Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Northern Maine Birds 14-21 April 2010

Weather over the past week was more seasonable with frosty nights and cool days.

Some of the larger lakes are ice free now and the remnant snow banks are getting hard to find in eastern Aroostook. Precipitation has been minimal (snow flurries and showers) and water levels are dropping in the larger rivers.

Some hardwoods have begun to flower and leaf buds are forming well. Butterflies, moths and amphibians have already been well reported at early dates across the area.

Arriving migrants and new species reported this week are:

Lesser Scaup 4/14
Redhead 4/17
Common Eider 4/4
Long-tailed Duck 4/14
Ruddy Duck 4/14
Double-crested Cormorant 4/16
Sandhill Crane 4/18
Lesser Black-backed Gull 4/15
Three-toed Woodpecker 4/17
Winter Wren 4/17
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4/17
Hermit Thrush 4/17
Chipping Sparrow 4/21
Savannah Sparrow 4/21
Swamp Sparrow 4/20

Though large flocks of Canada Geese continue to push through the area no other notable geese were spotted this week. Quite early, one Canada Goose was found on a nest by the 20th.

Interesting duck arrivals were, as expected, found at Lake Josephine in Easton. A returning Redhead was reported on the 17th and two male Ruddy Ducks have been seen here since the 14th. A male Lesser Scaup also arriving on the 14th, tied my previous early date for this species. A very early male Common Eider seen on Easter Sunday was the first to make appearance in northern Maine this season.

Long-tailed Ducks made an unusually good showing after first arriving on the 14th. Pairs were seen at Lake Josephine and Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield. These continued at these locations through the week. An unusually large flock of 14 Long-taileds were loudly calling on Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle on the morning of the 21st.

One of the two pairs of Barrow's Goldeneyes at Lake Jo was still hanging among the flock of 30+ Common Goldeneyes through the 16th. The Barrow's pair was seen copulating here. I thought this was notable considering the large distances to the nearest nesting locales in Quebec. There was little information available concerning the timing of copulation in the literature on this species, but I eventually found out that this duck species forms long-term pair bonds and is known to copulate on the wintering grounds and on their northward migration. Interesting stuff for a duck head.

The Green-winged Teal numbers built through the week and pairs and small flocks were commonly encountered around the area. Gadwall, Northern Shoveler and American Wigeon pairs continued to increase at Easton during the past few days. Paul Cyr captured this image of a big-lipped shoveler couple on the 21st. Other waterfowl seen this week included American Black Duck, Wood Duck, Mallard, Hooded and Common Mergansers and hordes of Ring-necked Ducks

Though I have heard of no recent assists from local releases, Wild Turkeys seem to be moving north and eastward in numbers lately. The big birds appear to be expanding their range through central Aroostook county this spring. Reports of the birds came in this week from Madawaska Lake (2), Limestone (1), Caribou (2) and Presque Isle (3). Paul Cyr photographed a pair that were strutting through the outskirts of Presque Isle on the 21st. Heres one of the colorful jakes on the wing...

Drumming Ruffed Grouse were encountered by many birders that ventured to the woods during the past week. Ken Lamb photographed and videoed the displaying male seen at the top of this post near his home early last week. Ken also posted a fantastic video he made of the same bird drumming madly on Youtube here. Crank up the volume! Its great.... There's sounds from at least four other species of birds on the video...can you identify them?

More early Pied-billed Grebes were seen this week at Puddledock Pond and Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield. A Common Loon was calling as it landed in Christina Reservoir on the 20th. The first Double-crested Cormorant of the season was perched on a small island at the mouth of Presque Isle Stream in Presque Isle on the 16th. This arrival date was right on schedule by my records.

The bird of the week goes to a Sandhill Crane that was spotted flying north along Route 1 in Westfield on Sunday. There are only a handful of records of these birds for northern Maine. As seen in this first through-the-windshield-shot, the bird's big size and extended neck as it flew were key in making this ID at a distance. The much more common Great Blue Heron is big but generally keeps its head tucked in and its long neck looped under it when flying. The big bird was winging its way through a snow squall and we were able to turn around and follow it for several miles before it landed in a large field off the Henderson Road in Presque Isle! Ever at the ready to jump in his vehicle and chase the rareties, Paul Cyr arrived on the scene quickly and was able to get this wonderful shot of this rare visitor as it legged its way around the field. The orange patches on the wings and neck are the result of staining from iron compounds rather than any bird produced pigments. The crane only stayed for a short while then continued on northward.

Rough-legged Hawks (all light phase) were seen in Stockholm (1) and Cyr Plantation (2) on the 17th. Northern Harrier and American Kestrels were reported in increasing numbers through the week.

Gull flocks continue to migrate through the area. Most interesting among these is at least three adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls that are splitting their time between Collins Pond in Caribou and the landfill in northern Fort Fairfield several miles away. I snapped a photo of one of the dark backed adults resting with a bunch of Herring Gulls at the top of the garbage heap on the 20th.

A Northern Hawk Owl was reported seen along Route 1 in Littleton on the exceptionally late date of April 11! The bird was seen near the spot where the first hawk owl of the winter was reported back in December 2009... It could well be the same bird lingering.

After a long dry spell, I was finally able to locate a Three-toed Woodpecker again this week. The male was feeding along a woods road in the northeastern part of Stockholm in an area of overgrown and reverting farm fields known as the California Settlement.

The first Winter Wrens and Hermit Thrushes of the the season were singing just off the Muscovic Road in Stockholm on the 17th. My first Ruby-crowned Kinglet was mumbling in the brush nearby on the same date.

Sparrow migration has been unusual so far this season. It appears that arriving sparrows are well dispersed and not showing up in concentrations at northern feeding stations. New arrivals this week included Swamp Sparrows which are singing at marshy locations in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle. A Savannah Sparrow was singing near the Presque Isle Airport on the 21st, and my first Aroostook Co. Chipping Sparrow was heard just down the street the following day. American Tree Sparrows continue to linger in small numbers at area feeders.

Mixed flocks of blackbirds continue to migrate through the area.

Purple Finches and White-winged Crossbills are currently quite common in "the woods" areas north and west of the Route 1 corridor in central Aroostook county . Handfuls of Pine Siskins are also being seen in these locations. A few Evening Grosbeaks are still being encountered as well. Hordes of American Goldfinches are visiting just about any feeder still offering seed. Paul Cyr got some nice shots of nearly-fully-molted males in Presque Isle on the 20th. Here's one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Northern Maine Birds 1-13 April 2010

There have been several pulses of migrant-arrivals in Northern Maine in the first couple weeks of April and though its hard to find time to post them all, the list is growing unwieldy...

New and arriving species since the beginning of April are:

Cackling Goose 4/13
Wood Duck 4/4
Gadwall 4/8
American Wigeon 4/1
Northern Pintail 4/4
Northern Shoveler 4/8
Ring-necked Duck 4/4
Barrow's Goldeneye 4/8
Common Loon 4/8
Pied-billed Grebe 4/8
Turkey Vulture 4/12
Osprey 4/11
Northern Harrier 4/4
Sharp-shinned Hawk (migrant) 4/8
Rough-legged Hawk 4/4
American Kestrel 4/1
Merlin 4/12
Wilson's Snipe 4/6
Belted Kingfisher 4/1
Northern Flicker 4/4
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4/9
Eastern Phoebe 4/4
Tree Swallow 4/4
Eastern Bluebird 4/5
White-throated Sparrow 4/11
Northern Cardinal (migrant) 4/10
Brown-headed Cowbird 4/4

Its been an unusual spring for arriving waterfowl. Thanks to the rapidly thawing ice and abundance of open water, areas where the ducks and geese usually congregate in spring are not holding birds for long. Many new arrivals have been quick to disperse or move on.

Most noteworthy among arriving duck migrants so far this month were Barrow's Goldeneyes seen at Lake Josephine in Easton on the 8th (2) and the 12th (4-two pairs). Northern Shoveler's didn't break the record for earliest arrival but were a week or so ahead of the typical date. A drake at Lake Jo on the 8th was joined by a female by the 12th. American Wigeon made an early appearance with the first pair showing at Easton on April Fools Day. Eight wigeon were seen in Fort Fairfield on the 4th, a pair at Limestone on the 5th and four were spotted. among a large flock of Mallards in Washburn on the 10th. Gadwall arrived en masse, with 7 seen feeding on the edge of the ice at Lake Josephine on the morning of the 8th. Likewise Ring-necked Ducks with large flocks appearing across the area overnight on the 4th. Though groups of ten to twenty were reported in Caribou, Washburn, Ashland and Presque Isle on that day, 75 migrant Ring-neckeds seen in a pond near the Aroostook river in Fort Fairfield was notable. On the 8th, 108 were tallied in a small wetland near Lake Josephine. Paul Cyr got the shot of the three newly arrived Ring-necked Ducks at the top of this post... You can even see the brown "ring" around the neck of the middle bird...a tough characteristic to spot most of the time.

A pair of Northern Pintails were feeding with a fifty Canada Geese in a flooded field at Fort Fairfield on the fourth. The first Wood Duck reported in the area was a drake seen in some flooded woods in Fort Fairfield. The bird was right on schedule by my records. common and Hooded Mergansers were seen across the county, where ever liquid water and tasty minnows could be found.

Rarest among the birds seen this period, a single Cackling Goose was grazing with a huge flock of Canada Geese on the lawns of Trafton Lake Park on the 13th. The miniature version of the Canada Goose is apparently a rare but regular visitor in the fall but spring records in this area are few...

Also noteworthy was the news that a couple of the marked Canada Geese from Greenland that stopped at Collins Pond in Caribou last fall are on their way north. Project leader, Tony Fox at the University of Aarhus in Denmark said that GC0 and GC7 seen last October by Casey Scheppele were spotted again on March 25 by observers in Quebec at Baie du Febvre, Lac Saint Pierre near Montreal!

Ruffed Grouse were heard drumming in Caribou and Presque Isle. The northern vanguard of Wild Turkeys has reached Portage Lake and, to my surprise, Woodland. I saw two jakes (young males) in the Woodland Bog on the 13th.

Many of the migratory raptors have returned with Northern Harrier being the most widely reported since a first sighting of a displaying male in Easton on the 4th. Male American Kestrels have also begun to appear on utility wires in the open areas in northern Maine. The kestrel's first appearance in Woodland was right on schedule when compared to the last 15years of arrival dates in my notes.. A first of season Merlin was flying due north over Presque Isle on the 1th. A dark phase Rough-legged Hawk was circling over a field near Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield on the 4th. Possibly the same pair that has nested in this location in past few years, two Red-tailed Hawks were hunting on the edge of this same field on the 8th.

A Turkey Vulture seen in northern-most Maine at St. John Plantation on the 12th was a notable observation. These big birds are quite rare in th
e county north of Island Falls.

An early Wilson's Snipe was doing its winnowing display on the warm evening of the 6th over the Nature Conservancy's Woodland Bog preserve in Woodland. Though I've yet to personally hear them, American Woodcock have been reported to be displaying at locations in central and southern Aroostook county.

An early Belted Kingfisher was r
eported at Barren Lake in Caribou on the 1st but no other sightings have been reported since then. On the other hand Northern Flickers were well seen after the first arrival in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle on the 4th. I had one (still a bit early) in my yard on the 10th and Paul Cyr got this great shot of the gorgeous individual in Presque Isle on the 4th. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have only just arrived in northern Maine in past 3 days.

Truly advanced in arrival dates were single Tree Swallows spotted on the 4th in Fort Fairfield and the 6th in Caribou. The previous early date I have for these in Aroostook County is April 13th back in 2003, aking these arrivals nine days early. Eastern Bluebirds were new on the 5th in Portage Lake and the 6th in Caribou.

After hardly as single report all winter, male Northern Cardinals seen at both Caribou and Presque Isle on the 10th would appear to be new arrivals. Late Bohemian Waxwings continue in the area with a big flock of 98 seen nibbling last fall's soft apples in Presque Isle on the 8th and 10 in Caribou on the 13th.

White-throated Sparrows have only just started trickling into the area as the first one was reported on Green Ridge in Caribou on the 11th and had reached my yard in Woodland by the 12th. American Tree Sparrows are still being seen and have been singing with gusto since the beginning of the month. No Fox Sparrows were reported thus far this season.

White-winged Crossbills, Purple Finches and American Goldfinches were widely reported. Pine Siskins have been hard to find lately but several were seen near Oxbow on the 10th and 6 Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Limestone on the 13th