A remarkable bird for Maine, let alone in under-birded (away from Sabattus Pond anyway) Androscoggin County, I was privileged to be able to visit this Harris’s Sparrow on private property in Turner on the 13th, the day after we returned from vacation. It was most cooperative, being constantly in view for the 35 minutes I was there. Unfortunately, it was a dark and dreary morning, so my photos leave something to be desired!
A few observations of note over the past five days as I tried to squeeze in as much birding as I could before I undergo shoulder surgery included the following. Even if I missed the Livermore Falls Townsend’s Solitaire twice (darn it), it was a very productive week, headlined by my second Harris’s Sparrow in Maine (and one of my favorite sparrows, too!).
1 female Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bernard Lown Peace Bridge, Lewiston/Auburn, 1/13.
1 adult Iceland Gull, North River Road boat launch, Auburn, 1/13.
1 continuing HARRIS’S SPARROW (present since 1/11), private property in Turner, 1/13 (photo above).
1 Pine Grosbeak (first of season), Hillman Ferry Road, Livermore Falls, 1/13 (did not find the Townsend’s Solitaire that day, unfortunately).
2 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, between Winslow Park and the Harraseekett Yacht Club, South Freeport, 1/14 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
8 Black-legged Kittiwakes, Short Sands Beach, York, 1/15 (with Down East Adventures Winter Waterbirds Workshop group).
1 adult Iceland Gull, The Nubble, York, 1/15 (with Down East Adventures Winter Waterbirds Workshop group).
Freeport Wild Bird Supply is very excited to partner with Down East Magazine’s Down East Adventures for our third year. In 2023, we are expanding our offerings to include two exclusive overnight trips, along with our popular ½- and whole-day targeted workshops. Focused on skill-builder rather than list-building, there will be plenty of “life birds,” but also more knowledge and education about birds, habitats, birding, and much more about the natural world.
The full list of upcoming tours can be found here. At the conclusion of each tour, I’ll post the trip report here.
Winter Waterbirds Workshop, January 15.
This Purple Sandpiper was about as cooperative as it gets for us at Sohier Park in York. Later, it was joined by its friends (photo below). This is really a lovely shorebird when viewed as well and as close as we experienced.
Extremely strong winds and very high seas presented a challenge as we sought out wintering waterbirds along the southern York County Coast. We worked hard to find sheltered water where we could observe birds well, but when we did find that secluded cove, peninsula lee, or rivermouth, we were treated to incredible looks at many of the birds we had hoped for.
We looked down on Red-breasted Mergansers at Perkin’s Cove, and you’ll never be closer to a Common Loon than we were at the Ogunquit Rivermouth. We checked a few more locations than I usually need to on this tour, but our most productive spot was the southern shoreline of Sohier Park at The Nubble. There, we were treated to close views of Black and White-winged Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, and a most-cooperative flock of Purple Sandpipers. We then ended the day at hidden Abbott’s Pond, where we enjoyed a break for the wind, close comparisons to study details between Mallards, American Black Ducks, and hybrids thereof.
Meanwhile, a group of 8 or so Black-legged Kittiwakes were feeding off of Short Sands Beach, and a stunning adult Iceland Gull passed by at The Nubble. Unfortunately, the seas were just a little too rough to find any alcids today, but we knew they were out there!
Spring Migrant Songbirds Workshop, May 14.
This stunning Blackburnian Warbler nicely demonstrated the value of blooming oak trees for seeing warblers in the middle of May.
Four hours later we had not left Evergreen Cemetery in Portland…a very good sign. There was just no need to move along, the birds kept coming to us. In the end we tallied a respectable 16 species of warblers, even though growing a list was not our goal. What made this workshop successful, however, was how well we saw just about all of the warblers and other songbird migrants throughout the morning.
Warblers were a highlight of course, including repeated quality time with favorites such as American Redstart and Black-and-white Warblers, the two most plentiful migrants this morning. We also enjoyed great looks at several Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Northern Parulas, with fantastic studies of Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler. We also saw two newly-arrived Tennessee Warblers which aren’t always easy to get looks at. There was a good amount of song this morning, so we had chances to listen and learn many of these species as well.
Shortly after hearing a Red-eyed Vireo and my describing it as “high up and often hard to see,” we found one in the lower branches of a nearby oak, and watched it sing, forage, and do all things vireo for almost 10 minutes! Likewise, after hearing distant Ovenbirds, we had two walking around right in front of us! Beginning with a view of a Veery on the ground in the open, we saw it again as the walk ended, only a few feet in front of us for another great view and chance to observe and study.
During the morning, we chatted about migration, habitat, and the process of building the necessary toolkit to build birding skills. Finishing the walk with a quick overview of some references (we had too many birds to leave much time for anything more), we recapped a very productive and instructive morning of spring birding.
It took over a month, but I finally made time to look for the Townsend’s Solitaire in Wells on the 2nd. Quality time with it was a worthy consolation for just missing the Northern Lapwing in Arundel that departed this morning.
A few observations of note over the past three days before we head off on vacation included the following:
1 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYE (first of season locally) and 19 DUNLIN, Winslow Park, Freeport, 12/31 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
40 continuing American Coots, 6 Ring-necked Ducks, 14 Lesser Scaup, 10 Greater Scaup, etc, Chickawaukie Pond, Rockland (with Paul Dioron, Kristen Lindquist, and Jeannette).
1 continuing Killdeer, Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, 1/2. I missed the Northern Lapwing by 28 minutes.
1 continuing TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE, Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm, 1/2. After about 45 minutes, heard calling from marsh edge north of viewing platform on Laird-Norton Trail. Called as Eastern Bluebirds arrived, often chasing or at least following them. Followed them right through viewing platform and alighted in small tree only about 30 feet away. Unfortunately, it was backlit for photos, but great look. Vocal and conspicuous for 15-20 minutes until bluebirds flew out across marsh. Photo above.
And as the calendar changes, it’s time for my annual Predictions Blog where I attempt to forecast the next 25 birds to occur in Maine, and for my own list: