I decided to blog about my birding outing today, if only to give people a little hope that spring is around the corner. As temperatures plummet once again this week, perhaps the knowledge that spring migration has actually begun will provide a little comfort…and warmth.
Phil McCormack and I birded from Scarborough Marsh into South Portland today, enjoying a very spring-like day (highs in the mid-40’s) and some great birding. A few “new arrivals” and continuing wintering species combined for a respectably tally of 54 species without trying – and with ending our birding at 1:30.
We began on the Eastern Road Trail. Within mere seconds of saying to Phil, “I expect some early migrant waterfowl like pintail and Gadwall today,” three drake Northern Pintails came cruising by. I love the look of pintails in flight; they’re so elegant. The long tail, thin neck, and long, relatively narrow wings suggest a miniature loon, and they have one spiffy pattern. The sense of spring really kicked in when a Killdeer sounded off and came cruising in to an exposed muddy bank – my first of the spring, and a bit on the early side considering the abundant snow cover.
A pair of Gadwall (first of the year – although they were actually southbound) flew over Pine Point, as did at least one Snow Bunting. Twenty-eight Common Loons were in the channel, while over on Western Beach, the dredging operation was pumping sand onto the beach, collecting a nice concentration of gulls. Sifting through them yielded two 1st-winter Iceland and 1 1st-winter Glaucous Gull. American Robins – overwintering birds, not northbound spring migrants – were widespread today, with a high count of 50-75 around Seavey’s Landing.
Rounding the north side of the marsh, we checked a couple of neighborhoods for frugivores, before arriving at Kettle Cove. At Two Lights State Park, a raft of 150 Black Scoter loafed offshore, with 18 Harlequin Ducks in the surf. A Porcupine at the edge of the parking lot was the star of the show, however.
Ten more Harlequin Ducks and a Northern Shrike (an immature; my 6th of the winter) at Dyer Point were signs of the continuing winter, but a Black Guillemot in full breeding plumage was suggestive of the advancing season.
Moving into South Portland, a Red-bellied Woodpecker was among the usual denizens at Trout Brook Preserve, but Mill Creek and Mill Creek Cove were hopping! 286 Mallards and a growing legion of American Black Ducks were joined by a single drake Green-winged Teal, our third “FOY” of the day! Meanwhile, the gull turnover in the cove eventually amounted to eight 1st-winter Iceland Gulls and two or three 1st-winter Glaucous Gulls.