I haven’t been carrying my camera much, and with only one working arm still, my photography has not been very successful. But this Gray Catbird posed nicely for me at Hinckley Park on the 19th.
I had a very busy week of programming, with two tours and some private guiding. With limited free time in between, I made the most of it with some excellent morning outings. Highlights included lots of migrants and more new arrivals, as well as uncommon local breeding birds.
My observations of note over the past seven days included:
16 species of warblers led by 15+ American Redstarts and 10+ Black-and-white Warblers, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/14 (with Down East Adventures Spring Songbird Workshop tour group).
Unknown number in a small group of calling Red Crossbills, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/14 (with Down East Adventures Spring Songbird Workshop tour group).
1 pair SANDHILL CRANES, 3 YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS, 1 LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, and 1 BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, Morgan Meadow WMA, 5/15 (with Jeannette. That was a great morning!)
30-40 Long-tailed Ducks, Stover’s Cove Preserve, Harpswell, 5/18 (with Harpswell Heritage Land Trust tour group).
19 species of warblers, led by 14 American Redstarts and 9 Black-and-white Warblers, but also including 5+ Tennessee Warblers, etc, Hinckley Park, South Portland, 5/19. My best warbler morning of the season so far.
4 Red Crossbills, Hinckley Park, 5/19.
My personal FOY’s this week once again included a mix of “they’ve been around for a while but I haven’t been in the habitat,” regular and on-time arrivals, a few species that have been slow to arrive given our abnormal spring weather pattern, and even an oddly early arrival or two.
4 Magnolia Warblers, Florida Lake Park, 5/13 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
1 YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, Florida Lake Park, 5/13 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group. Exceptionally early; likely my earliest record by at least several days if not over a week).
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow, Florida Lake Park, 5/13 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
1 Blackburnian Warbler, Florida Lake Park, 5/13 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
3 Red-eyed Vireos, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/14 (with Down East Adventures Spring Songbird Workshop tour group).
2 Tennessee Warblers, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/14 (with Down East Adventures Spring Songbird Workshop tour group).
1 Cape May Warbler, Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 5/14.
1 House Wren, Hidden Pond Preserve, Freeport, 5/16 (with clients from Maine).
1 male Indigo Bunting, our feeders in Durham, 5/17.
With my guiding season now in full swing, I have no choice but to be out in the field a lot, regardless of my shoulder situation. And with much finer weather and some good nights of especially Saturday and Thursday nights, the arrivals of migrants caught up to the date quite rapidly. Many new arrivals – as well as a lot of personal first-of-years since I had not been getting out much – resulted in a nice long list of highlights for me -and my clients – over the past 7 days.
My observations of note over the past seven days included:
10 Greater Yellowlegs, our property in Durham (thanks to a flood in our field), 5/5 diminishing to 3 by 5/7.
250-300++ White-throated Sparrow in impressive fallout, Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, 5/8 (with client from Spain).
1 female Red Crossbill, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/8 (with client from Spain).
10 species of warblers, Evergreen Cemetery, 5/8 (with client from Spain). This tied my latest date for reaching 10 species at one place in one morning for the first time of the season.
1 WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (looking very out of place) and a pair of RUDDY DUCKS, Sanford Lagoons, Sanford, 5/8 (with clients from Spain and Maine).
1 drake Northern Shoveler, Dunstan Landing, Scarborough Marsh, 5/8 (with clients from Spain and Maine).
1 pair LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, Morgan Meadow WMA, Gray/Raymond, 5/11 (with clients from Spain and Maine).
1 BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 5/11 (with clients from Spain and Maine).
The long list of my personal FOY’s this week also included:
1 Ovenbird, Florida Lake Park, 5/6 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
Freeport Wild Bird Supply is very excited to partner with Down East Magazine’s Down East Adventures for our third year. In 2023, we are expanding our offerings to include two exclusive overnight trips, along with our popular ½- and whole-day targeted workshops. Focused on skill-builder rather than list-building, there will be plenty of “life birds,” but also more knowledge and education about birds, habitats, birding, and much more about the natural world.
The full list of upcoming tours can be found here. At the conclusion of each tour, I’ll post the trip report here.
Winter Waterbirds Workshop, January 15.
This Purple Sandpiper was about as cooperative as it gets for us at Sohier Park in York. Later, it was joined by its friends (photo below). This is really a lovely shorebird when viewed as well and as close as we experienced.
Extremely strong winds and very high seas presented a challenge as we sought out wintering waterbirds along the southern York County Coast. We worked hard to find sheltered water where we could observe birds well, but when we did find that secluded cove, peninsula lee, or rivermouth, we were treated to incredible looks at many of the birds we had hoped for.
We looked down on Red-breasted Mergansers at Perkin’s Cove, and you’ll never be closer to a Common Loon than we were at the Ogunquit Rivermouth. We checked a few more locations than I usually need to on this tour, but our most productive spot was the southern shoreline of Sohier Park at The Nubble. There, we were treated to close views of Black and White-winged Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, and a most-cooperative flock of Purple Sandpipers. We then ended the day at hidden Abbott’s Pond, where we enjoyed a break for the wind, close comparisons to study details between Mallards, American Black Ducks, and hybrids thereof.
Meanwhile, a group of 8 or so Black-legged Kittiwakes were feeding off of Short Sands Beach, and a stunning adult Iceland Gull passed by at The Nubble. Unfortunately, the seas were just a little too rough to find any alcids today, but we knew they were out there!
Spring Migrant Songbirds Workshop, May 14.
This stunning Blackburnian Warbler nicely demonstrated the value of blooming oak trees for seeing warblers in the middle of May.
Four hours later we had not left Evergreen Cemetery in Portland…a very good sign. There was just no need to move along, the birds kept coming to us. In the end we tallied a respectable 16 species of warblers, even though growing a list was not our goal. What made this workshop successful, however, was how well we saw just about all of the warblers and other songbird migrants throughout the morning.
Warblers were a highlight of course, including repeated quality time with favorites such as American Redstart and Black-and-white Warblers, the two most plentiful migrants this morning. We also enjoyed great looks at several Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Northern Parulas, with fantastic studies of Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler. We also saw two newly-arrived Tennessee Warblers which aren’t always easy to get looks at. There was a good amount of song this morning, so we had chances to listen and learn many of these species as well.
Shortly after hearing a Red-eyed Vireo and my describing it as “high up and often hard to see,” we found one in the lower branches of a nearby oak, and watched it sing, forage, and do all things vireo for almost 10 minutes! Likewise, after hearing distant Ovenbirds, we had two walking around right in front of us! Beginning with a view of a Veery on the ground in the open, we saw it again as the walk ended, only a few feet in front of us for another great view and chance to observe and study.
During the morning, we chatted about migration, habitat, and the process of building the necessary toolkit to build birding skills. Finishing the walk with a quick overview of some references (we had too many birds to leave much time for anything more), we recapped a very productive and instructive morning of spring birding.
It’s been a crazy two weeks! Other than two wonderful weekends on Monhegan – personal and professional – and an incredibly Sandy Point Morning Flight last week, my birding has been seriously limited. With the weather pattern and so many rarities around, this was frustrating, but as of today, we have (mostly) completed our move from Pownal to Durham.
Monhegan Island, 9/22-9/26. Highlights included 1 LARK SPARROW, 6 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 3 CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS, 2 DICKCISSELS, 1 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, 16 species of warblers, and an insane falcon show. Complete Tour Report and daily checklist here.
Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/29: 6,183 migrants of 69 species highlighted by 1 BLUE GROSBEAK, 20 species of warblers, and my 195th all-time patch bird in 2 high-flying Little Blue Herons! It was a great enough day to deserve its own blog, which can be found here.
1 Brown Thrasher, here at the store, 9/29. Our second ever in the garden here.
Pownal Morning Flight, 9/30: 289 individuals of 29 species. Complete list here. Our last morning flight at our old property, with a final yard list of 136.
Monhegan Island, 9/30-10/2 with Jeannette. We were here for a friends’ event, so birding was not always the priority. Nonetheless, we had some good birds included the continuing juvenile RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, at least one continuing CLAY-COLORED SPARROW and DICKCISSEL, 1 Red-bellied Woodpecker, our first coastal Pine Siskin of the fall, a late Veery, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in every apple tree, warblers on the ground, and a big Yellow-rumped Warbler morning flight on the 1st.
I arrived on the island on Thursday (9/22). Be happy that the tour didn’t start this day. It rained. A Lot. However, I was greeted by 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Smuttynose Island upon my arrival: 5 adults and 1 juvenile. It turned out to be one of the highest counts ever on the island. That would also turn out to be my birding highlight of the day, as a short jaunt in the afternoon only yielded one species that I would not end up seeing with the group: a juvenile Ring-billed Gull, which is actually a very uncommon bird out here.
The sunset, however, was worth the trip, and the clearing skies foretold some good birding to come.
Overnight, a moderate migration on clearing skies brought many new birds to the island. The group met at 9:00, and we picked up the rest of the day’s participants as their ferry arrived. It was very windy today, but all day long, whenever we found a pocket of shelter, we found birds. It was mostly Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers, as expected for the date, but there was a decent smattering of diversity.
Between the winds and the raptors, birds were keeping low though! But speaking of raptors – wow, the falcon show! It was incredible. There is absolutely no way of knowing how many Peregrine Falcons and Merlins we saw today, with birds whipping by overhead. Some were hunting, and likely circling the island to do so, but it’s also possible that there was a steady flow of birds moving south, only pausing to wink at the island. It was impossible to quantify, but it was a whole lot of fun to watch!
We enjoyed quality time with Cedar Waxwings, Monarch butterflies, and enjoyed some gorgeous Question Mark butterflies as well. White-crowned Sparrows were rather conspicuous, and we had a good lesson in duck identification with Mallards, an American Black Duck, and a hybrid thereof all side-by-side.
Wind was whipping all night long and continued to gust well over 20mph as of sunrise. With a high-pressure system building in, and powerful Hurricane Fiona passing well to our east, the wind would just not let up. Several ferries were cancelled, and if you happened to be in the room that a screen door was slamming up against all night (ahem), then maybe you were not as rested as you would have liked.
The Gray NEXRAD radar was down, but the Caribou station showed a moderate flight of birds overnight with marginally lighter winds over the mainland. A light morning flight – mostly strong-flying Blackpoll Warblers – didn’t portend a lot of birds had arrived, but pockets of White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers in places where they weren’t yesterday suggested otherwise. In fact, there were a bunch of birds around, and it was a very productive morning!
We visited with two cooperative Dickcissels that have been around for days, caught up with the lingering Lark Sparrow, and were among the lucky ones who caught up with an early Orange-crowned Warbler. All before lunch.
And while the wind continued to gust, and uncountable falcons continued to wreak havoc, anytime we found a corner of shelter, we found birds – and often lots of them! White-throated Sparrows littered the woods, and because of the wind, many birds were insanely easy to see.
One of the highlights were warblers on the ground – hatches of large flies were feasting on rotting apples below laden trees, and with no flying insects able to survive a foot into the air today, we spent a lot of time looking DOWN at warblers.
Finally, as dusk fell, the winds subsided. Unfortunately, by early nightfall, the winds were already a little more westerly than we would have liked. Come Sunday morning, a surprisingly light morning flight, dominated by Yellow-rumped Warblers almost exclusively, reflected the lack of the northerly component overnight. Birds seemed to be in lower quantities overall – a lot of Blackpoll Warblers had apparently departed – and with calm conditions (so, so welcome), there were fewer concentrations of birds.
Throughout the day, it was relatively slow by Monhegan standards, but we just kept adding new species to the triplist, and basking in repeated stellar views. The two Dickcissels were in their usual place throughout the day, a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull continued, and later in the morning we found a Marsh Wren – very uncommon out here.
In the afternoon, we had a splendid sparrow session. We had our longest looks yet at the Lark Sparrow, but after a report of one Clay-colored Sparrow at the same spot, we arrived to find three! A Lincoln’s Sparrow even came out into the open to join the Song, Chipping, White-throated, White-crowned, and Savannah Sparrows, making for an impressive total of 7 species of sparrows from one spot! Of course, the comparative experience makes all the difference in learning these species – as most look so very different from each other. Well, most of them did, anyway! A solid 76 species were tallied by day’s end.
The last day of the tour was Monday the 26th, and our time was winding down. So were the number of non-Yellow-rumped Warblers. Some light showers overnight may have put a few birds down, but winds were southwesterly thereafter, and the Caribou radar (the Gray station was still down) showed little movement. The morning flight was therefore virtually non-existent.
We found an Indigo Bunting, and later, an Alder Flycatcher confused and disoriented, stuck in the ice cutting display building of the Monhegan Museum. Three Clay-colored Sparrows were still present; we had good looks at two of them at the school and had another session comparing them to the variety of ages of Chipping Sparrows they were cajoling around with. The Lark Sparrow also performed nicely for us again.
It felt very slow, especially in the afternoon, when we took time to enjoy Fringed Gentian and repeatedly “dip” on a Red-headed Woodpecker that most everyone except us had eventually seen. Yet interestingly, we kept finding new species for our day’s list, and by the time the tour ended in time to catch the 4:30 ferry to Port Clyde, we had accumulated our highest species total of the weekend – a goodly 81.
The apparent abundance of some species – such as White-breasted Nuthatch, which we conservatively estimated included the presence of 4-6 pairs despite apparent omnipresence and Blackpoll Warblers on the ground – continued to impress as well.
With today’s new additions along with Laughing Gulls on our ferry ride back, our total trip listed amounted to 95 species! So despite the strong winds that howled for the first two days of the tour, and unfavorable southerly winds for the last day and a half, our 95 species was exactly average for the 11 years we have run the trip on this same weekend. 16 species of warblers was a mere one species below average. Taking our challenging weather into consideration, I would absolutely call this a win! Plus, we were on Monhegan, so all is well, as an average day/weekend on Monhegan sure beats the same anywhere else – for so many reasons.
* denotes ferry ride only
23-Sep 24-Sep 25-Sep 26-Sep
There are some Morning Flights at Sandy Point that deserve their own blog. This was one of those. (I also haven’t finished my Monhegan Tour report blog yet, either).
Let’s start with the 1:00am reflectivity and velocity images from the Gray NEXRAD station. I was very happy that the station was back online in time for this incredible large flight. In fact, it was one of the densest flights I have seen in the area, and you can see how much biomass was offshore.
That got my pretty darn excited for the morning. And, well, it was a lot of fun! OK, mostly…at times I was overwhelmed and early on, I just felt beat! For the first 30 minutes, I often just clicked waves of “unidentified” as I tried to keep pace. Luckily, after the massive early rush, the flight became more manageable, although bursts of activity were barely quantifiable.
20 species of warblers, a very rare Blue Grosbeak, and my 195th all-time Sandy Point birds: 2 Little Blue Herons! It was quite a day.
Thanks to Evan Obercian, I learned a ton and had some great species tallies. I have no doubt that some of the records set (e.g. 2nd-highest tally for Cape May Warbler) came from his exceptional auditory skills – some of those birds would have just went unidentified or not even detected by me! Of course, the more eyes (and ears) the better, and Reed Robinson and Weston Barker – splitting time on the “flicker clicker” and pointing out birds landing below – helped immensely as well. Assistance was critical today.
When Evan and I finally departed for desperately needed bagels and coffee at 11:45, there were still a few birds on the move. With some raptors in the air, I am sure that if we didn’t leave then, I would be there all day. I wish I could have been, because this morning was simply awesome. Here’s the scoreboard:
6:36 to 11:45am
With Evan Obercian, Reed Robinson, and Weston Barker.
50F, mostly clear, WNW 4.5-5.1 to NW 13.3-16.1
1,036 Yellow-rumped Warblers (*2nd highest)
449 Northern Parulas
374 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (*3rd highest)
286 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (*new record)
251 Northern Flickers
155 Blackpoll Warblers
138 Eastern Phoebes (*new record. Previous high of 26! And this was very conservative as many were swirling, too. But at times, steady pulses of 2-6 were clearly crossing)>
105 Black-throated Green Warblers
93 American Robins
75 White-throated Sparrows
71 Black-and-white Warblers (*new record)
65 Red-eyed Vireos (*new record)
64 Red-breasted Nuthatches (*new record)
58 Magnolia Warblers
57 Cedar Waxwings
44 Blue Jays
41 Dark-eyed Juncos
33 American Goldfinches
31 Blue-headed Vireos (*2nd highest)
26 American Redstarts
25 Cape May Warblers (*2nd highest)
25 Black-throated Blue Warblers
25 Purple Finches
23 Chipping Sparrows
22 Rusty Blackbirds
22 Nashville Warbler (*2nd highest)
22 Broad-winged Hawks
18 Tennessee Warblers (*3rd highest)
18 Golden-crowned Kinglets
16 Palm Warblers
12 Scarlet Tanagers
9 Yellow Warblers
8 Savannah Sparrows
7 Swainson’s Thrushes
7 American Kestrels
7 Turkey Vultures
6 White-breasted Nuthatches (*tied highest)
5 Baltimore Orioles
4 Philadelphia Vireos
4 Bay-breasted Warblers
4 Black-capped Chickadees
3 Brown Creepers
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Chestnut-sided Warblers
2 Orange-crowned/Tennessee Warbler
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Eastern Wood-Pewees
2 Sharp-shinned Hawks
2 juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERONS (**high fly-overs. My first record for Sandy Point and Patch Bird #195.)
2 Lincoln’s Sparrows
2 White-crowned Sparrows
1 Pine Warbler
1 Least Flycatcher
1 Northern Harrier
1 Tufted Titmouse (did not cross after a few false starts)
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker (crossed after three false starts)
1 Common Loon
1 Eastern Bluebird
1 Hairy Woodpecker (crossed after 8 false starts)
1 BLUE GROSBEAK (**My 3rd-ever at Sandy Point. Spotted by Evan, photographed by Weston Barker; photo below).
1 Common Grackle
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 American Pipit
1 Blackburnian Warbler
1 unidentified Empid
1 Downy Woodpecker (did not cross after 2 false starts)
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Ovenbird (in the woods; warbler #20!)
X Common Yellowthroat (I don’t try and count them in the brush here, but there were a lot around this morning and many more than there have been. None even attempted a crossing as usual).
Unlike last week, I was out birding plenty this week, including some of my favorite fall activities: Sandy Point and sorting through shorebirds. Here are my observations of note over the past seven days:
Morning flight over our Pownal yard, 9/10: 6:15-7:30am: 250+ warblers of at least 10 species, led by 40++ Northern Parulas and including 1 Bay-breasted and 2++ Cape May Warbler.
“Zeiss Day” Hakwatch right here at the store, 9/10 (with Rich Moncrief): 95 individuals of 11 species of raptors led by 21 Ospreys and 18 Broad-winged Hawks. Full count here.
20-25 Common Nighthawks, over our yard in Pownal at dusk, 9/10, and 5-10 on 9/11.
6 Northern Waterthrushes, 6 Swainson’s Thrushes, etc, Capisic Pond Park, Portland, 9/11 (with Down East Adventures Fall Songbird Workshop group).
After returning from a weekend in Massachusetts, I was unfortunately unable to get in much birding over the past six days, other than our yard and morning dogwalks. However, our yard in particular has been very productive, including over a dozen species of warblers and three continuing juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Furthermore, since the storm pulled away, dead calm nights have precluded any drifting of migrants and therefore there wasn’t a single morning where I attempted a morning flight count at Sandy Point. Therefore, my observations of note over the past 5 days was limited to Friday, when I actually went birding. The highlights included:
1 adult with 1 juvenile CASPIAN TERN and four Common Nighthawks, Seapoint Beach, Kittery, 9/9.
1 immature Great Cormorant, The Nubble, Cape Neddick, 9/9.
7 continuing WHITE IBIS, Webhannet Marsh, Wells, 9/9. 1 distant to the south of Harbor Road and 6 close to Drake’s Island Road in the early pm high tide.
Tomorrow (Saturday, 9/10) is our second Zeiss Day here at the store. We’ll have a full range of Zeiss products to test drive during our morning birdwalk, and day-long hawkwatch. For more information, see this link on our website.
Another dandy week of summertime birding produced the following highlights for me.
2 continuing HENSLOW’S SPARROWS, Crystal Spring Farm, Brunswick. Quite a bit of my birding time this week was spent enjoying this exceptional visitor. I saw it on 7/9 with our Saturday Morning Birdwalk group for our 246th all-time Saturday Morning Birdwalk bird! On 7/11, Jeannette and I, along with two other birders saw both individuals at the same time for the first time – as two scopes had both birds in view at once in the opposite direction here. No disputing that! However, the echo and acoustic issues are very apparent here – at one point, we could easily have argued there were four birds! Interestingly, on 7/12, Cameron Cox and I were unable to confirm the presence of two birds, as was the case in my visits prior to the 11th. Phone-scoped video from the 11th here.
HYBRID HERONS of Scarborough Marsh. On 7/11, Cameron Cox and I spotted both continuing birds. The proposed Snowy Egret x Tricolored Heron x Little Egret was off of Eastern Road, while the proposed Snowy Egret x Tricolored Heron x Snowy Egret was incredibly close and cooperative at Pelreco Marsh. Video of the latter bird here.
1 subadult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, Pine Point Beach, Scarborough, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
2 Fish Crows, Point Sebago Resort (private), Casco, 7/14 (with Point Sebago Resort birdwalk group). Are these two from the Windham colony or outliers of this slowly expanding species?
Eastern Egg Rock/Whale-watching/and mini-pelagic tour out of Boothbay Harbor with our partners Cap’n Fish’s Cruises, yielded the following highlights in addition to a fantastic show at Eastern Egg Rock from Atlantic Puffins; Roseate, Common, and Arctic Terns; Black Guillemots; etc): 2 Razorbills on Eastern Egg, a mere two Wilson’s Storm-Petrels and handfuls of Northern Gannets offshore, but an insane show from a breaching Humpback Whale. And for the record, the Tufted Puffin appeared there a mere 3 hours after our boat left.
Each summer, I begin reporting my “shorebird high counts this week” here. Really, I do it for my own note-keeping and organization, but I hope at least a few folks find value in it. This year, I am starting it early, even though diversity is expectedly low and I didn’t get to a lot of shorebird sites this week. However, numbers are picking up dramatically, and this bears watching. Unfortunately, large numbers of adult shorebirds in early July could portend widespread breeding failure. Therefore, I will organize my counts here so I can compare it to previous seasons.
Black-bellied Plover: 2 first-summer, Pine Point Co-op, Scarborough, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
Killdeer: 35, Crystal Spring Farm, Brunswick, 7/12 (with Cameron Cox).
Piping Plover: 4+, Western Beach from Pine Point Beach, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).