Cool wet weather continued during most of July in northern Maine. As of the 29th, there had been precipitation on 19 days and the average temperature for the month was several degrees below normal. Water levels have remained above average in area streams and lakes but not exceptionally so.
While the cool weather certainly effected the availability of flying and terrestrial insects for the smaller birds to feed their young during this nesting season, it appears the vegetation has benefited from the frequent waterings. There is a heavy fruit, nut and cone crop ripening on some particularly lush plants.
Despite all the wet weather, water levels remained fairly stable in the nesting wetlands and it appears area waterfowl have had a productive season. The highlight is certainly the re-appearance of the hen Redhead with a brood of six ducklings at a wetland near Lake Josephine in Easton (7/24). Hatched much earlier, at least three different family groups of Northern Shoveler young are nearly adult size now and are being seen here regularly. Four Gadwall and 7 Ring-necked Duck families were tallied at Lake Jo on the the 24th. Hen Common and Hooded Mergansers with fuzzy young were seen at Gardner Pond in the Deboullie Ecological Reserve in T15R9 on 3 July. Three male Ruddy Ducks continue to be seen a Lake Josephine but there has been no sign of a hen for some time.
For the first time in a while the Common Loon pair at Madawaska Lake in T16 R5 successfully produced a chick. Dana Hallowell got a nice picture of the loon family and sent it over along with a picture of the nest and a dud egg that was left behind.
Large congregations of molting waterfowl are now being seen at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield and Lake Josephine. Recent high counts were 160+ Mallards at Lake Jo and 340+ Canada Geese, 270 Ring-necked Ducks and 130+ American Wigeon at Christina.
Though until recently were an uncommon sight in northern-most Maine, Turkey Vultures have put in a great showing this month. The birds were seen in Easton, Fort Fairfield Mars Hill, Garfield, St Agatha and T15R9. The latter bird was seen on the 3rd near Deboullie Mountain and was flying though the gloom on a rainy day.
A good assortment of raptors (9 species tallied) were encountered in the area this month.
Paul Cyr saw 21 Bald Eagles while on a powerchute trip down the Aroostook River from Presque Isle to Caribou to Fort Fairfield. One of the eagles received an escort by a particularly aggressive Merlin. Paul got a few pictures of the little hawk as it strafed the big young eagle.
Northern Harriers and American Kestrels are increasingly being seen in the fields and were each reported in many more localities than I'd like to list here. Paul Cyr's kestrel box in Presque Isle produced two young birds. The female kestrel pictured at the top of this post was hard at work feeding the growing chicks. A road-killed adult Northern Goshawk was found along the State Road in Ashland on the 26th. Other species seen were Osprey, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks.
The Common Moorhen pair continues at a wetland in Easton though the skulky pair are tough to glimpse. The birds were most recently seen on the 19th. Sora and Virginia Rails were both seen with young this month at Lake Josephine.
Southward shorebird migration began as a trickle in early July. A Least Sandpiper seen and heard over Lake Josephine on the 8th was the first definite migrant. This shorebird was followed by the first Solitary Sandpipers (4) and one each of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs seen at the same location on the 24th. Only a single Upland Sandpiper (seen at the Loring runway in Limestone) was reported in July.
An exciting report of a phalarope seen at Lake Josephine on the 27th has yet to be confirmed. A female Wilsons Phalarope was seen here back in May.
A Black-billed Cuckoo gave a fleeting glance as it glided over Greenlaw Stream at the Aroostook NWR on the 19th. This was the first for me this year in northern Maine.
Though Black-backed Woodpeckers were encountered at the western end of Gardner Lake in T15 R9 and along the Hewes Brook Road in T14 R8, Three-toed Woodpeckers went undetected this month. Regular visits to locations in New Sweden and Stockholm have produced little in the way of evidence that this species is still active in either area.
Though it has quieted down a bit, Marsh Wren continues to sing at the marsh in Easton where it has been seen since mid June. Always worth a mention when seen this far north, a Brown Thrasher was doing a little mid-day mumbling in some underbrush just outside the gate of Aroostook NWR in Limestone on the 19th. A strong singing Tennessee Warbler seen nearby was also a bit of a surprise this late in the season.
Thrush song seemed to surge a bit mid month, presumably as the birds completed production of this years crop of nestlings. American Robins were feeding their second round of nestlings in Stacyville and Presque Isle. Patty Jennings got a picture of one the parents feeding some hungry youngsters in her yard just before the birds fledged.
While all the commoner vireos continue to vocalize here in central Aroostook county, a singing Philadelphia Vireo observed in Mapleton on the ninth was a noteworthy discovery. An apparent migrant Cape May Warbler at Lake Josephine on the 24th and Mourning Warblers heard on the fourth in T14 R8 were also good finds. Yellow Warblers appear to be thinning out a bit already.
Sparrow sightings worth mentioning include a Vesper Sparrow seen in Limestone on the 9th and Fox Sparrows heard singing in T15 R9 and T14 R8 on the 4th and 5th respectively. A male Indigo Bunting singing in a clear cut in T14 R8 was a northernmost record for this species for me.
White-winged Crossbills have appeared in small numbers apparently in anticipation of the burgeoning cone crop. A few Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Ashland and Masardis on the 21st.