Author Archives: Derek

This Week’s Highlights: September 17-21, 2022

A horrific attempt at documenting a lovely Lark Sparrow that Jeanette and I found
on Bailey Island on Tuesday morning.

My observations of note over the past five days before I head out to Monhegan with my annual tour group included a Lark Sparrow, lots of vismig, and two stints (including one 3K bird day!) at Sandy Point.

Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/17: 3,024 migrants of 39 species including 16 species of warblers including my second highest all-time count for Northern Parulas.  Full count here.

Hawkwatching at the store, 9/17: 1,708 raptors of 10 species. Full count here.

8 Red Crossbills and a deafening number of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Littlefield Wood Preserve, Chebeague Island, 9/18 (with Chebeague-Cumberland Land Trust tour group).

1 LARK SPARROW, intersection of Washington Street and Pasture Road, Bailey Island, Harpswell, 9/20 (with Jeannette). Photo above

Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/21: 322 migrants of 32 species including 14 species of warbler and my second-ever Brown Thrasher.  Full Count here.

This Week’s Highlights: September 10-16, 2022

Jeannette and I spent some quality time with “sharp-tailed sparrows” in Scarborough Marsh on Tuesday. It’s even more of a challenge this time of year with some birds still molting (such as the Saltmarsh Sparrow on the left) and other birds in fresh plumage, such as this apparent Nelson’s Sparrow on the right
(although a hybrid may be impossible to rule out).

Unlike last week, I was out birding plenty this week, including some of my favorite fall activities: Sandy Point and sorting through shorebirds.  Here are my observations of note over the past seven days:

  • Morning flight over our Pownal yard, 9/10: 6:15-7:30am: 250+ warblers of at least 10 species, led by 40++ Northern Parulas and including 1 Bay-breasted and 2++ Cape May Warbler.
  • “Zeiss Day” Hakwatch right here at the store, 9/10 (with Rich Moncrief): 95 individuals of 11 species of raptors led by 21 Ospreys and 18 Broad-winged Hawks.  Full count here.
  • 20-25 Common Nighthawks, over our yard in Pownal at dusk, 9/10, and 5-10 on 9/11.
  • 6 Northern Waterthrushes, 6 Swainson’s Thrushes, etc, Capisic Pond Park, Portland, 9/11 (with Down East Adventures Fall Songbird Workshop group).
  • 3 Saltmarsh Sparrows, 2 Nelson’s Sparrows, 15+ “sharp-tailed sparrow sp.,” 5 Pectoral Sandpipers, etc, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 9/13 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 3rd-cycle LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, Pine Point, Scarborough, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO).
  • 1 juv. WESTERN SANDPIPER, Biddeford Pool Beach, Biddeford, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO; Noah Gibb photo).
  • 1500-2000 Tree Swallows, Mile Stretch, Biddeford, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO).
  • Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/15: 2,115 migrants of 40 species including 15 species of wablers. Full count here.
  • Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/16: 394 migrants of 33 species including 12 species of warblers. Full count here.

This Week’s Highlights: September 5-9, 2022

Incredibly, there are still White Ibis in the Webhannet Marsh of Wells. Present since 8/10, I had at least 7 birds on the 9th, including a group of 6 that was relatively close to Drake’s Island Road.

After returning from a weekend in Massachusetts, I was unfortunately unable to get in much birding over the past six days, other than our yard and morning dogwalks. However, our yard in particular has been very productive, including over a dozen species of warblers and three continuing juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  Furthermore, since the storm pulled away, dead calm nights have precluded any drifting of migrants and therefore there wasn’t a single morning where I attempted a morning flight count at Sandy Point. Therefore, my observations of note over the past 5 days was limited to Friday, when I actually went birding. The highlights included:

  • 1 adult with 1 juvenile CASPIAN TERN and four Common Nighthawks, Seapoint Beach, Kittery, 9/9.
  • 1 immature Great Cormorant, The Nubble, Cape Neddick, 9/9.
  • 7 continuing WHITE IBIS, Webhannet Marsh, Wells, 9/9. 1 distant to the south of Harbor Road and 6 close to Drake’s Island Road in the early pm high tide.

Tomorrow (Saturday, 9/10) is our second Zeiss Day here at the store. We’ll have a full range of Zeiss products to test drive during our morning birdwalk, and day-long hawkwatch.  For more information, see this link on our website.

The weather conditions precluded time at Sandy Point this week, but I was also suffering from peep withdrawal. Luckily, I had 255 Semipalmated and 12 Least Sandpipers to sort through at Kittery’s Seapoint Beach on Friday morning. Couldn’t tease out a rarity though, but I tried.

This Week’s Highlights, August 24-September 2, 2022

The amazing run of ultra-rare raptors in Maine continued with the all-too-short visit of a Eurasian (Western) Marsh Harrier last week. First found on North Haven on 8/25, it was then relocated the next day in Weskeag Marsh. I finished a tour that morning and raced eastward to South Thomaston. After waiting only 20 minutes (others had been waiting nearly 5 hours), it appeared and put on a show for about 30-45 minutes.  After a reappearance the next morning, it has disappeared up birders up and down the East Coast are on high alert!

After returning from our summer vacation to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (see link)…

…my observations of note over the past seven days included:

  • EURASIAN (WESTERN) MARSH HARRIER, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26 (with Evan Obercian and m.obs). Photo above.
  • 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher, Highland Road, Brunswick, 8/27 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 154 Snowy Egrets, 106 Green-winged Teal, etc, etc, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/28.
  • 1 continuing proposed TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X SNOWY EGRET hybrid, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/28.
  • 7 continuing WHITE IBIS in non-exhaustive search, Harbor Road, Wells, 8/30 (with Jeannette).
  • 6 SANDHILL CRANES (two pairs with one juvenile each), Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 9/1.
  • SANDY POINT MORNING FLIGHT (FOY), 9/2: 482 total individuals including 2 DICKCISSELS and 20 species of warblers.  Complete tally here.

And my shorebird high counts over these past ten days included some fine tallies but much reduced diversity, mostly due to recent heavy rains filling the best high-marsh salt pannes:

  • AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER: 2 ad, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/28.
  • Black-bellied Plover: 118, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 8/27 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • Killdeer: 14, Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 8/25.
  • Semipalmated Plover: 179, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Sanderling: 2, Sebago Lake State Park (rare inland), 8/25.
  • Least Sandpiper: 66, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/28.
  • White-rumped Sandpiper: 8, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1, Eastern Road Trail, 8/28 and Walsh Preserve, Yarmouth, 8/30.
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 1,000++, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26. Honorary mention of 45-500 at Wharton Point on 8/27 – my highest tally here in years (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 24, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2, Sebago Lake State Park, 8/25.
  • Solitary Sandpiper: 1, several locations this week.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 48, Walsh Preserve, Yarmouth, 8/30.
  • “Eastern” Willet: 16, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 15, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26.
Just a very small part of an impressive feeding frenzy of Double-crested Cormorants and
Snowy Egrets that were at Pine Point in Scarborough on the 25th.

New Brunswick – PEI Roadtrip Bird Photo Journal, 8/2022.

Jeannette and I enjoyed a summer roadtrip to the Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island from August 15th through 23rd. Shorebirds were our birding focus, because August, but our expectations were far surpassed! Here are a few photo highlights from the journey.

We began our roadtrip in Bangor, where we could not resist some quality time with an unusually-confiding family group of Least Bitterns that has been hanging out in Essex Marsh.
We then drove straight to Johnson’s Mills, New Brunswick, near the head of the Bay of Fundy.
Here, at and nearby the Shorebird Interpretive Center, nearly half of the world’s population of Semipalmated Sandpipers passes through. After a day count of 100,000 a couple of days before we arrived, we had to settle for a tally of about 60,000. It was awesome (in the literal sense of the word).
I wrote about this special place and how everyone needs to visit in a blog back in 2017 that can be read here.
Staying in the delightful town of Sackville, we made multiple visits to the downtown Waterfowl Park. Copious amounts of dabbling ducks breed and stage here.
. Here are a couple of Gadwall.
Good numbers of American Wigeon are also present.
But of course you’re really here at this time of year for the shorebirds, so on the next day, we were right back to Johnson’s Mills for the incoming tide.
. Here’s a Semipalmated Sandpiper pool party.
So. Many. Shorebirds.

It’s hard for still photos to do the scene true justice however, so we posted a few videos to our store’s Facebook Page. They can be viewed here.

As per tradition in this blog, a photo of our meal of the trip! This was our “lifer” Kurdish food from Fener’s Place in Sackville. Since we have not had this cuisine before, it notched out the win from several great meals in Charlottetown and elsewhere throughout the tour.
Then it was off to Prince Edward Island, our primary destination of the trip. Our first stop was Brackley Marsh, but rain caught up with us and it was absolutely pouring. Birding was not easy, although we found two good birds: Long-billed Dowitcher and “Western” Willet.
However, it took us until the next morning to find what we were looking for
… this Gray Heron! A vagrant from Europe, this is the first we have seen in North America. With this trip cancelled for the last two years due to the closed border, it was serendipitous for it to show up when we could finally make it. A big thanks to our friend Dwaine for rising early and pinning it down for us!
We were amazed by the number of Great Blue Herons all over the island, too, such as this group near
Savage Harbor.
Dwaine showed us around, and after lunch, we birded Borden-Carlton
…where we returned the favor by finding this very rare for the island Black Tern at Borden Beach.
Standing next to Bonaparte’s Gulls and Semipalmated Sandpipers, you can see how tiny this marsh tern is.
Jeannette was put in charge of documenting it thoroughly!
We spent the next day vehicle-free in Charlottetown, starting with morning birding at Victoria Park, where we quickly tallied a dozen species of warblers in scattered mixed-species foraging flocks.
After Charlottetown, we relocated to Goose River and the next morning began with sewatching at East Point. There, we found another mid-summer rarity in a first-summer male Harlequin Duck. Unfortunately, it was too distant for photos.
Later, however, at Rollo Bay, we had plenty of opportunities for close shorebird photography, including ample numbers of Black-bellied Plovers.
And Semipalmated Plovers.
Common Tern fledgling following an adult. Six Red Knots were among the highlights here.
On our last morning in PEI, we once again began at East Point, where we enjoyed 3 Pomarine Jaegers chasing Northern Gannets, a few more Razorbills, and a Mourning Warbler along the road.
Then, as our last stop before crossing the bridge, it was back to Borden-Carlton Beach.
We just could not get enough of the shorebirds here, and photographing them against the island’s red sand really makes them – especially these Sanderlings – pop!
Sanderlings and White-rumped Sandpiper.
We just could not get over, nor stop enjoying, the plethora of White-rumped Sandpipers that stage and pass through the island. We had counts of over 200 in some places, and in some beaches and salt pannes, it was the most abundant shorebird. Here at Borden Beach, we took some more time to marvel at it.
Shorebirds tracks and probes.
And photograph some more Semipalmated Sandpipers…bringing our trip full-circle
before beginning the trek home.

This Week’s Highlights, August 6 – August 12, 2022.

Here are three of the incredible 26 White Ibis that were found in Webhannet Marsh in Wells beginning on August 10th when one was photographed. I was able to see them in the late morning on the 11th, as the number grew. Most interestingly, we observed them eating Green Crabs (such as the one on the left)!  Well, we know we have enough of those invasive species around, so maybe we just need more White Ibis!

All. The. Shorebirds. And rare wading birds! Here are my observations of note over the past seven days:

  • 1 TRICOLORED HERON (my first pure TRHE of the year), Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/9 (with Jeannette).
  • 26 WHITE IBIS, Webhannet Marsh, Wells, 8/11. 29 were present earlier, but I had to settle for “only” 26. Either way, wow…A flock of White Ibis!  Rapidly expanding up the Eastern Seabird, this was just a matter of time.

Shorebird high counts this week, with many species now peaking:

  • AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER: 2 ad with 1 juv, Upper Green Island, Casco Bay, 8/12 (with Seacoast Tours and private tour group). Is this a family group from Ram Island, or perhaps another pair is now breeding further up the bay?
  • Black-bellied Plover: 62, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/8 (with client from NY).
  • Killdeer: 5, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • Semipalmated Plover: 300+, Pine Point, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • Whimbrel: 2, Pine Point, 8/8 (with client from NY).
  • Ruddy Turnstone: 1, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • STILT SANDPIPER: 9 (great count!), Eastern Road Trail, 8/8 (with client from NY) and 8/9 (with Jeannette).
  • Sanderling: 34, Hill’s Beach, Biddeford, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • Least Sandpiper: 75+, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/8 (with client from NY).
  • White-rumped Sandpiper: 46, Eastern Road Trail, 8/8 (with client from NY).
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 3, Eastern Road Trail, 8/8 (with client from NY)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 550+, Eastern Road Trail, 8/9 (with Jeannette).
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 44, Eastern Road Trail, 8/8 (with client from NY).
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 4, Sebago Lake State Park, 8/11.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 64, Royal River, Yarmouth, 8/12 (with Seacoast Tours and private tour group).
  • “Eastern” Willet: 8, Pine Point, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • “WESTERN” WILLET (FOY): 3 juv, Hill’s Beach, 8/7 (with Down East Adventures Shorebird Workshop Group).
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 24, Royal River, Yarmouth, 8/12 (with Seacoast Tours and Private Tour Group).
  • WILSON’S PHALAROPE: 1 molting juv, Eastern Road Trail, 8/8 (with client from NY). Phone-scoped video here: https://fb.watch/ePAQA03F_3/
Well, it wasn’t a rare bird, but I really liked this photo of a Ring-billed Gull from Sebago Lake Park on 8/11. In came to check out if I was going to have a snack after my weekly dip in the lake.

This Week’s Highlights, July 30 – August 5, 2022.

This Black Tern (far right, with Roseate Terns) has been slowly molting out of breeding plumage since it arrived at Pine Point back on July 2nd. It was still present in the morning of August 5th.

It’s August, so as usual, shorebirds were the focus. Here are my observations of note over the past seven days.

  • 1 Surf Scoter, off Sisters Island, Casco Bay, 7/31 (with Birds of Casco Bay Tour group).
  • 1 Fish Crow continues, Point Sebago Resort (private), 8/4 (with Point Sebago Birdwalk group).
  • 1 Red Crossbill, our yard in Pownal, 8/5.
  • 1 continuing molting adult BLACK TERN, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/5.

Shorebird high counts this week:

  • Black-bellied Plover: 39, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/5.
  • Killdeer: 24, Mayall Rd, Gray/New Gloucester, 8/4.
  • Semipalmated Plover: 389, Pine Point, 8/5.
  • Piping Plover: 14, Popham Beach State Park, Phippsburg, 8/2.
  • Whimbrel: 3, Pine Point, 8/5.
  • Ruddy Turnstone: 2, Pine Point, 8/5.
  • Sanderling: 16, Popham Beach State Park, 8/2.
  • Least Sandpiper: 65+, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/5.
  • White-rumped Sandpiper: 9, Eastern Road Trail, 8/5.
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1-2, Eastern Road Trail, 8/5.
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 240+, Popham Beach State Park, 8/2.
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 13, Pine Point, 8/5.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2, Sebago Lake State Park, 8/4.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 26, Rte 1/9 salt pannes south, Scarborough Marsh, 8/5.
  • “Eastern” Willet: 14, Pine Point, 8/5.
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 9, Eastern Road Trail, 8/5.

This Week’s Highlights, July 23- July 29, 2022.

A lousy photo of great birds: two Stilt Sandpipers were in the Pelreco Marsh on 7/29.

Seal Island, Monhegan Island, and shorebird migration. Lots of “good birds” in great places this week. Here are my observations of note over the past seven days.

  • Red Crossbills along the coast: 1+, Pownal, 7/23; 1, Brooksville, 7/24 (with Laura Blandford); 1-2’s scattered on Monhegan Island, 7/25;
  • An incredible trip to Seal Island on 7/23 produced all of the expected breeding seabirds, a couple of Common Murres; a Peregrine Falcon show; migrating Whimbrels, one Great Shearwater, and a PARASITIC JAEGER.  Photos and the complete trip report can be found here.
  • Hardy Boat from New Harbor to Monhegan, 7/25 (with Jeannette): 6 Cory’s Shearwaters (FOY) and 8 Great Shearwaters.
  • A “non-birding” weekend with Jeannette friends to Monhegan Island 7/25-26 actually yielded some outstanding birding! The highlight was a four-species shearwater show off of Lobster Cove throughout the day on 7/25. We saw at least 3 MANX SHEARWATERS and 2 Sooty Shearwaters (FOY) among numbers of Cory’s and Great Shearwaters.  They were passing at a slow but steady rate of about 16 Great and 6 Cory’s every 5 minutes, plus an average of 9 Atlantic Puffins per 5 minutes.  Hard to tell if the shearwaters were swirling, rounding the island, or just streaming by. 1-2 ROSEATE TERNS joined Arctic and Common Terns feeding nearshore – Roseate was a new “island bird” for me.
  • Other Monhegan highlights: 1-2 Blue-winged Teal continue, 1 Great Egret (also an “island bird” for me!), and 1+ Sharp-shinned Hawk.
  • Hardy Boat departure from Monhegan to New Harbor (with Jeannette), 7/26: 1 PURPLE SANDPIPER, Outer Duck Islands from ferry seal watching diversion. Unexpected and incredible mid-summer record; no camera available and phone-binning was a complete failure.  With a few Ruddy Turnstones.  1 more Cory’s Shearwater en route.
  • 1 molting adult BLACK TERN, Pine Point Co-op, Scarborough, 7/29.

Shorebird high counts this week. I had an excellent tally of 19 species, although counts were a little low due to limited visitation to the best shorebird sites.

  • Black-bellied Plover: 14, Pine Point, Scarborough, 7/29.
  • Killdeer: 4, Rte 1/9 pannes, Scarborough Marsh, 7/29.
  • Semipalmated Plover: 159, Pine Point, 7/29.
  • Piping Plover: 6, escaping people by foraging on mudflats off the Pine Point Co-op, Scarborough Marsh, 7/29.
  • Whimbrel: 20 (flocks of 12 and 8), Seal Island, 7/23 (with “Not-so-search for Troppy Tour Group).
  • Ruddy Turnstone: 5, Outer Ducks, Monhegan, 7/26 (with Jeannette).
  • STILT SANDPIPER: 2 ad, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 7/29 (John Lorenc had 5 earlier in the morning) and 1 ad, Eastern Rd Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 7/29.
  • PURPLE SANDPIPER: 1, Outer Ducks, 7/26 (with Jeannette; see above).
  • Sanderling: 4, Seal Island, 7/23 (with “Not-so-search for Troppy Tour Group).
  • Least Sandpiper: 40+, Eastern Road Trail, 7/29.
  • White-rumped Sandpiper: 6 total around Scarborough Marsh, 7/29.
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1, Pine Point, 7/29.
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 100+ Pine Point, 7/29.
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 24, Eastern Road Trail, 7/29.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 3, Seal Island, 7/23 (with “Not-so-search for Troppy Tour Group).
  • Solitary Sandpiper: 1-2, Monhegan Island, 7/26 (with Jeannette).
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 18, Eastern Road Trail, 7/29.
  • “Eastern” Willet: 27, Pine Point, 7/29.
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 12, Eastern Road Trail, 7/29.

Our next event here at the store is on August 4th when we welcome Paul Doiron to read from and sign copies of his new book, Hatchett Island. His latest crime thriller takes place on an imaginary seabird island here in Maine!  More information can be found here.

2022 Seal Island Trip Report (The “not-so-search for Troppy), 7/23.

After 17 consecutive summers in the Gulf of Maine, “Troppy” the Red-billed Tropicbird failed to return to Seal Island.  Arriving in 2005, but continuing annually throughout the summer since 2009 exclusively at Seal Island, Troppy had become a mainstay of summer birding in Maine – and our tour calendar!

Arriving as an adult, Troppy was therefore at least two years old when he was first sighted in 2005.  Since most sorces seem to reference “16-30 years” as a lifespan, a 19-year old “Troppy” would be getting a little long in the tooth, err, bill.  But, as I romanticized in my 2019 article for Birding magazine, we all hoped he would find the long lost love. Maybe he did. Maybe he’s making a trop-ling somewhere in the Caribbean where he “should be.”  Yeah, that’s what I’ll think.  We need more happy thoughts these days.

Wherever he might be, it was not Seal Island or any other Gulf of Maine seabird island this summer, and with his absence, tours to Seal Island were few and far between. Our first one cancelled, but we were able to run our July 23rd departure with our friends at Isle au Haut Boat Services thanks to a dedicated group of birders who know how special Seal Island is, with or without the famous rarity.

And Seal Island most did not disappoint!  Even without a tropicbird (or a Tufted Puffin for that matter, which of course we all hoped would make a reappearance).

First, the weather: it was unbelievable! Actually, it was downright hot, even offshore, and especially away from what little breeze there was when we were not motoring. Seas were a gentle 2-3 feet, with an occasional slightly larger but inconsequential swell.  Falling rapidly, it was incredibly smooth in the coves of the island, and on the way back where we enjoyed following seas for a very flat and fast ride.

Shortly after departing Stonington, we spotted our first Atlantic Puffin before we even cleared Isle au Haut.  A few more, scattered small numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels (I tallied 41 in all), and a few Razorbills punctuated our trip out.  Not much was happening around Saddleback Ledge though.

Of course, the show realty began upon arrival at Seal Island.  The heat sent the alcids into the water, so virtually all of the Atlantic Puffins that were present were in the coves and often allowing close approach and stellar photo ops.

We worked our way around the island, slowly improving our views of Razorbills (at least 6) and finally finding two Common Murres. 

Razorbill
It took a while, but we finally found a Common Murre – it was even the uncommon “Bridled” morph.

We motored around the south end, where the swell was just enough to prevent us from getting too close to the Great Cormorant colony – Maine’s last. But the nests brimming with growing chicks was still thoroughly enjoyed.

Off the northeast end, we cut the engine and drifted among the alcids.  Off the open waters came a flock of 12 Whimbrel which we heard first before they flew close by. Likely having tanked up on blueberries in a barren Down East or in the Maritimes, they didn’t seem to consider pausing on the island. Later, 8 more flew by even further offshore.

Laughing Gull

While the lack of shearwaters all day was disappointing, the one Great Shearwater that we saw came in for a close look at us!

A little group of Sanderlings flew by, a few peeps were along the shoreline, and we spotted several calling Spotted Sandpipers.

And don’t forget about all of the dapper little Black Guillemots!

And of course, there were the terns. Hundreds of Arctic and Common Terns were present, with a goodly number of juveniles learning the ropes. Arctic Terns were particularly conspicuous today, with many making close approaches of the boat or disregarding our presence to take a bath.

Arctic Terns
Juvenile Common Tern.

I both enjoyed and lamented the fact that I didn’t have Troppy to stress over. In fact, without needing to be in position and waiting for him, we took advantage of the gentle seas to not only circumnavigate the island, but also spend ample time drifting in sheltered coves, photographing alcids and searching for a big, black puffin with punk-rock hair.

The eastern side.

But we still had a time limit for our charter, so we decided to spend our last moments enjoying the action at the tern colony. That’s when a Peregrine Falcon arrived.  While this is a most unwelcome guest at a seabird colony and we were conflicted about seeing it, it was also impossible not to sit back and watch the show. 

It surprised the terns by coming up and over the backside of the island, scattering the entire colony. Upon identifying the intruder, all of the adults made a beeline and began diving, mobbing, and otherwise trying to drive the predator away. Watching one of the world’s greatest – and fastest – predators in action was a real special treat, but we were also not upset that it came away empty; we were rooting for the terns.

If that wasn’t a grand finale, I don’t know what is.  Well, maybe the Parasitic Jaeger on the way back!

About halfway between Seal and Saddleback Ledge, I first thought it was a Peregrine tearing in after a lone Common Tern. But when it became clear that it was a jaeger, I yelled for Captain Mike to “step on the breaks.”  We watched the dogfight for several minutes, and it was spectacular to see. It was just far enough away that we couldn’t tell if the tern gave up its fish, but it definitely didn’t do it willingly. 

Shortly thereafter we began to run into little rafts of Razorbills (a conservative tally of 36, plus 7 more between Saddleback Ledge and Stonington) and scattered Atlantic Puffins. We had quite a few more Wilson’s Storm-Petrels on the way back, and finally some Northern Gannets.

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel

We even had time to check some rocky islets for roosting shorebirds (none), loafing Harbor Seals (lots), and maybe spot something like a Great White Shark (nope; but the boat had one the very next day!).

Gray Seals and Harbor Seals. Note the “horse’s head” profile of the Grays, verses the puppy-like Harbors.

In other words: what a trip! And exactly why it’s well worth a tour to Seal Island regardless. That being said, I must admit, it was not quite the same without “Troppy.”  But as a guide, my stress level was a lot lower!  Having seen him 9 times out of 12 visits to Seal, I consider myself beyond fortunate. I’m also so happy to have shared his glory with so many other birders on all these tours. So, wherever you are, Troppy, I’ll continue to lead trips to Seal Island in your honor!

Looking back at “Troppy’s Cove”

This Week’s Highlights, July 16- July 22, 2022.

While small numbers of juvenile WESTERN SANDPIPERS can be found in Maine in late summer and early fall, we rarely see adults. Therefore, this was an exciting find at Hill’s Beach in Biddeford
on the incoming tide on the 22nd.

Another dandy week of summertime birding produced the following highlights for me. Shorebird numbers and diversity are growing rapidly now.

  • 1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Old Town House Park, North Yarmouth, 7/16 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group; few around locally this summer). One calling in our Pownal yard on 7/22.
  • 2 continuing HENSLOW’S SPARROWS, Crystal Spring Farm, Brunswick, 7/20.  Both birds singing, but the west bird continued long past the east bird went silent. I spent my time this morning attempting to observe the east bird, but never saw it once it stopped singing about 5 minutes after I arrived.
  • 1 Fish Crow, Point Sebago (Private; with Point Sebago Birdwalk group) and 1 at Sebago Lake State Park, 7/21 (still wondering if these are from the Windham colony or not).

Shorebird high counts this week (see last week’s post for an explanation):

  • Black-bellied Plover: 4, Pine Point, Scarborough, 7/22.
  • Killdeer:  22, Crystal Spring Farm, Brunswick, 7/20.
  • Semipalmated Plover: 10, Hill’s Beach, Biddeford, 7/22.
  • Piping Plover: 1 adult with 2 nearly-fledged juveniles that are somehow close to making it on Pine Point Beach, Scarborough, 7/22.
  • Whimbrel (FOF): 5, Pine Point, 7/22.
  • Ruddy Turnstone: 1, Eastern Egg Rock, 7/16 (with Hardy Boat Evening Puffin Cruise group).
  • Sanderling: 18, Hill’s Beach, 7/22.
  • Least Sandpiper: 31, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 7/22.
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 140, Pine Point, 7/22.
  • WESTERN SANDPIPER: 1 rare adult, Hill’s Beach, Biddeford, 7/22 (photo above).
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 165, The Pool, Biddeford Pool, 7/22.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2, Eastern Egg Rock, 7/16 (with Hardy Boat Evening Puffin Cruise group) and Sebago Lake State Park, 7/21.
  • Solitary Sandpiper (FOF): 1, Old Town House Park, North Yarmouth, 7/16 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group) and 1, Eastern Road Trail, 7/22.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 53, Eastern Road Trail, 7/22.
  • “Eastern” Willet: 96, The Pool, 7/22.
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 10, Eastern Road Trail, 7/22.

Beat the heat tomorrow, Saturday, July 23rd with a boat trip to Seal Island. No “Troppy” this year, but you know we’ll be looking hard for the Tufted Puffin! A limited amount of space on this extended charter is available.

This Piping Plover is one of two siblings that have somehow survived on the jam-packed Pine Point Beach. Often exercising their wings on the 22nd, they are probably just a
few days away from being able to fly away from crowds.