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

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