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.


Kathiesbirds said...

Wow! That is quite a report! It is so much fun to read about places that I know. Mantle Lake is one of my favortie birding spots when I come to the area and I have a few bird reports listed with eBird from there as well as Aroostook State Park and Arnold Brook Lake. I need to come back up to increase my list! I saw my first ever magnolia warbler at Arnold Brook lake a few years back!

Thanks for this excellent report and the photos!

Bill Sheehan said...

Thanks Kathie. Hope to post more regularly now.