Tag Archives: Christmas Bird Counts

2015 (Southern) York Co CBC: Moody Territory.

It’s Christmas Bird Count season!

The count period began yesterday (Monday, 12/14), and as usual, I participated in Maine’s first count of the season, the (Southern) York County Count. This year, I was joined by Kristen Lindquist and Jeannette, covering the “Moody Territory” that covers the marshes, beaches, thickets, and neighborhoods on the east side of Route 1, between Eldridge Road in Wells and the center of downtown Ogunquit, including Moody Point and Moody Beach.

Despite temperatures well above normal in the mid-40’s, a light east wind and persistent light drizzle made for a rather raw day. However, the continuing mild temperatures also reduced the concentration of birds in the warm microclimates and dense thickets that usually make this territory so, well, fruitful (pardon the pun!). And although we had a lot of birds overall, diversity was a little below average for me, and there were fewer concentrations of birds – many species were in fairly low numbers compared to what I usually find here.

The lack of snow and ice was certainly supporting plenty of birds in this area, but they weren’t concentrated at warm edges and seasonal hotspots like they usually are. In fact, the best days on this count are when it’s clear and cold, with seasonably cold (or colder) and snowy (or snowier) days and weeks prior. Check out my report from the frigid and snowy 2013 count, for example.

We began the day as usual, with a dawn seawatch at Moody Point, with several close alcids, fairly close Black-legged Kittiwakes, and decent numbers of all of the expected overwintering waterbirds. Three small flocks of Lesser Scaup (total of 21) migrating south were a surprise. We were even more surprised to later notice that not only was this just the 5th count record of the species, but it was also the first time more than 1 had been seen! These birds are no doubt late in departing their still-unfrozen northern lakes, bays, and rivers.

Conspicuous in their absence however, was the complete dearth of Yellow-rumped Warblers (almost no bayberry crop was seen at all), and Carolina Wrens (they really did get hammered over these last two winters), but our other “feeder birds” such as Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and House Finch were actually above average.

Although our birdlist and respective counts grew steadily through the day, we were lamenting the lack of rarities that this territory has become known for. Granted, the bar was pretty high. But our perception changed over the course of about 5 minutes. First, I spotted the count’s second ever Clay-colored Sparrow (on Huckleberry St, and then later relocated and photographed on Cranberry St).

IMG_6964_CCSP,CranberrySt,Wells,12-14-15

As the sparrow flew from his original spot, I spotted a Baltimore Oriole as we searched for the sparrow on Huckleberry St. This was a 5th count record. But note that my phone-binning attempt was not nearly as successful (the real cameras were in the car due to the persistent drizzle). You can kinda see it’s a bird, and there are two wingbars, and if you look really, really hard, you can just barely make out a little bit of orange on the head and chest. A little imagination will help.
BAOR,HuckleberrySt,Wells,12-15-15

We also finished the day off with a continuing Dickcissel (6th count record) that has been present for several weeks now at The Sweatshirt Shop on Route One, a perfect way to end our birding day.

Hours by car: 1
Party hours by foot: 5.75
Miles by car: 12.7
Party miles by foot: 11

Start: 7:15 – 45F, very light E, cloudy.
End: 2:40 – 46F, very light E, drizzle.

Canada Goose: 27
Mallard: 161
American Black Duck: 51
LESSER SCAUP: 21
Common Eider: 36
Surf Scoter: 65
White-winged Scoter: 60
Long-tailed Duck: 166
Bufflehead: 37
Common Goldeneye: 62
Red-breasted Merganser: 43
Red-throated Loon: 7
Common Loon: 7
Horned Grebe: 3
Red-necked Grebe: 14
Northern Gannet: 10
Great Cormorant: 6
Northern Harrier: 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1
Cooper’s Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
Bonaparte’s Gull: 11
Ring-billed Gull: 29
Herring Gull: 180
Great Black-backed Gull: 29
Black-legged Kittiwake: 9
Black Guillemot: 1
Razorbill: 7
Mourning Dove: 49
Rock Pigeon: 40
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 4
Downy Woodpecker: 9
Blue Jay: 9
American Crow: 43
Black-capped Chickadee: 97
Tufted Titmouse: 18
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 19
Golden-crowned Kinglet: 2
Eastern Bluebird: 1
American Robin: 1
Northern Mockingbird: 2
European Starling: 62
Cedar Waxwing: 12
American Tree Sparrow: 28
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW: 1
Song Sparrow: 17
Dark-eyed Junco: 42
White-throated Sparrow: 4
Northern Cardinal: 24
DICKCISSEL: 1
BALTIMORE ORIOLE: 1
House Finch: 96
Pine Siskin: 12
American Goldfinch: 76
House Sparrow: 229

Total species: 56 (just a little below average).

2014-15 Freeport-Brunswick CBC: West Freeport Territory.

The Freeport-Brunswick Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was conducted on Saturday, January 3rd. With the exception of the last two winters in which we were away visiting family during the count, Jeannette and I have taken part in the count since 2004.

In our first year, as newcomers to the count, we were assigned the least-popular “West Freeport” territory, which includes all of Freeport west of I-295, a corner of Yarmouth and Durham, and a sliver of Pownal. With open water (in some winters) limited to a small stretch of the Cousin’s River and Pratt’s Brook and adjacent brackish marsh, the territory doesn’t get the diversity of the other sections, that include productive places like Cousin’s Island, Winslow Park, and Harpswell.

While Hedgehog Mountain Park and Florida Lake Park are included, these are not usually very productive places in the middle of winter. But I still enjoy being able to cover two of my favorite patches, plus our own backyard (which makes for a good excuse to take a mid-day break for a hot lunch while counting at our feeding station). But in order to adequately sample this large area, with lots of yards, woodlots, and scattered fields, adequately, Jeannette and I spend a lot of time walking.

And whether it’s a CBC or any other birding, I always prefer more time walking than driving. So instead of driving all of these suburban and exurban roads, we walk them. And we walk a lot. Leap-frogging each other with the car, walking one mile stretches at a time, we walk about 20 miles (about 11-12 miles each) in all, and drive only 18-20. In doing so, we pass by a lot of feeders, and encounter mixed species foraging flocks that we would most likely never detect by just driving around.

And so we count a lot of birds. We sift through hundreds of Black-capped Chickadees as we pick out the other members of the winter flock. We listen for finches, check out feeders, and otherwise just go birding! This is how I like to CBC!

One of the other things I particular enjoy about covering this territory is that I am able to quantify some of my impressions of the winter’s birding that I have been noting walking Sasha at the ‘Hog, or watching my own feeders, and just while birding in general.

This year, a lack of snowcover made for easy walking, but reduced concentrations of birds, especially at edges and feeders. Some of the impressions that I have had turned out to be true: although feeders are often a little slower than usual, there are plenty of birds around. Red-breasted Nuthatches are abundant, but Golden-crowned Kinglets are nearly absent. Irruptive finches are still in short supply, but I expect them to now increase as winter returns. There also seem to be a lot of Red-tailed Hawks around, Wild Turkeys and Red-bellied Woodpeckers continue to increase, and the daily “commute” of gulls overhead (which I often note from the yard and Florida Lake Park in particular) no longer occurs following the closing of a feed lot in Auburn (gulls used to travel from Casco Bay to and from this and other Lewiston-Auburn feeding locations).

Dan Nickerson joined us this year, also welcoming the opportunity to bird his neighborhood as well, and making sure his feeder birds get counted. And we really lucked out with the weather. It was indeed the calm before the storm, with light winds all day and the first flurries not falling until we were at the wrap-up in the evening. It was cold though: 10F to start, with a high of only 21F. Increasing humidity and cloud cover made for a very raw afternoon, and a bone-chilling day. That lunch break at our feeders was a necessary respite today, as was some hot chai.

Due to the complex geography of the circle, we actually have two compilers, and two compilations, splitting the long peninsulas of the eastern edge off from the rest of the circle. Therefore, we usually speak of the western half of the circle (nicknamed “The Bean Count”) when comparing our numbers. Of the western half teams, we tallied 9 high counts, and had the only Common Redpolls, White-winged Crossbills, and Northern Shrike of the parties in our area.

The bird of the day was definitely the four White-winged Crossbills that Dan and I had departing a feeder on Beech Hill Road in Freeport. Jeannette and I were very excited to find a shrike at Hidden Pond Preserve where we also hope to see one, and hopefully the two Common Redpolls that flew over us on Granite Road in Yarmouth are a sign of things to come.

But my highlight was the Red-bellied Woodpecker that Dan and I found along Hunter Road. As we were coming up onto the Hunter Road Fields, the Red-bellied called and we spotted it at the edge of the road. I greatly amused Dan, apparently, as I sprinted across the road, got my feet onto the Hunter Road Fields property – which is part of my Hedgehog Mountain Patch List area – and logged the Red-belly for my 148th Patch Bird! …A long overdue, border-line nemesis patch bird at that!

Good conversation throughout the day, and Stella’s chili at the wrap-up at the store, were icing on today’s frosty cake. While our crossbills were one of the best birds of “The Bean Count” area, one could argue the Snowy Owl found at Brunswick Landing would take the crown. 31 Northern Pintails in the “Winter of the Pintail” at Simpson’s Point may have been the most unexpected, along with a Common Grackle in Brunswick, and two Barrow’s Goldeneyes were other highlights.

Because Jeannette and I conduct the CBC with such a consistent route and methodology, I find it unusually valuable to compare data from year to year. Therefore, as I offer the list of this year’s sightings, in parenthesis, I also offer the average for our territory. An *asterix signifies a new record high for our territory.

American Black Duck (8): 4
Wild Turkey (12): 23
Cooper’s Hawk (<1): 1
Red-tailed Hawk (1): 4*
Herring Gull (23): 3
Rock Pigeon (14): 19
Mourning Dove (47): 54
Red-bellied Woodpecker (<1): 2*
Downy Woodpecker (12): 26*
Hairy Woodpecker (7): 27*- by almost triple the previous high!
Pileated Woodpecker (2): 1
NORTHERN SHRIKE (1): 1
Blue Jay (66): 97
American Crow (76): 66
Common Raven (2): 3
Black-capped Chickadee (283): 380
Tufted Titmouse (24): 48*
Red-breasted Nuthatch (13): 44*- by more than triple!
White-breasted Nuthatch (20): 45*
Brown Creeper (3): 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet (13): 0 – our first-ever miss of this species
American Robin (42): 7
European Starling (14): 7
American Tree Sparrow (24): 30
Song Sparrow (1): 3*
White-throated Sparrow (1): 1
Dark-eyed Junco (15): 34
Northern Cardinal (5): 21* – more than double the previous high
House Finch (6): 3
COMMON REDPOLL (9): 2
American Goldfinch (63): 66
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 4* 1st territory record.
House Sparrow (12): 22

Total (31): 33 species.

The “West Freeport” section of the Freeport-Brunswick CBC doesn’t offer the rarities of the “Moody” section that I annually cover on the York County CBC, nor does it offer the intrigue and surprises when I cover the Portland Peninsula on the Greater Portland CBC. However, this is our “home field” CBC, and with thorough coverage, we quantify a nice sample of what occurs away from the shorelines in the winter. I look forward to learning more, counting lots of chickadees, and getting my exercise on next year’s CBC.

2 Early-Season CBC’s in 2014

Thanks to the calendar, for the first time in 7 years, I was able to partake in the Greater Portland Christmas Bird Count on Sunday. Normally a Saturday event – not something someone in retail can pull off in the last weeks before Christmas! – this year the count was held on the first day of the count period.

I covered my old CBC – and usual outside of the CBC – stomping grounds of the Portland peninsula, joined for half of my day by Luke Seitz.  As usual, the scrubby thickets, warm microclimates, and patches of fruit in the big city did not disappoint.

A second-count record Brown Thrasher in a parking lot crabapple along Spring Street was the highlight…

BRTH,SpringSt,Luke_Seitz_phone-binned,12-14-14_edited-1
Phone-binned photo by Luke Seitz.

…followed closely by a total of 6 Hermit Thrushes. The previous circle-wide high count was 5!  This bird feasted on Virginia Creeper climbing up a brick wall along Free St.

HETH,FreeSt,Luke_Seitz_phone-binned,12-14-14_edited-1
Phone-binned photo by Luke Seitz.

Two Swamp Sparrows (1 along the Eastern Promenade and 1 at Mercy Pond) were noteworthy, as were our tallies of 44 Northern Cardinals and 26 Northern Mockingbirds in particular, for a total of 42 species.

7:15-3:15.
(Luke Seitz 8:20-12:45).
Miles by foot: 8
Miles by car: 5.7
Start: 34F, cloudy, NW 7
End: 45F (high of 46), clear, NW8

American Black Duck: 4
Mallard: 112
ABDU x Mallard: 3
Common Eider: 176
White-winged Scoter: 1
Long-tailed Duck: 32
Bufflehead: 81
Common Goldeneye: 9
Red-breasted Merganser: 35
Red-throated Loon: 2
Common Loon: 10
Great Blue Heron: 1
Cooper’s Hawk: CW
Red-tailed Hawk: 5
Ring-billed Gull: 42
Herring Gull: 360
Iceland Gull: 2
Great Black-backed Gull: 51
Rock Pigeon: 484
Mourning Dove: 14
Downy Woodpecker: 3
Hairy Woodpecker: 1
Blue Jay: 9
American Crow: 40
Black-capped Chickadee: 46
Tufted Titmouse: 2
White-breasted Nuthatch: 2
Carolina Wren: 3
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET: CW
Hermit Thrush: 6 (!)
American Robin: 7
BROWN THRASHER: 1 (2nd Count Record)
Northern Mockingbird: 26
European Starling: 257
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 1
American Tree Sparrow: 2
Song Sparrow: 22
Swamp Sparrow: 2
White-throated Sparrow: 44
Dark-eyed Junco: 9
Northern Cardinal: 44
BALTIMORE ORIOLE: CW
House Finch: 82
Pine Siskin: 1
American Goldfinch: 84
House Sparrow: 247

Portland was birdier than usual for mid-December, likely due to an abundance of fruit (especially crabapples) and overall relatively mild temperatures this fall, allowing things like thrushes to stick around/survive in the area.

FullSizeRender1_edited-1
Sunrise at Moody Point.

Today, Kristen Lindquist and I covered the Moody (Wells-Ogunquit) area for the Southern York County CBC – my usual, exceptionally productive, territory for this count.  Again, it was a very birdy day, but unlike Portland, the birding was a little more challenging. The lack of snow cover and limited ice in the marsh reduce concentrations of birds, and the mild temperatures minimized concentrations at sunny edges. There was a lot of food to be found, so birds weren’t packed together at feeders or dense thickets in warm microclimates.

Nonetheless, we tallied 59 species (below average for this section), and several “good” birds. The best of which was an Eastern Meadowlark in the saltmarsh off of Furbish Rd, a 5th count record. A Common Yellowthroat (10th count record) was in a cattail marsh at Moody Point where I have had yellowthroats on this count more often than not. 8 Dunlin among a goodly 188 Sanderling on Ogunquit Beach were a 7th count record, and other good birds included a Hermit Thrush, 5 American Pipits (Eldridge Rd), a male and female Northern Pintail, and two Harlequin Ducks at our dawn seawatch at Moody Point. Five Black-legged Kittiwakes off Moody Point and 3 Razorbills off of Ogunquit Beach were expected, but always nice to see.
me,OgunquitBeach,12-15-14,K

7:17-2:45
With Kristen Lindquist
Miles by foot: 10.
Miles by car: 8
Start: 28F, clear, calm.
End: 37F (high of 42), clear, very light Var.

Canada Goose: 80
American Black Duck: 91
Mallard: 251
ABDU x Mallard: 2
NORTHERN PINTAIL: 2
Common Eider: 67
Harlequin Duck: 2
Surf Scoter: 26
White-winged Scoter: 100
Black Scoter: 45
Long-tailed Duck: 47
Bufflehead: 15
Common Goldeneye: 11
Red-breasted Merganser: 9
Red-throated Loon: 1
Common Loon: 7
Horned Grebe: 18
Red-necked Grebe: 65
Great Cormorant: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 6
Sanderling: 188
DUNLIN 8 (7th count record)
Ring-billed Gull: 8
Herring Gull: 171
Great Black-backed Gull: 13
Black-legged Kittiwake: 5
Razorbill: 3
Rock Pigeon: 55 (very low)
Mourning Dove: 58
Downy Woodpecker: 14
Hairy Woodpecker: 2
Blue Jay: 25
American Crow: 46
Black-capped Chickadee: 104
Tufted Titmouse: 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 10
White-breasted Nuthatch: 18
Carolina Wren: 2 (very low; presumably affected by last winter)
Eastern Bluebird: 7
Hermit Thrush: 1
American Robin: 18
Northern Mockingbird: 2
European Starling: 582
AMERICAN PIPIT: 5
Cedar Waxwing: 45
Yellow-rumped Warbler: 3
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT: 1 (10th count record)
American Tree Sparrow: 19
Song Sparrow: 38
Swamp Sparrow: 2
White-throated Sparrow: 30
Dark-eyed Junco: 92
Northern Cardinal: 39
EASTERN MEADOWLARK: 1 (5th count record)
Purple Finch: 1
House Finch: 142
Pine Siskin: 1
American Goldfinch: 257
House Sparrow: 188

My next CBC will be Freeport-Brunswick on January 3rd.  Until then, Merry Christmas-counting everyone!

Southern York County CBC

The Southern York County Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Monday, and this year, Kristen Lindquist and Phil McCormack joined me in the Moody section of the territory.  I’ve been doing this territory for about 8 years now, and have come to know and love it.

There’s lots of thickets, wooded neighborhoods with feeders, dunes, beach, river, Saltmarsh, ocean, and just about everything in between.  Running from about Eldridge Rd in the Moody section of Wells, south to the center of downtown Ogunquit, lots of intriguing winter habitats are contained within.  The Moody Marsh of the Ogunquit River, Beach Plum Farm, Ogunquit Beach, and the edges of the Wells Sewage treatment facility are all now regular parts of my birding routine after first visiting them when doing this CBC.

Having a small territory allows us to thoroughly cover many nooks and crannies.  We do a lot of walking – about 10 miles combined for the party, compared to only 10.5 by car.  Being outside – even in the bitter cold of yesterday morning – and being thorough always produces good birds and good variety on a CBC, but each year I am absolutely blown away by the quality and diversity of the birds I find in this territory.  In fact, one year, Luke Seitz and I had a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th count record, and in the very next year, we had a 1st, 2nd (x2), 3rd, 4th, 5th,  6th, and 7th count record!  Incredible!

And yesterday did not disappoint.

Deep snow and frigid temperatures certainly caused some rarities and so-called half-hardies to perish, or at least pushed many of them to points further south.  Open fresh water was limited, and deep snow prevented us from checking a few places.  So it did not surprise me that we “only” tallied 57 species (compared to last year’s mild December, when Luke and I tallied an exceptional 67 species), and we didn’t get a whole lot of top-5 records.  Of course, TWO 1st count records more than made up for it!  And a 5th, and a 6th, and a 7th, and two 9th!

As usual, we began with a dawn seawatch at Moody Point.  Heat shimmer and painful cold reduced visibility and our duration here, but there wasn’t too much going on thanks to a light westerly wind.
photo (3)_edited-1

A nearby thicket produced a Common Yellowthroat, our first good bird of the day.  A short while later, we pulled into the Wells Sewage Treatment plant, which I told Phil and Kristen is usually good for something “good.”  A Hermit Thrush quickly appeared to prove me right.  But then, as I glanced over at some Dark-eyed Juncos I noticed a Spizella sparrow.  I was excited enough for a Chipping Sparrow on a Maine CBC, but the bird looked warm and buffy to me.  Upon closer inspection, sure enough – the count’s first Clay-colored Sparrow
DSC_0077_CCSP3,WellsSewerage,12-16-13

As I was photographing it, it flew closer, and landed right over my head as I was kneeling in over a foot of snow.
DSC_0082_CCSP1,WellsSewerage,12-16-13

Apparently, it wanted to get back to its favorite spot (which is continued to frequent at least through day’s end) at the edge of the parking lot where a plow had scraped down to the soil.
DSC_0100_CCSP2,WellsSewerage,12-16-13

We were still talking about our spiffy little Clay-color when Kristen spotted a Brown Thrasher hunkered down in a tangle of Multiflora Rose.  Another first count record!
DSC_0115_BRTH,WellsSewerage_12-16-13

Perhaps the rest of the day was bound to be a bit anticlimactic after all of that fun before 9:30am, but we still had some great birding.  A lone hen Greater Scaup flew down the OgunquitRiver, while a huge assemblage of 480 Mallards and 86 American Black Ducks roosted at the edge of the marsh.  Much to my surprise – given those numbers – there were no other lingering dabblers.    An Iceland Gull passed by MoodyBeach, heading south, and on OgunquitBeach, we found an American Pipit.  A huge aggregation of 186 Sanderlings (an all-time high count for the entire territory in a season!) contained a dozen Dunlin.  And finally, another group (poachers!) pointed out a Peregrine Falcon having lunch on the marsh – just before its lunch was pilfered by a marauding Bald Eagle!  Speaking of lunch, a round of grilled veggie sandwiches at the Village Market in Ogunquit rounded out our experience.

Oh yeah, and then with an hour of daylight left, we raced down to Hampton, New Hampshire in an attempt to twitch a white Gyrfalcon that had been seen that morning (and the previous two days).  Unfortunately, we soon learned that it had not been seen since about 8:00am.  Well, it was worth a shot.

Anyway, as for the CBC, here’s the full roster and tallies for our rewarding little territory:
148 Canada Geese
143 American Black Ducks
522 Mallards
1 GREATER SCAUP (6th year)
91 Common Eiders
14 Surf Scoters
30 White-winged Scoters
16 Black Scoters
136 Long-tailed Ducks
24 Bufflehead
7 Common Goldeneyes
2 Hooded Mergansers
4 Common Mergansers
12 Red-breasted Mergansers
18 Common Loons
7 Horned Grebes
12 Red-necked Grebes
1 Northern Gannet
3 Great Blue Herons
2 Bald Eagles
4 Northern Harriers (including an adult male migrating offshore at sunrise)
1 PEREGRINE FALCON (5th count record)
12 DUNLIN (7th count record)
2 Purple Sandpipers
189 Sanderlings
322 Herring Gulls
1 Iceland Gull
19 Great Black-backed Gulls
242 Ring-billed Gulls
4 Black-legged Kittiwakes
36 Rock Pigeons
6 Mourning Doves
3 Downy Woodpeckers
7 Blue Jays
31 American Crows
71 Black-capped Chickadees
9 Tufted Titmice
4 White-breasted Nuthatches
3 Carolina Wrens
8 Eastern Bluebirds
1 HERMIT THRUSH (9th year)
40 American Robins
3 Northern Mockingbirds
1 BROWN THRASHER (1st count record)
1 AMERICAN PIPIT (13th count record)
77 European Starlings (very low)
17 Yellow-rumped Warblers (high)
1 COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (9th count record)
9 American Tree Sparrows
1 CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (1st count record)
17 Song Sparrows
7 White-throated Sparrows
73 Dark-eyed Juncos
29 Northern Cardinals
44 House Finches
90 American Goldfinches
215 House Sparrows