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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!