Stream impoundment in Limestone on the 11th (3) and Mars Hill Town Pond on the 13th (1).

Another uncommon shorebird in these parts, White-rumped Sandpipers were seen at Christina Reservoir (1) on the 6th and at the Limestone pond (1) on the 11th. A high count of Semipalmated Plovers was tallied along the south shore of Christina Reservoir on the 6th when 73 came to roost on a mud bar here. 28 Least Sandpipers were also counted here.

Gull numbers continue to increase. Though no true rareties have turned up yet, 6 Bonapartes Gulls seen at Long Lake in Sinclair back on August 29th are uncommon enough to be worth mentioning. Another juvenile Boney was seen on the north end of the lake in St Agatha on September 13th.

The saga of the brightly marked Ring-billed Gull photographed in Presque Isle by Ken Lamb last May continues. This gull was originally captured and marked as part of a study of gulls that winter on drinking water supplies in Massachusetts. The bird was captured in a rocket net baited with Cheezits in the parking lot of the Walmart in Northborough, MA on 7 October 2008.

Ken Lamb spotted it during its spring migration at the Walmart parking lot here in Presque Isle on 31 May 2009. The bird was next documented up in Port Daniel, Quebec on the south shore of the Gaspe peninsula on the 26th of July 2009.

Most recently the gull is on the move again, apparently heading south and was spotted at the Frederiction Wastewater Treatment plant in New Brunswick on the 9th and 10th of September! Good stuff!

The last Common Terns at the Long Lake nesting colony in St. Agatha were seen on the 29th of August.

The last pulse of migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds passed through the area in early September. Three, including an adult male, lingered at my feeders in Woodland through the 8th. The last juvenile departed on the 13th, a bit on the late side of things. Patty Jennings got this great shot of a juvie in Stacyville on the 11th.

Lingering swallows were also reported. A late-passing flock of swallows was seen feeding over the Pelletier Island causeway on 29 August. The flock was made up of a single, exceptionally late Bank Swallow, 2 Cliff Swallows and 6 Barn Swallows. Very late Barn Swallows were also seen on the 11th in Easton and on the 14th in Caribou. Two migrating Chimney Swifts over Caribou on the 29th of August were the latest by a week in my records.

The last Common Nighthawks reported in the county were two seen over Route 1 in Littleton at sundown on the 2nd. On the 11th, Gray Jays at the Muscovic Road in Stockholm and a family group of Boreal Chickadees at Madawaska Lake were noisy birds in otherwise quiet woods.

A female Black-backed Woodpecker was seen near Beardsley Brook in New Sweden on the 13th. The last Eastern Kingbird and Least Flycatcher were reported on 30 August and a somewhat tardy Alder Flycatcher was seen at Christina Reservoir on the 4th. Juvenile Eastern Phoebes are still being encountered through the end of the period.

A very late singing male Warbling Vireo spent a week at Collins Pond from the 7th through the 13th before departing. Blue-headed Vireos continue to be encountered and are also still mumbling some partial songs in the hours around daybreak.

Migrating thrushes have been moving through steadily with Veeries dominating the counts in early September. Pulses of American Robins have likewise been noted. A male Eastern Bluebird was seen near the golf course in Presque Isle on the 11th.

Warbler migration is winding down and appears to have gone very well for the birds in this area. Nearly the entire period of peak migration was favorable weather conditions and no large fallouts which would indicate traveling problems were noted. Currently Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green are apparently the only warbler species still passing through the area in numbers.

Chipping, Song and White-throated Sparrows numbers have increased recently. A Lincoln's Sparrow was seen on the Muscovic Road in Stockholm on the 13th. Absent from the area for most of summer a group of 8 White-winged Crossbills were also spotted on the Muscovic Road. With the ample cone crop, its likely these will become more common as autumn progresses.