Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cormorant Carvings

My good friend Russell Mount, from Castle Hill, sent me some pictures of a couple of Double-crested Cormorant carvings he just finished up. Since I like these birds so much I thought I'd share. The birds are hand carved northern Maine cedar, painted in artist oils.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Northern Maine Birds 1-15 February 2009

Temperatures see-sawed over the first two weeks of February and on eight nights I saw sub-zero temps in my little valley. The National Weather Service recently confirmed the -50 degree temperature recorded at the Big Black River in late January so that becomes Maine's official record lowest temperature ever. The birds have definitely been sticking close to feeders wherever they are available.

With the exception of a bit of rain on the 12th, there hasn't been much precipitation. Snow depth remains at about 2-2.5 feet in the woods in central Aroostook County and 3+ north and west. A few spots of water opened on streams in the area, but otherwise all remains frozen. Ice fishermen are reporting 36+ inches of ice on lakes.

Waterfowl seen so far this month were a dozen each of Mallards and American Black Ducks that are splitting their time at various patches of open water in Presque Isle. Only two hen Common Goldeneyes are left in the water below the Aroostook River dam in Caribou and a single drake goldeneye was seen on the 5th on Presque Isle Stream in PI.

Bald Eagles (adults) were reported from Ashland, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Stockolm. A young Northern Goshawk was seen on the 2nd 3rd and 7th in Caribou. An adult Goshawk was visiting a yard full of birds in another Caribou locale early in the month. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen over downtown Presque Isle on the 5th and 13th. Rare in the middle of winter, a Rough-legged Hawk was spotted near the landfill in Limestone on the 9th.

Two first winter Iceland Gulls amongst 30+ Great Black-backed Gulls circling over Caribou on the 9th were a nice surprise . The flock of gulls was the first seen in the area since mid December.

The young male Snowy Owl continues to be seen daily at the intersection of Route 10 and the Cleaves Road in southeast Presque Isle. Ken Lamb got this great flight shot...impressive toenails!

Caribou's overwintering Northern Flicker continued through the period. The bird is surviving on a suet/seed diet and is no doubt, looking forward to warmer days with tasty ants on the menu. Bill Hersey got this shot through his office window this week.

No Pileated Woodpeckers were seen but one was heard drumming in Mars Hill. Downy's and Hairy's were widely reported.

A Northern Shrike, ineffectually chasing Mourning Doves around a feeder in Caribou on the 6th, was the only one reported. Two Gray Jays were regular visitors to a feeder at Madawaska Lake in T16R5.

Blue Jays continue to be seen in large numbers across the area. Mary Collishaw sent along this fun shot from north Caribou.

In addition to the usual horde of Black-cappeds, a Boreal Chickadee was seen at a feeder in St David in Madawaska on the 8th. Both varieties of nuthatches were reported in low numbers. Always uncommon in northern Maine, a Brown Creeper was a noteworthy visitor at a yard in Presque Isle in late January.

Small flocks of Bohemian Waxwings were seen on 8th and 14th in Presque Isle. More Northern Cardinal reports came in this week. 2 females were visiting feeders at an intown location in Caribou on the 6th, a male continues at a feeder in rural Caribou and another female was seen in a yard in Presque Isle.

The overwintering White-throated Sparrow continued to show up intermittently at my feeders in Woodland. I last spied the bird on Valentines Day. Small groups of American Tree Sparrows were part of most reports recieved in the past two weeks. The huge flock of Snow Buntings continues at a feedlot on Route 1A in Easton. 1,000+ were counted here as recently as the 13th. At least one Lapland Longspur also continues amongst the Easton Snow Buntings.

Snow Buntings were also seen in Caribou, Chapman, Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield. An ermine was reported to have made an unsuccessful try to catch a Snow Bunting last week at a feeder in Caribou. Dark-eyed Juncos are usually quite uncommon in northern Maine in all but the most snow-less winters. However, a few are still being seen this winter in Aroostook county: reports of single birds this week came from Linneus and Presque Isle.

Pine Grosbeaks continue to be one of the more commonly reported species. Flocks numbering up into the mid 20's were visiting yards in Stockholm, Caribou, Portage Lake, Chapman, Mapleton, Mars Hill, Presque Isle, Westfield and Woodland. Craig Robinson captured the Pine Grosbeak image at the top of this post just before a wild snow squall hit. Patty Jennings got this great action shot in her yard in Stacyville. Evening Grosbeaks were less widely reported with small groups and singles noted in Island Falls, Linneus, New Sweden, Presque Isle and Caribou. Twenty six are visiting my feeders in Woodland.

Pine Siskins appeared in numbers across the area over the last two weeks. Large flocks (50+) are cleaning out feeders in Presque Isle and Caribou. Common Redpolls and American Goldfinches are also being seen in numbers but their distribution remains spotty. 12 White-winged Crossbills were in Woodland on the 14th and single female is coming to a feeder in Chapman. A rare find this far north, a female House Finch was photographed in Presque Isle.

Also rare in northern Maine, a small flock of House Sparrows was working the parking lot at McDonalds in Presque Isle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Birding Opportunity in northern Maine

Here is a great opportunity for birder/volunteer at the State Park here in northern Maine. Please spread the word. Sounds great for a retired couple with an RV or any adventuresome birder looking for a place to spend the summer and ornithologically explore northern Maine.

Looks like a sweet gig to me!

Aroostook State Park, Presque Isle, Maine

Birding / Campground Host Needed:

The Maine Department of Conservation is seeking applicants for campground host for the
2009 camping season at Aroostook State Park in northern Maine. This volunteer position
is provided a free campground site with water, power, and sewer hookup. Season runs from approximately mid May through mid Sept.

Prefer active birder or birding couple familiar with northern Maine bird identification to
lead weekly bird walks in the Park and to assist Park staff in campground maintenance.
Work schedule is 20 hrs. / 5 days per week per volunteer. Work schedule is very flexible.
Host will also assist in the organization and presentation of Aroostook Park Birding Festival on June 13th, 2009. Aroostook Park Birding Festival is a day long program that focuses on the native birds of northern Maine and includes bird walks and an informational program for campers and local residents.

Aroostook State Park is comprised of 800 acres with a 30 site campground. The Park is
located in Presque Isle, Maine along the western shore of Echo Lake, The oldest park in
Maine’s System, Aroostook State Park is mostly forested and includes 7 miles
of hiking trails on and around Quoggy Jo Mountain. Over 100 species of birds have been
identified at Aroostook State Park.

To apply, send resume, arriving no later than February 28, 2009 to:

Scott Thompson
Park Manager
Aroostook State Park
87 State Park Rd.
Presque Isle, Maine 04757

Monday, February 2, 2009

Up on the roof and another Snowy Owl

Here in northern Maine, a few times a winter, I have to spend a day and shovel off the roof of my house...and porch...and parts of my barn..and shed. On the out-buildings its done purely to relieve the snow load (literally tons of weight from the snow).

On the house, the snow cover provides insulation which is good... to a degree. Unfortunately, I've found, if left unattended, the attractive snow blanket on my less-than-fully-insulated house roof melts on the bottom layers. The melt water travels down to the eave where it refreezes in breathtakingly large ice dams. The ice dams create awesome leaks during melting times and cleave off gutters, railings and other parts of my house when they eventually fall off so,... off the snow must come.

Its hard work but I really don't mind it. Particularly because it gives me an good opportunity to watch my yard birds from an unusual perspective... at and below eye level.

On Sunday I had a large flock of Snow Buntings and Evening Grosbeaks with a handful of Pine Grosbeaks, American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls and American Tree Sparrows working the feeders while I scraped up the snow above them. A handful of White-winged Crossbills buzzed me and lit in my nieghbor's pines to feed. Best of all was Gray Jay that emerged from the Woodland Bog across the street and gnawed on my suet bags for a while.

Today on my way back from an afternoon meeting I stopped at a feedlot in Easton and watched an impressive aggregation of Snow Buntings that has been feeding here for about a month. Though even a marginally accurate count was impossible with some portion of the flock always in motion, I would say 2,500+ buntings are present here. There were at least two Lapland Longspurs in the horde. Starlings, Ravens and American Crows made up the balance of the bird life here.

Late in the afternoon, the Snowy Owl was back at the curve on Route 10 between Easton and Presque Isle. Paul Cyr was able to come over and got these great pictures of the apparent young male before the sun faded.