Friday, April 22, 2011

Northern Maine Birds: 13-22 April 2011

I've heard alot of grousing about the weather lately.

Northern Maine has been blustery, cold and damp for most of the past ten days. At least some snow fell at the National Weather Station in Caribou on 7 days and 4 to 8 inches blanketed the area on the 20- 21st.

Ice continued to retreat from area waterbodies but oh-so-slowly....There were some moments when insects were active, but these have been few. Waterfowl and hawk migration expectedly continued at a decent pace, but the unfavorable weather conditions seem to have retarded movements of the smaller birds. "Winter" birds continue to be seen in good numbers.

New and arriving species reported this period:

Green-winged Teal 4/13
Northern Shoveler 4/19
Long-tailed Duck 4/22
Common Loon 4/19
Double-crested Cormorant 4/20
Osprey 4/16
Wilson's Snipe 4/22
Glaucous Gull 4/16
Belted Kingfisher 4/22
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 4/16
Winter Wren 4/22
Eastern Bluebird 4/13
Hermit Thrush 4/22
Purple Finch 4/17

Waterfowl diversity and numbers are a bit below last year's tallies for this late in the month.

Over the period, Canada Goose numbers climbed quickly throughout the county, with a high count of 680 on Collins Pond in Caribou on the 21st. A goose was already found on a nest in Fort Fairfield on the 17th!

A Northern Shoveler was spotted near Lake Josephine in Easton on the 19th. (Like most ponds and lakes in the area, both Lake Josephine and Christina Reservoir remain mostly icebound.) An arriving drake Green-winged Teal made a brief appearance at a streamside yard in Presque Isle. Though the little duck didn't stay long, Vickie Ketch was able to snap this shot of the bright bird before it departed.

The rarest duck seen so far was a breeding plumaged drake Long-tailed Duck found on the Aroostook River in Fort Fairfield. usually seen on salt water in bays along the coast, this bird was resting a bit, on its long journey to the Canadian arctic.

Mallards and American Black Ducks continue to dominate the reports with good numbers of divers being seen where ever there is open water. Common Merganser reports seemed increase while Hooded Mergansers seemed to thin out a bit. (The Hoody's vanishing act was probably due, in part, to increasing availability of open water in the small wooded ponds that they prefer.) 78 Ring-necked Ducks were crammed into a small patch of open water at Lake Josephine on the 22nd.

Wild Turkeys are strutting their stuff in Mapleton and Presque Isle. Neale Adams sent over a picture of an impressive gobbler in full display in the middle of his driveway on the 13th! A Ruffed Grouse was budding high in a poplar tree at Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle on the 20th.

The first Common Loons quickly overspread the area from Danforth (4/19) to Blaine (4/21) to Fort Fairfield (4/22). Right on schedule, the first arriving Double-crested Cormorant was seen on Presque Isle Stream on the 20th. Great Blue Herons remain the only wader reported in the county to date.

An honorary raptor, a Turkey Vulture was reported again at Mars Hill on the 21st. Bald Eagles continue at the nest in Fort Fairfield. Paul Cyr sent over this shot of the pair after the recent snow.

Other hawk highlights this week was the arrival of Ospreys, increasing numbers of Northern Harriers and American Kestrels and a debated falcon in New Sweden. On the early side of the normal arrival time, a high-flying Osprey in Easton on the 16th was a bit of a surprise. Other arrivals were birds in Sherman (4/21) and Island Falls (4/19). Sharp-shinned Hawks were reported in Bancroft, Castle Hill, Island Falls, New Sweden, Presque Isle and Woodland

Northern Harriers were seen gliding over open fields across the county and American Kestrels were again, reported widely (Ashland, Bridgewater, Caribou, Easton, Fort Fairfield, Hodgdon, Limestone, Mapleton, Sherman, Washburn and Woodland). An apparent Merlin snagged a Mourning Dove at a New Sweden feeder on the 20th. A dark phase Rough-legged Hawk was enjoyed in Fort Fairfield on the 13th. Two light phase individuals were seen near Lake Josephine on the 16th.

Killdeer have crowded into bare spots following the snow. An American Woodcock was heard doing its peenting display in Mapleton on the 13th. Arriving in Fort Fairfield on the 22nd, the first reported Wilson's Snipe was a bit later than average for central Aroostook.

Collins Pond continues to be the spot to find unusual gulls in northern Maine. As many as a thousand gulls are congregating here each evening to bath and roost. As expected, the flock is dominated by migrant Herring and Ring-billed Gulls with a smaller number of Great black-backed Gulls also present. More notable among the flock is a first cycle Glaucous Gull that was seen from 16th to the 20th of April and a first cycle Iceland Gull that was first found on the 11th and continues here to date. The ghostly white Glaucous Gull is seen here with a couple similarly aged Herring Gulls. Another 1st cycle Iceland Gull was seen by the UMPI ornithology class during a visit to the Presque Isle landfill.

Also noteworthy are two and possibly three adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The color marked Ring-billed Gull "A 608" continued to be seen at Collins Pond through to the 21st.

Barred Owls were heard at Trafton Lake in Limestone, Woodland and Presque Isle. The first Belted Kingfisher of the year for me showed at Collins Pond on the 22nd.

Ravens seem to have completed their nest building and there are decidedly less territorial squabbles these days. American Crows however have not yet settled down and nests are still under construction. A pair of dueling crows were fighting in my yard in the pouring rain on the 18th. The battle was particularly vicious, with clawing and heavy blows from their bills. I
watched them tumble around in the mud for well over 30 minutes when they both appeared too exhausted to continue fighting but neither was willing to back down. Heres a shot of the boys going at it. Notice the claw IN the eyelid... ugh.

A few Tree Swallows were noted at Portage Lake (4/16) and in Patten but it appears the early arrivals from the first week of April did not fare well in the cold and rainy weather. Dyer Brook was the location where the first Winter Wren was heard on the 22nd.

Eastern Bluebirds arrived in Bancroft in southern Aroostook county by the 13th and the first Hermit Thrush was reported in the same town on the 22nd.

American Robins have dominated the landscape for the full period and were particularly notable following the snows. I counted
almost three hundred on one small patch of lawn at Trafton Lake on the 16th. Alton and Brenda Ketch sent over this nice photo of an apparently unhappy group of robins in their yard at Madawaska Lake on the 21st.

A late spring pulse of Bohemian Waxwings appeared in Central Aroostook ahead of the snow storm. Small and medium sized flocks were noted in Caribou, Easton, Fort Fairfield Woodland and Presque Isle. Paul Cyr sent over this shot of one of a flock he photographed while they were feeding on some last bits of fruit in Fort Fairfield on the 19th.

Sparrows numbers have been increasing throughout the period with Dark-eyed Juncos and Song Sparrows making up the majority of the flocks crowding under feeder these days. Up at the top of the post you'll find a great shot of a junco that Patty Jennings sent up from Stacyville on the 21st. The bird appears to be looking up into the sky and wondering when the snow would stop...Thanks to the deep snow cover in their favored fields, Savannah Sparrows also showed up at feeding stations in the area. This bird's bright yellow lores drew Paul Cyr's attention. American Tree Sparrows continue to linger at area feeders...the very similar Chipping Sparrows should arrive soon, giving an opportunity to compare the two species side-by-side.

Large blackbird flocks continue. Typically arriving a bit later than the male dominated vanguard, female Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds were first noted in flocks this week.

The continuing finch show has been spectacular this week with Common Redpoll counts reaching high hundreds at some area feeders. A Hoary Redpoll was teased out of a horde visiting a New Sweden feeder. Ernie Easter got this nice shot of the silvery finch. After a long absence in northern Maine the first returning Purple Finches were noted last week. Males were seen on the 17th in Caribou, New Sweden and Woodland. Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches are also being spotted in small numbers. Evening Grosbeaks continue to be seen regularly across the area.

Good Birding

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sick Redpolls

Northern Maine birders are reporting big numbers of Common Redpolls visiting area feeders. These are likely some of the flocks that wintered in southern Maine and elsewhere starting to move back north towards their summer haunts.

I wanted to pass on that there have also been a high number of reports of sick redpolls appearing in across this area as well. In addition to personally spotting a couple in my yard, I have heard of almost a dozen other cases in northern Maine. These were reported in Caribou, Castle Hill, Sherman, Monticello, Easton and Presque Isle. In one yard I visited, the homeowner and I found 14 dead Common Redpolls and 6 or 7 apparently ill birds still sluggishly hopping around on the snow. I haven't heard of other species of birds being found sick or dead.

The sick birds were easy to approach and looked puffed up. Some had droopy wings. Russ Mount sent me this photo of a struggling bird.

According to my biologist friends, it looks like the redpolls around here are suffering from Salmonellosis, a severe infection from the bacteria Salmonella ssp. This disease is spread readily among birds congregating at feeders at this time of the year. The smaller finch species are most susceptible to its effects. Pets and humans can also be effected.

The professionals in-the-know recommended removing and cleaning the feeders in 1 part bleach to 10 part water dilution (NOT in the kitchen sink). Rubber gloves and good hygiene are in order when handling these.

It's also imperative to clean up the end-of-winter gurry of waste seed, hulls and feces that piles up under many of our feeders this time of year. This pile is usually soggy, dark colored and warms easily in the strengthening spring sun and provides a great spot for bacteria to incubate.

Last, it may be a good time to just bring in the feeders for a while and let the redpoll flocks disperse. This is a time in northern Maine when lots of non-bird critters are showing up and causing trouble at feeders anyway. My black bear is probably due any day....

According my reading, its tough to predict when and where a Salmonella outbreak will occur but late winter and early spring are reported to be the most likely times. Preventative regular scrubbings of feeders and debris clean up are good ideas.

Just to continue to track the local outbreak, I'd like to hear if anyone else sees sick birds in their area.
Theres all kinds of good info online on Salmonellosis for those inclined to read more. Heres a link to good synopsis of the disease:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Marked Ring-billed Gull, Collins Pond Caribou

Back on the 11th, I spotted a marked Ring-billed Gull at Collins Pond in Caribou. The adult bird was banded with both the standard USF&WS aluminum band and a color band but was also fitted with an orange patagial (wing) tag with the number 608 on it. Craig Kesselhiem was able to relocate the bird the following day.

I suspected the bird was marked as part of an ongoing study of gulls that winter on drinking water reservoirs in Massachusetts since another gull with patagial marks had be found in Aroostook County previously. A quick email check in with the biologists in Mass confirmed that our new bird was part of the study. The bird was apparently banded just a month ago in the famous Price Chopper Plaza on Route 20 in Worcester, Mass! Heres what bander Ken MacKenzie had for statistics about the bird:

Captured 3/15/11 at Price Chopper Plaza, Rt. 20, Worcester, MA

Capture location (GPS): 42.21324, - 71.79617

Captured using a rocket net baited with crackers and bread

Adult male ring-billed gull

Orange wing-tags: A608

Red leg band: 264

Federal leg band: 0994-21427

Released on site


This is the first sighting of this gull since it capture. Thank you!

You can read more about the gull banding effort here.

These are true waterfoul!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Northern Maine was chilly following the April Fools Day storm. Temperatures averaged a bit normal than average with below freezing nights and daytime breezes that made it feel all the cooler. Happily, high temps for the year came on the 9th and 10th.

Snow cover remains dominant across the northern landscape but bare patches were rapidly appearing in open areas. Faster moving water is open and long stretches of the Aroostook and St John Rivers are now ice free.

For the bulk of the period strong northwest winds seemed to inhibit migratory movements. Southerly flow ahead of an advancing low on the 9th and 10th however, seemed to open the floodgates and a big pulse of arriving birds were noted across the area. Overwintering species continue to be seen

New and arriving birds this week:

Ring-necked Duck 4/6

Ring-necked Pheasant 4/8

Great Blue Heron 4/4

Turkey Vulture 4/2

Northern Harrier 4/8

Rough-legged Hawk 4/10

American Kestrel 4/9

Merlin 4/10

Lesser Black-backed Gull 4/4

Northern Flicker 4/8

Eastern Phoebe 4/10

Tree Swallow 4/9

White-throated Sparrow 4/2

Savannah Sparrow 4/10

Brown-headed Cowbird 4/10

Waterfowl numbers increased this week but diversity was mostly unchanged. Large flocks of Canada Geese began to arrive and the diving ducks were spotted in numbers across the area. A drake Ring-necked Duck was a new arrival on the Aroostook River on April 6th and numbers of others were seen the following day in Caribou and Fort Fairfield. The first Wood Duck, a colorful drake, was reported in Mars Hill on the 11th. Drake Hooded Mergansers were strutting thier stuff at Collins Pond in Caribou over the weekend. Russ Mount got this shot of some amorous drakes around a hen here on Sunday the 10th.

A male Ring-necked Pheasant has been seen around Woodland since last fall. This recent shot shows the bird which has apparently wintered well. Wild Turkeys were also spotted in Ashland, Chapman, Mapleton and Presque Isle.

Earliest in my records by three days, the first Great Blue Heron of the season touched down in Fort Fairfield on the 4th. A pair was reported flying over Westfield on the still-early date of April 9.

Turkey Vultures overspread the county in short order this week. The first was a bird seen over I-95 in Sherman on the 2nd, others were spotted in Blaine and Mars Hill on 4th. As seen at he top of this blog post, Paul Cyr got a nice shot of a flying vulture he discovered in Hamlin on the 9th. Another was seen in Presque Isle on the same day. Within the past 10 years, these big birds have really become established across northern Maine.

Raptor migration progressed steadily over the past week and we've had plenty of newly arrived species. First by few days, a Northern Harrier was reported in Westfield on the 8th. American Kestrels were first seen on the 9th in Linneus and Bancroft in southern parts of the county. By the afternoon of the 10th they had been spotted in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Limestone, Mapleton and Presque Isle. Right on schedule, the first Merlins were observed in Woodland on the 10th and Mt Chase on the 11th.

A big pulse of Red-tailed Hawks entered central Aroostook co

unty on the 6th with four seen simultaneously soaring over Green Ridge on the Caribou/Presque Isle town line. Others were reported in Ashland, Presque Isle and Washburn on this same day. Two arriving Rough-legged Hawks, one light and one dark phase were seen within minutes of each other in Fort Fairfield on the 10th. Coopers Hawks were reported at Mantle Lake Park in Presque Isle on the 8th and another in a Fort Fairfield yard on the 9th. Sharp-shinned Hawks were well seen with birds reported from Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Houlton, Mapleton, Presque Isle and Woodland.

Bald Eagles continue to spruce up area nests with eagles in Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield reported to be incubating eggs. Eagles were seen in Benedicta, Cross Lake, Crystal, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Island Falls, Presque Isle, Van Buren and Washburn. An interesting plumaged immature eagle was photographed adding sticks to an Osprey nest in Van Buren on the 10th. This almost-4-year-old bird seems to have gotten into the nesting habit a bit earlier in life than others of her species. It'll be interesting to see what the Osprey think of the new additions when they return later this month!

Shorebirds reports are still limited to some hardy Killdeer (Limestone, Caribou) and American Woodcock (Westfield). Both species were seen on the 10th.

Best gulls of the week are 2 (possibly 3) Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a first cycle Iceland Gull being seen at Collins Pond.

One Lesser first arrived on the 4th and a second had joined it by the 6th. These have continued here through the period. The bright yellow legs and intermediate shade of gray on the wings help make this tough identification.

The Iceland Gull was discovered bathing and preening here on the 11th. These are part of a flock of several hundred gulls that roost here in the evening. The flock included Great Black-backed, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. A marked Ring-billed Gull was found here on the 11th as well. (More on that once we find out its origin).

Barred Owls were seen in Presque Isle and Woodland. The first Northern Flickers showed in Fort Fairfield (8th) and Westfield (10th). An exceptionally early flicker was reported to be seen at Madawaska Lake back in mid March. Paul Cyr found a Pileated Woodpecker tearing at a tree in down town Presque Isle.

20 Tree Swallows at Puddledock Pond in Fort Fairfield on the 9th were the second earliest arrivals in my records...beat only by last years exceptionally early arrival on 4 April 2010. Other arriving Tree Swallows were seen in Bancroft, Mt Chase and Portage Lake on the 10th. The first Eastern Phoebes were spotted at Westfield on the 9th and Fort Fairfield and Mt Chase on the 10th which is within the normal arrival dates for the area.

Good numbers of Northern Shrikes were reported including at Easton, Hersey, Mars Hill and Woodland. Bohemian Waxwings are still being seen in small flocks around the area. 22 were seen near Collins Pond in Caribou on the 11th.

The first huge influx of American Robins was noted from the 8th through the 11th. Suffice to say they are now EVERYWHERE. Dark Eyed Junco and Song Sparrow numbers also took a noticeable jump upward. An early White-throated Sparrow seen at a feeder on the 2nd may have been an overwintering bird. The season's first Savannah Sparrows were reported at Fort Fairfield and Westfield on the 10th. A few Snow Buntings continue to be reported (Westfield and Conner Twp on 9 April).

Blackbird numbers continue to increase and the first flocks containing Brown-headed Cowbirds were noted in Woodland on the 10th and at Mars Hill on the 11th

Common Redpolls have probably reached high counts for the season at area feeders. well over 200 are visiting my yard in Woodland but there has been no sign of Hoaries. Evening Grosbeaks continue at feeders in Caribou, Castle Hill, New Sweden and Madawaska Lake. A few American Goldfinches are being spotted and their increasingly yellow plumage was enthusiastically noted.

A flock of 50+ House Sparrows seen behind the McDonalds restaurant in Presque Isle on the 8th was a notable high count

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Northern Maine Birds: First two weeks of spring

As usual, springlike weather was not to be found during the first couple weeks of "spring" on the calendar. Generally temperatures were below normal and more ice was made than melted on northern Maine's ponds and lakes. With the exception of the April Fools Day storm the period was also fairly dry with plenty of bare ground showing in open and wet spots.

Despite the wintery weather, the first migrant birds of the season began to arrive in northern Maine.

New and arriving species for 17 March through April 1 were:

Canada Goose 3/20
Hooded Merganser 3/24
Red-tailed Hawk 3/19
Great Black-backed Gull 3/19
Herring Gull 3/19
Ring-billed Gull 3/18
Killdeer 3/24
American Woodcock 3/26
American Robin (migrants) 3/17
Red-winged Blackbird 3/17
Common Grackle 3/18
Song Sparrow 3/18
Fox Sparrow 4/1

Waterfowl started to trickle north in mid-month but cold weather seemed to put the brakes on any substantial influx. Canada Geese were first spotted in Ashland and within the next few days small groups were spotted in Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Washburn. Paul Cyr sent over this photo of a chilly gaggle.... Hooded Mergansers arrived right on schedule at Collins Pond in Caribou. A flock of 10 was seen on Presque Isle Stream on April 1. Mallard, American Black Duck and Common Goldeneye numbers are all increasing whereever there is open water. A single Common Merganser drake overwintered successfully in the open water below the Aroostook Dam in Caribou.

An intriguing report of a small buteo flying over Crystal on March 13 may have been Red-shouldered Hawk. An arriving Red-tailed Hawk over
Caribou on the 19th was being escorted through the area by a pair of Common Ravens. Another Red-tailed was enjoying some effortless hovering in Hersey on the 28th thanks to a strong wind. Adult Northern Goshawks were seen in Caribou on the 24th and in Woodland on April 1. A Sharp-shinned Hawk has recently been visiting a feeding station near Mantle Lake in Presque Isle. Bald Eagles are now being seen at the nests in Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield.

Two Spruce Grouse were reported at a camp at Madawaska Lake on the 25th. Wild Turkeys continue to visit a yard near Hanson Lake in Presque Isle.

The earliest in my records, a Killdeer was spotted on a small bare patch of sod near the Presque Isle cemetery on the 24th of March. Others were seen in Westfield and Caribou on the 29th. Also hunkered down on a rare bare spot, the first American Woodcock of the season was photographed on 27 March in Island Falls by Jonathan Mays.
Right on schedule, the first handful of returning gulls showed up on the 18th and 19th in Caribou. Small numbers of Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls have been seen regularly in the area since but numbers have not increased substantially since the first pulse appeared.

An owl survey in southern Aroostook and northern Penobscot towns came up empty but Paul Cyr has a pair of Barred Owls on territory on his farm in Presque Isle. Paul took advantage of his good luck to get some great shots of one of the roosting owls including the nice portrait up at the top of this post. Other Barred's were reported in Hersey and Washburn.
A Northern Shrike was seen in Houlton on the 30th. Boreal Chickadees were seen in Hersey and Woodland. The flood fields in Washburn held a single Horned Lark on March 28th. The first migrant robins overswept the county on the the 18th through the 20th with numbers seen in Caribou, Madawaska Lake, Sherman, Houlton, Presque Isle and Madawaska. Patty Jennings sent this photo of a snow bound American Robin in Stacyville on the 2nd.

A small pulse of migrant sparrows arrived just before the big snow storm on April Fools Day. The first migrant Dark-eyed Juncos were reported on the 22nd at New Sweden and 31st at Caribou and Woodland. A Fox Sparrow returned to Woodland on the 1st of April. Beating them all, the first Song Sparrows were living up to their names and vocalizing when they were discovered. The first arrival was reported in Sherman in southern Aroostook county on the 18th. Others were heard singing in Caribou and Presque Isle on the 1st. A White-throated Sparrow has successfully overwintered at a feeder on the Hardison Road in Caribou.

Red-winged Blackbirds beat Common Grackles for arrival date bragging rights this year. The first blackbird was reported in Monticello on the 17th with others were spotted in Presque Isle, Caribou and Woodland the following day. A Common Grackle reached Madawaska Lake by the 20th.

A Hoary Redpoll continues with 40+ Common Redpolls at my feeder in Woodland. Commons appear to be moving about the area with most observers reporting wildly fluctuating counts over the past week. High counts were noted just before the arrival of the snow storm on the 1st. 380+ were seen at one feeder in Caribou that morning. Still reported in low numbers, Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches are being reported in Caribou, New Sweden and Fort Fairfield.
Pine Grosbeaks were at a Madawaska lake feeder on the 25th and 3-5 Evening Grosbeaks are still visiting my yard in Woodland. A high count of Evening Grosbeaks was reported from New Sweden on the 22nd.