Tag Archives: Brunswick

This Week’s Highlights, April 2-8, 2022.

A distantly-phone-scoped photo of a drake Eurasian Wigeon does not do this spiffy bird justice!

A few “good” ducks, an increasing roster of new arrivals, and a successful tour were my sightings of note over the past seven days:

  • 12 NORTHERN SHOVELERS (one of my highest Maine counts), Maquoit Bay Conservation Land, Brunswick, 4/2 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 1 continuing drake EURASIAN WIGEON, Route 136, Durham, 4/7 (photo above). Originally found by N. Gibb on 4/3.

New Arrivals this week:

  • 2 Pied-billed Grebes (FOY), Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/3 (with Levi Burford and Katrina Fenton).
  • 5 Tree Swallows (FOY), Morgan Meadow WMA, 4/4 (with Jeannette).
  • 8 Great Egrets (FOY), Scarborough Marsh, 4/4 (with Levi Burford and Katrina Fenton).
  • 1 Snowy Egret (FOY), Scarborough Marsh, 4/4 (with Levi Burford and Katrina Fenton).
  • 1 Greater Yellowlegs (FOY), Scarborough Marsh, 4/4 (with Levi Burford and Katrina Fenton).
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant (FOS), Scarborough Marsh, 4/4 (with Levi Burford and Katrina Fenton).
  • Big arrival of more Eastern Phoebes and Song Sparrows in particular night of 4/5-6.
  • 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (FOY), private property in Durham, 4/7 (with Jeannette).

This Week’s Highlights, March 19-24, 2022.

My personal highlights over the past six were as follows. Not surprisingly, it was mostly first-of-year new arrivals. The new bird for my Bradbury Mountain list, however, was definitely more of a surprise!

  • 3 male and 1 female NORTHERN SHOVELERS (FOY), 100+ Greater and 10+ Lesser Scaup, 1 drake American Wigeon, 1 Bonaparte’s Gull (FOY), etc, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 3/19 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 4 Horned Larks and 1 American Wigeon, Highland Road, Brunswick, 3/19 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 2 Eastern Meadowlarks (FOY) and 5 Brown-headed Cowbirds (FOY), Chesley Hill Road, Durham, 3/20.
  • 1 Great Blue Heron (FOS), Cousin’s River Marsh, 3/20.
  • 4 American Kestrels (FOY), Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 3/20.
  • 1 adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, fly-by at the Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 3/20 (with Zane Baker). This was my 142nd all-time Bradbury Mountain State Park species!
  • 20 Ring-necked Ducks (FOY), 2 American Wigeon, etc, Mouth of the Abagadasset River, Bowdoinham, 3/21 (with Jeannette).
  • 6 Fish Crows (FOY), Maine Mall Road, 3/22.
  • 6 Brant, Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 3/22.
  • 7+ American Woodcocks, Pownal, 3/23 (with Jeannette).

And in case you missed it, I was one of the guests on Thursday’s Maine Calling, talking about spring migration, bird feeding, and bird health. You can listen to the replay of the episode here.

And finally, our spring tour season gets kicked off next Saturday with our annual “Woodcocks Gone Wild!” See the Tours page of our website for more info.

This Week’s Highlights, 2/16-18, 2022.

This spiffy adult Black-headed Gull surprised me at Wharton Point on the 17th. The bird was so pink on the breast that I nearly had a heart-attack when this is the first thing that caught my eye.

Returning from vacation late on Tuesday night, it was right back to work. But a limited time out and about on Thursday morning followed by a full-day of private guiding on Friday produced several highlights:

  • 1 adult BLACK-HEADED GULL, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 2/17 (photo above).
  • THE STELLER’S SEA-EAGLE, Rte 127 bridge between Arrowsic and Georgetown, 2/18, 10:45 to 12:30pm (with clients from Delaware). While searching for it earlier – as well as while watching it  and birding elsewhere thereafter – the number of Bald Eagles in the air today was impressive. We had at least 25 over the course of the day. But many were pairs in courtship flight. It made we wonder if the recent unpredictable movements of the Steller’s was related to increased territoriality in our local, abundant Bald Eagles.  Here’s a distantly-phone-scoped-with-wind-driven-scope-shake-and-cold-hands for what it’s worth.
  • 1 drake and 2 hen BARROW’S GOLDENEYES, Doughty Cove, Brunswick/Harpswell, 2/18 (with clients from Delaware).
  • 3 Turkey Vultures, over downtown Bath, 2/18 (with clients from Delaware).
  • 3 Turkey Vultures, over the store here in Freeport, 2/18.

This Week’s Highlights, 1/1-7, 2022

This dapper drake American Wigeon at Brunswick’s historic Swinging Bridge on the 4th very well could have been the same bird that I found upriver in Durham three days prior, as the river was finally beginning to freeze over.

Happy New Year (List) everyone!  My sightings of note over the past seven days were as follows. Unfortunately, they did not include the Steller’s Sea-Eagle on Saturday or Sunday (but last week, on Friday…wow, just wow. Still can’t really believe that happened!) but did include a few goodies while searching for where it may have ended up (before its re-discovery in Boothbay on Thursday).

  • 1 drake American Wigeon, Rte 136, Durham, 1/1.
  • 18 Greater Scaup, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 1/3 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 adult GREAT BLACK-BACKED X HERRING GULL HYBRID, Bath Landfill, 1/4 (with Jeannette)
  • 1 drake BARROW’S GOLDENEYE, Thorne Head Preserve, Bath, 1/4.
  • 1 drake American Wigeon, Swinging Bridge, Brunswick, 1/4.
  • 44 Greater Scaup, 38 distant unidentified scaup, 625+ American Black Ducks, 130+ Surf and White-winged Scoters, etc, Maquoit Bay Conservation Land, Brunswick, 1/6.
  • Here is our “West Freeport” territory tally from Sunday’s Freeport-Brunswick CBC:

– 5 American Black Ducks

– 30 Mallards

– 1 Hooded Merganser (2nd sector record)

– 1 Red-tailed Hawk

– 1 Ruffed Grouse

– 30 Wild Turkeys

– 12 Herring Gulls

– 26 Mourning Doves

– 4 Red-bellied Woodpeckers

– 28 Downy Woodpeckers

– 15 Hairy Woodpeckers

– 6 Pileated Woodpeckers (sector high count)

– 1 Northern Flicker (2nd sector record)

– 40 Blue Jays

– 104 American Crows

– 1 Common Raven

– 413 Black-capped Chickadees (2nd highest count)

– 90 Tufted Titmice (sector high count; old record of 44)

– 16 Red-breasted Nuthatches

– 45 White-breasted Nuthatches

– 1 Brown Creeper

– 11 Golden-crowned Kinglets

– 1 Carolina Wren

– 26 Eastern Bluebirds

– 1 American Robin

– 73 European Starlings (sector high count)

– 10 American Tree Sparrows

– 2 Song Sparrows

– 1 White-throated Sparrow

– 18 Dark-eyed Juncos

– 20 Northern Cardinals

– 20 House Finches

– 204 American Goldfinches (2nd highest count)

33 species (2nd highest for territory thanks to extensive open water this year).

8.5 hours: 22.4 miles by car; 18.5 miles by foot.

At the very least, it confirmed some of our preconceived notions: sparrows and frugivores are in short supply; winter finches and other irruptives are not around at all – but a huge pulse of goldfinches arrived late last week; and local resident breeding birds seemed to have done quite well this year.

  • And finally today, here is my annual blog prognosticating the Next 25 species to appear in Maine, and on my own list. Spoiler alert: I did not predict a Steller’s Sea-Eagle.

This Week’s Highlights, 11/20-26, 2021

The Short-eared Owls were a little far for photographs under fading light,
but the sunset made for a nice backdrop to the evening’s observations.

My observations of note over the past seven days were as follows as birdlife become decidedly wintery very quickly!

  • 2 “Ispwich” Savannah Sparrows, Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth, 11/21
  • 1 Brown-headed Cowbird, Private property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/21.
  • 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS, Brunswick Landing from Bowdoin Sand Plain, Brunswick, 11/21 (with Jeannette).
  • 3 Red Crossbills, Runaround Pond, Durham, 11/25.
  • 1 Rusty Blackbird, Route 9, Pownal, 11/25.
  • Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 11/26 – 14 species of waterfowl:

344 Ruddy Ducks

279 Mallards

159 Common Mergansers

156 Canada Geese

127 Lesser Scaup

63 American Black Ducks

17 Green-winged Teal

63 Greater Scaup

11 Buffleheads

9 American Wigeon

4+ Mallard x American Black Duck hybrid

4 Hooded Mergansers

4 Northern Pintails

1 Common Goldeneye

1 continuing hen White-winged Scoter

  • 1 hen Wood Duck, Thornhurst Farm, 11/26.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 5/15-21/2021

 

In an article to be published this fall in the journal North American Birds, I propose this bird as a Tricolored Heron x Snowy Egret hybrid backcrossed with a Little Egret (TRHE x SNEG x LIEG). This individual has been present since 2014 and seems to visit marshes between Hampton, NH and Cape Elizabeth. Note the two long neck plumes and the greenish lores.

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 58 White-winged Scoters, Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 5/15.
  • 15 species of warblers led by 25+ Yellow-rumped and an incredible 15+ Cape May Warblers, Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, 5/16 (with Down East Adventures Songbird Workshop Group).
  • 12-15 Red Crossbills and 1 Evening Grosbeak, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/16 (with Down East Adventures Songbird Workshop Group).
  • 17 species of warblers, led by 17 Common Yellowthroats and 9 Ovenbirds, Florida Lake Park, 5/17 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Louisiana Waterthrush, Elmwood Trail, Pownal, 5/19.
  • 16 species of warblers led by 23 Common Yellowthroats and 8 Ovenbirds, Florida Lake Park, 5/20.
  • 1 continuing SNOWY OWL, Pennell Way, Brunswick, 5/21.
  • Proposed TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X LITTLE EGRET HYBRID, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 5/21. See caption above.
  • 2 drake and 1 hen NORTHERN SHOVELER, Eastern Road Trail, 5/21.
  • 3 continuing TRICOLORED HERONS and 1 drake NORTHERN SHOVELER, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 5/21.

My personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals included the following mix of on-time and early arrivals plus “catching up” on coastal birds:

  • 1 BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (early!), Old Town House Park, North Yarmouth, 5/15 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 2 Scarlet Tanagers, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/16 (with Down East Adventures Songbird Workshop Group).
  • 1 Green Heron, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/16 (with Down East Adventures Songbird Workshop Group).
  • 1 Red-eyed Vireo, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/16 (with Down East Adventures Songbird Workshop Group).
  • 1 White-crowned Sparrow, feeders here at the store, 5/16.
  • 2 Laughing Gulls, Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 5/17 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Indigo Bunting (late), Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 5/17 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee, Morgan Meadow WMA, 5/18 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Common Nighthawk (early), our yard in Pownal, 5/19.
  • 1 Alder Flycatcher, Florida Lake Park, 5/20.
  • 1 Bay-breasted Warbler, Florida Lake Park, 5/20.
  • 3 Common Terns, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 5/20.
  • 1 GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, our yard in Pownal, 5/21.
  • 16 Saltmarsh Sparrows, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 5/21.
  • 3 Nelson’s Sparrows, Eastern Road Trail, 5/21.
  • 32 Short-billed Dowitchers, Pine Point, Scarborough, 5/21.
  • 50+ Ruddy Turnstones, Pine Point, 5/21.
  • 10+ Roseate Terns, Pine Point, 5/21.
  • 1 BLACK TERN – always a treat to catch one in migration – Pine Point, 5/21.
This Saltmarsh Sparrow posed for a quick photo this morning along the Eastern Road Trail. My first of the year were today, although at least a few have likely been present for a week to 10 days in and around Scarborough Marsh.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 4/17-23/2021

My Leica V-Lux camera went to the doctor, and it finally arrived after about two months. This Snowy Owl on our first Saturday Morning Birdwalk of the year was a great way to break it back in!

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 continuing immature SNOWY OWL, Pennell Way, Brunswick, 4/17 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 2 Evening Grosbeaks, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/21.
  • Big push of White-throated Sparrows overnight 4/20-21 and perhaps another push later in the week. High count of 75+ at Capisic Pond Park and 100++ at Evergreen Cemetery (both 4/23 with client from Maine).
  • 1-2 Evening Grosbeaks, our yard in Pownal, 4/23.
  • 1 Peregrine Falcon and 1 Fish Crow, Capisic Pond Park, Portland, 4/23 (with client from Maine).

And my personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals this week were limited to just:

  • 1 Barn Swallow, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/20.
  • 1 Blue-headed Vireo, Florida Lake Park, 4/21.

On Tuesday  – our biggest flight of the season at the Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch – we observed an extremely pale Red-tailed Hawk. I propose it as a “Krider’s” x “Eastern” Red-tailed Hawk. Here’s my short blog about it:

https://mebirdingfieldnotes.blog/2021/04/21/apparent-kriders-x-eastern-red-tailed-hawk-pownal-maine-4-20-21/

And don’t forget about Feathers Over Freeport this weekend! Self-guided walks for kids, take-home crafts, and live online programs featuring live birds of prey. Saturday’s keynote address “Digi-scoping Made Easy” by Jeff Bouton on Kowa Sporting Optics.  We arranged for this based on the frequency of questions we get asked here at the store about taking photos through a spotting scope using a digital camera or a smartphone. It’s free, but pre-registration is require

www.maine.gov/feathersoverfreeport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is our full, annotated checklist:

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

American Black Duck: 2

Mallard: 2

Ruffed Grouse: 1

Wild Turkey: 0

Rock Pigeon: 20

Mourning Dove: 46

Herring Gull: 11

Cooper’s Hawk: 2

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

Red-bellied Woodpecker: 3

Downy Woodpecker: 30

Hairy Woodpecker: 13

Pileated Woodpecker: 5

Blue Jay: 94

American Crow: 115 (*new record high)

Common Raven: 2

Black-capped Chickadee: 310

Tufted Titmouse: 53

Red-breasted Nuthatch: 28

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

Brown Creeper: 3

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

Golden-crowned Kinglet: 3

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

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

American Robin: 13

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD: 1

European Starling: 28 (*new record high count)

Cedar Waxwing: 1

House Sparrow: 2

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

House Finch: 22

Common Redpoll: 2

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

American Goldfinch: 53

American Tree Sparrow: 4

Dark-eyed Junco: 18

White-throated Sparrow: 1

Song Sparrow: 2

Northern Cardinal: 18

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

Birds on Tap: Gulls and Growlers!

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With windchills around -15F, even the gulls looked cold today. And there’s no way to sugar-coat it: it was brutally cold. The coldest temperatures in over a month – and one of the coldest days this entire winter – greeted the start of the first edition of the “Gulls and Growlers” tour in our “Birds on Tap – Roadtrip!” series with our partners, The Maine Brew Bus.

Donning plenty of layers, we hit the road and headed north to an unusual destination – well, only unusual if you’re not really, really into serious birding: the Hatch Hill Landfill in Augusta. And the swirl of birds that greeted us quickly explained why we were here on this bitter day.

1,000-1,500 Herring Gulls (with a few Great Black-backed Gulls sprinkled in) would rise up in a swirling cloud every time one of the 8-10 Bald Eagles made a close pass. Add to that 500 or so American Crows and a few hundred European Starlings, and you have a lot of biomass! We learned a little about aging of eagles as birds passed overhead and perched in the towering pines behind us. We sorted through the masses of gulls for any unusual species, and the sight of so many birds in one place allowed for us to forget about the cold – at least for a moment.
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My original plan was to spend 1 to 1 ½ hours here, watching and photographing eagles and studying gulls, hoping to tease out a rarity or at least foster an appreciation for just how approachable gull identification really is. But I’m also at least somewhat rational – well, unless I had spotted a rare gull! – so we knew when to say when and boarded the bus for a short ride to one of the local gull roosts.

At least 300 gulls were present, with dozens arriving every few seconds, so it would have been the perfect opportunity to carefully sort through them. Unfortunately, the 20+ mph wind was directly in our face. We soon moved on.

After a quick coffee/hot chocolate/bathroom stop – perhaps the most welcome stop of the day! – we shifted gears a bit and focused on the Kennebec River. Starting at Mill Park on the north side of Augusta’s downtown, we made several stops as we traveled south to Gardiner (often using the bus as a windbreak!).
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In doing so, we spotted at least 4 more Bald Eagles, and a tallied 132 Common Mergansers. In fact, the mergansers stole the show today, with several rafts actively displaying and some birds fishing in close proximity, diving into the strong current and surfacing between chunks of ice. It was a good count for this time of year, but we enjoyed uncommonly good views of many of the birds.
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We checked through a few small groups of gulls – mostly Herring and Ring-billed as expected – and even though we were freezing, we were reassured that spring is right around the corner thanks to the Turkey Vulture that was weeble-wobbling its way through the gusty winds over Gardiner.

Mike, our driver and beer guide for the day, took over as we traveled between our last few birding stops, offering an abbreviated history of alcohol in Maine, and for a dark period, lack there of. Maine was at the forefront of the Prohibition movement, but now, we are back at the forefront of local, innovative, and cutting edge production of beer, cider, spirits, and much more.

Our first stop in the beverage half of today’s tour was Lost Orchard Brewing/Crooked Halo Cidery where David Boucher and his father, Nick are doing some really “crazy” things with hard cider. By using all sorts of different yeasts and adding lots of creative ingredients, David is working to make “a traditional style untraditional” with his self-admitted “mad science.” And speaking of untraditional, their repurposing of an old church as their tasting room – complete with a bar on the alter, which Nick constructed from the wood of old pews – made for a very unique place to visit. They even offered to turn the organ on for us!
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Closed to the public in winter, they opened their doors just for us, and treated us to some special drinks. In fact, we were the first members of the public to sample their new Exodus, a McIntosh apple cider fermented with farmhouse yeasts and Brettanomyces, which made for a well-balanced cider that was just tart, sweet, and dry enough.

Genesis was drier, “more like an apple wine,” and Hellfire – a strawberry-jalapeno-infusion – played with our taste buds with sweet strawberry up front and a jalapeno burn on the back end. Sour Sister used sour cherries and four strains of souring yeasts, and then David dipped into their private reserve to tantalize us with Dante’s Inferno. Aged in cinnamon whiskey barrels loaded with cinnamon sticks, this is my new favorite cider – and one of the favorite drinks of the day for the group. Our only complaint was that they didn’t have anything bottled for sale at the moment; I know I would have left with a case of Dante’s Inferno!
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Heading south, our second stop was the brand-new Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick. This was another special treat for the tour as they opened a mere two weeks ago, and we were the first tour group to visit. And we immediately saw first hand how well it has been received by the community, as the place was packed – as it has been since the day they opened; over 5,000 people were served in their first week alone!

Another really cool renovated building, Jared and Nate’s burgeoning brewery is housed in the former indoor small arms range of the Brunswick Naval Air Station. The path is paved with cement blocks cut from the walls to install windows, and they have an entirely electric, seven-barrel brewhouse run on 100% renewable energy from the old base’s micro-grid powered by solar and biomass.

Head brewer Jared described the process and their brewing philosophy, while Nate joined us to describe their unique system, location, and goals for the new business. Meanwhile, we sipped a few of their delicious beers. We started out the Pilot’s Porridge Oatmeal Stout, a “session stout” that was light in body compared to many stouts, and fairly low in alcohol, it still had the flavors we know and love in stouts.
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Our next beer was 44th Parallel IPA, a traditional and straightforward IPA, and one that will no doubt be a standby for locals. But for me personally, both were overshadowed by the Irish Breakfast. A pale ale base with a day-long steeping of Irish breakfast tea made for a unique and fun beer. The tea definitely stood out, but its bitterness and herbaceous-ness was balanced by a sweet, malty backbone. I’m getting into some of these tea-beers, and I think this is a solid effort (they were already out of their Hibiscus Tea beer that was my favorite on a recent “scouting mission” here).
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Winds were still howling, and temperatures- believe it or not – were dropping again, so we decided to forgo a search for Snowy Owls (none had been reported recently here, or we would have definitely cowboyed up!) and head home. While learning that Portland (well to the south of our sojourn today) reached a mere 17 degrees above zero, setting a new all-time record-low high temperature for the date didn’t make us feel any warmer, it certainly proved we earned our afternoon beverages!

While I can’t control the weather, or the birds, I do love the Birds on Tap – Roadtrips! because I know the beverages will always be there for us! And I believe this was a great itinerary that I look forward to leading again next year…hopefully with a few more degrees on the thermometer (and a little less wind!).

I have a feeling it will be warmer on the next eight Roadtrips we have in 2017, starting with the annual favorite, “Spring Ducks and Draughts” on Sunday, April 2nd. Oh, and by the way, as of today, there are only two spaces available! I hope to see you aboard one of our unique and exclusive trips, all of which are listed on our website.
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Western Grebe at Simpson’s Point (4/17/16)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what a hotspot of Simpson’s Point in Brunswick currently is. I also predicted that it was about due for another rarity. And recently, with increasing numbers of migrant ducks, my Rarity Fever was further stoked.

Last Thursday, I counted an amazing 2600 Black Scoters – a really ridiculous count for interior Casco Bay. After enjoying a growing number of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers among other migrants (first of year Swamp Sparrows, etc) at Florida Lake this am, I took advantage of the finally-calm conditions to visit them again, and perhaps do a little sorting through the masses.

Those scoters were still present this morning, and the goodly number of Horned Grebes (20+ each day) continued. Horned Grebes molting into breeding plumage can look a lot like vagrant Eared Grebes, especially as the blond tufts are still growing in. I was scanning a small raft of Horned Grebes, thinking about finding the second Eared Grebe record for here.

That’s when I found…a Western Grebe! Not only was this a significant rarity, it was actually a “State Bird” for me (the first time I have seen the bird in the state). A long overdue one that was becoming a nemesis of sorts, it was #6 on my latest predictions list for my next 25 species to see in Maine. And of course, it is always sweeter and more rewarding for me to find it for myself.

It was not close, but the distinctive shape and profile was unmistakable. The relatively short body riding low on the water – like all grebes – looked disproportionally small as that long and skinny neck was craned up. The long bill and fairly large head (relative to the width of the neck) further added to the bird’s distinctive profile.

Upon closer look, the two-toned black-and-white neck and face was obvious. There’s little doubt as to this bird was a member of the genus Aechmophorus – Western and Clark’s Grebe. Luckily, as the active bird moved a smidge closer, I was able to scrutinize several features that ruled out Clark’s. For one, the black hindneck was evenly wide, not narrow and thin, and not pinching toward the top. Although it was too far to see the details of the face, it definitely did not look “white-faced” and I certainly could not see the eye (On Clark’s, the eye stands out in the white face in breeding plumage, on Western, the eye is harder to see as it is enshrouded by dusky black). The bill also looked yellow, but not as bright “banana yellow” or even orange-y like Clark’s.

But it was far, and perhaps a hybrid could not fully be ruled out. However, with one record of Clark’s for Maine (and all of New England) and with at least a dozen or so records of Western for Maine alone, there’s a fair “percentage play.”

Anyway, like many birds at Simpson’s Point, it was off to the east, and the light was not great in the mid-morning. After diving several times, it began to preen, and then loafed for a bit before tucking in its sinuous neck and falling asleep (had I scanned while it was asleep, I probably would have never picked it up!). In between, I managed to rattle off a bunch of phone-scoped “documentation” shots. Well, for what they are worth…

And here’s another lousy photo, from 4/21. However, it was in better light, so the bill color is a little more evident. However, the overexposure of the distant phone-scoped photo makes the face look much more whiter than it really is.
WEGR1,SimpsonsPoint,4-21-16_edited-1