Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black-legged Kittiwake, Trafton Lake, Limestone

I avoided the "black Friday" frenzy and did a little birding in the gloom yesterday.  Most of my favorite wetlands and ponds froze up solidly in the past week  and though I checked a lot of my better winter bird spots, there didn't seem to much active to see.    I was about to call it quits but then decided to make a quick run over to Trafton Lake in Limestone.  The Lake is a little deeper and stays open a bit longer than other mid-sized ponds in the area.

I was in luck and found about half the pond was still ice free.  Mallards, Black Ducks and a few mergansers seemed to be all that was on the pond though, and lower skies and a heavy drizzle almost had me packing up in a couple minutes, but then, I spotted a white bird on the water in a distant cove.  The bird was in the opposite (south-eastern) corner of the lake from me and just about at the limit of my scope.  

Though I couldn't see much detail through 3/4 of a mile of precipitation, I could make out that the bird was a gull.  The gull was standing on some ice and preening.  I discerned that it had a dark bar on its side and what appeared to be a dark sided neck-- different from the usual gulls.  After moving a few hundred yards closer to the edge of the park lawn I got a better look and could see a dark bill and a dark bar on the tail.  The gull flew a short distance and the view clinched it, juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake.

The Kittiwake is a pelagic (ocean loving) gull that can be a bit challenging to spot from land unless you spend time in a boat off shore or seawatching from promontories along the coast.  Once in a while they are found inland along the major waterways in the north east (Hudson River, St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain etc), but I didn't recall any record for one inland in Maine.  I was quite sure the bird was probably an Aroostook County first.  I later checked Maine Birds by Palmer and found three 100+ year old inland records.

I had to hike down the shore about a half mile just to get some across-the-lake documentation pictures.  Breeze and drizzle didn't help the photography session either but I was excited it turned out to be a "good" gull after the long hike!  Coordinates of the gull location were at (46.881230, -67.831459) if you want to check it out on Google Earth.

Here my list for the outing:

Trafton Lake, Aroostook, US-ME
Nov 25, 2011 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.3 mile(s)
8 species

Canada Goose  279     Two large flocks came in from the north.  Lake half frozen
American Black Duck  140
Mallard  210     Scattered flocks in every cove
Lesser Scaup  3
Hooded Merganser  21
Common Merganser  49
Black-legged Kittiwake  1     juvenile.  First for county/inland for me.  Hanging with mergs.  Photos
Blue Jay  1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


Kathiesbirds said...

Excellent sighting! I would have found that I.D. particularly challenging! I admire your persistence! Wow! another species I have never seen for myself. Perhaps I need to come birding in Aroostook county again!

Bill Sheehan said...

Of course you must come birding here again!