Sunday, May 2, 2010

Northern Maine Birds 22 April- 2 May 2010

As April waned, the last throes of winter passed quietly in northern Maine. Though few inches of short-lived snow fell on the 27th in the northern parts of Aroostook county, the weather has continued to be seasonable. All lakes are now ice free and the last shady snowbanks can only be found in northern-most locales.

Lawns have greened up, potatoes, broccoli and grain are all being planted and trees have begun to leaf out. The first black flies were reported on the first of May this year...early.

Migration has progressed steadily with two discernible pulses on the 23rd of April and May 2nd. After many record early arrivals of short distance migrants, things seem to be getting back on a bit more normal schedule.

New and arriving species this period:

Red-breasted Merganser 5/2
Broad-winged Hawk 4/24
Bonaparte's Gull 4/24
Blue-headed Vireo 4/23
Brown Thrasher 5/2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4/23
Black-and-white Warbler 5/2
Clay-colored Sparrow 5/2
Vesper Sparrow 5/2

Waterfowl highlights over the past ten days was more about increasing numbers than new arrivals. Eighteen species of waterfowl were reported with 3 Red-breasted Mergansers seen on Lake Josephine in Easton as the only arriving species. Common and Hooded Mergansers are still being encountered regularly though the females of those species are already getting hard to spot as they presumably begin nesting. 5 Long-tailed Ducks were seen on Lower LaPomkeag Lake in T8R7 in northern-most Penobscot County on the 24th. High counts tallied at Lake Josephine this week include 16 Gadwall, 44 American Wigeon (5/2), 48 Northern Shovelers (4/23), 88 Ring-necked Ducks, 4 (2 pairs) Redheads (4/27) and 8 Ruddy Ducks (4/23). Eleven male wood Ducks was a nice count at the sewer ponds in Ashland on the 23rd. A drake Gadwall (in Paul Cyr's photo above) shows off its understated finery.

A good assortment of raptors was also reported this week. Raptor species reported this week included Bald Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Harrier, Broad Winged, Red-tailed , Sharp-shinned Hawks and Northern Goshawk. The nesting goshawk has returned to the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle and mountain bikers have already reported some close encounters with the female. I expect the Center will again be closing trails in the area for the nesting season. A substantial flight of migrating hawks passed through the area on April 24. Several newly arrived Broad-winged Hawks as well as a Northern Harrier were seen in Perham on that date.

Paul Cyr is again hosting a pair of nesting American Kestrels on his farm in Presque Isle. The diminutive pair was recently photographed enjoying the raptor platform that Paul graciously provided here. Another pair has taken up residence in a nestbox in Portage Lake.

Pied-billed Grebes were heard at several marshy ponds around the area this week. One stopped in at Lake Jo for a morning and Paul Cyr was there.

Though gull numbers have thinned a bit as migrants move through, the first Bonaparte's Gull of the season was seen on Lower LaPomkeag Lake on the 24th. Bill Hersey was able to digiscope the distant bird. A very rare breeder in Maine, Bonaparte's Gulls nest in spruce and fir trees on remote ponds and lakes (not unlike LaPomkeag). Northern Maine birder's should be on the alert for these gorgeous black headed gulls when in the right area...

Blue-headed Vireos appeared to arrive all at once and on schedule. Several were heard at Salmon Brook Bog in Perham on the 24th. A newly arrived Brown Thrasher was singing loudly at the Skyway Industrial Park on Sunday May 2.

The first warblers have begun to trickle in with Yellow-rumped Warblers making up the bulk of the sightings thus far. Yellow-rumps have been reported at Ashland, Caribou, Limestone, Perham, Mars Hill and Woodland. An early Black-and-white Warbler was singing at Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield on the 2nd.

Some rare sparrows are certainly the highlights of this week's report. An uncommon breeder in northern Maine, a Vesper Sparrow singing from a road sign in Caribou was a nice discovery. The bird had apparently just arrived on the 2nd and took no time to proclaim his territory at this address! The bird's white eye ring, dark cheek spot, rufous shoulders and white outer tail feathers can all be made out in the photo at the top of this post (click on it for a larger image!).

Eclipsing the Vesper Sparrow was Aroostook county's second Clay-colored Sparrow in as many years. This bird has just been discovered a feeder in Caribou and more details should be forthcoming. A good documentation photo was provided by the homeowner...

In the finch department, American Goldfinch, Purple Finch and White-winged Crossbill continue encountered regularly in the woods of northern Maine.

Evening Grosbeaks have spread well around northern Maine in past couple of weeks. Reports increased and observations of these gorgeous birds have been reported from Stacyville to Fort Kent. Patty Jennings send over this stunning shot of a watchful male visiting her feeder in northern Penobscot county.

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