The weather in northern Maine has gone from exceptionally pleasant to unusually chilly in a little over a week. A trend of increasingly colder temperatures through early May has slowed the development of vegetation in the area. One local birder even suggested that the ferns in his yard are rolling back up into fiddleheads...
Temperatures at Caribou ranged from the mid 70's on the third down to the low 30's at the end of the period. These cooler temps, coupled with regular periods of rain, have left some of the earlier migrants struggling a bit to stay warm and fed. Rainfall has totaled about 1.75 inches in 8 days putting the area about .8 inches above normal.
Leaf development is at about 30 to 50% across the area.
There were 30 new and arriving species reported in northern Maine this week:
Blue-winged Teal 5/4
Greater Scaup 5/6
White-winged Scoter 5/9
American Bittern 5/1
Merlin (migrant) 5/4
Lesser Yellowlegs 5/9
Solitary Sandpiper 5/9
Spotted Sandpiper 5/5
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5/7
Eastern Kingbird 5/10
Bank Swallow 5/10
Cliff Swallow 5/4
Barn Swallow 5/4
Gray Catbird 5/10
Nashville Warbler 5/9
Northern Parula 5/5
Magnolia Warbler 5/9
Black-throated Blue Warbler 5/11
Black-throated Green Warbler 5/4
Yellow Warbler 5/10
Northern Waterthrush 5/4
Common Yellowthroat 5/10
White-crowned Sparrow 5/4
Lincoln's Sparrow 5/11
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5/8
Northern Oriole 5/6
Though the later waterfowl migrants are still trickling through the area, earlier ducks and geese, taking advantage of the early season, have gotten down to business and are already on nests. The earliest nests may be hatching within the next week or so!
Noteworthy among waterfowl seen this week, newly arrived Greater Scaup were reported in a small pond in Fort Fairfield (6th) and a pair was seen on Long Lake in St. Agatha on the 9th. An uncommon migrant, a pair of Buffleheads were also spotted at Long Lake on the 9th. Another pair of the buoyant little divers was seen at Lake Josephine in Easton on the 10th.
The first Blue-winged Teal seen in central Aroostook were found and photographed by Paul Cyr. The ducks were resting in a farm pond in Fort Fairfield off the Dorsey Road.
Migrating sea ducks were brought down by the bad weather conditions on a few occasions this week. A flock of over 50 Common Eiders were reported on the St. John River near Hamlin on the 5th. A small raft of (16) White-winged Scoters was loafing mid-pond at Madawaska Lake on the 9th. Two pairs of uncommon Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding on the shallow north end of Second Musquacook Lake in T11R11 on the 5th.
Two pairs of Redheads are being seen regularly at Lake Josephine and appear to be settling in to breed again. Likewise is the situation with at least 3 pairs of Ruddy Ducks. The large flock of Common Goldeneyes, Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup has begun to thin out as the pairs disperse. The remaining flock is rapidly becoming a boys club. The last date for the pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes at this location was the unusually late date of May 2nd.
Double-crested Cormorants are being seen regularly at the larger lakes and ponds as well as the Aroostook River. A high count of 74 were loafing on the little islet on the north end of Long Lake on the 9th. American Bitterns are being heard in wetlands across the area now. Great Blue Herons have been in short supply but it is likely these birds have moved into the small wetlands where they nest.
Most breeding raptors have arrived and are on nests. American Kestrels are much harder to find in the area lately as these cavity nesters have begun incubating eggs. A Merlin has been seen (and heard) around Collins Pond regularly and these little hawks may again be nesting in downtown Caribou. Another vocal pair was seen on the 5th near the campsite at the south end of Musquacook Lake in T11R11. Reports of Bald Eagles feeding young at a couple of the area nests has not been confirmed. Other species of hawks reported include many Ospreys, Northern Harrier (Easton), Broad winged Hawk (T11 R11) and Red-tailed Hawk (in Fort Fairfield). Paul Cyr found these Ospreys hunkered down in their nest in Fort Fairfield on the 4th.
A vocal Sora went unseen in a rank cattail patch in Easton on the 4th.
A few shorebirds have started to trickle in. New arrivals include Solitary Sandpiper at Lower LaPomkeag Lake in T8R7, 3 Spotted Sandpipers on Second Musquacook Lake in T11R11 and a Lesser Yellowlegs at Fort Fairfield on the 9th. Other Spotted Sandpipers have since been seen at Easton and Garfield.
Paul Cyr got the photo of the newly-arrived yellowlegs at the top of this post. Though I admit I struggled a bit with the ID of the bird in this photo (Greater vs. Lesser Yellowlegs), I've decided its a Lesser Yellowlegs... We don't see alot of good, breeding plumaged yellowlegs in these parts! Though the bill is a bit long for a Lesser, it is thin and without a paler base that most Greater Yellowlegs usually show.
American Woodcock were amazingly early nesters this season. Two reports of fledgling woodcock were received this week. In Woodland, Del Ramey found a female on a nest under a small fir on his lot back on the 16th of April. The bird had 3 eggs at the time and added another the following day for a typical clutch of four. He's been watching the bird closely and on May 6th the eggs hatched and the female quickly led the young away! Del sent over a picture of the incubating bird on her nest earlier this spring.
Another woodcock was reported seen doing an impressive "in your face" flushing distraction in T8R7 on the 9th. On closer inspection a couple of well camouflaged, fuzzball chicks were seen nearby. Eleven displaying Woodcock were tallied on a survey along the Realty Road T11R12 in the North Maine Woods. Seven winnowing Wilson's Snipe were also heard on the 3.6 mile survey route.
Woodpeckers have quieted a bit and I assume that most are now beginning their incubation periods. A Pileated Woodpecker nest was found in a large poplar in-town Portage Lake. Most exciting is the presence of a rare Red-bellied Woodpecker being seen at a feeder at a house on Madawaska Lake. Though Red-bellied Woodpeckers are slowly spreading into southern and mid-Maine, there are few records of the species in the northern third of the state. Alton and Brenda Ketch sent over this nice photo of the female as it fed (with a Chipping Sparrow) under their feeders.
An Alder Flycatcher seen in Garfield Plantation was exceptionally early. Arriving Eastern Kingbirds were quick to assert their claim to prime territories in Easton on the 10th.
Gray Jays were spotted on the McLean Brook Road in Sinclair on the 9th. These birds too, have been decidedly quieter and shy in recent days, suggesting nesting and/or young are about.
A big flock of about 1,200 swallows were seen feeding over Lake Josephine on the 10th. The breakdown appeared to be about 900-1,000 Tree Swallows, 100-120 Barn Swallows, 60-80 Cliff Swallow and 40 -50 Bank Swallows. The Bank Swallows were new arrivals in the area on that date. A similar congregation was reported at Eagle Lake over past couple of mornings. The slightly warmer air over these waterbodies probably offers a bit more insect activity and feeding opportunity on chilly mornings.
Arriving warblers are still just starting to trickle into the area. Eight new species were seen or heard this week: the first Nashville Warbler was seen in New Sweden; Northern Parula was first heard singing at T11R11; Magnolia Warbler was heard at New Sweden and an early-arriving Black-throated Blue Warbler was first encountered along the Rocky Brook Road in T13R7. In Caribou the first Black-throated Green Warbler and Northern Waterthrush were heard singing off of the Hardison Road. The first Ovenbird was heard singing at Westfield and a Common Yellowthroat was first found at Lake Jo.
The sparrow highlight again this period has to be the Clay-colored Sparrow in Caribou. The bird continued at the Hardison Road location through at least the 6th. White-crowned Sparrows arrived all at once on the 4th and continue to been seen at many locations throughout the county. Only slightly early, a first Lincoln's Sparrow was found near the bog off the Moscovic Road in Stockholm on the 11th. A Fox Sparrow was seen on Rocky Brook Road in T13R7 on the 11th. This area near the Chase Brook bridge, is a dependable spot for singing male Fox Sparrows during the breeding season.
A first-of-the-season Bobolink was heard singing in flight high over Lake Josephine in Easton on the 10th. The first Northern Oriole was seen at a feeder near Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle on the 6th. The homeowner was quick to treat the early bird to some fresh organic orange slices. This young male Red-winged Blackbird "sang" to Paul Cyr in Easton last week
Flocks of American Goldfinches continue to be seen at yards where feeders have been maintained. White-winged Crossbills and Purple Finches remain dependable in the larger areas of softwoods. Evening Grosbeaks continue to be reported in small numbers but are well distributed throughout the county.
With some warmer temperatures and good migration weather predicted, I expect the next couple weeks will see the peak in new arrivals in northern Maine. Good birding.