Author Archives: Derek

This Week’s Highlights, 1/15-21, 2022

Barrow’s Goldeneyes are one of my favorite visitors to Maine in winter. The hens provide a nice challenge to pick out, too. This was one of two distinctive Barrow’s visible from the
Bernard Lown Peace Bridge in Auburn/Lewiston on the 13th.

Especially in November – and often again with the first cold snap in December – I talk about “rarity fever,” when there is that additional motivation and encouragement to go birding thanks to the expectation of the unexpected. And usually we in Maine talk about the “winter doldrums” in an non-irruption year. And this year, there are virtually zero irruptives in the southern half of Maine – other than Snowy Owls. But with the Steller’s Sea-Eagle (as you may have heard!), a Bullock’s Oriole at a feeder in Damariscotta Mills, a Townsend’s Warbler in Cape Elizabeth (I missed it twice this week with a limited amount of effort), and a Barnacle Goose in Rockland, there is no doubt I – and many other birders – are experiencing a little mid-winter Rarity Fever!  And that has helped motivate me to get out birding as often as I can. The to-do list can wait until February, right?

With the fairly sudden arrival to a bitter “real winter” cold, once again “pioneering” waterfowl made up most of my highlights this week, as I spent most of my birding time searching for the next big deal. My observations of note over the past seven days include the following:

  • 1 Northern Flicker, Village Crossings/Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt Trail, 1/16 (with John Lorenc).
  • 7 Brant, Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 10/18 (with Jeannette).
  • At least 2 hen BARROW’S GOLDENEYES.  A third hen is suggestive of an odd Barrow’s or a Common x Barrow’s hybrid (see photo captions), Bernard Lown Peace Bridge, Auburn/Lewiston, 1/20.
  • Fun to hear two Carolina Wrens counter-singing across the Androscoggin River – one in Lewiston and one in Auburn – from Little Andy Park, Auburn, 1/20.
  • 1 drake Northern Pintail and 3 1st-winter Iceland Gulls, Auburn Riverwalk, 1/20.
  • 1 female Northern Pintail, Westbrook Riverwalk, 1/21.
In addition to a bright-orange-billed classic Barrow’s, and the perfectly good smudgy-billed individual above (and here, on the left), there was a third bird that I am pondering. It’s either a third female Barrow’s (a great tally, especially for Androscoggin County) or perhaps a hybrid between Barrow’s x Common – the males of which do occur in Maine and are fairly straightforward to identify.

This Week’s Highlights, 1/8-14, 2022


My observations of note over the past seven days are as follows. With the first real cold spell of the winter, it’s not surprising that many of the noteworthy observations this week were of “lingering” or “pioneering” individuals that were moving around or seeking more tolerable locales. Of course, my two (almost) full days of birding this week were focused on the Boothbay area.

  • 1 American Pipit, 1 Turkey Vulture, 100+ distant scaup, etc, Maquoit Bay Conservation Trail, Brunswick, 1/8 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk Group).
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant, inner harbor, Boothbay Harbor, 1/10 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant, Knickercane Island, Boothbay, 1/10 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 drake Greater Scaup, Swinging Bridge, Brunswick, 1/10 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 drake NORTHERN PINTAIL, 29 Horned Larks, and 8 Snow Buntings, Rte 136, Durham, 1/13.
  • 1 GADWALL, unexpected fly-by at the Maine State Aquarium, Boothbay, 1/14.
  • After not seeing it on Monday, I went back to the Boothbay area today, 1/14 to see the Steller’s Sea-Eagle again, because, well, there’s a Steller’s-friggin-Sea-Eagle in Maine. Luckily, I was rewarded with a 20-25 minute observation of it perched and in flight from Spruce Point. The more I see this bird, the more I want to see this bird!
  • Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of it – it was too far, and I was just enjoying it in the scope. But I got a new camera, and I did take it out to play for the first time! This Common Loon made for an excellent subject for a test-drive.
No Zoom.
Camera-only Zoom. Not additional cropping. My first impression is that it’s much slower than my previous camera, and the resultant image is not as crisp. But, the zoom is stronger, and the maximum optical + digital zoom produces a better image, at least for “documentation.”

This Week’s Highlights, 1/1-7, 2022

This dapper drake American Wigeon at Brunswick’s historic Swinging Bridge on the 4th very well could have been the same bird that I found upriver in Durham three days prior, as the river was finally beginning to freeze over.

Happy New Year (List) everyone!  My sightings of note over the past seven days were as follows. Unfortunately, they did not include the Steller’s Sea-Eagle on Saturday or Sunday (but last week, on Friday…wow, just wow. Still can’t really believe that happened!) but did include a few goodies while searching for where it may have ended up (before its re-discovery in Boothbay on Thursday).

  • 1 drake American Wigeon, Rte 136, Durham, 1/1.
  • 18 Greater Scaup, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 1/3 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED X HERRING GULL HYBRID, Bath Landfill, 1/4 (with Jeannette)
  • 1 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYE, Thorne Head Preserve, Bath, 1/4.
  • 1 drake American Wigeon, Swinging Bridge, Brunswick, 1/4.
  • 44 Greater Scaup, 38 distant unidentified scaup, 625+ American Black Ducks, 130+ Surf and White-winged Scoters, etc, Maquoit Bay Conservation Land, Brunswick, 1/6.
  • Here is our “West Freeport” territory tally from Sunday’s Freeport-Brunswick CBC:

– 5 American Black Ducks

– 30 Mallards

– 1 Hooded Merganser (2nd sector record)

– 1 Red-tailed Hawk

– 1 Ruffed Grouse

– 30 Wild Turkeys

– 12 Herring Gulls

– 26 Mourning Doves

– 4 Red-bellied Woodpeckers

– 28 Downy Woodpeckers

– 15 Hairy Woodpeckers

– 6 Pileated Woodpeckers (sector high count)

– 1 Northern Flicker (2nd sector record)

– 40 Blue Jays

– 104 American Crows

– 1 Common Raven

– 413 Black-capped Chickadees (2nd highest count)

– 90 Tufted Titmice (sector high count; old record of 44)

– 16 Red-breasted Nuthatches

– 45 White-breasted Nuthatches

– 1 Brown Creeper

– 11 Golden-crowned Kinglets

– 1 Carolina Wren

– 26 Eastern Bluebirds

– 1 American Robin

– 73 European Starlings (sector high count)

– 10 American Tree Sparrows

– 2 Song Sparrows

– 1 White-throated Sparrow

– 18 Dark-eyed Juncos

– 20 Northern Cardinals

– 20 House Finches

– 204 American Goldfinches (2nd highest count)

33 species (2nd highest for territory thanks to extensive open water this year).

8.5 hours: 22.4 miles by car; 18.5 miles by foot.

At the very least, it confirmed some of our preconceived notions: sparrows and frugivores are in short supply; winter finches and other irruptives are not around at all – but a huge pulse of goldfinches arrived late last week; and local resident breeding birds seemed to have done quite well this year.

  • And finally today, here is my annual blog prognosticating the Next 25 species to appear in Maine, and on my own list. Spoiler alert: I did not predict a Steller’s Sea-Eagle.

2022 Maine Birds Predictions Blog

No one could have predicted the bird of the year, err..century..err, ever.  This magnificent Steller’s Sea-Eagle spent four days in Georgetown right around the New Year.

It’s once again time for my annual Predictions Blog, where I view into my crystal binoculars and attempt to forecast some of the “new” birds to grace the State of Maine – and then my own personal state list – in the coming year.

I feel like I could have just recycled my blog from 2021.  “…Worst Year Ever.”  Ha. 2021 replied, “hold my beer!”  That all being said, a complete summary would show the full picture, with all its ups and downs (and there were a lot of downs), but undoubtably with many happy moments contained within.  That’s all beyond the scope of this blog. I’ll just stick to the birds.

Of course, nothing compares – or perhaps, ever will compare! – to the headliner of 2021: The Steller’s Sea-Eagle. No, this was not on my predictions list – or anyone else’s at the start of the year. That being said, following reports this summer in New Brunswick, November in Nova Scotia, and then December in Massachusetts, there is no doubt it would have been optimistically added to the list for 2022…had it not shown up in Georgetown on December 30th (or perhaps earlier).  This mega-of-megas, one of the world’s most extraordinary birds, might render almost any other first state record pedestrian, or at least anticlimactic.

At the very least, it does overshadow the only other chaseable first Maine record for this year: Redwing, a European thrush. What was the “bird of the year” until three days remaining on the calendar, this bird delighted many hundreds of birders at Capisic Pond Park in Portland at the end of January 2021 – which seems like eons ago! The first state record, however, actually came earlier in the month, when a Redwing – perhaps the very same individual – was a one-day wonder on private property in Steuben. Lucky for all, the next one/sighting of it showed up on public property and stayed around for about three weeks.  Redwing was #16 on my “Next 25 Species for Maine” list.

And finally, a Masked Booby surprised observers on Mount Desert Rock on August 9th.  With increasing observations of tropical seabirds north of the Gulf Stream, this is less shocking than it would have been a few years ago.

Three first state records in one year is pretty good, and the quality of this year’s roster is impressive. How will 2022 compare?

Therefore, my list of next 25 species to occur in Maine receives just a few tweaks.

  • 1) Neotropical Cormorant
  • 2) Graylag Goose
  • 3) California Gull
  • 4) Spotted Towhee
  • 5) Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • 6) Bermuda Petrel
  • 7) Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • 8) Common Shelduck
  • 9) Trumpeter Swan (of wild, “countable” origin)
  • 10) Audubon’s Shearwater – on “hypothetical” list, but I think the record is good.
  • 11) Little Stint
  • 12) Anna’s Hummingbird
  • 13) “Western” Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran)
  • 14) Common Ground-Dove
  • 15) Allen’s Hummingbird
  • 16) Spotted Redshank
  • 17) Painted Redstart
  • 18) Ross’s Gull
  • 19) Black-capped Petrel
  • 20) Lesser Nighthawk
  • 21) Barolo Shearwater (a good record, with photographs, unlike my “it has to be this” sight record!)
  • 22) Elegant Tern
  • 23) Kelp Gull
  • 24) Black-tailed Gull
  • 25) Common Scoter

Personally, I was fortunate to add two birds to my own state list this year. And they were good ones!

The aforementioned Redwing got things started. It was not on my Top 25 list because I expected it to be a one-day wonder in some far-off place, never to be seen again. It was. But then it, or another bird – there were several Redwings in the Northeast part of the continent last winter – debuted at Capisic. That was fun.

Did I mention there was a Steller’s Sea-Eagle? That was my 390th species in Maine.

So neither of my state birds were on my Predictions list. I’ll be OK though, all things considered.

And, as usual, there were also a handful of potential state birds for me that I did not see.  Franklin’s Gull appears to be on its way to becoming my nemesis, with another one this year: a one-day wonder at the Sanford Lagoons on 9/9. It was #3 on my list.

A Sandwich Tern at Mount Desert Rock on 7/6 was on my Honorable Mention list, as was Brown Booby, which has started to become regular north of Cape Cod.  There was one off of Biddeford Pool on 7/8 ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa, followed by one on Mount Desert Rock August 2nd through 9th (not an easy place to chase!). 

So a few tweaks to my list for my next additions to my personal state list are as follows:

  • 1) American White Pelican
  • 2) Neotropic Cormorant
  • 3) Franklin’s Gull
  • 4) Brown Pelican
  • 5) Graylag Goose
  • 6) California Gull
  • 7) Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  • 8) Brown Booby
  • 9) Slaty-backed Gull
  • 10) Boreal Owl
  • 11) Calliope Hummingbird
  • 12) Common Ringed Plover
  • 13) Cerulean Warbler
  • 14) White Ibis
  • 15) Gull-billed Tern
  • 16) Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • 17) Spotted Towhee
  • 18) Pacific Golden-Plover
  • 19) Wood Stork
  • 20) Ross’s Gull
  • 21) Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • 22) Brewer’s Blackbird
  • 23) Yellow Rail
  • 24) Virginia’s Warbler
  • 25) Common Shelduck

So let’s see what 2021 (edited: 2022) brings to the Maine birding world. A return to a sense of normalcy would be a nice start, however.

I am overdue to luck into an American White Pelican in the state!

This Week’s Highlights, 12/29-31, 2021

At this point, this bird really needs no introduction. Here are Jeannette’s photos of the famous Steller’s Sea-Eagle that we caught up on the morning of on New Year’s Eve at Five Islands in Georgetown.

What an incredible bird!
  • 1 drake Northern Pintail, Harraseeket Yacht Club, Freeport, 12/29.
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant, dusk at Five Islands, Georgetown, 12/30.
  • 5 Double-crested Cormorants, 4++ Razorbill, etc, Five Islands, Georgetown, 12/31.  Oh yeah, that bird in the photos above, too.
While spending Christmas with family in New Jersey, Jeannette and I successfully chased this Wood Stork at my old stomping grounds of Sandy Hook. It was my 350th species in New Jersey.
Not bad for a place that I haven’t lived in over 20 years!

This Week’s Highlights, 12/18-24, 2021

After receiving photos of what appeared to be an all-dark Euphagus blackbird reported as being “glossy” at times- and without the bill visible – a few of us went out to get better looks in the freezing rain on the 22nd. It wasn’t until the bird showed up at a feeder and we were able to photograph it at close range that we confirmed it was just a truant, exceptionally dark-for-the-season Rusty Blackbird (note the very subtle rufous fringes
on the head and breast and the thin, slightly downcurved bill).

Southern York County CBC, “Moody Sector” of Wells and Ogunquit, 12/20 (with Jeannette).

As usual, our incredibly productive territory produced a number of “good birds” and a decent 57 total species:

  • 144 Canada Geese
  • 232 Mallards
  • 2 Mallards x American Black Duck hybrid
  • 81 American Black Ducks
  • 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (Beach Plum Farm)
  • 4 GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Furbush Avenue)
  • 64 Common Eider
  • 46 Surf Scoter
  • 31 White-winged Scoter
  • 287 Black Scoter
  • 39 Long-tailed Duck
  • 22 Bufflehead
  • 9 Common Goldeneye
  • 22 Red-breasted Merganser
  • 3 Red-throated Loon
  • 5 Common Loon
  • 9 Horned Grebe
  • 26 Red-necked Grebe
  • 1 Northern Gannet
  • 1 Great Blue Heron
  • 1 Bald Eagle
  • 78 American Crow
  • 1 Northern Harrier
  • 1 Cooper’s Hawk
  • 2 Red-tailed Hawks
  • 1 WILSON’S SNIPE (Wells sewerage. 5th count record.)
  • 22 Ring-billed Gull
  • 161 Herring Gull
  • 1 Great Black-backed Gull
  • 2 Razorbill
  • 67 Rock Pigeon
  • 2 Mourning Dove
  • 1 SNOWY OWL (Bourne Ave)
  • 1 Belted Kingfisher
  • 12 Downy Woodpecker
  • 6 Blue Jay
  • 19 Horned Lark
  • 65 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 16 Tufted Titmice
  • 11 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 1 Brown Creeper
  • 4 Carolina Wren
  • 3 Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • 1 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Seaview Street).
  • 12 Eastern Bluebird
  • 1 HERMIT THRUSH (Wells sewerage)
  • 3 Northern Mockingbird
  • 97 European Starling
  • 1 AMERICAN PIPIT (Bourne Avenue)
  • 16 American Tree Sparrow
  • 1 CHIPPING SPARROW (Wells sewerage)
  • 17 Song Sparrow
  • 48 Dark-eyed Junco
  • 5 White-throated Sparrow
  • 25 Northern Cardinal
  • 48 House Finch
  • 22 American Goldfinch
  • 137 House Sparrow

8 hours: 13.3 miles by car; 9.5 miles by foot.

  • No Steller’s Sea-Eagle in Massachusetts, 12/21 (with Weston Barker, Michael Boardman, and Matthew Gilbert)…but we had to try!
  • 1 RUSTY BLACKBIRD, Cathance River Preserve, Topsham, 12/22 (with Weston Barker and John Berry. Photos above and below).
  • 1 continuing drake NORTHERN PINTAIL, Androscoggin River along Rte 136, Durham, 12/23.

This Week’s Highlights, 12/11-17

Despite taking photos of all four species of warblers along the Saco Riverwalk on 12/4, the only photo even marginally useful was this mediocre one of the continuing “Western” Palm Warbler. What I do like about it, however, is that it caught the “tail flick” in action.

It was a tough week in the Maine birding world with the loss of an icon, but she would have been upset with me if I didn’t get out to do any birding this week. My observations of note over the past seven days were as follows:

  • 1 Snowy Owl, Hill’s Beach, Biddeford, 12/11.
  • 1 Lapland Longspur with 12 Snow Buntings, Day’s Landing, Biddeford Pool, 12/12 (with client from Georgia).
  • 1 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (FOS), Wood Island, Biddeford Pool, 12/12 (with client from Georgia).
  • 16 Northern Pintails, The Pool, Biddeford Pool, 12/12 (with client from Georgia).
  • 2 Snowy Owls, Biddeford Pool neighborhood, Biddeford, 12/12 (with client from Georgia).
  • 1 Pine Warbler, Bailey Island, Harpswell, 12/13 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER, 1 continuing ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, 1 continuing “WESTERN” PALM WARBLER, and 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Saco Riverwalk, 12/14.
  • Scattered single Turkey Vultures throughout the week.

This Week’s Highlights, 12/4-10, 2021

Maine’s third-ever GRAY KINGBIRD has been delighting birders since late last week,

My observations of note over the past seven days were as follows, almost all of which were from a tremendous Tuesday morning, as previously reported:

1 male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, 1 “WESTERN” PALM WARBLER, and 1 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, Saco Riverwalk, Saco, 12/7 (with Jeannette).

1 continuing GRAY KINGBIRD and 24 Dunlin, Fortunes Rocks Beach, Biddeford, 12/7 (with Jeannette). Photo above.

2 SNOWY OWLS, Mile Stretch, Biddeford, 12/7 (with Jeannette). Photos below.

1 continuing male CAPE MAY WARBLER, Biddeford Pool neighborhood, Biddeford, 12/7 (with Jeannette).

1 Turkey Vulture, over downtown Biddeford, 12/7 (with Jeannette).

4 Red-winged Blackbirds were at the store on 12/9 (observed by Jeanne Farrell).

1 Snow Bunting, Pott’s Point, Harpswell, 12/10.

7 Horned Larks, Stover’s Point, Harpswell, 12/10.

With the exceptions of Tuesday and Friday mornings, my birding was limited, local, and exceptionally slow!  The complete lack of irruptives (other than an average number so far of Snowy Owls) south of the boreal transition belt, along with continued relatively-mild conditions that limit concentrations (including at feeders and of waterfowl) make for slim pickings on those short morning outings and dogwalks!

Good owl photos are of birds looking relaxed and ignoring you.
If it’s staring right at you with big open eyes, you are too close!

This Week’s Highlights, 11/27-12/3, 2021.

Four of the five dapper drake Barrow’s Goldeneyes that Jeannette and I saw in the Penobscot River from the University of Maine-Orono campus on 11/30. This was the largest group that I have seen
in several years in the state, sadly.

My observations of note over the past seven days were as follows:

  • 6 Dunlin, Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 3 1st-cycle Iceland Gulls, Shawmut Dam from River Road, Fairfield, 11/29 (with Jeannette).
  • 5 Green-winged Teal, 8 Lesser Scaup, etc, Sebasticook Lake, 11/29 (with Jeannette).
  • 5 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, Penobscot River at University of Maine campus, 11/29 (with Jeannette).
  • 2 Red Crossbills, Sunkhaze NWR, 11/30 (with Jeannette)
  • 4 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and 2 Red Crossbills, Stud Mill Road, 11/30 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 hen American Wigeon, random lone flyover over Saxl Park, Bangor, 11/30 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 drake Northern Pintail, Androscoggin River from Rte. 136, Durham, 12/3.

This Week’s Highlights, 11/20-26, 2021

The Short-eared Owls were a little far for photographs under fading light,
but the sunset made for a nice backdrop to the evening’s observations.

My observations of note over the past seven days were as follows as birdlife become decidedly wintery very quickly!

  • 2 “Ispwich” Savannah Sparrows, Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth, 11/21
  • 1 Brown-headed Cowbird, Private property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/21.
  • 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS, Brunswick Landing from Bowdoin Sand Plain, Brunswick, 11/21 (with Jeannette).
  • 3 Red Crossbills, Runaround Pond, Durham, 11/25.
  • 1 Rusty Blackbird, Route 9, Pownal, 11/25.
  • Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 11/26 – 14 species of waterfowl:

344 Ruddy Ducks

279 Mallards

159 Common Mergansers

156 Canada Geese

127 Lesser Scaup

63 American Black Ducks

17 Green-winged Teal

63 Greater Scaup

11 Buffleheads

9 American Wigeon

4+ Mallard x American Black Duck hybrid

4 Hooded Mergansers

4 Northern Pintails

1 Common Goldeneye

1 continuing hen White-winged Scoter

  • 1 hen Wood Duck, Thornhurst Farm, 11/26.