Category Archives: Rarities and Vagrants

2023 Next Maine Birds Predictions Blog.

OK, so it was technically first seen in 2021, but Steller’s Sea Eagle was the bird of the year. Or was it?  It’s suffice to say, however, that my only photos of it from 2022 were not my photos of the year! Here it is in Georgetown on February 18th.

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.

Well, well, well, what a year of birding 2022 was here in Maine!  Four new species were added to the all-time state list this season, and one of them was a complete shock. Let’s take a look at last year’s prognostications and see how I did. 

Barolo Shearwater was added to the state list based on a 2021 photo by Doug Gochfeld from well offshore in the Northeast Channel, according to the Maine Bird Records Committee.  That was #21 on my predictions list for Maine’s next birds.

A Masked Booby (on my honorable mentions list) at Mount Desert Rock in August was perhaps a sign of things to come – it or another may have been photographed off Monhegan in late September. 

Also on my honorable mention list was Broad-tailed Hummingbird that graced a Freeport yard from November 5th through December 23rd.  The details and the full story can be found on my blog, here.  One could make the argument that this should have made the cut, as it has been long-overdue to be identified in New England.

Since the now-world-famous Steller’s Sea Eagle arrived at the tail end of 2021, it was not technically a new record in 2022. However, just about everyone saw it for the first time this year, and 2022 was definitely the year of the Steller’s Sea Eagle.

Shockingly, however, there was some debate about whether or not that was the bird, or even the raptor, of the year! Seriously. Since Steller’s Sea Eagle have bred on the continent and have been seen on several occasions in Alaska (and then “our bird” which was seen from Texas to Canada), one could argue that the raptor of the year was actually the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier that was discovered on North Haven on 8/25 and then found the next day at Weskeag Marsh in Thomaston (where it remained for less than 3 days). This was only the second record ever for the entire continent! The same bird resurfaced at the Troy Meadows in northern New Jersey in early November, but this is an incredible bird for North America.  However, I would argue that the worldwide rarity of the Steller’s (only about 4,000 individuals) trumps the marsh-harrier, as it is quite common through much of the Old World. (These are the things birders like to argue about over pints of beer)

And no, the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier was most definitely not on my predictions list!

So with four new records only one of which was on my list, it’s obvious that predicting vagrancy is getting even more challenging. Climate change, land-use changes, rising and falling populations, perhaps even pesticide contamination or electromagnetic pollution is all conspiring to put odd birds in weird places. And, there are more birders looking, and much better communication. 

While I would love to be “right” about my forecasts, we can now truly expect the unexpected, and one could argue almost any bird capable of flight (or long-distance swimming) could become Maine’s latest big twitch.  But, if only for tradition’s sake, I’ll take a stab at my Next 25 Birds for Maine forecast:

  • 1) Neotropical Cormorant
  • 2) Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • 3) California Gull
  • 4) Spotted Towhee
  • 5) Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • 6) Bermuda Petrel
  • 7) Graylag Goose
  • 8) Little Stint
  • 9) Audubon’s Shearwater
  • 10) Common Shelduck
  • 11) Anna’s Hummingbird
  • 12) “Western” Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran)
  • 13) Common Ground-Dove
  • 14) Allen’s Hummingbird
  • 15) Spotted Redshank
  • 16) Limpkin
  • 17) Ross’s Gull
  • 18) Black-capped Petrel
  • 19) Lesser Nighthawk
  • 20) Elegant Tern
  • 21) Heerman’s Gull
  • 22) Painted Redstart
  • 23) Hooded Oriole
  • 24) Black-tailed Gull
  • 25) Common Scoter

A Black-chinned Hummingbird is overdue for Maine, but unless it’s an adult male with his purple throat in good light, it’s likely going to take banding and measurements to identify (like this year’s Broad-tailed).

I’ve added Heerman’s Gull to the list thanks to a growing number of Eastern Seaboard records – most of which are likely the same individual moving up and down the coast, although it seems like a longshot to make it this far north. Limpkin also debuts after an incredible irruption in 2022 with extralimital records from as far north as Michigan and New York. Was this a one-off due to some drastic change in water or food levels in its limit range in Florida, or is this another sign of the “new normal” of tropical birds venturing northward? To make room, I’ve dropped Kelp Gull out of the Top 25 for now.

Heerman’s Gull, San Diego, CA, August 2011.

Personally, I added an incredible six birds to my own state list this year. I even predicted two of them: The flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Camden that I twitched on 5/2 were #7 on my personal next list, while the flock of White Ibis in the Webhannet Marsh in Wells on 8/11 were #14 on my list. 

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

The Sage Thrasher at Gilsland Farm was the first in line on my honorable mentions list, as it was long overdue for Maine to get it’s second.  Likewise, the two Henslow’s Sparrows in Brunswick (7/6) and the now-famous Freeport Broad-tailed Hummingbird were both on my honorable mentions list, but had not cracked the top 25 just yet.

Sage Thrasher

Henslow’s Sparrow

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Out of the blue was the aforementioned Eurasian Marsh-Harrier, which I happily got to see in Weskeag Marsh on 8/26. As Maine stakes its claim as the Raptor Rarity Capital of North America, I would not have wanted to miss this shocker.

As usual, I missed plenty of rarities too, although I was unable to chase many of them for various reasons (6 for 6 on chases this year is incredible…although it does help make up for all the times I did not see the Steller’s Sea Eagle!). American White Pelican (Grand Isle, 7/5; #1) and Franklin’s Gull (Sabattus Pond, 5/22; #3) are officially nemesis birds now. Other unchaseable potential state birds included Common Gull (Eastport, 2/17-23; honorable mention), Sandwich Tern (Mount Desert Rock, 7/6; honorable mention), and Western Wood-Pewee (banded at Riverpoint, Falmouth, 9/7; honorable mention).

As I approach the 400 species milestone, it’s not getting any easier, although I should hit the mark this year, based on current vagrancy trends!  That’s my first prediction. As for what bird it will be, I believe it will be one of these 25. Although, nowadays, anything seems possible!

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

Brown Pelican records are increasing in the northeast. It’s just a matter of time for one to fly by me! San Diego, CA, August 2011.

Maine’s 1st Broad-tailed Hummingbird in Freeport (Nov-Dec 2022).

In the afternoon of 11/19, a customer of the store alerted me to the presence of a hummingbird in her Freeport yard, present since the 5th of November. For over 15 years, we have promoted keeping hummingbird feeders up late into the fall and letting us know about any hummingbirds after October 1st.  In addition to several incredibly late reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (now annual in small numbers well into the second week of October), this campaign has resulted in the detection and documentation of a Selasphorous hummingbird on 10/16-17, 2015 in Yarmouth, and a long-staying Rufous Hummingbird observed by many between 10/18 and 12/5, 2020, also in Yarmouth – the first “chaseable” Rufous in eight years in the state.

Upon receiving the report, we urged the homeowner to get any sort of photo. Later that day the bird finally obliged, and the photos sent to us were suggestive of a Selasphorous hummingbird.  I was invited to the property the following day to attempt more documentation.  I arrived at 3:05pm with snow flurries falling, and soon heard the bird. The call was clearly of a Selasphorous-type hummingbird. My limited experience with separating Selasphorous by call did not permit me to draw any further conclusions (in hindsight though!)

Twenty minutes later, the bird appeared at the feeders, feeding long enough for photographs, before alighting on a nearby snag in a sliver of sunlight.  In the field, and upon review of photographs, I immediately knew it was a Selasphorous. Lucky photos of a semi-spread tail showed a fairly broad outer tail feather, but I assumed it was probably “just” a Rufous. Or at least I am not knowledgeable enough to have thought beyond Rufous/Allen’s (it was clearly not a Calliope).

I reached out to Scott Weidensaul with the first few photos, and since he was available the next day to band it, I made arrangements with the homeowner. Scott was intrigued by the tail, and stated “I cannot rule out Broad-tailed from the photos” but also assumed it was likely to be a Rufous. They usually are.

Scott, Doug Hitchcox, and I arrived at noon on 11/21 to attempt to band the bird. In less than an hour, we had safely trapped the bird, and took a series of measurements and photos. The bird was healthy, undergoing active molt, and had a fat score of 1.

When we first observed the bird, Scott pointed out the bluish hue that was sometimes apparent on the back of the bird. He mentioned he saw that in one of my photos from the prior day, but dismissed it as probably being an artifact of the photo. I was unaware of this impression until he pointed it out.

However, as the banding process began, we were still working under the assumption that this was going to be a Rufous Hummingbird, until the “numbers” kept coming in. Doug was recording and noted the significant difference between Rufous Hummingbirds on the data sheet. When Scott read the width of the outer tail feather aloud, he seemed shocked, and immediately measured again. And again. Doug and I kept glancing at each other, eyes wide, attempting to hold back exuberance.

Wing: 49.15mm

Tail: 30mm

Bill: 18.62mm

Width of Outer Tail Feather (R5): 5.44!!!

We double-checked all measurements, took lots of photos, and Doug and I tried to not explode with excitement as Scott calmly but clearly excitedly expressed comments such as “this is the biggest tail I have ever seen on a Selasphorous in the East.”  We, as well as the homeowner who had joined us for the banding, were all shaking with excitement by now. The below-freezing air temperature played much less of a role.  A quick check of references, a final check of the measurements, and then the bird was released.  Of course, the bird’s host had the honor of letting it go. After processing, it immediately returned to the feeder and fed regularly for the rest of the day, calling even more vociferously in between.

Upon checking some references at home, and sending photos out for additional opinions, it was clear to Scott that we (OK, he) had just documented the first Broad-tailed Hummingbird, a hatch-year male, for Maine – and apparently, for all of New England!

Jeannette was invited to observe the bird on the 22nd, while I spoke to the homeowner several times over the phone to discuss the opportunity for others to share in the excitement. I arranged for a small group to visit in the morning of the 23rd as a test-run – a few close friends and young birders were the guests. After that successful visit when we all had repeated views, I suggested a feeder be placed in the front yard. If the bird took to it, visitors would have the chance to see it from a public road, without entering the yard. 

I placed that one of our feeders on the morning of the 25th, after the holiday so as not to bother the homeowner. I also observed the bird, regularly feeding in the cold rain, making two visits to the feeders within 15 minutes – a faster pace now. It was cold, but was it also tanking up?  Later in the day, Jeannette returned with a small shepherd’s hook to give the feeder even better visibility from the road, along with getting it into the morning sun to help keep it warmer on these frigid mornings. 

The homeowner has been taking in the feeder (now, feeders), every night so the first feeding will be at room temperature nectar. She’s been heading out early with a headlamp so as not to miss it’s first feeding session! What an amazing host!

My Saturday Morning Birdwalk group was invited over on that first Saturday morning, but the bird never came to the new feeder. As per prior arrangement, an hour later we were able to enter the yard and in doing so we enjoyed immediate prolonged views of it at the original feeder in the backyard.

The next test run was another small group on Sunday morning. We arrived at 8:00, and for almost an hour were teased by the hummer as he darted around the backyard, calling constantly, and briefly perching in obscured views.  Then, at 8:56, he finally made a brief visit to the new feeder!

In the next 30 minutes, he visited that carefully-place feeder three times, including two prolonged drinking bouts which provided ample opportunity for people to study, enjoy, and photograph the bird.  Success!  He is now using a feeder in view from the road, without entering the yard!

And with that success, on Wednesday the 28th, I was given the go-ahead to let the word get out, slowly, methodically, and carefully managed to avoid crowds and overwhelming the homeowner and the neighbors.

In consultation with the homeowner, I was tasked with managing the crowds and birders’ behaviors. People needed to email me for the set of visitation instructions and caveats, and since the end of November birders visited, saw, photographed, and mostly remained on their best behavior. The vast majority (but of course, not all) even followed all of the rules! I remained in close contact with the homeowner and reassured her that just about everyone was receiving the instructions directly from me. I did my best to respond to every one of the emails I received, spacing out visitation as much as possible. Of course, not everyone followed every rule – especially the one about sharing the location.

The bird continued into the middle of December. I would say “miraculously” given the plummeting temperatures, but it was mostly through the passionate dedication of the homeowner. When temperatures failed to reach the freezing mark for a high on December 10th,  it ushered in the most challenging stretch of weather in which temperatures did not hit 32 for four days.  During the time, the homeowner would go out regularly throughout the day with unfrozen sugar water to replace the simple syrup popsicles. The hummingbird learned to recognize her and this activity and would often visit the feeder immediately after she walked away.

Unfortunately, however, during this time, it saved energy by sitting for long periods in the sun, out of view from visiting, shivering observers. Even more frustrating for some, was hearing it vocalize in the backyard and never seeing it from the road – at the side feeder or his favorite perch. Thankfully, no one decided to tempt fate by entering the yard to look around back.

Earlier in the month, I had asked Scott Weidensaul about possible departure times, given his experience with vagrant hummingbirds in the Northeast. He told me that birds often depart on the first nice day after the first significant cold snap where the temperatures failed to reach the freezing mark for multiple days.  Such a day occurred on 12/15, where temperatures reached the low 40’s and a light northerly wind was increasing.  Thinking it could be his last day, I finished my morning’s birding at the location.

I arrived at 10:02 and immediately found him sitting in one of his favorite perches in the multiflora Rose. He sat there – save for one short sally, presumably for an insect – for the next 16 minutes before buzzing off, presumably to the feeder in the backyard. I heard him for most of the time but did not glimpse him again before I departed at 10:30. 

By the middle of December, his first gorget feathers had already begun to appear – but only on one side of its head, best seen in this photo from the homeowner on 12/12.

I was sure this was it. Storm a’coming. Temperatures above normal in the low 40’s, a light northerly breeze, and the sun was shining for a while. But alas, with the wet snow falling on Friday the 16th, the homeowner informed us that he was still present and feeding actively.  He was still present on Saturday Morning, with heavy flakes starting to pile out.

Luckily, the heated hummingbird feeders that the homeowner ordered had arrived and were deployed just in time!

Over 90 100 people have seen it now, and visitors are still welcome to view it, as long as they follow a strict set of rules. If you would like to see it, email us at freeportwildbird@yahoo.com with a day that you are interested in going, and we’ll send the instructions and address the day before, as long as the numbers of visitors remain manageable each day and on our best behavior. To minimize the number of emails in the queue, please include the day in your original email.

***12/26 UPDATE:*** We just received an email this afternoon from the homeowner, reporting that she has not seen the bird since 3:47 pm on Friday, 12/23. Pressure was dropping rapidly through the day with rain, heavy at times, and southwesterly winds gusting over 50mph for much of the day. She reported it was drinking regularly throughout that stormy day, with temps rising into the low 50s. Overnight temperatures dropped dramatically, by 40 degrees by sunrise, despite still-strong SW winds. Certainly not the time and conditions I would have expected it to depart on (assuming it survived the night), but it does bring up some interesting questions. Did it survive the storm? Was the storm the final incentive to depart? And if so, did it depart in the “wrong” direction that perhaps it arrived on (i.e. it was a “mirror vagrant” flying in the wrong direction to start with)? But since it’s banded, should it be found anywhere else, we very well might know, but short of that, we are left to conjecture.

The homeowner is leaving the feeders out for a little longer, just in case. If he returns, we’ll post an update here and include new instructions for visitation if possible.

This Week’s Highlights, May 27-June 3, 2022

After trying to string one on Monhegan, an Acadian Flycatcher found me!  A friend heard it first as he joined me for a bird survey on private, posted property in Durham on 6/2.  This was an incredible record for Androscoggin County and really shocked me.  It continued at least as of the next morning.
This photo nicely shows the very long (for an Empid primary projection, the greenish tone to the upperparts, the complete eyering, and the large, wide and orange mandible. It took a while to see all of the pertinent details,
even though the song is so distinctive.
When we first saw it, the appearance of no green above and no yellow below through us for a loop, but once we got into the shade with it, those diagnostic tones were readily apparent.
  • My annual Monhegan Spring Migration Tour took place on 5/27 through 5/30, followed by another day on the island with Jeannette. It was very slow, and significant highlights were few. However, it was still, well, birding on Monhegan for five days, so I am not complaining. I’ll have a full tour report and checklist in the coming days.  Highlights included daily crippling views of Black-billed Cuckoo; a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW that we found on 5/30 but was seen by all on 5/31; 3 WILLETS that arrived from the open ocean south of Lobster Cove before landing in the harbor on 5/31; a good Atlantic Puffin commuting flight in the morning of 5/31, and an immature male ORCHARD ORIOLE each day.

Other non-Monhegan and non-flycatcher highlights this week included:

  • 2 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES, Hardy Boat from Monhegan to New Harbor, 5/31 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, Mill Brook Preserve, Westbrook, 6/1.
  • 3 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, 1 Dunlin, 8 Ruddy Turnstones, 26 Black-bellied Plovers, 1 adult Little Blue Heron, etc, Pine Point, Scarborough, 6/1.

It’s June, so we are busy with events and tours here at the store and beyond:

  • Tomorrow is Zeiss Day at the store, with events including a whole range of products to try on our Saturday Morning Birdwalk, free optics cleaning, and a digiscoping demonstration. Check it out here.
  • Our first pelagic with our partners Cap’n Fish’s Cruises out of Boothbay Harbor will run on Monday, June 6th. It includes a visit to Eastern Egg Rock and chumming deeper offshore.  Info here.

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.

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) *Edit, 4/1. See Below*
  • 9) Audubon’s Shearwater – on “hypothetical” list, but I think the record is good.
  • 10) Little Stint
  • 11) Anna’s Hummingbird
  • 12) “Western” Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran)
  • 13) Common Ground-Dove
  • 14) Allen’s Hummingbird
  • 15) Spotted Redshank
  • 16) Painted Redstart
  • 17) Ross’s Gull
  • 18) Black-capped Petrel
  • 19) Lesser Nighthawk
  • 20) Barolo Shearwater (a good record, with photographs, unlike my “it has to be this” sight record!)
  • 21) Elegant Tern
  • 22) Kelp Gull
  • 23) Black-tailed Gull
  • 24) Hooded Oriole
  • 25) Common Scoter

***EDIT, 3/31 – When a Trumpeter Swan arrived in Scarborough Marsh, it was noted as the 2nd State Record. I realized that the 2011 bird from Fortune’s Rock Beach in Biddeford was indeed added to the “official” state list. I had counted it on my own list (so no change below), but I never followed up on its status, apparently. With the rapidly expanding introduced populations in the Northeast, along with increasing amount of states “declaring” the bird “established,” I’m shocked it’s taken this long to get a second one. The predictions list has been updated accordingly.***

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 391st 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!

A Rufous Hummingbird in our Yard!

On Saturday, July 31st, 2021, Jeannette and I were sitting on our back porch in Pownal sharing a beer in our usual after work beer o’clock/feeder and yard bird watch. We almost skipped it, however. We were leaving for a trip the next day and had yet to pack, the mosquitoes have been annoying, and besides, the Olympics were on. But I said “It’s my birthday and I can have a beer on the porch if I want to!”

We were enjoying our beverage while watching the constant activities of baby woodpeckers learning the ropes at the suet and nut feeders, and the aerial acrobatics and constant combat of hummingbirds. I’ve worked hard at increasing our hummingbird population with feeders, of course, but more importantly a near-constant source of natural nectar throughout the season.  We have been rewarded in our efforts with two nesting females almost every year, and a constant stream of adult males.  And now juveniles were about to fledge, adding to that activity.

It was about 7:00pm when I was enthralled with a particularly aggressive dogfight in the red Bee Balm. And then I basically did a spit-take when one of the combatants flashed rufous in its tail.

A SELASPHOROUS HUMMINGBIRD!!!!

I scrambled for the binoculars, Jeannette raced for her camera, and Bonxie wondered what all of the commotion was about and why we were disturbing his chipmunk watching.

We observed and photographed it for over an hour, finally retiring inside for dinner at about 8:15 when the hummingbird activity shut down for the evening. Emails were sent and calls were made.

Here are Jeannette’s best photos from the evening:

It was already getting dark, it was tough to observe details, and her shutter speed was too slow to capture motion: and we really needed to see the spread-tail to have hopes of identifying this inordinately tricky genus.

We decided to invite a handful of folks over to our yard the next morning to share in our excitement over this special backyard visitor. We also hoped to have more long lenses pointed at that tail! 

Studying the books and reviewing the photos – along with soliciting some input from other birders – it became readily clear that this was an adult female (based on overall wear and throat pattern) Rufous or Allen’s Hummingbird. We systematically eliminated the other members of the genus, and saw nothing suggestive of the even less likely Allen’s.  But this is one of the most challenging species-pairs in North America, depending on the age and sex.

The next morning, 6 people joined us on the porch, and luckily, our bird showed up. And eventually, showed up really, really, well! Unlike the previous evening however, where she spent prolonged periods at the feeder, she rarely lingered at any one flower or feeder for long before be driven off by one of the resident Ruby-throats (at least two adult males, 2 adult females, and either another female or a juvenile were all present and protecting their resources).  Plenty of photos were taken, but we had not yet seen the tail pattern clearly.

Jeannette and I really needed to go pack now, and so we left the hummingbird watchers to themselves.  Eventually, Bonxie went off to camp, I packed the car, and soon it was time for us to depart.  Luckily, Ethan and Ingrid remained vigilant as Ethan finally acquired those critical tail shots:

His arrows point to the critical R2, the 2nd tail feather from the center on each half of the tail. On most – but not all – adult female Rufous Hummingbirds, there is an emargination (often called a “nipple tip”) which is not present on Allen’s Hummingbird.  Unfortunately, this birds tail is worn – not surprising at this time of year – and the exact original pattern is just impossible to deduce. 

We are therefore left with less-reliable set of field marks and circumstances.  Often, the fallback here is to band and measure it, but we decided not to consider that unless she was still present when we returned.

So this is what we have:

  • Tail feathers, including R5, look “wide enough” to be a Rufous. This is pretty subjective visually, however, and usually takes in-hand measurements to confirm.
  • Limited rufous in the uppertail coverts as expected on Rufous.
  • Overall wear and fading of plumage is rather minimal; most Allen’s Hummingbirds would look very worn and likely really tattered by now.

The circumstantial evidence is also quite strong:

  • Rufous Hummingbirds are early long-distance migrants who are on the move in the west by now. Breeding as far north as southeastern Alaska, Rufous Hummingbirds have a pattern of fairly regular vagrancy to the East in late summer. Allen’s does not.
  • The only New England record of Allen’s Hummingbird is from Nantucket on 8/26/1988 (Massachusetts Avian Records Committee). Admittedly, that is only a month later (I was surprised to learn!).
  • The next closest records are seven in New Jersey (mostly from Cape May) that all were first found between September 3rd and November 14.
  • Of course, the preponderance of unconfirmed/unidentifiable “Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbirds” records clouds the judgment of this pattern of occurrence a little.

We already had scheduled someone to take care of our feeders while we were gone, and when he did so on 8/4, he did not see our Selasphorous. We returned home in the evening of 8/8, and sugar water was still available and our meadow of Wild Bergamot was now in full bloom. But alas, our visitor was not present. There were plenty of Ruby-throats still buzzing around – perhaps one less adult male and one more juvenile now, but not surprisingly, our vagrant had continued on, whether by choice or by force. 

Now if she was still here, we would have pondered opening our yard up to visitors (not visible from the road, let alone a public one) and perhaps arranging for a bander to visit and attempt to capture her for measurements.  But alas, these are the best shots and information we have to work with at this time.

So I am still soliciting comments, but personally, I think this bird is a Rufous Hummingbird. While we might not have absolute conclusive proof, I see absolutely nothing to suggest Allen’s so for me, I am happy with the most probable identification and Rufous Hummingbird is our 133rd Yard Bird!

And after 16 years here, our backyard has finally attracted a bona fide vagrant (although the two Hoary Redpolls were pretty great as well). I just wish her timing was a little better.  Then again, she could have shown up the next day and we would have never known!  Nevertheless, it was a wonderful birthday present!

Thanks to Michael O’Brien and Paul Lehman for helpful comments on the bird’s suspected identity, and especially to Ethan Whitaker for the diagnostic (or nearly so?) photos.

References:

Howell, Steve N.G. 2002. Hummingbirds of North America: The Photographic Guide. Princeton University Press: Princeton and Oxford.

West, George C. 2015. North American Hummingbirds: An Identification Guide. University of New Mexico Press: Albuquerque.

Williamson, Sheri L. 2001 Hummingbirds of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York and Boston.

Apparent “Krider’s” x “Eastern” Red-tailed Hawk, Pownal, Maine, 4/20/21

This stunningly pale immature Red-tailed Hawk passed over the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, sponsored by Freeport Wild Bird Supply, in Pownal, Maine on the afternoon of April 20, 2021.

Highly suggestive of the extremely pale “Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk (a subspecies or quite possibly just a very pale color morph) from Central North America and with scattered vagrant records along the Eastern seaboard, we believe this individual shows features most consistent with an “intergrade” between the so-called Krider’s and our typical Eastern subspecies.

The very pale white head first brought my attention to this bird as it approached the summit from the north-northeast, and circled overhead and slightly behind the plethora of counters and observers on our biggest flight day of the season. Tova Mellen gets the award for the best photos – by far – and we appreciate her effort and willingness to share them. Thanks, Tova!

Andrew Sharp, Mathew Gilbert, and Charles Duncan also managed photos, and I was able to capture (poorly!) a few additional angles that show some helpful features.

The mostly-white head, very pale underparts, and lightly-marked underwings (especially the reduced patagium) all suggest Krider’s. However, the darker crown and fairly-dark spots on what would be the edges of the belly band are more suggestive of an intergrade.

The relatively bold white panel on the upperwings is also suggestive of Krider’s, but it’s not as bold and bright as many photos suggest. The back color is also brownish-gray. Both of these look to be more consistent with an intergrade.

The white uppertail coverts/lower rump area was more evident than this too-dark photo suggests, nonetheless, it does not seem white and broad enough to be a Krider’s. Unfortunately, the pattern of the uppertail was not decipherable.

The poor exposure of this photo makes the bird look much darker than it appeared in the field (looked more like Tova’s photos, above), but it does accentuate where the dark markings are and are not.

As for printed references, this bird looks to be a near-perfect match for the “Juv/1st Year Eastern x Krider’s Integrade on Page 66 of The Crossley ID Guide to Raptors.

We had limited views of the upperparts, but they did suggest the presence of fairly extensive white on the scapulars, the large pale window, and the narrow pale uppertail covert band as shown on page 293 of Raptors of Eastern North America by Brian K. Wheeler.

Therefore, we reached the tentative conclusion that this bird was an Eastern x Krider’s, but as with all subspecies and especially hybrid thereof, designations of Red-tailed Hawk, absolute identification is likely impossible. Fun bird though!

I’ll add any comments and feedback I receive 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!

2020 Maine Birds Predictions Blog

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After missing Maine by just a few miles in 2018, it’s only a matter of time before we see the state’s first Neotropic Cormorant – a species that is rapidly expanding northward. Be sure to double-check a lone cormorant in a tiny pond or river!

As we put 2019 to bed and begin 2020, we have our eyes set on the birding future. As for the future of birding, well, that’s a blog for another day, but for now, what about the next “new birds” to be seen in Maine?

Yup, 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.

But first, let us check in with my 2019 Predictions post, and see how I did.

The epic 2018 was going to be hard to follow – in fact, who knows if we’ll ever see a year as exceptional for new birds like that.  While an above-average five new species were added to Maine’s state list in 2018, the infamous Great Black Hawk is a headliner for the ages.

We came back to Earth in 2019, with only 1 or 2 new species for Maine. The first, was a Zone-tailed Hawk in Bridgeton on May the 4th. This was #18 on my predictions list for next new species to be found in Maine following several regional sightings over the past few years.

I say 1-2 because on October 30th, I found a Barolo’s Shearwater in Maine waters, just west of George’s Bank. The problem was it was a single-observer sight record and that’s hard for a functioning and respected rare birds records committee to accept as a first state record. So who knows what Maine’s will do.

Barolo’s Shearwater was on my honorable mention list, but I certainly did not expect to see it; I would have assumed it would have been photographed from a NOAA fisheries research ship in the summer in deeper waters near the continental shelf, or perhaps immediately following a hurricane.

With only 1-2 new species for Maine in 2018, I’ve only made a few minor changes to my forecast, including the debut of Black-capped Petrel. Therefore, my updated predictions for the next 25 species to occur in Maine for 2020 is now:
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

Personally, I added a respectable 5 species to my own Maine list this year as well, including my long-sought #1 (and #1 nemesis): Great Skua. We scored one in Maine waters on our cruise – the aforementioned cruise that resulted in the Barolo’s Shearwater.  Whether you have respect for your state records committee or not, functioning ones are not the “list police” that tell you what you can and cannot count. After much review, study, and discussion, I am confident I saw a Barolo’s Shearwater, so I am putting it on my list. Since I don’t submit my list the the ABA, eBird, or anyone else, I get to make my own rules!  But sorry folks, if you are playing the listing game, you have to play by the listing rules.

Regardless, I did not have Barolo’s on my own prediction list, so for this particular game, it definitely does not count. But prior to getting my #1 bird, I also was lucky enough to be leading a group on Monhegan and was minutes away when my #2 bird – Eurasian Collared-Dove – was discovered(only the second ever in Maine…for now).
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We were at a trade show in Portland when a Tundra Swan (#7 on my list) was spotted at Dunstan Landing in Scarborough Marsh, so we skipped out for a spell and successfully “twitched” it. It was a welcome break from being indoors all day, and it was an easy 15-minute chase.
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Last, but definitely not least, was the Harris’s Sparrow at a feeder in Levant that I was lucky enough to see with friends on December 8th…my 385th species in Maine, but only on my list of honorable mentions. But I’ll call predicting 3 our of 5 new state birds a win!
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Then, as always, there were the misses. American White Pelican (#5) is becoming a nemesis, with several brief sighting in Portland on May 16th, and another bird in Aroostook County in August. I worked hard for post-Hurricane Dorian rare terns in late September, but missed out on a Gull-billed Tern (#17) at Hill’s Beach on 9/28.

Not in my top 25, but no less disappointing to miss was Brown Booby that was spotted on and off, here and there, for perhaps much of the summer and a Tropical Kingbird in East Machias on 10/31. Much worse, however, was the dead Purple Gallinule found under the wires at Sandy Point on 10/19.

So with some big changes at the top, my updated list for my own next 25 species in Maine looks quite different.

1) American White Pelican
2) Neotropic Cormorant
3) Graylag Goose
4) Say’s Phoebe
5) Franklin’s Gull
6) Brown Pelican
7) California Gull
8) Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
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) 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

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Maybe 2020 is the year for this nemesis of mine in Maine to come in for a landing in front of me!

2019 Monhegan Spring Migration Weekend Tour Report

L1140408_SUTA_SCTA1a-editedA spiffy adult male Summer Tanager(middle) joined a small flock of Scarlet Tanagers and was one of the stars of the weekend’s show.

More and more we, as birders, lament “they way it used to be.” Declining populations of so many birds, especially our long-distance Neotropical migrants often leaves us longer for yesteryear. Even a good day can turn wistful as we think of what “a lot” of birds once were. On some of our recent tours to Monhegan Island, even the good days felt lackluster; it was missing the “oomph” of what Monhegan legends are made of.

This was NOT one of those trips.

It was awesome. It felt like it “used to be.”  It was great, it was fun, and at times, the birding was just darn easy!

Most of the first day’s group joined me on the 9:00am departure out of New Harbor. I was amped up. A strong flight on the radar overnight developed between evening showers and thunderstorms, with another line of showers ushering in a shift in the winds from the south to the west by morning. This was a recipe for a fallout – or at least a lot of birds on Monhegan.

A Yellow Warbler – the 124th species in our wooded yard – greeted me as I topped off the feeders, and a couple of Blackpoll Warblers were singing. At Pemaquid Point, Erin Walter and I had several warblers, including one Cape May, in the small grove of spruces near the lighthouse.  These were very good signs.

As we endured a swelly ride on the ferry, an unidentified thrush streaked by, another good sign. Unrelated, but no less exciting, was a single fly-by Atlantic Puffins, a couple of Roseate Terns, and three tardy White-winged Scoters. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers at Neigh Duck was intriguingly late.

We arrived on the island shortly after 10:00am, and Phil Brown – just finishing up a New Hampshire Audubon tour – informed me that all of the signs of a big day were right. In fact, he was clearly having trouble tearing himself away. So we hit the ground running.

Over the next hour and a half, we saw a lot of birds…and we had still not even made it to the end of Dock Road!  For those of you not familiar with the island, that’s about an 1/8th of a mile. We hadn’t even checked in yet, and we had a dozen species of warblers and at least 4 Philadelphia Vireos.
BLBW_dock_road_Erin-editedBlackburnian Warblers along Dock Road was a nice welcome!

The only reason we made it across town was that a White-winged Dove (my first for the island and one of only a handful of previous island records) was just found at Donna Cundy’s famous feeders.  But not even a new island bird for myself could get me to hustle…there were too many birds to pass by; I apparently already had hit the MonhegZen!
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But we did see the dove, and it was great. However, I think it was upstaged for all of us by the 6 Scarlet Tanagers (5 males) that were also at the feeders!  We eventually stopped for a quick lunch, checked in briefly at the Trailing Yew, and slowly made our way down to the south end of the island where warblers were feeding on rocks at the water’s edge.
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And it’s not often you finish the day with 6 Blackburnian Warblers below you!

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In fact, the day was so amazing that I barely even made it to the brewery with enough time to get a growlette to go for dinner!  (Sorry, people who know me and this tour should have been told to sit down before I said that)> Birds were simply everywhere. Tennessee Warblers – a lifer for some of the group were in impressive numbers, and was likely the most common migrant of the day. Blackpoll Warblers were common, but normally-uncommon migrants such as Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, and Cape May Warblers were unusually numerous and conspicuous.  We finished our first day with 19 species of warblers. It was like the good ol’ days.
MAWA_Erin-editedMagnolia Warblers were common and conspicuous all weekend.

PRAW_Erin-editedFinding an uncommon-on-the-island Prairie Warbler (and hearing another or the same on the island’s East side the next day was a good addition to our impressive tally of 22 species of warblers. 

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The only concern I had was would the rest of the trip be anti-climatic?

With light northwesterly winds overnight Friday into Saturday, more birds departed than arrived, but there were still plenty of birds to be seen.  A single singing Ovenbird and a quick sighting of a Nashville Warbler put us to 21 species of warblers, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was a good find.  A singing Sora, a soaring Peregrine Falcon, and a silent Northern Mockingbird were some of the species added to our list, but we continued to enjoy countless warblers. Sure, we “only” estimated 25 Tennessee Warblers today, but remember yesterday when they were a life bird?  Better looks at the White-winged Dove (it was much healthier-looking today, too) were had as well.
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L1140355_SUTA1a-editedThe Summer Tanager eventually found his way to the Tanager Festival at Donna’s feeders. And you really won’t find more cooperative Lincoln’s Sparrows than one of the two (below) that was also at the feeders – for those who appreciate the more subtle beauties!

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With a slower afternoon, we took a little hike to take in the views from Burnt Head and worked various under-birded nooks and crannies. And it was hard not to enjoy a Novelty pizza dinner because: 1) Novelty pizza and 2) we finished our second day of birding with a stunning adult male Summer Tanager joining the Scarlet Tanager convention at Donna’s feeders.
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We went to bed Saturday night with light southerly winds and rain on its way, with dreams of another fallout dancing in our bird-filled heads.  We awoke to light rain, fog, but still a light to moderate southerly wind. There was another strong flight overnight, according to the radar – at least until rain overspread the area by 2:00am.  But alas, whether ushered overhead by the southerly tailwinds, or unable to notice the island as they flew over the fog, there was no fallout, and in fact, there were actually fewer birds around in the early morning.

However, the rain ended as we ate breakfast, and the sun rapidly came out, optimism –and perhaps a little Rarity Fever – reigned supreme. And while numbers were a little low, diversity was excellent, and our trip list grew rapidly with a series of quality birds: Virginia Rail (heard only as usual), Green Heron, Black-billed Cuckoo, Warbling Vireo, and a rare-on-the-island Hairy Woodpecker. I also made friends with a couple of Chestnut-sided Warblers that were calling Swim Beach home.
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But unlike the forecast, it was a rather nice day! It did cloud up again after lunch, but rain was limited to a narrow line of showers ahead of the afternoon cold front. And where else but on Monhegan do you end your day with a beer and chocolate pairing at Monhegan Brewing, with lobster rolls and bratwurst…and Tennessee Warblers still singing away!
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Red_Admiral,Marion_Sprague-editedRed Admirals were quite abundant, increasing as the weekend went on. 

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At dusk, I took a walk to catch up with a friend, listening to the Sora and Virginia Rail in the marsh, and several American Woodcocks going wild.

On Monday, the last day of the tour itself, we awoke to moderate fog but very light winds. The radar return was somewhat ambiguous, but it could have been strong in the first 2/3rds of the night despite light easterly winds shifting to the west and then northwest by morning. And very few flight calls were heard overhead before coffee, suggestive of less of a migration overnight as we had hoped.

Immediately, however, we found a nice pocket of mixed warblers right behind the Trailing Yew, so we jumped right into enjoying them.  Then, I got a text that right around the corner – in the direction I usually walk before breakfast! – the state’s second ever Eurasian Collared-Dove was just discovered.  We zipped over to immediately hear and see it – not just another new island bird, but a new Maine bird for me!  And another life bird for most of the group. And it wasn’t even time for breakfast yet.
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Light northeast winds slowly shifted the southeast over the course of the day, but while the day remained rather raw, it was once again precipitation-free. Unfortunately, overall, the birding was on the slow side. Well, even in the good ol’ days there were slow days!
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cemetery-editedEAKI_J-MoEastern Kingbird.

ducking_Marion_Sprague-editedFuzzy baby ducks!  This chick’s mom was a Mallard x American Black Duck hybrid. 

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SCTA_perched_JMO1Female (top) and male Scarlet Tanagers were omnipresent at Donna’s feeders. #MonheganBirdingProblems

While the tour officially came to an end, Jeannette and I remained on the island – joined now and again by a few friends – and enjoyed a relaxing evening and another amazing Island Inn dinner. Winds were forecast to remain northwesterly overnight, with precipitation and fog developing. Our hopes for one last big day were not high as we turned in.
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Winds were northeasterly at dawn, but most of the night saw northwesterly winds – unfavorable to migrants heading northward. Not surprisingly, there was little or no visible migration on the radar overnight. So why was there a morning flight when I finally stumbled outside at 6:15?  A flock of 38 Blue Jays swirling about, more Bay-breasted Warblers than in the last 3 days combined, lots of Blackpoll Warblers, and Eastern Wood-Pewees seemed to be everywhere.

In fact, it was really birdy again (nothing like Friday, mind you). There were active pockets of birds almost everywhere. Blackpoll Warblers were common, and flycatchers had arrived en masse: while there had been plenty of Least Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees around, Alder Flycatchers were not conspicuous, and I had my first Willow Flycatcher of the year.

EWPE_J-MoEastern Wood-Pewee (from the previous, sunny day).

Jeannette and I enjoyed a great view of the Eurasian Collared-Dove in the morning, but later it was upstaged by a sighting of it flying together with the re-appearing White-winged Dove. I finally saw the one Pine Warbler that had been around; my 22nd warbler species of the trip, but I did miss a Morning Warbler at the ice pond in the morning. Blackpoll Warblers, American Redstarts, and about as many Eastern Wood-Pewees as I have ever seen in a day were among the impressive tallies.
BLPW_J-MoBlackpoll Warbler (male, above) in comparison to Black-and-white Warbler (female, below).
BAWW_J-Mo

Why were there so many more birds around? Where did they come from, and how? Well, predicting bird migration and analyzing it via NEXRAD radar is far from an exact science, and part of the thrill of the day was how unexpected it was. It was thought-provoking at least.
clouds-edited

Unfortunately, shortly after noon, it began to rain, and rain steady enough that bird activity was reduced dramatically. But, with final preparations – such as goodbyes to friends and beer to go – to leave the island, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. But with a little time to spare, Jeannette decided we should do one more walk around the southeast corner of the island, from the cul-de-sac to the Wyeth House, just to see if the concentration of warblers that my group and I saw on Friday had returned in the inclement weather.

So off we went. We were pretty much soaked by now anyway, so why stop now. And good thing that we did. While warblers on the rocks were limited to just a couple immature male American Redstarts, flycatchers were all over the place. Several Alder Flycatchers joined at least a dozen Eastern Wood-Pewees in foraging for flies right at the water’s edge. I thought I spotted another Yellow-bellied Flycatcher heading away, but when it landed, I noticed it was nearly as big as the Alders, and not at all yellow-bellied. The size, fairly long bill, coupled with primary projection almost as long as a pewee and a greenish back with off-white underparts was obviously – well, obvious through the fog and drops of rain on our binoculars – an Acadian Flycatcher. One was reported here the day before – but met with skepticism by me and several others I spoke with, after several exhaustive searches failed to turn it up. But alas, presumably, here it was!

My second on the island, and another southern vagrant that was part of this recent “overshooting” event, it was an exciting way to finish the trip. While I bounced around the rocks trying to photograph the bird with a wet phone held up to equally-wet binoculars, time was ticking, and we really needed to go. In the end, I think my one photograph of the bird might actually just be seaweed on a rock, as I was shooting blindly with a touch screen that was too wet to be much use.

It’s sometimes hard to leave on such a good day, but with so many good birds and excitement over the past five, I could not get too greedy. And a close-up Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin on the ride back helped, too.

As did the feeling that it was, once again, and at least for one long weekend, just like it was in the good ol’ days!
MAWA_J-MoMagnolia Warbler

BTBW_J-MoBlack-throated Blue Warbler

5 days, 112 total species (minus 3 for the Tuesday-only birds) and plus 4 for ferry-only birds with the group. Not bad!

* denotes ferry ride only
24-May 25-May 26-May 27-May 28-May
Wood Duck 0 0 1 0 0
American Black Duck x Mallard hybrid 1 1 1 1 1
Mallard x x x x x
Common Eider x x x x x
Surf Scoter 0 0 0 0 0
White-winged Scoter 3* 0 0 0 1
Red-breasted Merganser 2 0 0 0 0
Ring-necked Pheasant 0 1 0 1 2
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE 0 0 0 1 1
WHITE-WINGED DOVE 1 1 1 0 0
Mourning Dove 4 4 8 6 8
Black-billed Cuckoo 0 0 1 0 0
Chimney Swift 6 1 2 0 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 8 4 8 6 6
Virginia Rail 0 0 1 1 1
Sora 0 1 1 1 1
Black Guillemot x x x x x
ATLANTIC PUFFIN 1* 0 0 0 1*
Razorbill 0 0 0 0 1*
Semipalmated Plover 1 0 0 0
American Woodcock 0 0 3 0
Spotted Sandpiper 0 2 1 0
Greater Yellowlegs 0 0 1 1 1
Laughing Gull x* 2 2 3 6
Ring-billed Gull 0 0 0 0
Herring Gull x x x x x
Great Black-backed Gull x x x x x
Common Tern x* 0 0 0
Roseate Tern 2* 0 0 0
Common Loon 2 (10*) 0 0 1 4 (4*)
Northern Gannet 2* 2 6 0
Double-crested Cormorant x x x x x
Great Blue Heron 0 2 1 0 0
Green Heron 0 1 0 0 0
Osprey 1 0 0 1 0
Bald Eagle 0 2 0 1 1
Belted Kingfisher 1 0 1 0 0
Red-bellied Woodpecker 0 1 0 1 1
HAIRY WOODPECKER 0 0 1 0 1
Merlin 2 1 0 0 0
Peregrine Falcon 0 1 0 0 0
Eastern Wood-Pewee 4 2 4 5 40
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 2 0 0 0 2
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER 0 0 0 0 1
Alder Flycatcher 1 1 0 2 10
Willow Flycatcher 0 0 0 0 1
“Traill’s” Flycatcher 0 0 0 0 5
Least Flycatcher 15 12 12 10 15
Eastern Kingbird 5 3 2 5 6
Blue-headed Vireo 0 0 1 0 0
Philadelphia Vireo 6 1 0 0 0
Warbling Vireo 0 0 1 0 0
Red-eyed Vireo 4 4 10 4 20
Blue Jay 4 48 12 25 38
American Crow x x x 6 x
Common Raven 2 0 0 2 2
Tree Swallow 0 2 2 5 4
CLIFF SWALLOW 0 0 0 0 1
Barn Swallow 2 2 4 6 6
Black-capped Chickadee x x x x x
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 6 6 10 4
Winter Wren 0 1 1 2 0
Carolina Wren 0 1 1 2 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 0 0 0 8 0
Eastern Bluebird 0 0 1 0 0
Swainson’s Thrush 3 3 2 2 0
American Robin 8 8 x x x
Gray Catbird 4 x x x x
Northern Mockingbird 0 1 0 0 0
Brown Thrasher 0 0 0 1 1
European Starling 8 8 x x
Cedar Waxwing 200 80 100 125 100
Purple Finch 1 1 1 3 2
Pine Siskin 0 1 1 2 0
American Goldfinch x x 10 10 8
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW 0 1 1 0 0
White-crowned Sparrow 1 1 0 0 0
White-throated Sparrow 1 0 0 0 0
Savannah Sparrow 1 3 2 1 1
Song Sparrow x x x x x
Lincoln’s Sparrow 2 2 0 0 0
Swamp Sparrow 0 0 0 0 0
Ovenbird 0 1 0 0 0
Northern Waterthrush 2 1 0 2 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4 6 3 3 4
Tennessee Warbler 40 25 20 15 10
Nashville Warbler 0 1 0 0 0
Common Yellowthroat x x x x x
American Redstart 25 10 15 10 60
Cape May Warbler 2 4 4 2 8
Northern Parula 20 10 6 8 6
Magnolia Warbler 30 10 10 6 30
Bay-breasted Warbler 10 4 2 0 6
Blackburnian Warbler 20 6 6 3 5
Yellow Warbler 15 15 20 20 25
Chestnut-sided Warbler 6 20 25 15 15
Blackpoll Warbler 40 10 15 25 80
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1 0 1 2 0
Palm Warbler 0 0 0 0 0
PINE WARBLER 0 0 0 0 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 4 8 4 4 3
PRAIRIE WARBLER 1 1 0 0 0
Black-throated Green Warbler 1 10 3 12 2
Canada Warbler 6 2 5 1 1
Wilson’s Warbler 2 1 1 0 2
SUMMER TANAGER 1 1 1 0 0
Scarlet Tanager 7 7 6 4 1
Northern Cardinal 5 4 6 4 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1 2 2 2 2
Indigo Bunting 1 2 3 0 1
Bobolink 7 4 4 4 1
Red-winged Blackbird x x x x x
Common Grackle x x x x x
Baltimore Oriole 1 1 2 1 0
Day Total 70 77 73 67 71

EUCD_J-Mo