Tag Archives: Hermit Thrush

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!

The 2014 South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup

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Prairie Warbler, Cliff Walk, York Harbor.

For the past ten years, I have organized the “South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup” on the first weekend of November, when a group of friends get together to comb the coast from Kittery through Portland, focusing on finding lingering migrants, rarities, and hopefully “mega” vagrants.

This year, our event was postponed a week thanks to the massive Nor’easter and snowstorm that rendered last Sunday essentially un-birdable. A week later than usual, we expected fewer birds, but perhaps “better birds.” At the very least, we would be less miserable than in the 34-degree weather with driving wet snow and 50mph winds of last Sunday. Recent active weather and some good birds in the area helped stoked our “rarity fever” fire, which I prognosticated about on Friday’s blog.

The teams each cover a specific territory, including destination locations, and casual meanderings. This year, the Roundup was covered by:
Kittery –York: Katrina Fenton and Ken Klapper.
Ogunquit/Kennebunkport: Turk Duddy and Linda Woodward.
Wells: Doug Suitor, Andrew Gilbert, and Allison Moody.
Biddeford-Saco: Becky Marvil, Nancy Houlihan, et al.
Scarborough Marsh: Noah Gibb, Ed Hess, et al.
Cape Elizabeth: Robby Lambert and Lois Gerke.
South Portland: John Berry and Gordon Smith.
Portland: Derek Lovitch, Kristen Lindquist, Evan Obercian, and Jeannette Lovitch.

Although most teams described the day as “fairly slow” overall, we did indeed find some good birds, and surprisingly good diversity. 121 species (plus two subspecies) were recorded in all, well above the 11-year average of 114 species. Two new species were added to the all-time Rarity Roundup list: American Redstart and Lincoln’s Sparrow. Meanwhile, Brown Creeper went unrecorded for the first time, likely a factor of the scrubby habitats and open areas that we focus on at this time of year.

Unfortunately, despite overall high-quality birds, we once again failed to turn up any “mega” rarities. However, we did have a lot of fun as always, which really is the most important part. Or so we tell ourselves.

The full roster of “good” birds that were turned up by all of the teams were as follows:
American Wigeon: 4 at Hill’s Beach; 1 at Evergreen Cemetery.
NORTHERN SHOVELER: 1 pair, Deering Oaks Park, Portland.
Northern Pintail: 2, Fortunes Rocks Beach.
Common Merganser: 2, Saco Riverwalk.
Ruddy Duck: 40, Prout’s Pond.
AMERICAN BITTERN: 1 Eastern Rd; 1 Drake’s Island Road.
Great Egret: 1, Parson’s Beach Rd.
Black-crowned Night-Heron: 1 Mill Creek Park; 4 Mercy Pond.
Northern Goshawk: 1, Perkin’s Cove.
Ruffed Grouse: 1, Laudholm Farms.
American Coot: 64, Prout’s Pond.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER: 1, Pine Point; 1 Wells Beach jetty.
White-rumped Sandpiper: 2 Timber Point; 1 Eastern Road.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker: 1, Rte 103, Kittery.
Eastern Phoebe: 1, Fore River Parkway Trail; 1 Pond Cove.
Northern Shrike: 1, Fort Williams Park; 1 Laudholm Farms.
RED-EYED VIREO: 1, Chadwick St, Portland.
Carolina Wren: 6 total (low by recent standards).
Gray Catbird: 1, Hill’s Beach; 1 Laudholm Farms.
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER: 1, Pond Cove.
NASHVILLE WARBLER: 1, Saco Riverwalk.
NORTHERN PARULA: 2, Fort Williams Park.
PRAIRIE WARBLER: 1, York Cliff Walk.
“Yellow” Palm Warbler: 1, Saco Riverwalk.
“Western” Palm Warbler: 1, Private property in Cape Elizabeth.
BLACKPOLL WARBLER: 1, Saco Roverwalk.
Common Yellowthroat: 1, Capisic Pond Park.
AMERICAN REDSTART: 1, Saco Riverwalk.
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW: 1 Community Park, Wells; 1 Private property in Cape Elizabeth.
LINCOLN’S SPARROW: Capisic Pond Park.
White-crowned Sparrow: 1, Fort Foster
Lapland Longspur: 51, Eastern Rd.
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: 60-75, Eastern Promenade

Meanwhile, record high total counts (from all teams) were set for an impressive 14 species:
81 Harlequin Ducks
40 Ruddy Ducks
2 American Bitterns
2 Merlins
64 American Coots
69 Purple Sandpipers
11 Red-bellied Woodpeckers
83 Horned Larks
19 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Northern Parulas
9 Chipping Sparrows
51 Lapland Longspurs
25 Purple Finches
60-75 White-winged Crossbills

My guess is the later date this year helped those Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, and Lapland Longspur totals, and perhaps also the higher counts of Ruddy Ducks and American Coots. An overall mild fall likely resulted in the late departure of so many “half-hardies” such as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and Chipping Sparrows. And the steady increase of Red-bellied Woodpeckers continues.

So not bad, and once again it gives us a fascinating snapshot into the under-birded late fall season along the southern Maine coast.

Personally, I was joined by friends as usual in Portland. While Jeannette (and Sasha) birded Capisic Pond Park, Evergreen Cemetery, and Back Cove, Kristen and Evan joined me on my march through the Portland peninsula. Jeannette gets the territory’s bird-of-the-day honors with the First Rarity Roundup Record Lincoln’s Sparrow at Capisic Pond Park, where she also had the count’s only Common Yellowthroat.

The peninsula, however, was about a slow as I have ever experienced it on a Rarity Roundup, likely due to the later date and resultant fewer food supplies. But even still, the Eastern Promenade was uncharacteristically slow, and development and ridiculous bush-whacking and clear cutting by the City of Portland diminished the value of the habitat along West Commercial Street.

With a few interesting birds, including our best bird of the day, a Red-eyed Vireo in a front yard in the West End, I wish I had gotten to this neighborhood sooner in the day, but alas, hindsight is always 20/20. And while Portland’s overall performance paled in comparison to the hauls from recent years, we still had some great birds. The flock of 60-75+ White-winged Crossbills that flew over us on the Eastern Promenade were the first I have seen all year, the pair of Northern Shovelers in Deering Oaks Park were unexpected, and the 4 immature Black-crowned Night Herons at Mercy Pond were good to see.

But perhaps the bird of the day was the Hermit Thrush. We had an impressive total of 31 throughout our day, including several in small downtown gardens and landscaping corners. White-throated Sparrow (including 24 scattered around downtown as well) were also prevalent. These two species were the only native birds – as usual – that we found in the center of downtown Portland. This always fascinated me, as these two species seem particularly regular in the heart of concrete jungles.
HETH,Portland,11-9-14_edited-1
I think this phone-photo of a Hermit Thrush captures the essence of this intriguing topic of conversation.

Perhaps next year we will find the “next big one.” Until then, I have some more fun data to play with.

Some of the “documentation” photos from the day:

AMBI,EdHess,EasternRd,11-9-14_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

American Bittern, Eastern Rd, Scarborough Marsh.

 

 

 

 

AMERICAN BITTERN NOV 9 2014 SCARBOROUGH, ME IMG_0771_edited-1

barred owl_edited-1 Barred Owl, Fort Foster, Kittery.

BCNH,JohnBerry_edited-1

Juv. Black-crowned Night-Heron, Mill Creek Park, South Portland.

GWTE,John Berry_edited-1 Female Green-winged Teal, Mill Creek Park.

RUDDY DUCK NOV 9 2014 SCARBOROUGH, ME IMG_0793_edited-1 Female Ruddy Duck, Prout’s Pond, Scarborough.

South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup TEN!

BLPW,SheridanStreet,Portland,11-3-14
This Blackpoll Warbler was one of the record 9 species of warblers tallied on the day, and one of the top birds in my Portland territory. It was only the third time that this species was spotted by Rarity Roundup teams.

Each year on the first weekend of November, a group of us get together to scour the Southern Maine coast for vagrants, lingering migrants, pioneers, irruptive, and other seasonal highlights.  Coinciding with the peak of “Rarity Season,” we set out to use the geography of the Maine coast, coupled with knowledge of the best habitats and vagrant traps in order to find as many “good” birds as possible.  While this year failed to produce any “Megas,” we once again had a great day in the field, found lots of fun stuff, and enjoyed good food and beer at the Great Lost Bear at the end of the day (the real reason we all get together for this event!)

119 species were tallied by the 8 teams of the TENTH Annual South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup, six species above our 10-year average, despite somewhat more limited coverage than in the past few years. The continuing “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler was added to the cumulative checklist, while we also had our second-ever Snowy Egret, Prairie Warbler, and Nelson’s Sparrow.  Blackpoll Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow appeared for the third time.

Most teams experienced a decidedly “birdy” day, especially from Portland through Scarborough.  A fallout of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes occurred with overnight northwesterly winds and a line of pre-dawn showers, with the fallout especially evident on the Portland Peninsula.  I’ll have more about the fallout on a blog entry later today.

Record high tallies were set for Pectoral Sandpiper (13), Northern Flicker (10), Carolina Wren (11), Hermit Thrush (52: the 26 in Portland alone was only one short of the previous all-time high), “Western” Palm Warbler (3), Chipping Sparrow (12), Field Sparrow (3; tie), and Lapland Longspur (37).  9 species of warblers was a new record as well, and Painted Turtle was added to our non-feather species list.  All but the longspurs can likely be explained by the unusually warm season to date.

Territory Highlights were as follows:

– Area 1, Kittery-York: Davis Finch.
1 NASHVILLE WARBLER, Legion Pond, Kittery.
1 Pine Warbler, Fort Foster.
1 PRAIRIE WARBLER, Fort Foster.
1 “AUDUBON’S” YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, Fort Foster.

– Area 2, Ogunquit/Kennebunport: Turk Duddy.
2 American Wigeon, Phillip’s Cove, Ogunquit.
1 Northern Pintail, Phillip’s Cove, Ogunquit.
1 Lesser Yellowlegs, Goose Rocks Beach.

– Area 3, Wells/Kennebunk: Doug Suitor, David Ladd, and Slade Moore.
2 Semipalmated Sandpipers, Webhannet Marsh
2 Gray Catbirds, Laudholm Farm.

– Area 4, Biddeford-Saco: Pat Moynahan, Marian Zimmerman, Joanne Stevens, et al.
1 NASHVILLE WARBLER, Saco Yacht Club.
1 CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, Timber Point.
1 NELSON’S SPARROW, Day’s Landing.
2 Lapland Longspurs, Day’s Landing.

– Area 5, Scarborough: Ed Hess, Noah Gibb, and Leon Mooney.
8 Great Egrets
1 SNOWY EGRET, Pelreco marsh
12 American Coots, Prout’s Pond.
8 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, Eastern Road.
35 Lapland Longspurs

– Area 6, Cape Elizabeth: International Man of Mystery, Claudia, Robby Lambert.
2 “Western” Palm Warblers, private property
1 “Yellow” Palm Warbler, private property
1 DICKCISSEL, Higgin’s Beach.

– Area 7, South   Portland: John Berry and Gordon Smith.
1 Ring-necked Pheasant, Fort Williams Park.
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Calvary Cemetery.
1 Pine Warbler, Bug Light Park

– Area 8, Portland: Derek Lovitch and Kristen Lindquist; Jeannette Lovitch (Capisic and Evergreen); and a cameo by Doug Hitchcox.
2 Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Promenade.
1 BLUE-HEADED VIREO, Mercy Pond.
1 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, Eastern Promenade.
1 BLACKPOLL WARBLER, Sheridan Street.
1 White-crowned Sparrow, West Commercial Street.

As usual, I exhaustively cover the Portland Peninsula and once again the most urban block in the state produced some great birds.  Kristen joined me for the second year in a row, while Jeannette (and Sasha) helped out with a few outlying patches.  Doug joined us just long enough to find the only White-crowned Sparrow of the entire day.  In addition to the goodies listed above, Kristen and I amassed 9 species of sparrows.

The fallout that I mentioned above was very evident in the morning, as we birded Portland’s East End. 150+ White-throated Sparrows and 100+ Song Sparrows littered the Eastern Promenade.  While Dark-eyed Juncos were fewer there, we encountered some big groups elsewhere, such as 60+ behind the East End School and 50+ in the lot on Sheridan Street, with 70+ later in the day in Western Cemetery. White-throats were everywhere: 50+ on Sheridan   Street for example.  And once again there was a decidedly disproportionate number of White-throated Sparrows in gardens and landscaping of downtown Portland.  A short loop from One City Center through Monument Square, behind Portland High, and back through Post Office Park yielded 35 White-throats, with the only other native migrant being 7 Hermit Thrushes.  Like the sparrow, Hermit Thrushes appear in a wildly disproportionate number to other migrants – especially all other thrushes – in downtown Portland.  I’m convinced that something causes White-throated Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes to either a) become disoriented by urban lights more often/more readily, especially under low ceilings (it was cloudy for most of the night and morning) or perhaps b) they simply don’t leave these lots in a morning flight as species such as Dark-eyed Juncos might.  In fact, I just read in an article in the Brown Alumni Magazine that a friend of the store dropped off about collisions in New York City that since 1997, more White-throated Sparrows have been found dead than any other species.  Coincidence?

Our sum of 26 Hermit Thrushes was truly amazing, as was our overall diversity on the day.  While the mild weather certainly has a lot to do with the number of lingering/pioneering birds that we, and other teams, encountered, the late-season fallout earlier in the morning certainly helped our cause.

Here are the overnight reflectivity and velocity images, with 10pm, 1am, and 4am once again used as an example.
a 10pm 11-2-13 ref

b 10pm 11-2-13 vel

c 1am 11-3-13 ref

d 1am 11-3-13 vel

e 4am 11-3-13 ref

f 4am 11-3-13 vel

At 10pm, there’s mostly rain in the area, but birds are mixed in.  By 1:00am, birds are on the move, as the rain has mostly moved into the Mid-Coast and offshore.  Birds were still on the go at 4:00am, as a narrow line of showers moved through the coast.  About an hour later, a steady rain developed (not shown) that continued until a short time before the 6:20 sunrise.  I believe this is why there were so many sparrows in and around the city come dawn.

In other words, it was another great day of birding in urban Portland in the heart of “Rarity Season!”