Tag Archives: Blackburnian Warbler

2018 Monhegan Spring Migration Weekend

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The most abundant songbird throughout the weekend, a flock of 125 Cedar Waxwings would ball up each morning and then spread out through the island to feed.

My annual “Monhegan Spring Migration Weekend” battled highs seas (seriously, it was rough and we were all thankful it was only a 1-hr ride!) to arrive on the wonderful island of Monhegan on Friday, May 25th. Five days later, I had two new birds for my Monhegan list, a total of 97 species including 18 species of warblers, and way too much of the best pizza in Maine.
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After regaining our legs and equilibrium, we hit the ground running as always, birding our way to and from our hotel, lunch, and eventually dinner. No daylight was spared, and in doing so, we caught up with a few things, including the flock of 30 or so Red Crossbills, three of which perched nearby by close studies. Personally, however, I was most excited about 2 Eastern Bluebirds (at least one had been present for a while), my 210th species on Monhegan!  We had our first sighting of Warbling Vireo, which, like the 1-2 Field Sparrows – we saw everyday; both very uncommon on the island in spring. Apparently, I either started coming after – or perhaps only took better notes after – they last bred on the island. An island bird is a great way to start off the trip!\
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Red Crossbill – female.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak – female.


Eastern Kingbird

Friday calmly eased us into the weekend, but Saturday blew us away. It was just one of those great days, with birds seemingly everywhere, and many of them low and easy to see. Following a moderate flight overnight on light westerly winds, there were a lot of new arrivals. Five Tennessee Warblers heard singing from one spot while tarrying at the Trailing Yew awaiting the coffee pot were a sign of things to come.

As is often the case on such flight days, we didn’t have to cover a lot of ground, as waves of birds were passing through the island and around town, pausing at just about every apple tree. It was hard to estimate the number of birds around, but there was a consistent south to north flow on the island, and several relatively-large flocks of the most common migrants of the day. I finally settled on 80 Red-eyed Vireos, 50 Blackpoll Warblers, and 20 Tennessee Warblers – impressive numbers of birds normally relegated to the tops of the highest oak trees, but today, more often than not, in low brush and short apple
trees.

Tennessee Warbler
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Blackpoll Warbler, male.

While it wasn’t the kind of day that Monhegan legends are made of, it was one of the “good ol’ days” where migrants were plenty, views were crippling, and birding was easy.  And all of that was punctuated by a few goodies, including an immature male Orchard Oriole, three Eastern Bluebirds together (two appeared to leave the island shortly thereafter), a lingering immature Great Cormorant, my first Common Nighthawk of the year fluttering off the high cliffs of White Head, 14 species of warblers including 4 Cape May and 2 Bay-breasted, and much more. And the day ended with two American Woodcocks heard calling and twittering from the lawn chairs of the Trailing Yew.  That’s what Monhegan in migration is all about!
apple_tree
On Monhegan and elsewhere, a good birding rule of thumb is that if you see a blooming apple tree, you should look in it.

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And that sunset from the Yew!

Not surprisingly, Sunday was slower, as light northeasterly winds precluded much in the way of overnight migration. And while it seemed that a lot of yesterday’s migrants had departed or melted into the woodlands, there were plenty of birds around, with a slight improvement in diversity, still plenty of Blackpoll Warblers, and a few highlights including a cooperative Green Heron, more Red Crossbills, a fly-by Black-billed Cuckoo, a Carolina Wren (finally; good to know one is here again), and a Northern Mockingbird (uncommon to rare out here) that we witnessed fly onto the island from behind, or perhaps over, Manana.
harbor

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Green Heron

The afternoon was rather slow overall, but we just kept seeing birds well: the Warbling Vireo at eye level, a Lincoln’s Sparrow in the garden, and continued good views of Tennessee Warblers.
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Field Sparrow
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White-crowned Sparrow
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Eastern Wood-Pewee

Monday the 28th was the last day of the tour, and with a smaller group in tow, we covered a lot of ground. While there was virtually no visible migration on the radar overnight on very light easterly winds once again, there were clearly a lot of new birds around (or at least, birds not seen the previous days) and we ended up with the best diversity of the trip – 71 species by day’s end.
Sunday am

In fact, by days’ end, we added 14 new species to our cumulative weekend list – not bad for a “slow” day and the end of a tour. And there was some quality to it, too: a continuing very late drake Long-tailed Duck that we finally caught up with…
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…a Brown Thrasher, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and especially the Brant that we found on Nigh Duck – my 211th all-time bird on Monhegan, and a new “island bird” for just about every birder on the island.
Brant,Monhegan,5-28-18_edited-1

On Tuesday, it was just Jeannette and I on a one-day vacation, mostly on our own, but meandering in and out of contact with several friends on the island. We awoke to dense fog, but that rapidly lifted, and the strong (for the date) flight overnight produced another new arrival of birds. It sure wasn’t Saturday, but there were plenty more Blackpoll Warblers around, and warbler diversity overall was the best of the weekend with a total of 16 species, highlighted by the Mourning Warbler we found by the Mooring Chain, and an impressive 15 Blackburnian Warblers.
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John and Terez found a (or relocated a brief late-last-week fly-by) Summer Tanager…
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…and we added a few new birds for the trip list including Great-crested Flycatcher, Northern Flicker, and had more species of butterflies today than total butterfly individuals all weekend, including an early Monarch. It was also a really, really nice day!
last-day_view

The afternoon was slower, and Jeannette and I winded down our visit with good conversation, one last slice (or two) of Novelty pizza and another pint (or two) of Monhegan Brewing beer, and caught up with some good friends who had just arrived with tours of their own. It was a relaxing finish to a great weekend, and the gentle boat ride home was more relaxing than we really needed before driving – just a little different than our outbound trip!

So yeah, it was a good trip. And, after one day at work, I am definitely ready to go back!  At least I have two tours out here this fall. First, I have a full week with my WINGS tour, space on which is still available.

And there’s a little room left on our store’s annual Monhegan Fall Migration Weekend tour, which is only four months away!
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Yellow Warbler in an apple tree.

And finally, here is the daily tally:

5/25 5/26 5/27 5/28 5/29
BRANT 0 0 0 1 0
American Black Duck 0 1 1 1 1
Am. Blac Duck x Mallard hybrid 0 1 0 1 1
Mallard 15 10 12 16 20
Common Eider x x x x x
LONG-TAILED DUCK 0 0 0 1 0
Red-throated Loon 2 1 0 0 0
Common Loon 1 0 1 2 0
Northern Gannet 2 0 0 3 0
Double-crested Cormorant x x x x x
GREAT CORMORANT 0 1 0 0 0
Great Blue Heron 0 0 0 1 0
Green Heron 0 0 1 1 0
Bald Eagle 0 0 0 1 0
Osprey 0 0 1 0 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 0 0 0 1 1
Merlin 0 2 0 1 0
Sora 0 0 0 1 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2 0 0 0 3
American Woodcock 0 2 0 0 0
Laughing Gull 1 1 8 20 8
Herring Gull x x x x x
Great Black-backed Gull x x x x x
Common Tern 1 0 0 2 2
Black Guillemot x x x x x
Mourning Dove x x x x x
Black-billed Cuckoo 0 0 1 0 0
Common Nighthawk 0 1 0 0 0
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 2 3 4 4
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER 0 0 0 1 0
Northern Flicker 0 0 0 0 1
Great-crested Flycatcher 0 0 0 0 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 0 1 1 2 3
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1 0 0 0 1
Least Flycatcher 1 2 2 2 2
Eastern Phoebe 0 0 0 1 0
Eastern Kingbird 2 8 7 4 3
WARBLING VIREO 1 1 2 1 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2 80 10 6 8
Blue Jay x x x x x
American Crow x x x x x
Common Raven 2 1 2 2 2
Tree Swallow 4 4 4 4 4
Barn Swallow 1 0 0 1 1
Black-capped Chickadee x x x x x
Red-breasted Nuthatch 0 2 0 0 1
Carolina Wren 0 1 1 1 1
Winter Wren 0 0 1 0 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 1 0 0 0
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER 0 1 0 0 0
EASTERN BLUEBIRD 2 3 1 1 1
Swainson’s Thrush 0 1 0 0 0
Hermit Thrush 0 0 0 1 0
American Robin x x x x x
Gray Catbird x x x x x
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD 0 0 1 0 0
Brown Thrasher 0 0 0 1 1
European Starling x x x x x
Cedar Waxwing 60 125 125 125 125
Tennessee Warbler 3 20 8 4 6
Northern Parula 2 6 4 5 10
Yellow Warbler 6 10 12 12 12
Chestnut-sided Warbler 0 1 0 0 1
Magnolia Warbler 4 4 3 2 4
Cape May Warbler 0 4 2 1 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 0 0 0 0 1
Yellow-rumped Warblers 3 2 1 0 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 2 8 3 2 5
Blackburnian Warbler 0 0 1 2 15
Bay-breasted Warbler 0 2 0 1 1
Blackpoll Warbler 12 50 25 20 40
Black-and-white Warbler 3 4 3 1 2
American Redstart 4 15 6 0 15
MOURNING WARBLER 0 0 0 0 1
Common Yellowthroat x x x x x
Wilson’s Warbler 0 2 1 0 1
Canada Warbler 0 0 1 0 0
SUMMER TANAGER 0 0 0 0 1
Chipping Sparrow 4 4 2 2 4
FIELD SPARROW 0 1 2 2 0
Savannah Sparrow 0 1 1 0 0
Song Sparrow x x x x x
Lincoln’s Sparrow 1 1 1 1 1
Swamp Sparrow 2 2 2 2 2
White-throated Sparrow 0 0 0 1 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1 0 1 1 0
Northern Cardinal 4 x x x x
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 2 2 3 3 1
Indigo Bunting 0 1 1 1 1
Bobolink 0 0 2 1 1
Red-winged Blackbird 12 x x x x
Common Grackle 15 x x x x
ORCHARD ORIOLE 0 1 0 0 0
Baltimore Oriole 1 3 3 4 2
Purple Finch 4 4 2 2 2
RED CROSSBILL (lone good recording identified as Type 10 by M. Young at Cornell). 30 0 5 h.o 2
Pine Siskin 0 1 1 1 0
American Goldfinch 10 x x x x

beets
I forgot to take a photo of the pizza – I ate it too quickly as usual – so here are some beautiful beets from the Island Inn.


And as migrants were passing through, many of the island’s breeding species were well underway, such as this Song Sparrow gathering food for its nestlings.

2016 MonhegZen Spring Birding Weekend PLUS Birds on Tap – Monhegan!

As I do most Memorial Day weekends, I head to Monhegan Island with a tour group for my “MonhegZen Spring Birding Weekend.”  But this was not going to be “just” a weekend on this wonderful, joyful, and bird-filled place. This was going to be truly special – it was “Birds on Tap – Monhegan!

A small group arrived with me on Friday, and boy did we hit the ground running. The first bird we saw off the boat was a Purple Martin zipping overhead – a nice rarity to get things started. As if my usual Monhegan-stoked Rarity Fever wasn’t already in full effect, the next bird we saw was a wet Empid. And let the games begin! Of course, this one was a pretty straightforward Alder Flycatcher after we got good looks at it and heard it call.
ALFL

American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, and Blackpoll Warblers were common and conspicuous as it took us over an hour just to walk up Dock Road!  A great look at a male Bay-breasted Warbler near the Ice Pond was a treat, and we caught up with part of the small flocks of Red and White-winged Crossbills that have been wandering around the island. We saw at least 8 Red and at least 6 White-winged, including fresh juveniles of each – likely having bred out here in the late winter and early spring.

A Sora calling in the marsh didn’t really stop all weekend, and Yellow Warblers were particularly conspicuous around town.
YWAR'

And our FOY Novelty pizza.
Novelty Pizza

While I – and the group – were hearing a little too much “you should have been here yesterday,” we were pretty content with the leftovers of the fallout, with 16 species of warblers by day’s end, including impressive numbers of Northern Parulas.
NOPA

A rare-in-spring Dickcissel flew over the Trailing Yew as we awaited coffee, soon followed by a close-passing Yellow-billed Cuckoo. After a strong flight overnight, there were a lot of new birds around. Fueled by the delicious Birds & Beans coffee being brewed by the Trailing Yew all weekend, we began our birding, soon picking up lots of new arrivals including Cape May Warbler and Swainson’s Thrush.

Apple trees in full bloom all around town were one of the major draws for birds and birders. In fact, you could basically pick an apple tree and sit in front of it long enough to see at least one of all of the common migrants that were about, such as Magnolias Warbler…
MAWA male

MAWA female

…and Chestnut-sided…
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Jeannette met up with the rest of the tour group arriving on the first boat from New Harbor, and caught up with us after catching up with two of the most cooperative Philadelphia Vireos you’ll ever meet that we all enjoyed along Dock Road.
PHVI

In town, we heard a White-eyed Vireo, another rarity (although one of the expected ones out here), ran into a few more of both species of crossbills behind the Ice Pond, and spotted the young Humpback Whale that has been making regular appearances close to shore off the island’s western shore!  And this Scarlet Tanager…which seemed an appropriate find since we have been consuming the coffee named for it!
SCTA

After hearing a singing Mourning Warbler earlier in the day for our 20th species of warbler on the trip, we had a handful of glimpses of a skulking female near the Yew. I turned around to follow a flitting Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Training my bins on the flycatcher, I first focused on the branch behind it, which turned out to be hosting a roosting Common Nighthawk!
CONI1a

CONI2

83 species of birds on the day, including 19 species of warblers made for one helluva day, but the fun was just beginning! In addition to my annual tour, this was the weekend of Birds On Tap – Monhegan!

A collaboration between our Freeport Wild Bird Supply, Trailing Yew, Birds & Beans, and Monhegan Brewing, we took our “Birds on Tap” series of events offshore to celebrate birds, migration, bird conservation (especially through consumer choices like what coffee to drink), and, yes, beer!

And one of the truly special events was a limited, 31-gallon batch of a special coffee-infused milk stout from Monhegan Brewing, featuring a pound and a half of the dark roast Scarlet Tanager coffee from Birds & Beans!
MARY POUR

I had the honor of announcing the official release, taking some of the first sips of this delicious light-bodied stout featuring a subtle sweetness from lactose perfectly balanced with a bitter roastiness from the coffee.
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ON PORCH

Of course, we were also still birding. I promise!
GROUP AT BREWERY

In fact, we momentarily cleared out the brewery when a possible Orange-crowned Warbler (one was seen by others over the past two days) was spotted nearby. Rushing over, we carefully studied the bird before reaching the conclusion that it was indeed a pale Tennessee Warbler.
TEWA

After an unfortunate but necessary cancellation from our original speaker, Dr. Steve Kress arrived to save us – admittedly a feat marginally less heroic than what he did for puffins and endangered seabirds all over the world!

 

Giving the weekend’s keynote presentation on his work to bring Atlantic Puffins back to nearby Eastern Egg Rock, Steve explained the challenges he and the puffins faced before finally realizing his novel approach finally bore fruit, or should I say, pufflings.
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Overnight, a back door cold front sagged southward, shifting the winds to an easterly direction and limiting the arrival of new migrants to the island. Our “Morning Flight Watch” with plentiful free Birds & Beans coffee for all at the Trailing Yew wasn’t too eventful, but things definitely picked up for the post-breakfast walk.

 

Jeannette led my tour group, and the birding was still a bit slow, relatively speaking. But, they finally made their way down to the pump house to see Eastern Kingbirds flycatching in the marsh. And, up to the lighthouse for the first time which was highlighted by a fantastic view of a female Blackburnian Warbler.
BLBW female

Meanwhile, Kristen Lindquist assisted me in leading the free, open-to-all birdwalk as part of the weekend’s special events. A nice mix of birders, residents, and visitors enjoyed a casual stroll. We chatted as we went, covering a variety of topics from bird migration to conservation to coffee to the ill-conceived industrial wind development scheme for the island’s southern waters.

 

Some folks, new to birding, may have left with the impression that Red-eyed Vireos were about the most common bird in the world, as quite a few were calmly and methodically foraging through apple trees in and around town.
revi

But perhaps this male Blackburnian Warbler would end up being a “spark” bird for someone! Because male Blackburnian Warbler!
BLBW male

With a light easterly wind continuing, and our group back together after more Novelty pizza, we walked up to Burnt Head, where we enjoyed some nice close passes from Northern Gannets
NOGA

Jeannette and I spent an extra night on the island, knowing we would need a little time to unwind after the even-more-chaotic-than-expected weekend of events. After a great dinner with friends, we listened to two Soras calling from the marsh and an American Woodcock still displaying somewhere overhead before turning in.

We awoke on Monday to dense fog and no visible migration on the radar, but the birding was actually quite good. We found a Nelson’s Sparrow in the Lobster Cove marsh, but also enjoyed how the damp weather (mist, drizzle, and a few showers) were keeping activity low and close, easily viewed in the blooming apple trees around town once again.
As a warm front passed through, with only a little more drizzle but rapidly warming temperatures and clearing skies, we took a post-pizza hike, heading deeper into the woods, which netted more of the island’s breeding species, such as many more Black-throated Green Warblers.
BTNW

Somehow – now how did this happen? – our hike ended at the brewery, where another pour of the Birds & Beans-infused beer was in order.
CLOSE UP POUR

Unfortunately, especially since the sun was now shining brightly, it was indeed time for us to head back to the real world, so Jeannette and I begrudgingly plodded down to the dock and boarded the Hardy Boat for the return.  It’s never easy saying goodbye to the island – its birds and our friends there – but today was especially challenging as we know a fight about the future of the island – including many of the migratory birds that pass over and through here – is looming.
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Here’s the complete daily checklist for the weekend:
26-May 27-May 28-May 29-May
1 Canada Goose 0 0 1 0
American Black Duck x Mallard 0 1 0 0
2 Mallard 2 10 12 8
3 Common Eider x x x x
4 Ring-necked Pheasant 3 3 3 4
5 Common Loon 1 1 0 1
6 Northern Gannet 0 0 12 0
7 Double-crested Cormorant x x x x
8 Great Cormorant 0 0 0 1
9 Great Blue Heron 0 1 0 0
10 Green Heron 1 0 0 0
11 Osprey 0 1 0 0
12 Bald Eagle 2 1 0 0
13 Merlin 0 1 0 1
14 Virginia Rail 0 0 0 1
15 Sora 1 1 2 1
16 American Woodcock 0 0 1 0
17 Black Guillemot x x x x
18 Laughing Gull x x 12 4
19 Herring Gull x x x x
20 Great Black-backed Gull x x x x
21 Common Tern 2 0 0 0
22 Mourning Dove 8 10 4 6
23 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO 0 1 0 0
24 Common Nighthawk 0 1 0 0
25 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2 3 2 2
26 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 0 1 0 0
27 Downy Woodpecker 4 4 2 0
28 Northern Flicker 0 1 1 1
29 Eastern Wood-Pewee 2 10 4 6
30 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1 4 0 5
31 Alder Flycatcher 1 2 0 0
32 Willow Flycatcher 0 4 0 1
33 “Traill’s” Flycatcher 0 6 2 1
34 Least Flycatcher 5 8 2 5
35 Eastern Kingbird 8 14 7 6
36 WHITE-EYED VIREO 0 1 0 0
37 Philadelphia Vireo 2 3 0 0
38 Red-eyed Vireo 15 100 30 25
39 Blue Jay 4 4 6 6
40 American Crow x x x x
41 Tree Swallow 8 2 2 2
42 Cliff Swallow 0 1 0 0
43 Barn Swallow 0 0 2 0
44 PURPLE MARTIN 0 0 0 0
45 Black-capped Chickadee x x x x
46 Red-breasted Nuthatch 2 4 2 3
47 House Wren 0 2 2 2
48 Winter Wren 0 0 0 1
49 Golden-crowned Kinglet 2 2 2 4
50 Swainson’s Thrush 0 1 0 0
51 American Robin 10 8 10 8
52 Gray Catbird x x x x
53 Brown Thrasher 1 0 2 0
54 Northern Mockingbird 0 1 0 0
55 European Starling x x x x
56 Cedar Waxwing 30 80 60 40
57 Ovenbird 0 1 0 0
58 Northern Waterthrush 1 1 0 0
59 Black-and-white Warbler 8 10 6 3
60 Tennesee Warbler 1 10 1 1
61 Nashville Warbler 1 1 1 2
62 MOURNING WARBLER 0 3 0 0
63 Common Yellowthroat x x x x
64 American Redstart 25 40 10 15
65 CAPE MAY WARBLER 0 1 0 0
66 Northern Parula 40 50 20 20
67 Magnolia Warbler 5 15 12 20
68 Bay-breasted Warbler 1 0 0 0
69 Blackburnian Warbler 3 3 2 2
70 Yellow Warbler 20 20 25 20
71 Chestnut-sided Warbler 15 15 10 15
72 Blackpoll Warbler 20 70 30 40
73 Black-throated Blue Warbler 1 3 1 2
74 Yellow-rumped Warbler 0 4 1 2
75 Black-throated Green Warbler 6 7 10 30
76 Canada Warbler 0 1 1 0
77 Wilson’s Warbler 1 0 0 1
78 Eastern Towhee 0 1 0 0
79 Chipping Sparrow 4 1 1 0
80 NELSON’S SPARROW 0 0 0 1
81 Song Sparrow x x x x
82 Lincoln’s Sparrow 0 1 0 1
83 Swamp Sparrow 0 1 0 1
84 White-throated Sparrow 1 2 2 1
85 Scarlet Tanager 0 2 0 0
86 Northern Cardinal 4 4 8 8
87 Rose-breasted Grosbeak 0 1 0 1
88 Indigo Bunting 1 3 1 0
89 DICKCISSEL 0 1 0 0
90 Bobolink 2 6 3 0
91 Red-winged Blackbird x x x x
92 Common Grackle x x x x
93 Baltimore Oriole 4 2 2 1
94 Purple Finch 2 2 2 1
95 RED CROSSBILL 8 2 3 ?
96 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL 6 8 0 12
97 Pine Siskin 15 30 30 40
98 American Goldfinch 6 4 4 4

Not Your Usual December Highlights!

While this fall’s rarity season got off to a fairly slow start at the end of October, things have really heated up lately. In fact, it’s been a really outstanding couple of weeks.  And in the past few days, I have enjoyed some really great birding.

The mild temperatures have certainly played a role – while the southerly and southwesterly winds that have ushered in much of the unseasonably warm air may still be facilitating the arrival of some vagrants, at the very least the mild temperatures and benign weather are allowing vagrants and unseasonable “lingering” migrants to survive long enough to be found! And, the lovely weather is certainly keeping more birders out in the field. I have certainly been taking full advantage of this beautiful weather.

On Sunday, Ed Hess and I visited the Saco Riverwalk. While this is always a hotspot at this season, it is really extraordinary this year. After 8 species of warblers were seen there in November, the mild weather has allowed at least 5 species to continue – almost unprecedented for December. Ed and I saw the Tennessee Warbler, a really remarkable December record…
L1040092_TEWA,SacoRiverWalk, 12-6-15_edited-1

…both of the two continuing Yellow Warblers (the photos are of one of the two individuals), which is another exceptional species for the date…
L1040022_YWAR,SacoRiverWalk,12-6-15_edited-1

…the Nashville Warbler (and confirmed the continued presence of a second Nashville!)…
NAWA by Ed_edited-1

…the Common Yellowthroat (more expected for the season)…
L1040098_COYE1,SacoRiverWalk,12-5-15_edited-1

…and we saw one of the two Ruby-crowned Kinglets still present (much more regular in December than any warbler).
L1040116_RCKI,SacoYachtClub,12-6-15-edited

And although we didn’t see it, the most amazing of them all, a Blackburnian Warbler is still present. (Jeannette and I saw and photographed it earlier in the week, 11/30).
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Ed and I then headed to Cape Elizabeth, where we photographed the continuing Grasshopper Sparrow at Dyer Point, and odd bird to see juxtaposed with Harlequin Ducks (18) and Purple Sandpipers (6)…
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…And we twitched a Wilson’s Warbler found earlier in the day nearby, just so we could say we saw five species of warblers in a day in December!  It cannot, however, be said that we “photographed” five species:
WIWA,CapeElizabethm12-6-15

The Grasshopper Sparrow was also our fifth species of sparrow on the day (Song, American Tree, White-throated, and Dark-eyed Junco) – I doubt I’ve had five species of warbler and 5 species of sparrows in the same day in December in Maine before.

Of course, that only somewhat consoled us about missing the vagrant Western Tanager that was found at the Riverwalk later in the afternoon. Damn.

On Monday, I headed over to Reid State Park in Georgetown with Kristen Lindquist. It was a rather quiet day here, but it’s always one of my favorite places to take a walk, especially on such (another) gorgeous morning.  43 Red-necked Grebes, a Northern Harrier, a flyover Red Crossbill (my first of the season), oh yeah, and another rarity: “Oregon” Junco.

While some might dismiss it as “merely a subspecies,” the westernmost subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco is truly a rarity in the Northeast, and this was the first definitive “Oregon” Junco that I have seen in Maine (although I have never chased one at a feeder, where they are usually seen). It was in a small flock of “Slate-colored” Juncos and an American Tree Sparrow in the scrubby central ridge in the middle of the Griffith’s Head parking lot.

The flock flushed from short grass at the edge as we rounded the corner, and as it briefly alighted in a shrub, I was shocked to see a black-hooded junco. Closer inspection as we followed it for about 20 minutes yielded all of the pertinent field marks for a “textbook” Oregon, nicely eliminating the intermediate “hybrid swarm” – or whatever it is – that we sometimes refer to as “Cassiar’s” Junco.

Note the complete, black (not dark gray) hood, lacking contrast in the supraloral area. Also, the hood is cleanly demarcated on the back of the head, contrasting crisply with the reddish-brown back. The flanks and sides are particularly pale salmon-buff, which is not atypical for adult males (although many are much brighter). At the lower margin of the hood, note the smooth, rounded margin across the chest and up to the “shoulder.”
IMG_6908_ORJU4,meIMG_6909_edited-1IMG_6910_ORJU1,K_edited-1IMG_6912_edited-1,K.Lindquist

Afterwards, Kristen and I birded around Bath – no white-winged gulls or Barrow’s Goldeneyes yet, no doubt related to the mild temperatures as well, but we did spot one of the Snowy Owls at Brunswick Landing – unlike warblers, a slightly more expected highlight for early December in Maine.

While Jeannette and I didn’t turn up any rarities – or much of anything else for that matter! – birding Harpswell Neck this morning, I very much look forward to what the coming weeks will produce, especially when it finally turns cold!

MonhegZEN Birding Fall Migration Weekend, 9/26-30/13

This past weekend was my annual “MonhegZEN Migration Weekend.”  A small group – absolutely no more than eight people per day – joins me on a per diem basis to enjoy the wonder of fall migration at this offshore hotspot.  While the 105 total species was right about my Fall Weekend average, it did include 20 species of warblers, and a variety of the usual fall-on-Monhegan cast of characters.  And a few “good” birds as always.

But before I get into the daily rundown, let me post a quiz.  Here are the 1am radar and velocity images from each of the four nights preceeding each of my four days on the island.  Can you guess which days had the most birds?
9-27-13 1am ref 9-27-13 1am vel 9-28-13 1am ref 9-28-13 1am vel 9-29-13 1am ref 9-29-13 1am vel 9-30-13 1am ref 9-30-13 1am vel

If you said the first two had more birds than the second two, you would be absolutely right!  And yes, Saturday (Day 2) was definitely the best day for migrants on the island.  And yes, Monday (Day 4) was very, very slow.  The radar certainly suggested it, and our birding over the course of each day definitively ground-thruthed it.

IMG_1587Leaving Port Clyde, 9/26.

After the good flight on Thurday night into Friday morning, I arrived with part of my group from Port Clyde on the 7am ferry, dropping us on the island just before 8.  The birding was still going strong.  In fact, it took us almost an hour and a half just to walk to the end of Dock Road (about ¼ mile)!  At least six Cape May Warblers in one cluster of spruces, Rusty Blackbirds were overhead (including one just as our boat docked, a nice welcome to the island), and then a buzz-by from a Cooper’s Hawk.

Common on the mainland, Coops are rather rare this far offshore, and I don’t see them on the island every fall, so this was a real treat – and an “Island Bird” for a friend I was exchanging info with.  A short while later we caught up with the last individual of what was once 5 Broad-winged Hawks that drifted to the island – only my second-ever out here.   A Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a continuing Lark Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Dickcissel – yup, most of the usual fall Monhegan “trash birds!”
a -DSC_0007_LASP1,Monhegan,9-28-13Lark and White-throated Sparrows

b -DICK1,Monhegan,9-27-13Very pale juvenile Dickcissel

c -CCSP,Monhegan,9-27-13Clay-colored Sparrow.

Honestly however, the bird of the day – from an island rarity perspective – was probably House Sparrow.  Seriously.   A male that apparently landed on the Hardy Boat half way to the island a few days prior had taken up residence here.  Were a female to show up – almost certainly in similar fashion – then we could have an issue <insert ominous foreshadowing music here>.

The morning flight was hot and heavy on Saturday morning.  In fact, there was so much overhead that we barely left the grounds of the Trailing Yew before breakfast.  All we could do was stand around, look up, and marvel at the wonders of migration.  Hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers, 10’s of Palm Warblers, oodles of Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets…2-3 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, another Dickcissel or two, and a fly-by Blue Grosbeak (the first on the island this fall?) – it would have been overwhelming to quantify, but luckily, when I am away from SandyPoint, I am not nearly as compulsive.  Phew.

d -DSC_0020_BGGN1,Monhegan,9-28-13e -DSC_0016_BGGN_jumping,Monhegan,9-28-13
This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher visited us while we were dining on Novelty pizza.

ea -DSC_0092_BRCR,Monhegan,9-29-13Brown Creepers were common, and unusually photogenic, throughout the day.

Good birding continued throughout the day.  We confirmed a Nelson’s Sparrow in the marsh at Lobster Cove and found a Marsh Wren.  We tallied 17 species of warblers over the course of the day. It was warm.  It was calm.  It was simply perfect!

But we all agreed that the highlight was the afternoon on White Head.  A light southeasterly breeze produced a light updraft off of the cliffs, and Peregrine Falcons were taking full advantage.  Some birds were swirling around, doing little more than what could be described only as “playing” in the wind.  Some birds were undoubtably passage migrants getting a quick lift from the rising warm air.  We know there were at least six Peregrines, as we had a bona-fide kettle of six swirling together at one point.  Normally, the hawkcounter in me swings into action.  But alas, this is MonhegZEN birding, so I just sat back and enjoyed the show.
eb -DSC_0104_PEFA1,Monhegan, 9-28-13f -DSC_0105_PEFA2,Monhegan,9-28-13

g -DSC_0124_PEFA3,Monhegan,9-28-13j -DSC_0053_OSPR1,Monhegan,9-26-13me_with_group_Monhegan,9-28-13,K.Lindquist (Photo (c) K. Lindquist).
Sea- and Hawk-watching from White Head. Lots of eye-to-eye Peregrine Falcons, an Opsrey, and a distant Minke Whale or two.

A shroud of fog enveloped the island on Sunday morning, but there weren’t too many birds overhead to be obscured by it.  Although there were few birds overhead or moving around once the fog lifted, there was still an ample supply of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets.   We happened upon a Prairie Warbler, and added a few other species to our trip list, such as two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and – finally – Ring-necked Pheasants (how did I go two days without hearing or seeing a pheasant here?).  Lark Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rusty Blackbird, Least Flycatcher (finally, after three days I had an Empid to try and string!)…the list goes on.  But overall, birding was decidedly slower than the previous two days (note what constitutes a slow day on Monhegan!), and rather warm.
IMG_1591IMG_1600IMG_1597
While the birding was slow, we took time to enjoy the scenery in the fog.

Remember when I said that all that male House Sparrow needed was a female to arrive?  Uh-oh.
h -HOSPpair,Monhegan,9-29-13

I am unsure how long it’s been – if ever? – since two House Sparrows were on the island.  While only die-hard island-listers appreciated these birds as much as I did (I remain captivated by the way birds – all birds – find their way to islands and what their lives are like once they get there ), the members of my group that have birded here before at least understood the significance, and potential colonization consequences of this sighting.

Luckily, we had other intrigue to talk about as well.  The spruces along Dock Road were happenin’ again today, but one warbler in particular occupied us for a while.  I first called it a Blackburnian, and then I back-tracked…a lot.  It was so impressively pale, and feeding above us, some of the most diagnostic features were not visible.  We spent about a half hour with this bird, which eventually obliged us as it fed in the lowest boughs of the tree.  We worked it carefully and thoroughly, taking the opportunity to really learn from this individual.  It took a while, but I was finally convinced it was a Blackburnian in large part due to the very pale but distinct “braces” on the back, and what we would (via camera-screen “instant replay”) finally confirm as a small, pale orange central forehead stripe.
i -DSC_0142_ultra-paleBLBW1,Monhegan,9-28-13l -DSC_0134_ultra-paleBLBW2,Monhegan,9-28-13m -DSC_0155_ultra-paleBLBW3,Monhegan,9-28-13

The orange feet seem odd to me, and the dark auriculars appeared much more contrasting on these photos than we interpreted it in the field.  This was a good “learning and teaching bird,” and therefore this was one of my favorite birds of the trip.

IMG_1624_Monhegan_Brewery
I visited the Monhegan Brewing Company a couple of times for good beer and conversation.  And we know good business can be conducted over a beer.  In fact, during my last beer there on Sunday evening, I struck a deal with Sue to buy the sunflower heads from the Island Farm.  They’re currently drying at our house, but they’ll soon be for sale here at the store.  The money will go to help the Island Farm in their pursuit to provide a sustainable source of produce for the island.  The gardens are also great birding!
IMG_1614me,Sue,andSunflowers,K_Lindquist

Very few birds were on the move Sunday night, and with almost nothing visible on the radar, I didn’t exactly pop out of bed in the morning.  I did get out for a little while before breakfast, however, and once again the morning flight – or lack thereof – proved what the radar suggested.  My tour had come to an end, but I elected to stay out for the day to bird with my friend Kristen.  We both just wished there were a few more birds to see!

n -DSC_0167_YRWA1,Monhegan,9-30-13n -DSC_0168_YRWA2,Monhegan,9-30-13
Although I like the photo on the left of the Yellow-rumped Warbler atop a Red Spruce, as you can see on the right, I excel at photographs of fuzzy twigs.

IMG_1603 A most impressive Fringed Gentian.

We worked the bush hard, checking all sorts of seldom-searched nooks and crannies.  Some of our totals for the day were higher than previous days simply because we covered more ground.  The Clay-colored and Lark Sparrows continued, as did the two Green-winged Teal in the town marsh.  A spiffy Chestnut-sided Warbler was my 20th species of warbler for the weekend, and we added a few more waterbirds to the list by dedicating some time to sea-watching and scanning the gulls in the harbor.

Unfortunately, most of the afternoon – following one last pizza – was spent keeping an eye on our watches and watching our time rapidly tick away.  At least we weren’t nursing a concern about leaving hot and heavy birding – it was slow, very slow, today, and that did make our departure a little less unwelcome.  A little; it’s never easy to leave this magical place.
IMG_1627IMG_1632
Trap Day!

Here’s my weekend’s checklist, with estimates or counts of each species per day (not including ferry):

Mallard: 12, 12, 12, 12
American Black Duck: 1, 1, 1, 5
Green-winged Teal: 1, 1, 2, 2,
Common Eider: x, x, x, x
Surf Scoter: 0, 0, 0, 4
Ring-necked Pheasant: 0, 0, 3, 2
Common Loon: 3, 2, 1, 1
Red-necked Grebe: 0, 1, 0, 0
Great Cormorant: 1, 5, 1, 7
Double-crested Cormorant: x,x,x,x
Northern Gannet: 0, 125, 8, 30
Great Blue Heron: 1, 1, 1, 0
Osprey: 0, 2, 0, 0
Bald Eagle: 2, 2, 2, 2
Northern Harrier: 1, 1, 0, 0,
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 6, 5, 5, 4
COOPER’S HAWK: 1,0,0,0
BROAD-WINGED HAWK: 1,0,0,0
American Kestrel: 2, 2, 1, 1
Merlin: 15, 8, 4, 3
Peregrine Falcon: 8, 12, 1, 1
Semipalmated Plover: 2, 0, 1, 0
Laughing Gull: 0, 0, 0, 2
Ring-billed Gull: 0, 0, 0, 1
Herring Gull: x,x,x,x
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL: 0, 0, 0, 2
Great Black-backed Gull: x,x,x,x
Black Guillemot: 10, 20, 10, 15
Mourning Dove: 3, 3, 3, 3
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO: 1, 0, 1, 0
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 0, 0, 2, 2
Belted Kingfisher: 1, 0, 1, 1
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER: 1, 0, 0, 0
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: 25, 50, 25, 20
Downy Woodpecker: 0, 1, 1, 1
Northern Flicker: 20, 15, 25, 20
Eastern Wood-Pewee: 0, 1, 0, 0
Least Flycatcher: 0, 0, 1, 0
Eastern Phoebe: 8, 5, 3, 1
Red-eyed Vireo: 30, 20, 18, 12
Blue-headed Vireo: 12, 20, 25, 6
Blue Jay: 6, 10, 8, 8
Common Raven: 2,2,2,2
American Crow: x,x,x,x
Black-capped Chickadee: 20, 15, 15, 20
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 6, 15, 10, 8
Brown Creeper: 15, 35, 20, 3
Carolina Wren: 5, 8, 10, 12
House Wren: 0, 1, 1, 0
Winter Wren: 1, 1, 1, 1
Marsh Wren: 0, 1, 1, 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 15, 75, 50, 35
Ruby-crowned Kinglet: 25, 40, 25, 15
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER: 1, 2-3, 2, 0
American Robin: 0, 1, 0, 0
Gray Catbird: 6, 8, 10, 18
Northern Mockingbird: 1, 1, 0, 0
Brown Thrasher: 2, 1, 1, 0
European Starling: 8, 10, 12, 14
American Pipit: 2, 2, 1, 0
Cedar Waxwing: 40, 60, 40, 40
Tennessee Warbler: 0, 1, 0, 0,
Nashville Warbler: 5, 3, 6, 1
Northern Parula: 1, 0, 2, 2
Yellow Warbler: 2, 6, 7, 0
Chestnut-sided Warbler: 0, 0, 0, 1
Magnolia Warbler: 6, 5, 2, 0
Cape May Warbler: 9, 3, 0, 0
Black-throated Blue Warbler: 0, 8, 6, 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 300, 400, 300, 175
Black-throated Green Warbler: 0, 4, 2, 1
Blackburnian Warbler: 0, 0, 1, 0
PRAIRIE WARBLER: 0, 0, 1, 0
Palm Warbler: 30, 100, 30, 15
Bay-breasted Warbler: 0, 2, 0, 0
Blackpoll Warbler: 1, 20, 1, 3
Black-and-white Warbler: 25, 30, 15, 2
American Redstart: 2, 1, 2, 0
Northern Waterthrush: 0, 1, 1, 0
Common Yellowthroat: 10, 15, 10, 18
Wilson’s Warbler: 3, 4, 1, 0
Scarlet Tanager: 1, 0, 0, 0
Chipping Sparrow: 4, 6, 6, 5
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW: 1, 0, 1, 1-2
LARK SPARROW: 1, 1, 1, 1
Savannah Sparrow: 2, 15, 12, 10
NELSON’S SPARROW (spp. subvirgatus): 0, 1, 0, 0
Song Sparrow: 15, 15, 20, 25
Lincoln’s Sparrow: 0, 2, 2, 2
Swamp Sparrow: 2, 30, 20, 15
White-throated Sparrow: 25, 50, 60, 30
White-crowned Sparrow: 1, 5, 4, 2
Dark-eyed Junco: 3, 10, 6, 8
Northern Cardinal: 8, 6, 5, 8
Rose-breasted Grosbeak: 0, 0, 0, 1
BLUE GROSBEAK: 0, 1, 0, 0
Indigo Bunting: 0, 1, 0, 0
DICKCISSEL: 0, 2, 0, 0
Rusty Blackbird: 4, 9, 1, 0
Common Grackle: 1, 3, 4, 4
Baltimore Oriole: 1, 2, 2, 0
American Goldfinch: 12, 10, 10, 8
HOUSE SPARROW: 1, 1, 2, 0

Total species: 64, 83, 79, 66 (Total =105)

Mammals:
Minke Whale
Gray Seal
Harbor Seal
Harbor Porpoise
Muskrat
Brown Rat

IMG_1629