Tag Archives: Evening Grosbeak

Derek’s Birding This Week, 3/27-4/2/2021

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 5 Fox Sparrows continue in our yard in Pownal.
  • 7 SANDHILL CRANES (FOY), Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 3/27.
  • 2 Pine Siskins (FOS), feeders here at the store, 3/27 – present.
  • 5 RUDDY DUCKS (FOY) and 1 first-cycle Iceland Gull, Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 3/28.
  • 1 Eastern Phoebe (FOY), Sebago Lake State Park, 3/29 (with Jeannette).
  • 8 EVENING GROSBEAKS (FOS), our yard in Pownal, 4/2.
  • 3 Red Crossbills, feeding in the yard here at the store, 4/2.

Derek’s Birding This Week: 12/19-25

The good thing about birding is that it can be done anywhere at anytime, such as between errands in Auburn where I enjoyed this Peregrine Falcon hunting around Great Falls. I snapped this photo with my phone through my binoculars on the Hampton Inn in Auburn.

I don’t usually get out birding much in the week before Christmas, and this year it was even less. But a few quick stops, dog-walks, and incidental observations produced only the following observation of note over the past seven days.

  • 1 GRAY CATBIRD, Saco Riverwalk, 12/20.

This Week in Finches:

Although my birding was limited, the dearth of finches was noteworthy. Has the flight passed us by? Did the largest volume of redpolls simply move southward to the west of us? Are there more in the pipeline, or will we have a rather quiet January and February?

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 1 (Old Town House Park, North Yarmouth, 12/21).
  • Red Crossbill: 0
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: up to 10 daily (in and around the yard here at the store all week).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll: 0
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 3 (Merrill Road Ext, Freeport, 12/19).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 12/12-18, 2020.

Starting the day with Evening Grosbeaks at our home feeders and enjoying Pine Grosbeaks everytime we carry seed out to someone’s car really isn’t too shabby.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • Unusually large number of Red-throated Loons in the northwest corner of Casco Bay all week.
  • 1 BOHEMIAN WAXWING and 1 Savannah Sparrow, Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 12/13.
  • 1 RING-NECKED DUCK with about 450 mixed Lesser and Greater Scaup with about 1,000 White-winged Scoters, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 12/14.
  • 425+ mixed Lesser and Greater Scaup, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 12/14.
  • 1 Hermit Thrush, Harraseeket Yacht Club, Freeport, 12/18.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 12 (flying over our yard in Pownal, 12/13); 2 (Verrill Road, Pownal, 12/13); after a several day absence, up to 4 were in our Pownal yard on 12/15; 1 (Verrill Road, 12/17).
  • Red Crossbills: 1 (Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 12/14); 4 (Cumberland Town Forest, 12/16);
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL:  0
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 6-10 daily (in and around the yard here at the store all week); 4 (Rte 1, Brunswick, 12/14); 10 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16); 4 (Rte 88, Cumberland, 12/16).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll: 5 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 2 (Cumberland Town Landing, 12/16).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 12/5-11, 2020

I didn’t get out birding much this week, but my morning on Bailey Island was fantastic! But the good news is that Pine Grosbeaks have been around our store daily, and this morning lost getting snow tires on my car produced the biggest flock I have seen in the area so far this season. It is nice when the birds come to you!

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 Hermit Thrush, and 1 Northern Flicker, Bailey Island, Harpswell, 12/7.
  • 1 SNOWY OWL (FOS) and 28 Snow Buntings, Brunswick Landing, 12/7.
  • 1 Turkey Vulture, over the store, 12/7.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: Up to 3 continue daily at our feeders at home in Pownal through the early part of the week; 2 (Memak Preserve, North Yarmouth, 12/10).
  • Red Crossbills: 4 (Bailey Island, Harpswell, 12/7); 12 (Waterboro Barrens Preserve, 12/8).
  • WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 2 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 4 (in and around the yard here at the store, 12/2-8); increased to 6 (12/9 – present); 6 (Mayall Road, Gray, 12/9); 3 (Westbrook Riverwalk, 12/11); 18 (Saunders Way, Westbrook, 12/11).
  • Purple Finch: 1 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 7 (Bailey Island, 12/7).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 3 (Bailey Island, 12/7).

Derek’s Birding This Week: 11/28-12/4, 2020

Incredible…a Rock Wren and a Rufous Hummingbird…in Maine…in December. It was a big week! Western birds in the East and finches from the north continue to be the stars of the show.

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Common Grackle continued at the store through 11/28.
  • 1 Turkey Vulture, I-95 South, Scarborough, 11/29.
  • The ROCK WREN, Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 11/29 (with m.obs). Photos above.
  • 1 immature White-crowned Sparrow, 1 Savannah Sparrow, and 1 Swamp Sparrow, Private property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/30.
  • 2 Brant, Dyer Point, Cape Elizabeth, 11/30.
  • 1 continuing immature male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4.  A hummingbird in Maine in December – incredible! 39F when I arrived. Observed repeatedly between 8:00 and 9:00am visiting hummingbird feeder and foraging in trees (especially at the end of spruce twigs). Photos below.

This Week in Finches:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: Up to 3 continue daily at our feeders at home in Pownal; 2 (Main St, Cumberland, 12/2).
  • Red Crossbills: 15-20 (behind Marginal Way, Ogunquit, 11/29); 12 (Pond Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 11/30); 2+ (Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 4 (in and around the yard here at the store, 12/2- present); 1 (fly-over, Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth 12/4); 6 (Royal River Park, Yarmouth, 12/4).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 1 (Mayall Rd, Gray/New Gloucester, 12/2).
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 32 (Ledgewood Drive, Yarmouth, 12/4).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 11/21-27/2020

Pine Grosbeaks have already started to arrive in Southern Maine, such as this female at the Yarmouth Library on the 25th.

I didn’t get very far afield much this week, but feeder-watching, local patches, and a visit to Sabattus Pond at week’s end made up for it.  My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 continuing LINCOLN’S SPARROW, feeders here at the store through 11/21.
  • 8 American Pipits, Highland Road, Brunswick, 11/21.
  • 1 Fox Sparrow, feeders here at the store, 11/21.
  • 1 Turkey Vulture, over the store, 11/24.
  • 100+ Horned Larks and about 40 Snow Buntings, Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 11/25.
  • 1 Common Grackle, feeders here at the store, 11/25 -present.

Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 11/27:

  • It was a great morning as the fog lifted and the water was dead calm. Unfortunately, a high-speed fishing boat, several duck hunting parties, and two hunting Bald Eagles made it difficult to make an accurate count as birds were flushing in different directions.
  • 476 Mallards
  • 301 Canada Geese
  • 231 Ruddy Ducks
  • 174 Common Mergansers
  • 144 American Black Ducks
  • 44 Greater Scaup
  • 26 Hooded Mergansers
  • 18 Lesser Scaup
  • 8 Buffleheads
  • 5 GADWALL
  • 4 Green-winged Teal
  • 4 Common Goldeneyes
  • 3 Northern Pintails
  • 2 Common Loons
  • 1 drake American Wigeon
  • 1 probable hen American Wigeon (very brown-headed individual found last week by P. Moynahan and N. Houlihan. Spotted off South Beach but flushed by fishing boat. Refound on west shore and distantly phone-scoped, but flushed by eagle before I could get closer. Appeared to have white bar on upperwing greater coverts to rule out Eurasian, but not conclusively viewed…other details suggestive or ambiguous. Good luck ruling out a hybrid on a hen wigeon, however!)
  • 1 CACKLING GOOSE (FOY) – in distance from South Beach with large group of Canadas. Flushed by fishing boat before I could get to Riley Road to attempt phone-scoping. Very tiny bird with short neck and very short, stubby bill. Barely larger than the Mallards. Flew north, but not relocated, including searching of farm fields along eastern shore.
  • 1 Belted Kingfisher

The Finch-Tastic Fall festivities continue:

  • EVENING GROSBEAK: 9 continue daily at our feeders at home in Pownal; 1 (Highland Rd, 11/21); 2 (Martin’s Point Park, Sabattus, 11/27.
  • Red Crossbills: 3 (Highland Road, 11/21).
  • PINE GROSBEAK: 4 (Highland Road, 11/21); 3 (Yarmouth Library, 11/25).
  • Purple Finch: 0
  • Common Redpoll: scattered very few.
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 6 (our feeders in Pownal, 11/22).

Derek’s Birding This Week, 11/14-20.

I checked a lot of thickets along the coast this week, hoping for late migrants and vagrants. While those were in rather short supply, I had noticed a significant number of Carolina Wrens. Are they rebounding from a couple of harsh winters in a row, or was there another influx of migrants/dispersing birds into the region this fall. Even the common and fairly common birds have so much to teach us about populations, movements, and vagrancy!

It’s getting colder and quieter out there. But, we are in the midst of the late fall Rarity Season, so I made time to check as many of the migrant and vagrant traps as I could this week. Other than a great morning with Jeannette on Bailey Island on Tuesday, I didn’t find much in the way of “lingering” birds. Did the late-October unseasonable cold snap have something to do with it? And/or the lack of natural food resources because of the drought? Or I was in the wrong places?

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

  • 2 PINE GROSBEAKS, Private Property in Durham, 11/14.
  • 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 11/15.
  • 1 AMERICAN REDSTART, 9 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, 1 PINE WARBLER, 1 “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow, 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and 1 Winter Wren, Bailey Island, Harpswell, 11/17 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Red Crossbill, over our yard in Pownal, 11/17.
  • 300+ Horned Larks, 8-10 Snow Buntings, and 2-3 Lapland Longspurs, Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 11/18. 
  • 1 Gray Catbird, Saco Riverwalk, 11/19.
  • 1 pair Wood Ducks, Pond Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 11/20.
  • 2 Harlequin Ducks, Trundy Point, Cape Elizabeth, 11/20.
  • 2 immature White-crowned Sparrows, Private Property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/20.
  • 1 very late LINCOLN’S SPARROW, here at the store, 11/20.
  • Pine Siskin High Count This Week: scattered 1-4’s.
  • Common Redpoll High Count This Week: 5, Private Property in Cape Elizabeth, 11/20.
  • EVENING GROSBEAK High Count This Week:  9, our yard in Pownal, 11/18.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 10/31-11/6, 2020/

Pine Siskins have really thinned out this week, but still remain common and widespread. This was one in a small group at Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth on 11/1, feasting on Speckled Alder.

This weekly report has been posted on the Maine-Birds Google Group and our store’s Facebook Page for several years. I’m playing around with a new repository for these weekly reports. How does it look here? The archives are searchable at least, and it’s an easy way to encourage me to add more photos (at least one a week is my goal!).

My observations of note over the past seven days included the following:

– a few  Evening Grosbeaks in and around our yard in Pownal all week.

– 1 very early BOHEMIAN WAXWING, 1 NORTHERN SHRIKE, 1 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, 4 Common Redpolls, 2 American Tree Sparrows (FOF), and 3 Common Goldeneyes (FOF), Wolfe’s Neck Center, Freeport, 10/31 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).

– 1 BLUE-HEADED VIREO, 1 Gray Catbird, and 1 Blackpoll Warbler, Saco Riverwalk, 11/1.

– 1 female Wood Duck, Grondin Pond, Scarborough, 11/1.

– 10 Snow Buntings (FOF), Sebago Lake State Park, 11/2 (with Jeannette).

– 1 Fox Sparrow, our yard in Pownal, 11/2.

– 300+ Horned Larks, 60+ American Pipits, 8 Snow Buntings, and 2 Lapland Longspurs (FOF), Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 11/4.

– Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 11/6:

  • 674 Mallards
  • 644 Ruddy Ducks
  • 277 Common Mergansers
  • 89 Canada Geese
  • 75 Green-winged Teal
  • 68 Greater Scaup
  • 20 American Black Ducks
  • 55 Hooded Mergansers
  • 28 Bufflehead
  • 8 Lesser Scaup
  • 5 American Wigeon
  • 4 GADWALL
  • 2 Northern Pintails
  • 2 Common Loons
  • 1 Red-breasted Merganser
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant
  • 1 continuing female LONG-TAILED DUCK
  • 1 RED-NECKED GREBE
  • 1 EVENING GROSBEAK
  • 1 Rusty Blackbird

-Pine Siskin High Count This Week: 18+, feeders here at the store most of the week.-Scattered small numbers of Common Redpolls all week and increasing by week’s end.

Are There “No Birds Out There?” – A Day on a Christmas Bird Count as a Case Study.


It was a record year for Evening Grosbeaks in our CBC territory.

On Sunday, December 30th, Erin Walter joined me for the Freeport-Brunswick Christmas Bird Count (CBC). My annual territory covers most of Freeport west of I-295, with a small bite of Yarmouth, a sliver of Pownal, and a corner of Durham. It’s suburban and ex-urban, almost exclusively residential, and public open space is limited to Hedgehog Mountain Park and adjacent playing fields, Florida Lake Park, and Hidden Pond Preserve.

Like all of the CBCs I do, we walk…a lot. And this year was no exception. While the rest of the team abandoned me (the car was full just the day before!), Erin stuck with the deathmarch to its chilly end, and Jeannette (and Bonxie) covered the Hedgehog Mountain Park area in the early morning for us. With just a team of two for the day, Erin and I spent most of our time split up, dividing the length of roads we cover by walking mile stretches and leap-frogging each other with a car. Using that strategy, we cover a majority of the sector’s roads, and we cover it thoroughly: woodlots, fields, feeders, yards, etc, are all checked.

In the end, we walked up to 12 miles each, with a total of 17.5 miles covered by the two of us, and another 2 covered by Jeannette.  About 18 miles were covered by car. In other words, we spent most of the day outside, working each and every mixed-species foraging flock we encountered.

I have covered this sector for 13 of the past 14 years, and each year I have done it the same way. It’s nothing if not thorough as less than 8 hours of useable daylight can offer. Therefore, the 13 years of data provide an interesting little dataset, one that can be compared and dissected. That’s why I like to do this relatively unproductive (by coastal Maine standards) territory. And, this is why I am writing this blog today: because I think the consistency and standardization provides a way to contrast seasons more than just anecdotally.

With a cold – but not brutally so, it was -16F when we started last year! – and calm day, weather wouldn’t be a factor in limiting detections, so our count should be a little snapshot of “what’s going on out there.”  It’s a good way for me to collect data for my preconceived notions, or find out that I need to refute them. So what IS going on out there?

Total species were just below average for us, while total individuals were a little above average. Let’s try and break it down a bit.

After a very cold start to the winter, it’s been mostly above normal, and we’re down to just a patchy layer of icy snow. Some running fresh water is open, but most small ponds are still frozen. But our section has limited water, so waterbird numbers are uninspiring no matter what. The Cousin’s River Marsh west of the interstate was mostly frozen, and the little stretch of open water in the river was completely devoid of ducks. It’s a Sunday, so the Brunswick Landfill is closed, so we didn’t have the evening commute of gulls returning to roost on the bay to tally.

However, I know for a fact we cover the landbirds as exhaustively as anyone, and this is where the data gets interesting. Oak, beech, and White Pine nuts and seeds are virtually non-existent this year, as we all have been noticing. There’s not much spruce cone in our area either and very little Eastern Hemlock. Paper Birch and especially Yellow Birch, however, are in decent shape, as is Speckled Alder.  Ash seeds are in good supply.

With so little natural food resources overall, it was an extraordinary fall for bird feeding, augmented by the early cold and snow. Since then, however, it has felt like birds have “disappeared,” and many folks coming into the store are reporting slow feeding stations. Are there birds out there and just not coming to feeders? Or did everything move on? Or, is our perception simply wrong?  Erin and I wanted to find out.

As always, the answer differed between species. We had a record low for Blue Jays, more than 1/3 of average. Clearly, with the lack of acorns to cache, most of our Blue Jays simply moved on – those caches of Black Oil Sunflower seeds and peanuts they hoarded in the fall can only go so far. And we set a new record low for Rock Pigeons (0!) as they were all apparently at our store’s feeders outside our territory all day. And on some days of birding, you just don’t see a lot of raptors.

Woodpeckers were interesting. We were above average in Red-bellied (continuing their increasing trend in Maine) and Downy, but Hairys had their second highest tally – almost double average. They were also drumming more widely than usual for the end of the year; did that simply increase detection or are there more around this year, perhaps following a very good breeding season?

33 European Starlings was a new record high count for the territory. American Crows, Brown Creepers, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Cardinals, and House Finches were all above average. The measly 5 American Tree Sparrows were a new record low, however, perhaps due to that early snowfall. Then again, Dark-eyed Juncos were well above average, so who knows?

Considering birch and alder are the only good tree seed crops around, we were not surprised to find an above-average number of American Goldfinches. Common Redpolls aren’t here yet, and the good numbers of Purple Finches and Pine Siskins from the fall have clearly moved on. However, the best winter for Evening Grosbeaks in at least 20 years continues – we had a new record high for the territory, with 2 in a yard on Hunter Road and 1 loner on Merrill Road in Freeport, and an impressive group of 26 on Webster Road, which Erin was able to extensively photograph.

But of most interest to me are the core members (joined by the woodpeckers and to a lesser extent some of the finches) of the mixed-species foraging flocks that travel our woods and pass through our yards. The “feeder birds and allies” if you will. The insect-eating Brown Creepers were above average, but Golden-crowned Kinglets were extremely low. I don’t have an explanation here, so I’ll concentrate on the seed-eating members of the flock.

We were interested to find that Black-capped Chickadees were just about average; they seemed low of late, making me wonder if they too moved further south this winter. Yet surprisingly, we had a new record high count for Tufted Titmice, more than doubling our 13-year average. Good breeding season, or do these resident birds not clear out when food resources are slim?  Both nuthatches were above average, but I was really surprised to find Red-breasted Nuthatches so common. I thought they too had continued on, but there was 1-2 with almost every flock we encountered.

But where we saw these birds was definitely telling. In an hour at Hedghog Mountain, Jeannette has all of 3 Black-capped Chickadees, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, and 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch. Erin and I had absolutely nothing at Florida Lake Park.  Other stretches of mostly wooded habitat was very quiet. But in neighborhoods with well-stocked bird feeders? Lots of birds!  Although we didn’t necessarily see as many birds at feeders themselves as in and around yards that have them, I t’s clear that the supplemental food resources offered by people increases the number of birds in the area in winter. And on a relatively mild and benign day, they were mostly out feeding elsewhere – but we know where they’ll go as the pressure starts to drop this afternoon with the approaching storm.  And in contrast, while we had some goldfinches at feeders, we had most of them in birches and alders, even weedy areas –all natural food which is readily available at the moment, as opposed to many of the other tree crops.

So what does this all mean? Well, good question! And I don’t really know!  But clearly it’s not quite as “slow” out there as many bird watchers are reporting. While Evening Grosbeaks were rightly the star of the show today, I learned a lot about the current status of our “feeder birds.”  More questions and answers, as always, but I enjoyed the exercise of analyzing and postulating (i.e. pretending I am still a scientist). This small section of the state, on only one day, covered by only 2 people, can only tell us so much, but after 13 years of doing this essentially the same way, the numbers are easy to compare and contrast. And perhaps, after a handful of more years, we might even have a little fun with some trend analysis.

Until then, here’s our annotated checklist for the day (and yes, the taxonomy of my spreadsheet is woefully outdated). Averages are in parentheses.

Begin: 7:17am. 19F, mostly cloudy, very light NW.
End: 3:55pm. 23F (high of 25F), clear, calm.

Miles by foot: 17.5 + 2
Miles by car: 18.0

Total species (31.6): 29
Total individuals (903.5): 1017

Red-tailed Hawk (1.3): 1
Wild Turkey (11.2): 5
Herring Gull (24): 1 *record low
Rock Pigeon (25): 0 *record low.
Mourning Dove (50): 40
Red-bellied Woodpecker (.75): 3
Downy Woodpecker (17): 19
Hairy Woodpecker (12): 23 *2nd highest
Pileated Woodpecker (1.9): 1
Blue Jay (76.1): 21 *record low
American Crow (76): 103
Common Raven (2.6): 2
Black-capped Chickadee (307): 317
Tufted Titmouse (33): 72 *New Record
Red-breasted Nuthatch (17): 23
White-breasted Nuthatch (27): 37
Brown Creeper (3): 5
Golden-crowned Kinglet (11): 3
Eastern Bluebird (1): 4
European Starling (14.5): 33 *record high
American Tree Sparrow (23.2): 5 *record low
Song Sparrow (1.1): 2
White-throated Sparrow (0.6): 1
Dark-eyed Junco (28): 69
Northern Cardinal (11): 18
House Finch (8.4): 23
American Goldfinch (83): 119
EVENING GROSBEAK (2.4): 29 *record high
House Sparrow (13.8): 1 (was a lone House Sparrow the rarest bird of the day?)

To compare, check out my blog from late fall of 2017, entitled: “Why there are no Birds at Your Feeders Right Now,” for a completely different reason.