Saturday, May 14, 2011

Purple Sandpiper in St. Agatha

I found a Purple Sandpiper on the Pelletier Island causeway on Long Lake in St. Agatha on Saturday 14 May 2011.  This was unexpected because Purple Sandpipers are just about unknown in Maine away from the rocky coastline where they overwinter.

The causeway is a low rocky road with little vegetation.  It links the island which is part of St. Agatha with the eastern (Madawaska) shore.

The bird was feeding along on the rocks and was fairly easy to approach and I was able to get the documentation photos you see here..

This little shorebird really doesn't have much that sets it apart from other sandpipers.  Note the heavily gray-streaked head with the dark crescent in front of the eye.  Also the orange-ish base to a medium length dark bill.  The legs are short and orangey-yellow.  The belly was relatively unmarked and the neck and sides were streaky.  On the back were some fresh black feathers with white margins.  (My books say that if you could pluck one of these back feathers and hold it up to the light, you would see a deep purple iridescence that gives this sandpiper its name.)

When a rattly truck went by, the bird flushed and flew a bit and I was able to see the tail was light with a dark black center. I didn't notice any pattern of the wings.

The bird was a first for me in Aroostook county.  An unexpected discovery for sure.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Summer Tanager at U. Maine Presque Isle, May 7

Bob and Sue Pinette found a fabulous male Summer Tanager today at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.  The bright male was seen late in the morning along the foot path that winds down hill from the tennis courts at a point near where the trail crosses the railroad track.  Bob and Sue said the bird was quite confiding and  very easy to view.

Sue sent along two great photos of the bird.  Seen in the pics is the birds overall bright red plumage and thick tanager bill.  Unlike our breeding resident Scarlet Tanagers, the male Summer Tanagers have red wings rather than black.

Their normal breeding range being in the southern portions of the eastern US, Summer Tanagers are rare but regular vagrants to coastal Maine in spring.  This species is all but unknown in the northern half of the state.  I'm fairly confident that this is first for the county and certainly the northern-most record for the state.

It leaves me wondering what other southern goodies might have wandered north with the last storm system?...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Northern Maine Birds: 23 April- 4 May 2011

Northern Maine is slowly emerging from winter.  The past ten days passed without a flake of snow falling and the temperature pushed up into the 60's on several days.  April ended with slightly above normal precipitation total (2.95 inches at Caribou) and slightly cooler temps for the month.

Only the bigger lakes in the region are still ice covered.  Our favorite central Aroostook impoundments Christina Reservoir and Lake Josephine, lost their ice on the 28th this year.  Water levels in streams and rivers remains quite high with the St John River just reaching flood stage late last week due to snowmelt.

Hardwoods have begun to flower and amphibian and insect activity has increased substantially.

New and arriving species seen during this period:

Snow Goose             4/27
Gadwall                      4/26
American Wigeon       4/23
Northern Pintail          4/23
Blue-winged Teal       5/1
Redhead                    4/23
Lesser Scaup             4/29
Greater Scaup           5/1
Black Scoter              5/4
Surf Scoter                5/4
Barrow's Goldeneye   4/26
Bufflehead                  4/29
Ruddy Duck               5/4
Red-necked Grebe     5/1
Pied-billed Grebe       4/26
Broad-winged Hawk    4/23
Peregrine Falcon           5/3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  5/3
Blue-headed Vireo        5/1
Brown Thrasher            5/4
Palm Warbler                5/1
Northern Parula           5/3
Yellow-rumped Warbler     4/27
Black-and-White Warbler  5/1
Northern Waterthrush     5/3
Fox Sparrow                4/23
Chipping Sparrow         4/23
Swamp Sparrow           4/28

Waterfowl diversity took a big jump in the county this week with ice-out occurring at the premier duck ponds: Lake Josephine in Easton and Christina Reservior in Fort Fairfield.  Eighteen species of waterfowl have been reported this period.

Snow Geese returned to the St. John River flats in Grand Isle last week.  Over 500 were estimated to be feeding in the potato fields there on the 27th.  13 including one Blue phase were also spotted in Madawaska on the 3rd. Flocks of Canada Geese continue to be reported as they move through.  As mentioned earlier, many locally breeding Canadas are already on nests.

Expected arrivals this week included Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal (at Lake Jo), American Wigeon (at Collins Pond in Caribou) and Lesser Scaup (at Lake Jo and Christina Reservoir).     Most noteworthy of the ducks was a  pair of Redheads returning on the 23rd to a pond near Lake Josephine.  Paul Cyr photographed the pair on the 25th.  Among numbers of Commons, three Barrows Goldeneye's (26-29th) were nice finds at Lake Jo.

A Long-tailed Duck and a Bufflehead arriving as the ice left Christina Reservoir on the 29th were also notable.  These were joined by more of their kind by May 4th at Lake Josephine.  Yet another Long-tail was spotted by the UMPI Ornithology class on Presque Isle Stream in Presque Isle on the 3rd.  Greater Scaup were spotted in Grand Isle 3 May and at Lake Jo 4 May.  Black and Surf Scoters  put down into Christina Reservoir on the 4th.  Three males were the first Ruddy Duck arrivals at Lake Jo on the 4th.

The first Pied-billed Grebe was heard calling at Christina Reservoir on the 26th.  Another was heard near the Muscovic Road in Stockholm on May 1st.  A special discovery was a Red-necked Grebe photographed  in breeding plumage on Lake Josephine on the 1st.  The attractive diver is seen in Paul Cyr's photo at the top of this post
Double-crested Cormorants and Common Loons were quick to crowd into open water as the await the opening of the ice cover on the larger lakes.  This nice breeding plumaged adult was photographed by Paul Cyr.  You can even seen one of its "crests"!

A Great Blue Heron was photographed in Littleton on the 27th and other was seen at Easton on the 2nd.  A Turkey Vulture was seen feeding on the roadside in Conner Twp on the 4th.

Birders found a good diversity of raptors in northern Maine this week with 11 species noted.  Bald Eagles continue on the nests at Ashland, Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle and Van Buren. Ospreys are also now occupying most nest sites in the area including the large nest on the power poles near Route 1 in Van Buren.  A previous report noted a young Bald Eagle adding sticks to the structure...

 Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen in Fort Fairfield on the 23rd, as was the first arriving Broad-winged Hawk of the year. A Red-tailed Hawk was a Square Lake Township on 1 May and a Northern Goshawk flew over Barren Lake in Caribou on the 28th.  A large Coopers Hawk was chased by an American Kestrel near the Presque Isle Airport on Wednesday the 4th.

Always a notable sight in Aroostook, an adult Peregrine Falcon was spotted feeding on a Ring-billed Gull beside the Roosevelt School in Hamlin on the 3rd.  Merlins were seen and heard in Caribou on May 1, Quimby (Winterville) on 25 April  and Stockholm on the 25 April and 1 May.  American Kestrels were widely reported.  

Boreal Chickadees were heard on the Muscovic Road on the 1st of May and Gray Jays were spotted in New Sweden on May 1.  Both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets are singing loudly the conifer woods these days.  The first Ruby-throated Hummingbird for the county was reported from Stockholm on the 3rd...early for sure.

The first Blue-headed Vireo of the year arrived on schedule at New Sweden on 1st.  Loud couplets announced the arrival of a Brown Thrasher at Presque Isle Airport on the 4th.

The first warblers of the season were trickling in to northern Maine as April gave way to May.  Yellow-rumps were reported across the area in moderate numbers.  Other warbler arrivals in central Aroostook included Palm Warblers at the Muscovic Road in Stockholm and the Burnt Landing Road in Cross Lake Twp on the 1st; a Black-and-White Warbler at Mantle Lake Park in PI on the 1st; a Northern Parula at Madawaska Lake on the 3rd; a Black-throated Green Warbler at Barren Lake in Caribou on the 3rd;  Northern Waterthrushes at Arnold Brook Lake in Presque Isle on the 3rd and Collins Pond in Caribou and Christina Reservoir in Fort Fairfield on the 4th.

A pair of Northern Cardinals are visiting a Presque Isle feeder.  Ted Roberts got this shot of the pair on Wednesday the 4th.
Blackbird numbers continued to increase as territories are occupied in area marshes.   Paul Cyr sent over this nice shot of a singing male.

Notable change in the finch department were lots of Purple Finches arriving at the end of the month.

Evening Grosbeaks continue in pairs and small flocks at Castle Hill, Caribou, Fort Fairfield, Fort Kent, New Sweden, Portage Lake, Presque Isle, St. Francis, St. John Stockholm, Winterville and Woodland.  Though most have now departed, small numbers of Common Redpolls are still being reported around the area.  A Hoary Redpoll was part of one of the last flocks to visit my feeders in Woodland on the 23rd.  A handful of Pine Siskins were seen (Caribou, Madawaska Lake, Presque Isle, Woodland) and numbers of these seem to be increasing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lake Josephine at dawn

Paul Cyr visited Lake Josephine on May 2nd just before sunup and sent over this wonderful series of images.  I thought I'd share them here.
A Common Loon in the gloom
Teal landing

Ring-necked Ducks