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

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