Quite likely the same individual that was first found in Portland before relocating to Thornhurst Farm in North Yarmouth, this Barnacle Goose was found on North River Road in Auburn on the 22nd. Dan Nickerson and I caught up with it two days later, here, on the 24th.
This (Two) Week’s Highlights:
- Birding in Kentucky with the Beckham Bird Club
- Changes at the feeding station.
- Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch gets underway!
- American Woodcocks are going wild!
- 2 Brown-headed Cowbirds (FOY), our feeders in Durham, 3/17 (with Dan Nickerson)
- 2 Common Grackles (FOY), our feeders in Durham, 3/18.
- 3 displaying American Woodcocks (FOY), our property in Durham, 3/18.
- 1 Killdeer (FOS), Rte 9, Durham, 3/18.
- 6 NORTHERN PINTAIL, Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, Pownal, 3/20.
- 1 1st-winter Iceland Gull, Auburn Riverwalk, Auburn, 3/24 (with Dan Nickerson).
- 3 Double-crested Cormorants (FOY) and 10 Ring-necked Ducks (FOY), North River Road, Auburn, 3/24 (with Dan Nickerson)
- 1 hen Greater Scaup with 5 Lesser Scaup, North River Road Boat Launch, Auburn, 3/24 (with Dan Nickerson).
- 1 continuing HARRIS’S SPARROW, Lower Street, Turner, 3/24 (with Dan Nickerson).
- 1 continuing BARNACLE GOOSE, North River Road, Auburn, 3/24 (with Dan Nickerson).
- 1 Fox Sparrow (FOY), our feeders in Durham, 3/24.
In contrast to my previous 8 weeks (summarized here and here), this period began with actual birding…in Kentucky! I had the pleasure and honor of giving a presentation at the Annual Meeting of the venerable Beckham Bird Club of Louisville. It was my first time birding beyond Greater Durham in two months; a most welcome change of scenery. But I must say, flying with a recovering shoulder really kinda sucks.
My new Kentucky state list kicked off on the morning of the 14th thanks to a local birding tour from Andrew Melnykovych. Starting at his patch, the Grand Allie section of Beckley Creek Park, I started to familiarize myself with the local wintering avifauna. I enjoyed revisiting with Carolina Chickadees in particular, with Black Vultures joining Turkey Vultures overhead. The weather didn’t feel like it, but I was definitely in the South!
That evening, I spoke to over 100 people at the banquet, offering my program about the Morning Flight at Sandy Point to describe concepts and techniques described in my first book, How to Be a Better Birder.
The following morning, I joined club members on a birdwalk to the delightful Anchorage Trail in the nearby town of Anchorage. Passing through a variety of habitats on an easy, paved, two-mile trail, we spent the morning slowly working through the various species we encountered (43 I believe was the official tally). Being from Maine, it was nice to hear Eastern Phoebes (overwintering and/or returning migrants), oodles of Carolina Wrens, and a nice variety of ducks in the pond: one Green-winged with a half-dozen Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, Hooded Mergansers, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, and Mallards (photo above). I also enjoyed the woodpecker sweep: Downy and Hairy, Pileated and Red-bellied, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Northern Flickers.
While it will be a little while longer before our Saturday Morning Birdwalks return, it was sure nice to get out in the field on a pleasant (by Maine standards that is!) early spring morning to help folks see some birds!
But then it was back to my usual routine. Arriving at home at 1:30am on Thursday the 16th, it wasn’t exactly an early start to my window-watching day, however. Not surprisingly, I spent less time looking out at our feeding station over that week than I have at any point over the past two months. Being out of town for three days coupled with a few visits to the store and lots of physical therapy resulted in fewer hours spent evaluating feeder bird numbers. Sharp-shinned Hawk presence didn’t help either, with our adult male continuing.
This continuing adult male continues to wreak havoc at the feeders, but my consistent observation this winter has offered me insight into this species’ natural history.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of changes in species composition and quantity noticed this week. We only received about 5-6 inches of snow here in Durham as temperatures hovered around the freezing mark for most of the day on the 14th, preventing accumulation until the late afternoon. In fact, there was less snow on the ground two days after the storm than there was the day before the storm (that was far from true for most of the state, however.
Not surprisingly, there were fewer Dark-eyed Juncos and American Tree Sparrows this week. Three Red-winged Blackbirds are regular, while the high counts of Northern Cardinals and Eastern Bluebirds continued to decline as territories began to be established and enforced. We also saw a noticeable decrease in the size of our American Goldfinch flock this week. Then, in the afternoon, my first two Brown-headed Cowbirds of the year (in Maine, that is) appeared.
The following week was much more spring-like, and the avian changes were even more evident. At least here in Durham, and changes to species composition and quantities are happening fast now.
Natural food is becoming more available as the snow recedes and the first “new” food sources emerge. A new uptick in American Goldfinches to 45 on 3/23 saw most of the birds spending most of their time eating aspen buds. Although a Pileated Woodpecker remains in the area, I did not see it visit the feeders once this week. We still have 8-12 Dark-eyed Juncos around, but they are often dispersed under brush away from the feeders. Our overwintering male Red-bellied Woodpecker, pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches, and our Carolina Wren have also spent considerably less time at the feeders this week. And not a single House Finch.
The last of our two American Tree Sparrows of the winter departed on the 17th, but a presumably new bird – a migrant – was at the feeders on the 21st through the end of the week. Our first Song Sparrow of the year arrived on the 18th and has been under the feeders since. Two White-throated Sparrows continue as well, and our first Fox Sparrow of the year appeared in the evening on the 24th.
While one Brown Creeper has been regular in the trees immediately behind the feeding station for a couple of weeks now, we now have a pair, and on the 23rd I spotted one of them creeping on the ground under a hulled sunflower tube. I didn’t see it eat anything, so I won’t count it on the feeder list quite yet, but I can see its bravery increasing.
Red-winged Blackbirds are now here to stay, with 2-3 territorial birds occasionally joined by migrants (high of 14 on the 21st), while we had Brown-headed Cowbirds (1-2) on two days this week. After our first two Common Grackles of the year briefly visited on the 18th, a flock of 22 dropped by on the 21st.Also on the 21st, we had 2 Pine Siskins – our first here since January 21st. I also spotted our first Turkey Vulture over the yard this year later that day.
Meanwhile, my yard-listing gears shifted from sorting through commuting gulls to commuting geese. With growing numbers of Canada Geese beginning to arrive starting on the 17th, flocks would often be visible from the window and over our yard as they commute between the Androscoggin River and local fields.
Our suspicion that the area right around our house would be a perfect place for displaying American Woodcocks was confirmed on the first warm and calm night of the spring: 3 birds displaying closely and vociferously right over our driveway on the 18th with two displaying and one silent fly-by (a female?) on the 22nd. Speaking of American Woodcocks, our first tour of the season is right around the corner: Woodcocks Gone Wild at Pineland Farms is only a week away!
Another sure sign that spring really is here, the Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch kicked off on March 15th as usual, albeit delayed by 2 hours as the last of the precipitation cleared. It absolutely pains me that I cannot be up there, but thankfully Zane Baker has returned for his 5th season as Official Counter. While Jeannette and I will be up there much less than usual for a while longer at least, we know the count is in great hands!
I did, however, make a cameo on the 20th, spending an hour and a half to test drive my stamina. A handful of migrant raptors were spotted, and I was rewarded for the effort with a flock of 6 Northern Pintails flying by. This was my personal 144th species at Bradbury Mountain State Park, and we believe a first record for the Hawkwatch -and therefore the park itself!
Speaking of appearances, Jeannette and I appeared on Newscenter Maine’s 207 last week, discussing birds, bird feeding, and the changing climate and bird populations. Check it out!
I think my friend Dan Nickerson took pity on me – or was just tired of reading about our feeder birds? – so he was kind enough to pick me up and take me birding for the morning on the 24th for some local birding. It was great to get out, and I was most appreciative. And what a day we had!
We worked our way up the Androscoggin River, finding one 1st-winter Iceland Gull still at the Auburn Riverwalk and some new arrivals at the south end of North River Road in Auburn, including the boat launch area: a total of 10 Ring-necked Ducks and 3 Double-crested Cormorants (both being my first of the year in Maine), and off the boat launch, a small flock of 5 Lesser Scaup with one female Greater Scaup hanging out with them. The first of our three Ring-necked Ducks joined them briefly.
Further up the road, we looked for a previously-reported Barnacle Goose in the farm fields, but we couldn’t find it. There were a goodly number of Canada Geese around though, and with birds in and out of gulleys and presumably moving back and forth from the river, we decided to check back later.
We looked for Snow Buntings and the like along Upper Street in Turner, kept an eye out for frugivores, and then paid the Lower Street Harris’s Sparrow a visit. I saw this bird back on January 13th, but it was too good of a bird to not see again. When it immediately popped out of its favored bush, Dan got a life bird and I enjoyed a nice long view (but not so much photographs with one hand in a cold and gusty wind!).
We then returned to North River Road where I spotted the Barnacle Goose immediately this time. We savored this sighting – Dan’s second lifer in an hour! – and photographs were more successful (see above). We decided to celebrate with Thai food and broke for an early lunch as my shoulder was starting to whine a little about all of this excitement and activity. Thai food made everything better though, as it usually does.
Hopefully, I have finally turned the corner on my slow recovery, and next week will feature a little more time in the field and at the store, but for now, I will continue to track feeder birds in between.