Category Archives: Birding in Maine

Derek’s Birding This Week, 1/16-22/2021.

White-winged Crossbills always make for a successful day in the woods.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 pair Green-winged Teal, Abbott’s Pond, York, 1/17 (with Terez Fraser and John Lorenc).
  • 1 Northern Shrike, Route 201, Norridgewock, 1/19 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Canada Jay, Long Falls Dam Road, Carrying Place Township, 1/19 (with Jeannette).
  • 5 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, Private property in Durham, 1/21.
  • 1 drake Green-winged Teal and 1 1st cycle Iceland Gull, Mill Creek Cove, South Portland, 1/22.
  • 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Mill Creek Park, South Portland, 1/22.

This Week in Finches, at least for the sake of continuing to organize mostly negative data:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 0
  • Red Crossbill:
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: total of 11 (Long Falls Dam Road between North New Portland and Flagstaff Lake, 1/19; with Jeannette).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 3 (here at the store, 1/17-present); 11 (Yarmouth Town Hall, 2/21); 7 (Cumberland Town Landing, 2/21).
  • Purple Finch High Count This Week: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 0
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week:  0

Derek’s Birding This Week, 1/9-15, 2021

There’s an interesting pattern of molt on this presumed immature male Green-winged Teal that Evan Obercian and I saw in the marsh behind Lincolnville Beach this week.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 2 continuing immature male NORTHERN SHOVELERS, +/- 177 Greater Scaup, 8+ Lesser Scaup, etc, Maquoit Bay Conservation Land, Brunswick, 1/10.
  • 3 continuing RUDDY DUCKS and 350-400 distant scaup, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 1/10.
  • 1 continuing Green-winged Teal, Lincolnville Beach, 1/11 (with Evan Obercian).
  • 1 adult Red-shouldered Hawk, Ducktrap Harbor, Lincolnville, 1/11 (with Evan Obercian).
  • 2 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, Stockton Harbor, 1/11 (with Evan Obercian).
  • 8 Lesser Scaup, Fort Point State Park, 1/11 (with Evan Obercian).
  • 1 American Kestrel, Upper Street, Turner, 1/12 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pond Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 1/15. Declining in Maine as a wintering species, there are even fewer this year due to the failure of the Northern Bayberry crop.
  • 1 Northern Flicker, Village Crossings/Cape Elizabeth Greenbelt Trail, 1/15.

This Week in Finches. A query on our store’s Facebook page suggested there is another wave of redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks arriving in yards, and more siskins, etc, still widely scattered here and there. But for me:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 0
  • Red Crossbill: ~20 (Merrill Road, Pownal, 1/9, with Beth Edmonds and Dan Nickerson).
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 14 (here at the store, 1/9); 4 (Woodside Road, Brunswick, 1/10); 5 (Route 1, Wiscasset, 1/11); 9 (Belfast City Park, 1/11 with Evan Obercian); 5 (Stockton Harbor, 1/11 with Evan Obercian); 15 (Cumberland Town Landing, 1/13); 1 (Eastern Promendade, Portland, 1/15).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 0
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week:  1 (Belfast, 1/11, with Evan Obercian).

And finally, my annual Predictions Blog for the next 25 species to appear in Maine – and my own next 25 state birds – is posted here.

2021 Maine Birds Predictions

It might “only” have been a second state record, but the Rock Wren that was discovered along Marginal Way near the Perkin’s Cove parking lot in Ogunquit in November was a state bird for everyone who enjoyed it during its long stay that continues right through today.

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.

2020 was definitely a different year. “Worst year ever” was a common refrain by year’s end, but don’t tell that to 2021 which seems to be taking up the challenge so far. I’ve written this blog for over a decade now, but this was the first one written about, and during, a national crisis that was so deadly that many birders stayed home for much of the year. Before spring had arrived in Maine and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic had fully arrived in Maine, trips were cancelled, many folks stayed closer to home if venturing out at all, and many birders avoided crowded seasonal hotspots. I wrote about birding in a pandemic in this early spring blog, but a small silver lining to this tragedy was the huge growth in birding, especially in the backyard.  I was even interviewed about this in the New York Times this summer.

By fall, the growth in birding and bird-feeding and the new online community connections made while stuck at home yielded even more opportunities to see amazing birds and add some really spectacular rarities to brand-new life lists. A massive incursion of birds from the western US was underway throughout the East this fall, and this resulted in some of the most incredible “mega” rarities, such as Rock Wren and Bullock’s Oriole. The first chaseable Rufous Hummingbird in many years was another real crowd-pleaser and was made accessible by gracious hosts.

Nonetheless, there were not any first state records detected this year. Therefore, my list of next 25 species to occur in Maine for 2021 remains unchanged:

  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. Redwing
  17. Spotted Redshank
  18. Painted Redstart
  19. Ross’s Gull
  20. Black-capped Petrel
  21. Lesser Nighthawk
  22. Elegant Tern
  23. Kelp Gull
  24. Black-tailed Gull
  25. Common Scoter

Despite such a great year for rare birds in Maine, I actually only added two birds to my own state list however. But they were good ones! But first, let’s check in with last year’s prediction list to see how I did…at least for the birds, the rest of the year, no, I did not predict.

Of course, there was (is) the Rock Wren (Honorable Mention) in Ogunquit (photo above), but for me, the bigger one was the Say’s Phoebe in New Gloucester on 9/24. It was #4 on my list, but my #1 nemesis bird.

As usual, there were also a handful of potential state birds for me that I did not see.  Common Ringed Plover (#12) on Seal Island in September and a Sooty Tern (Honorable Mention) on Matinicus Rock following Tropical Storm Isaias were obviously beyond my reach, obviously, a Franklin’s Gull (#5) in Lamoine on 11/5 did not linger, and a Yellow Rail (#22) was kept secret. The big miss however was the Golden-crowned Sparrow (Honorable Mention) in October at a feeder in Abbot that I just did not chase for a variety of reasons, including how busy the fall was at the store.

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. Slaty-backed Gull
  9. Boreal Owl
  10. Calliope Hummingbird
  11. Common Ringed Plover
  12. Cerulean Warbler
  13. White Ibis
  14. Gull-billed Tern
  15. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  16. Spotted Towhee
  17. Pacific Golden-Plover
  18. Wood Stork
  19. Ross’s Gull
  20. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  21. Brewer’s Blackbird
  22. Yellow Rail
  23. Loggerhead Shrike
  24. Virginia’s Warbler
  25. Common Shelduck

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

My favorite rarity photo of the year, however, was the Freeport Bullock’s Oriole feeding in front of the Maine state flag!

Derek’s Birding This Week, 1/2-1/8/2021

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Hermit Thrush, several record high counts including White-breasted Nuthatch and Eastern Bluebird, Pine Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls, etc, Brunswick-Freeport CBC “West Freeport Sector,” 1/3 (with Jeannette).  Full list and analysis here.
  • 2 SNOWY OWLS, Biddeford, 1/5 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and 5 Horned Larks, East Point, Biddeford Pool, 1/5 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 1st winter Iceland Gull, Portland Harbor, 1/8.

This Week in Finches. Although finch numbers are greatly reduced now, I’ll continue to post this section if only to organize my own notes, track any mid-winter waves, and perhaps be ready for a northbound flight in the late winter and early spring.

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 0
  • Red Crossbill: 0
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 8 Brunswick-Freeport CBC “West Freeport Sector,” 1/3 (with Jeannette); 2 (Memak Preserve, North Yarmouth, 1/7).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 3 singletons (Brunswick-Freeport CBC “West Freeport Sector,” 1/3; with Jeannette).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week:  2 (Webster Road, Freeport, Brunswick-Freeport CBC “West Freeport Sector,” 1/3; with Jeannette).

Brunswick-Freeport Christmas Bird Count: “West Freeport Sector,” 1/3/2021

On Sunday, Jeannette and spent the day participating in the annual Brunswick-Freeport Christmas Bird Count. For 14 out of the past 16 years, we have covered the “West Freeport” territory, which includes all of Freeport west of I295, with a corner of Yarmouth, a sliver of Pownal, and a notch of Durham.

As I have written about before, this suburban and exurban route covers a lot of ground. We walk miles upon miles of backroads, and we sample the public open spaces of Hedgehog Mountain Park, Florida Lake Park, and Hidden Pond Preserve. Our only waterfront is the Cousin’s River marsh complex, which was mostly open today – as were almost all flowing streams, woodland drainages, and the outlet channel at Florida Lake.  This was the most open water we have had in some time.

The weather was fantastic: after a chilly start, bright sunshine and virtually no wind made for a pleasant, temperate day, and aided detection. The lovely morning even led to singing from some of our resident species, especially White-breasted Nuthatch, and territorial drumming by Hairy Woodpeckers.

By doing this route consistently year in and year out, Jeannette and I can use it to compare winter seasons. We like to compare the tallies to test our preconceived notions of the season, and we can even use it as a sample to gauge seed sales at the store for the coming months! 2019 was a good example of that.

Yesterday, we did confirm several recent trends and hypotheses that we have seen so far this winter. Native sparrows including Dark-eyed Juncos are very low, woodpeckers are above average, and “winter finches” have really cleared out. Even Pine Grosbeaks are now diminishing, but the bulk of other nomadic species have either moved through (Pine Siskin; Evening Grosbeak) or are just not around in large numbers (Common Redpoll).

Meanwhile, the very mild fall and early winter has helped “half-hardies,” like our first sector records of Hermit Thrush and – finally a – Carolina Wren survive.  The minimal snow cover and mild temperatures usually keeps a lot of ground-feeding sparrows around through the winter, but this is not the case this year – low “weed” seed crops due to our summer-long drought continues to be my hypothesis. 

Fruit crops, especially crabapples, are being rapidly depleted as Pine Grosbeaks and American Robins have moved through en masse of late. It will be slim pickings for Bohemian Waxwings if they arrive.

But perhaps most relevant was the fantastic numbers of birds that make up our “mixed-species foraging flocks.”  I was surprised to tally only our average number of Black-capped Chickadees (310 compared to an average of 307.9), but Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpeckers were well above average (see below). Blue Jays were a little above average (but that number fluctuates widely based on acorn crops), as were Northern Cardinals.  Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and especially Eastern Bluebirds reflected their continuing steady increase as wintering species in the region.

These are also many of the most common and conspicuous visitors to feeding stations, and our survey correlated with what we have been hearing at the store all season. We also noted that neighborhoods with well-stocked feeders had far more birds than wooded parks, neighborhoods with few or no feeders, or other less developed stretches. Clearly, feeders and their supplemental food are important to our resident birds this year. And our bird seed sales, even after the massive finch flight of the fall has moved on, reflect that as well.

But yeah, our first-ever Hermit Thrush, Carolina Wren, and Pine Siskins, plus our first Ruffed Grouse in 11 years, and yeah, Pine Grosbeaks, were all nice, too!

Here is our full, annotated checklist:

  • Begin: 7:19am. 20F, clear, calm.
  • End: 3:45pm. 30F (high of 31F), mostly cloudy, calm.
  • Party Miles/foot: 22.5
  • Party Miles/car: 23.5

American Black Duck: 2

Mallard: 2

Ruffed Grouse: 1

Wild Turkey: 0

Rock Pigeon: 20

Mourning Dove: 46

Herring Gull: 11

Cooper’s Hawk: 2

Red-tailed Hawk: 3 (*tied highest count)

Red-bellied Woodpecker: 3

Downy Woodpecker: 30

Hairy Woodpecker: 13

Pileated Woodpecker: 5

Blue Jay: 94

American Crow: 115 (*new record high)

Common Raven: 2

Black-capped Chickadee: 310

Tufted Titmouse: 53

Red-breasted Nuthatch: 28

White-breasted Nuthatch: 47 (* 2nd highest)

Brown Creeper: 3

Carolina Wren: 1 (*1st sector record, finally!)

Golden-crowned Kinglet: 3

Eastern Bluebird: 31 (* New record high count…old record was 10!)

HERMIT THRUSH: 1 (Hunter Road, Freeport; 1st sector record).

American Robin: 13

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD: 1

European Starling: 28 (*new record high count)

Cedar Waxwing: 1

House Sparrow: 2

PINE GROSBEAK: 8 (4, Tidal Brook Rd, Yarmouth; 2. Eider Pt Road, Yarmouth; 1 Hunter Road, Freeport; 1 Murch Road, Freeport; first since 2008).

House Finch: 22

Common Redpoll: 2

Pine Siskin: 2 (* 1st sector record, surprisingly).

American Goldfinch: 53

American Tree Sparrow: 4

Dark-eyed Junco: 18

White-throated Sparrow: 1

Song Sparrow: 2

Northern Cardinal: 18

  • 39 total species (*new record)
  • 1,001 total individuals.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 12/26-1/1/2021

Maine’s second-ever Rock Wren continues in Ogunquit. With the changing calendar, birders returned en masse on January 1st. Jeannette and I avoided the crowds to spend some quality time with the bird on our day off on Tuesday.
It’s always fascinating how vagrants survive. This Western Conifer Seed Bug was a nice, hearty meal.

A little more time this week in the field produced the following observations of note:

  • 678 Scaup (too far to sort through, but probably 5-10% Lessers, which are regular to even common within these early winter scaup flocks on Casco Bay contrary to recently published information), Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 1/1 (with Jeannette).  Another smaller raft of scaup continue at Wharton Point (12/27 and 1/1 with Jeannette), but too far to sort through.
  • 1 1st winter male Red-winged Blackbird, feeders here at the store, 12/27.
  • Continuing ROCK WREN, Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 12/29 (with Jeannette). Highlight includes watching it ravage a Western Conifer Seed Bug.
  • 1 Peregrine Falcon, odd location in a tree along Pennell Way, Brunswick, 1/1 (with Jeannette).

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 0
  • Red Crossbill: 2 (our yard in Pownal, 12/27).
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  4 (Furbish Avenue, Wells, 12/29 with Jeannette).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: up to 10 daily (in and around the yard here at the store all week); up to 18 daily all week (Pine Tree Academy, Freeport); 2 (Route 1, Brunswick, 12/28).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 6 (Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 12/27).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 0

Derek’s Birding This Week: 12/19-25

The good thing about birding is that it can be done anywhere at anytime, such as between errands in Auburn where I enjoyed this Peregrine Falcon hunting around Great Falls. I snapped this photo with my phone through my binoculars on the Hampton Inn in Auburn.

I don’t usually get out birding much in the week before Christmas, and this year it was even less. But a few quick stops, dog-walks, and incidental observations produced only the following observation of note over the past seven days.

  • 1 GRAY CATBIRD, Saco Riverwalk, 12/20.

This Week in Finches:

Although my birding was limited, the dearth of finches was noteworthy. Has the flight passed us by? Did the largest volume of redpolls simply move southward to the west of us? Are there more in the pipeline, or will we have a rather quiet January and February?

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 1 (Old Town House Park, North Yarmouth, 12/21).
  • Red Crossbill: 0
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: up to 10 daily (in and around the yard here at the store all week).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll: 0
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 3 (Merrill Road Ext, Freeport, 12/19).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 12/12-18, 2020.

Starting the day with Evening Grosbeaks at our home feeders and enjoying Pine Grosbeaks everytime we carry seed out to someone’s car really isn’t too shabby.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • Unusually large number of Red-throated Loons in the northwest corner of Casco Bay all week.
  • 1 BOHEMIAN WAXWING and 1 Savannah Sparrow, Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 12/13.
  • 1 RING-NECKED DUCK with about 450 mixed Lesser and Greater Scaup with about 1,000 White-winged Scoters, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 12/14.
  • 425+ mixed Lesser and Greater Scaup, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 12/14.
  • 1 Hermit Thrush, Harraseeket Yacht Club, Freeport, 12/18.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 12 (flying over our yard in Pownal, 12/13); 2 (Verrill Road, Pownal, 12/13); after a several day absence, up to 4 were in our Pownal yard on 12/15; 1 (Verrill Road, 12/17).
  • Red Crossbills: 1 (Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 12/14); 4 (Cumberland Town Forest, 12/16);
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 6-10 daily (in and around the yard here at the store all week); 4 (Rte 1, Brunswick, 12/14); 10 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16); 4 (Rte 88, Cumberland, 12/16).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll: 5 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 2 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 12/5-11, 2020

I didn’t get out birding much this week, but my morning on Bailey Island was fantastic! But the good news is that Pine Grosbeaks have been around our store daily, and this morning lost getting snow tires on my car produced the biggest flock I have seen in the area so far this season. It is nice when the birds come to you!

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 Hermit Thrush, and 1 Northern Flicker, Bailey Island, Harpswell, 12/7.
  • 1 SNOWY OWL (FOS) and 28 Snow Buntings, Brunswick Landing, 12/7.
  • 1 Turkey Vulture, over the store, 12/7.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: Up to 3 continue daily at our feeders at home in Pownal through the early part of the week; 2 (Memak Preserve, North Yarmouth, 12/10).
  • Red Crossbills: 4 (Bailey Island, Harpswell, 12/7); 12 (Waterboro Barrens Preserve, 12/8).
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 2 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 4 (in and around the yard here at the store, 12/2-8); increased to 6 (12/9 – present); 6 (Mayall Road, Gray, 12/9); 3 (Westbrook Riverwalk, 12/11); 18 (Saunders Way, Westbrook, 12/11).
  • Purple Finch: 1 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 7 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 3 (Bailey Island, 12/7).

Derek’s Birding This Week: 11/28-12/4, 2020

Incredible…a Rock Wren and a Rufous Hummingbird…in Maine…in December. It was a big week! Western birds in the East and finches from the north continue to be the stars of the show.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Common Grackle continued at the store through 11/28.
  • 1 Turkey Vulture, I-95 South, Scarborough, 11/29.
  • The ROCK WREN, Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 11/29 (with m.obs). Photos above.
  • 1 immature White-crowned Sparrow, 1 Savannah Sparrow, and 1 Swamp Sparrow, Private property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/30.
  • 2 Brant, Dyer Point, Cape Elizabeth, 11/30.
  • 1 continuing immature male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4.  A hummingbird in Maine in December – incredible! 39F when I arrived. Observed repeatedly between 8:00 and 9:00am visiting hummingbird feeder and foraging in trees (especially at the end of spruce twigs). Photos below.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: Up to 3 continue daily at our feeders at home in Pownal; 2 (Main St, Cumberland, 12/2).
  • Red Crossbills: 15-20 (behind Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 11/29); 12 (Pond Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 11/30); 2+ (Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 4 (in and around the yard here at the store, 12/2- present); 1 (fly-over, Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth 12/4); 6 (Royal River Park, Yarmouth, 12/4).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 1 (Mayall Rd, Gray/New Gloucester, 12/2).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 32 (Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4).