Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1-14 November 2012: Storms and a Storm-Petrel

The first couple weeks of November provided northern Maine with some diverse weather conditions that certainly were key to the appearance of a bunch of unusual birds.

Temperatures ranged above normal in the beginning and end of the period with a week-long cold snap in the middle.  Precipitation has been about normal and some of it came in the form of our first accumulating snow.  Southern portions of Aroostook county have seen more rain and snow than the St. John valley.  Hyperbole-inducing Hurricane Sandy only nicked northern Maine.  Other than some moderate bluster and several days of gloom as it petered out in the Quebec woods just north of the area, the weather event was quite unremarkable...

What WAS remarkable was some the birds that apparently rode the storm and ended up in northern Maine.

Highlight for the period is most certainly the county-first record of a Leach's Storm-Petrel that was recovered, exhausted, in Mapleton on 10 November.  Seen in the photo above, this little gray seabird was apparently swept up in the superstorm and blown far inland-- away from its preferred haunts far at sea.  Dozens of others of its species were seen across the Great Lakes and in Ontario, upstate New York and Pennsylvania following the hurricane.  This bird has likely been working its way back towards the coast when it finally was too depleted to fly and came down in Mapleton.

The bird was found (in the mouth of a dog!) and nursed for a couple days by a resident until it could be transported to Avian Haven for rehabilitation.  The bird was missing part of its tail and apparently a bit sore from the canine mouthing, but, as of this writing was doing OK at the rehab.

Other likely storm-transported birds were two Cattle Egrets spotted Oct 31 in Bancroft in southern-most Aroostook County.  The birds reportedly appeared just after the storm and remained in the area for a few days.

Sue Szwed got these snapshots of the pair on Friday the 2nd.  They haven't been seen since.

Notable waterfowl in the area included a pair of arriving Buffleheads seen on an Aroostook Birders field trip in St. Agatha on November 3rd and three Barrow's Goldeneyes seen at the wastewater lagoons off the Grimes Mill Road in Caribou on the 4th and 6th.  A female Northern Pintail was also here on the 6th.   An adult White-winged Scoter continued at Lake Josephine in Easton through the 2nd.  A very late Blue-winged teal was seen at the Caribou wastewater ponds on October 28th

Many flocks of Canada Geese remain in the area and one particularly huge group has been congregating in a potato field of the Higgins Road in Presque Isle.  An exceptional high count of 6,200 were tallied here on the 14th.

The American Coot continued at Collins Pond in Caribou through at least the 7th and a late lingering Double -crested Cormorant was seen at Lake Josephine on the 14th.

Rough-legged Hawks continue to be seen regularly and have been reported from St. Agatha, Presque Isle, Easton, Caribou and Limestone.  A lingering juvenile Northern Harrier was seen in Westfield on the 10th

Big numbers of migrating gulls moved into the area in early November.  The flocks seen in Presque Isle, Caribou, St. Agatha and Easton were predominantly Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls but a juvenile Iceland Gull was seen at Collins Pond through the first week.

A very noteworthy southerner, a Red-bellied Woodpecker showed up at Alice Sheppard's feeder in Presque Isle on October 25th.   Though it is increasingly being found in Maine south of Bangor, there are less than a dozen records of this species for the Aroostook County area.

Alice documented the female as it fed on her black oil sunflower seeds.  The bird has also been spotted in nearby Mantle Lake Park.

Flocks of Bohemian Waxwings first appeared in the middle of October but had overspread the area by the end of the first week of November.  A flock of 280 in Caribou included a leucistic individual.

8 Northern Cardinals were reported to be seen at one time at a Portage Lake feeder on the 4th and another has been seen recently in Caribou.

The first Snow Buntings were reported in northern Maine on the 1st with 130 seen in Woodland on 4th.  American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have been widely reported in small numbers throughout the area.

Though finch numbers appear low at this point in the season the diversity has been notable.  These birds are finding our poor cone and seed crop wanting and seem to be moving about and through the area.
Pine Grosbeaks are widespread in good numbers and are greedily munching through the remaining fruit supplies.  Paul Cyr photographed the young bird seen above in Presque Isle on the 8th.  Pine Siskins had moved through by early November and a few American Goldfinches and Purple Finches are still visiting feeders but none of these have been reported in big numbers.  Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills are being found (usually as flyovers).  Evening Grosbeaks are also being seen but its my impression that numbers have dropped recently and these birds may be moving on as they look for food.

Rarely seen at a feeder and rarely found in Aroostook county, this Red Crossbill was seen in Sue and Bob Pinette's yard on the 14th.

Good Birding!


grammie g said...

Hi Bill...Odd things are happening up there! That sea bird I thought at first sight, was a deformed bird of some type until I started to read!!
An odd looking bird for sure, one I have never heard of... that's pretty exciting!!
Impressive list of birds, but the one I would like to see is the crossbill!
I already had my 2 day visit from the Siskins..they swooped in and cleaned out the feeder in no time!!
Thanks for the interesting report from the county!!


Kim said...

Nice to see you are getting some of the winter finches in your neck of the woods. We're starting to get our share here in Massachusetts (especially both crossbills), but the ones I want to see most or the grosbeaks. Hoping it's a good year for all of New England with these birds!

Kathie Brown said...

Wow, that is quite a haul! Love to read about Aroostook County Birds! I miss coming up there to visit since my son moved away! that petrel is amazing! I do hope it made it!