Tag Archives: migration

This Week’s Highlights: September 22- October 7, 2022.

“Warblers on the ground” was the theme of this year’s Monhegan Fall Migration Weekend tour. While Blackpoll Warblers dominated the apple piles, this Cape May Warbler was my favorite photo subject.

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

Monhegan Fall Migration Weekend, Sept 2022.

This Cape May Warbler was one of many birds that escaped the strong winds by finding large flies eating rotting apples that littered the ground all over the island.

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!

Merlin.
Immature Peregrine Falcon
Northern Flickers had to stay low and out of sight to survive the day.

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.

Black-throated Green Warbler on post-cider-making apple mash.

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.

Dickcissels.
Lark Sparrow

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.

Blackpoll Warblers
Cape May Warbler.
We also made it over to the cliffs to see what may have been in the island’s lee.
Female Green-winged Teal
Scarlet Tanager
We saved this Gartner Snake from a cat’s mouth on our way to not seeing a Red-headed Woodpecker that was playing hard to get for us.

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.

Marsh Wren

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.

Clay-colored Sparrow with juvenile Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Blackpoll Warbler.

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.

Alder Flycatcher in the museum’s ice-cutting shed. It eventually figured out the lighting and got itself out.
Clay-colored Sparrow
Two of the three Clay-colored Sparrows, here, with a Chipping Sparrow in the middle.

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.

Blackpoll Warbler.

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

Canada Goose 8 18 19 8
Wood Duck 0 1 1 1
American Black Duck 2 2 1 1
Mallard 15 24 24 24
Mallard x American Black Duck Hybrid 1 1 1 1
Green-winged Teal 0 1 2 1
Common Eider x x x x
Ring-necked Pheasant 20 12 12 8
Mourning Dove 20 15 18 18
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2 2 1 0
Semipalmated Plover 0 0 1 0
Killdeer 0 0 1 0
Solitary Sandpiper 1 1 1 0
Black Guillemot 2 6 2 6
Laughing Gull 0 0 0 2*
Herring Gull x x x x
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL 2 0 1 1
Great Black-backed Gull x x x x
Common Loon 0 0 0 1
Northern Gannet 10 10 8 20
Double-crested Cormorant x x x x
Great Cormorant 0 0 0 3
Northern Harrier 0 0 1 0
Osprey 4 4 2 2
Bald Eagle 1 0 1 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1 0 2 2
Belted Kingfisher 1 1 0 0
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 12 10 20
Downy Woodpecker 2 2 2 2
Northern Flicker 30 40 20 30
American Kestrel 1 2 3 4
Merlin 8 15 10 10
Peregrine Falcon 10 10 5 5
Eastern Wood-Pewee 0 1 0 1
Alder Flycatcher 1 0 0 1
“Traill’s” Flycatcher 0 0 0 1
Least Flycatcher 1 1 0 0
Eastern Phoebe 6 4 4 6
Red-eyed Vireo 10 10 6 8
Blue Jay 8 6 18 12
American Crow 6 4 4 4
Common Raven 1 2 2 2
Black-capped Chickadee x x x x
Golden-crowned Kinglet 0 0 4 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 2 6 6
Cedar Waxwing 50 2 38 38
Red-breasted Nuthatch 15 10 6 10
White-breasted Nuthatch 4 6 4 4
Brown Creeper 0 0 1 1
House Wren 0 0 1 2
Carolina Wren 3 3 4 4
MARSH WREN 0 0 1 0
Gray Catbird 6 8 6 10
Brown Thrasher 1 0 0 0
European Starling 18 18 18 18
Veery 0 0 1 0
Swainson’s Thrush 1 6 3 4
American Robin 4 4 8 12
American Pipit 1 1 1 0
Purple Finch 14 8 4 4
LARK SPARROW 0 1 1 1
American Goldfinch 8 10 14 14
Chipping Sparrow 0 10 15 15
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW 0 0 3 3
Dark-eyed Junco 2 10 6 10
White-crowned Sparrow 2 4 8 8
White-throated Sparrow 26 150 50 50
Savannah Sparrow 1 4 3 4
Song Sparrow 20 30 20 20
Lincoln’s Sparrow 0 0 2 2
Swamp Sparrow 0 0 1 2
Baltimore Oriole 2 2 6 6
Red-winged Blackbird 0 1 1 1
Bobolink 0 0 1 0
Rusty Blackbird 0 0 6 0
Common Grackle 12 24 24 24
Black-and-white Warbler 1 1 0 0
Tennessee Warbler 0 15 3 3
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER 0 1 0 0
Nashville Warbler 0 4 1 1
American Redstart 0 2 0 2
Common Yellowthroat 8 10 4 10
Cape May Warbler 5 10 6 6
Northern Parula 1 7 4 2
Magnolia Warbler 2 0 0 0
Yellow Warbler 5 3 2 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler 0 0 0 1
Blackpoll Warbler 50 75 20 15
Palm Warbler 2 4 10 6
PINE WARBLER 0 2 0 0
Yellow-rumped Warbler 70 50 50 75
Black-throated Green Warbler 5 3 0 1
Scarlet Tanager 0 2 2 2
Northern Cardinal 6 8 8 10
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 0 0 1 3
Indigo Bunting 1 0 0 1
DICKCISSEL 2 2 1 1

Day Total 67 71 80 81
Warbler day total 10 14 9 12

4-Day Tour total= 95
Plus on my own before the tour =2 (Ring-billed Gull and Tree Swallow)
Total warblers = 16

Blackpoll Warblers were the “migrant of the weekend” with unforgettable views and quality time each day.

Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/29/2022

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.

For an explanation of just what this means, see the “Birding at Night” chapter in my first book, How to be a Better Birder. Furthermore, see previous Sandy Point posts on the topic – you can use the search box in the upper right-hand corner of this blog page, and search “Sandy Point” or “Morning Flight.”

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
  • 2,389 unidentified
  • 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 Ospreys
  • 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).

***Total = 6,183 (2nd highest all time!)***

This Week’s Highlights: September 10-16, 2022

Jeannette and I spent some quality time with “sharp-tailed sparrows” in Scarborough Marsh on Tuesday. It’s even more of a challenge this time of year with some birds still molting (such as the Saltmarsh Sparrow on the left) and other birds in fresh plumage, such as this apparent Nelson’s Sparrow on the right
(although a hybrid may be impossible to rule out).

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).
  • 3 Saltmarsh Sparrows, 2 Nelson’s Sparrows, 15+ “sharp-tailed sparrow sp.,” 5 Pectoral Sandpipers, etc, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 9/13 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 3rd-cycle LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, Pine Point, Scarborough, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO).
  • 1 juv. WESTERN SANDPIPER, Biddeford Pool Beach, Biddeford, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO; Noah Gibb photo).
  • 1500-2000 Tree Swallows, Mile Stretch, Biddeford, 9/14 (with clients from CA and CO).
  • Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/15: 2,115 migrants of 40 species including 15 species of wablers. Full count here.
  • Sandy Point Morning Flight, 9/16: 394 migrants of 33 species including 12 species of warblers. Full count here.

This Week’s Highlights: September 5-9, 2022

Incredibly, there are still White Ibis in the Webhannet Marsh of Wells. Present since 8/10, I had at least 7 birds on the 9th, including a group of 6 that was relatively close to Drake’s Island Road.

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.

The weather conditions precluded time at Sandy Point this week, but I was also suffering from peep withdrawal. Luckily, I had 255 Semipalmated and 12 Least Sandpipers to sort through at Kittery’s Seapoint Beach on Friday morning. Couldn’t tease out a rarity though, but I tried.

This Week’s Highlights, August 24-September 2, 2022

The amazing run of ultra-rare raptors in Maine continued with the all-too-short visit of a Eurasian (Western) Marsh Harrier last week. First found on North Haven on 8/25, it was then relocated the next day in Weskeag Marsh. I finished a tour that morning and raced eastward to South Thomaston. After waiting only 20 minutes (others had been waiting nearly 5 hours), it appeared and put on a show for about 30-45 minutes.  After a reappearance the next morning, it has disappeared up birders up and down the East Coast are on high alert!

After returning from our summer vacation to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (see link)…

…my observations of note over the past seven days included:

  • EURASIAN (WESTERN) MARSH HARRIER, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26 (with Evan Obercian and m.obs). Photo above.
  • 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher, Highland Road, Brunswick, 8/27 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 154 Snowy Egrets, 106 Green-winged Teal, etc, etc, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/28.
  • 1 continuing proposed TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X SNOWY EGRET hybrid, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/28.
  • 7 continuing WHITE IBIS in non-exhaustive search, Harbor Road, Wells, 8/30 (with Jeannette).
  • 6 SANDHILL CRANES (two pairs with one juvenile each), Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 9/1.
  • SANDY POINT MORNING FLIGHT (FOY), 9/2: 482 total individuals including 2 DICKCISSELS and 20 species of warblers.  Complete tally here.

And my shorebird high counts over these past ten days included some fine tallies but much reduced diversity, mostly due to recent heavy rains filling the best high-marsh salt pannes:

  • AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER: 2 ad, Pine Point, Scarborough, 8/28.
  • Black-bellied Plover: 118, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 8/27 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • Killdeer: 14, Mayall Road, Gray/New Gloucester, 8/25.
  • Semipalmated Plover: 179, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Sanderling: 2, Sebago Lake State Park (rare inland), 8/25.
  • Least Sandpiper: 66, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 8/28.
  • White-rumped Sandpiper: 8, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Pectoral Sandpiper: 1, Eastern Road Trail, 8/28 and Walsh Preserve, Yarmouth, 8/30.
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 1,000++, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26. Honorary mention of 45-500 at Wharton Point on 8/27 – my highest tally here in years (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 24, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2, Sebago Lake State Park, 8/25.
  • Solitary Sandpiper: 1, several locations this week.
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 48, Walsh Preserve, Yarmouth, 8/30.
  • “Eastern” Willet: 16, Pine Point, 8/28.
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 15, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, 8/26.
Just a very small part of an impressive feeding frenzy of Double-crested Cormorants and
Snowy Egrets that were at Pine Point in Scarborough on the 25th.

This Week’s Highlights, July 9- July 15, 2022.

The local “bird of the summer,” Henslow’s Sparrow, continues this week in Brunswick. (Note: photographed only via patience, no playback or other harassments).

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).
  • STILT SANDPIPER (FOF, Early!): 2, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
  • Least Sandpiper: 60, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox)
  • Pectoral Sandpiper (early, FOF): 2, Eastern Road Trail, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper: 15, Eastern Road Trail, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
  • Short-billed Dowitcher: 60, Eastern Road Trail, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
  • Spotted Sandpiper: 2, Eastern Egg Rock, 7/15 (with Cap’n Fish’s Cruises Pufifn/Whale Watch Combo tour group.)
  • Lesser Yellowlegs: 30, Eastern Road Trail, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).
  • “Eastern” Willet: 20+ Pine Point, Scarborough, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox)
  • Greater Yellowlegs: 20, Eastern Road Trail, 7/11 (with Cameron Cox).

Our next boat trip is on Saturday, July 23rd to Seal Island. No “Troppy” this year, but you know we’ll be looking hard for the Tufted Puffin! A limited amount of space on this extended charter is available here.

The stellar Roseate Tern show continues at Pine Point Beach. Cameron Cox and I enjoyed
a nice photo session with them there on the 11th.

This Week’s Highlights, March 19-24, 2022.

My personal highlights over the past six were as follows. Not surprisingly, it was mostly first-of-year new arrivals. The new bird for my Bradbury Mountain list, however, was definitely more of a surprise!

  • 3 male and 1 female NORTHERN SHOVELERS (FOY), 100+ Greater and 10+ Lesser Scaup, 1 drake American Wigeon, 1 Bonaparte’s Gull (FOY), etc, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 3/19 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 4 Horned Larks and 1 American Wigeon, Highland Road, Brunswick, 3/19 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 2 Eastern Meadowlarks (FOY) and 5 Brown-headed Cowbirds (FOY), Chesley Hill Road, Durham, 3/20.
  • 1 Great Blue Heron (FOS), Cousin’s River Marsh, 3/20.
  • 4 American Kestrels (FOY), Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 3/20.
  • 1 adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, fly-by at the Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 3/20 (with Zane Baker). This was my 142nd all-time Bradbury Mountain State Park species!
  • 20 Ring-necked Ducks (FOY), 2 American Wigeon, etc, Mouth of the Abagadasset River, Bowdoinham, 3/21 (with Jeannette).
  • 6 Fish Crows (FOY), Maine Mall Road, 3/22.
  • 6 Brant, Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, 3/22.
  • 7+ American Woodcocks, Pownal, 3/23 (with Jeannette).

And in case you missed it, I was one of the guests on Thursday’s Maine Calling, talking about spring migration, bird feeding, and bird health. You can listen to the replay of the episode here.

And finally, our spring tour season gets kicked off next Saturday with our annual “Woodcocks Gone Wild!” See the Tours page of our website for more info.

2021 Monhegan Fall Migration Weekend Tour Report.

This Blue Grosbeak was among the highlights of an incredible weekend on the island.

“It was like the good ol’ days!” When every other bird you saw was a rare one, and you barely walked 10 steps before finding more birds.  But this was not what we were expecting, and the weekend sure didn’t start out that way!

After a very rough boat ride, we were still putting ourselves back together when one birder said “Go back, there are no birds here.”  Apparently, it had been a dreadfully slow week of little migration, but at least nice weather. This weekend, the weather wasn’t supposed to be very nice. So without many birds on the island, and quite a bit of rain on the way, were less enthused about arriving than usual…well, that might have had something to do with the boat ride.

And I am not sure if it helped that one of the first birds I looked at was a rare hybrid Herring X Great Black-backed Gull.  I am not sure if anyone was ready to take in gull hybrids yet.  Even more when we feared that this could be our best bird of the trip if the pattern held.

And sure enough, it was a very slow afternoon. But we did have good luck. We found a Sora that walked out into an open patch of mud, quickly caught up with the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that has been hanging around, and after lunch immediately found the Least Sandpiper and Spotted Sandpiper at Lobster Cove that have been playing hard to get all week. There was also a good Northern Gannet show, which is always a treat. So at least we were seeing what was around, which sadly, really was not very much.  But hey, it still hadn’t rained!

Least and Spotted Sandpipers – shorebirds are few and far between on the island.

A period of rain, heavy at times, fell overnight, but the band was much narrower and less heavy than forecast. It did not rain all night, and it even appeared that a light flight of migrants had developed on the radar after midnight. And sure enough, come dawn, there was a light Morning Flight overhead. It was mostly Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers, but hey, there were new birds around!  And once, again, it was not raining.

A fly-over Dickcissel or two, a calling Gray-cheeked Thrush, and more. Birds!  Yay!

Then, after breakfast, I went to spread some seed in my favorite corner to attract some birds for the group to enjoy this morning.  Turning the corner near the famous “Chat Bridge” a shockingly bright flash of the most intense yellow you can imagine. And blue wings, and a flash of white in the tail. Prothonotary Warbler I exclaimed to no one around.

I raced back towards the group meeting point and sent them on their way. Kristen Lindquist took off running.  I eventually made it back with the rest of the group and we divided to conquer. Kristen and about half the group spotted it repeatedly, while it remained tantalizingly out of view from where I and others were standing. 

As other birders converged, a classic “Patagonia Picnic Table Effect” occurred. First, there were two Dickcissels, then I spotted a Yellow-breasted Chat making a short flight over the brush. While searching for that, Ilsa spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that would sit still, preening, for well over and hour.  It might have been the most cooperative cuckoo ever on the island!  Another group had a brief look at a Clay-colored Sparrow.

Unfortunately, the Prothonotary Warbler was never seen again.

Yellow-billed Cuckoos don’t usually sit this still for this long. This bird was likely exhausted
after just arriving on the island.
In case you didn’t see it’s yellow bill.

It was already a pretty amazing day for one that we thought would be a wash-out. And it was still not raining.  After our lunch break, we convened at the Monhegan House at 1:30, and spent the next hour and a half on its lawn, and going no where else.

One Dickcissel became two, and then four, and when the group finally took off together, we were shocked to confirm a genuine flock of 8 Dickcissels – exceptional, even for Monhegan. And there were not one, but two Clay-colored Sparrows!  And other birds just kept arriving, as standing in one spot saw our list quickly grow: American Redstart, Brown Creeper, Warbling Vireo, etc, etc. One “Western” Palm Warbler became 4, a couple of Cape May Warblers paid us a visit, a Savannah Sparrow dropped in…

It was truly incredible! It felt like my first tours here 15 years ago. By now, a light shower was falling, but we didn’t seem to care. We finally pulled ourselves away as the action waned, wanting to see what the next hot corner would offer.  After spotting at least 8 Baltimore Orioles along Pumphouse Road, the rain finally arrived in earnest by about 3:30pm. We called it quits, but considering the day we had, no complaints were to be heard.  It was a really special day; one that will not soon be forgotten.

While it was more accurately “180-degree misorientation” and other forms of vagrancy and not “reverse migration” that brought us so many good birds, I brought a special beer out
just in case we had a day like we did today!

Rain fell overnight again, and come dawn on Sunday (Day 3), dense fog had rolled in.  There were a few Yellow-rumped Warblers overhead, especially during a short respite from the fog, but there were not nearly as many birds around as the day before. But, with fog overnight, we expected birds who were on the island to stay, which was good, because yesterday was awesome and there were still a few birds we had not yet encountered.

It might be a while before they are “countable” again, but the Ring-necked Pheasant population
seems to be booming in town.

We delayed the start of the after-breakfast walk to let a batch of heavier rain clear through. We were stuck in such an odd fall weather pattern, with virtually no west-east progression of weather systems. But we had been so lucky with the timing of the rainfall so far, that a little delay was of no concern.  Regrouping at 10:00, light showers gave way to just some lingering drizzle by 11, and it soon became apparent that there were new birds around.  We had two Prairie Warblers, a Scarlet Tanager joining the growing flock of Baltimore Orioles, and a Blue-winged Teal joined a Green-winged Teal in the marsh.  Two Cliff Swallows and a Barn Swallow foraged over Manana, and we had our second Yellow-breasted Chat of the trip – this one in the Island Farm garden on Pumphouse Road. And another Clay-colored Sparrow?

There was a really impressive number of Baltimore Orioles on the island over the weekend.

Pockets of Yellow-rumped Warblers here and there often contained another warbler species or two, and we had good looks at stuff all morning, even often-challenging birds to see with a group like Lincoln’s Sparrows. 

And after lunch, the sun was out!  We had the Lesser Black-backed Gull again, more looks at Clay-colored Sparrows, and finally the immature male Blue Grosbeak showed up for us, and show it did!

It wasn’t as birdy once the sun was out, but a light raptor flight, including at least 6 Peregrine Falcons helped make up for it.

On Monday, our last day of the tour, it appeared that little moved overnight on a light southwesterly flow aloft. But that had our daydreams going for rarities from our west and southwest.  And sure enough, while some of us were dallying over breakfast, a Western Kingbird that Kristen Lindquist found earlier flew right over us at the Yew and alighted nearby!

After breakfast, we “cleaned it up” for the group when we relocated it at the cemetery, affording great looks for all.  A slower day finally gave us an opportunity to head into the deeper woods. And while we expected fewer birds in the island’s interior, a couple of mixed-species foraging flocks finally put Red-breasted Nuthatch on the list, and we found the first Pine Warbler of the weekend. 

“Look at my tail!” Just in case anyone had hopes of stringing it into a rarer western Tyrannus.

Jeannette joined us by lunchtime, and after lunch, we had a frustratingly brief glimpse of the original Yellow-breasted Chat, along with more great looks at Clay-colored Sparrows. 

The tour came to a close with the 3:15 departure back to New Harbor, bringing our incredible four days together to the always-bittersweet end. 

Jeannette and I birded the rest of the afternoon together, picking up a few things, like my first “Yellow” Palm Warblers of the weekend and a Solitary Sandpiper.  Our walk to dinner yielded a second Pine Warbler, and at the harbor: a juvenile Ring-billed Gull (actually fairly rare out here in the early fall) and another view of the lingering Lesser Black-backed Gull.

On Tuesday, Jeannette and I enjoyed our day off on the island, and Kristen Lindquist joined us for most of the day.  A diminishing light southwest wind overnight gave way to a little bit of northwesterly winds by dawn, but it didn’t appear that much had arrived on the island overnight.

At least two, if not three, different Prairie Warblers were around the island.
Getting late, a few American Redstarts helped bump up our impressive warbler tally.

However, we soon located a Lark Sparrow found yesterday by Bryan Pfeiffer, the immature male Blue Grosbeak paid us a visit, and we heard the Sora briefly.  We then found an Orange-crowned Warbler out past the Ice Pond, my 20th warbler species of the weekend! Unfortunately, we were sans cameras with a little light rain falling.

This Scarlet Tanager was often cooperative at the grape arbor.
As per tradition with this tour report: at least one gratuitous “food porn” photo. Here’s the colorful and fresh avocado toast from the Trailing Yew.
And here’s one of the island’s resident Black-capped Chickadees…just because.

After lunch, we were excited to find two Lark Sparrows sitting next to each other at the cul-de-sac, there were now two Ring-billed Gulls in the harbor, and yes, there were still at least 4 Clay-colored Sparrows and several Dickcissels around! 

Just for a change of pace, we decided to walk the diffuse trail along the island’s southwestern end, but were soon distracted by something large in the water in the distance.  Retrieving my scope, it was clear that it was indeed a dead whale, and eventually it floated close enough to identify it as a dead (and rather bloated) Minke Whale.  A handful of gulls were around it, and briefly, a quick pass by a jaeger that was too far to claim the identity of.  It was a fascinating, if not rather sad, end to our visit as by now it was time for Jeannette and I to head to the dock to return to the real world.

A much more pleasant boat ride back, this time to Port Clyde yielded a number of Common Loons and plenty of Northern Gannets, and a surprise of a small pod of Atlantic White-sided Dolphins.  I’m not sure if I have seen this pelagic species from a Monhegan ferry before, or this close to land at all.

And finally, one last “good” bird: a pair of truant American Oystercatchers on Dry Ledges (off of Allen Island)! Interestingly, we had a pair on the same exact ledge on our way back from the island on October 5th of last year.

At least 8 Dickcissels, at least 4 Clay-colored Sparrows, 2 Lark Sparrows, and an Orange-crowned Warbler from the Midwest. A Western Kingbird from the West.  A Prothonotary Warbler, 2 Yellow-breasted Chats, and a Blue Grosbeak from the South.  105 total species (102 with the tour) including 20 species of warblers.  Yeah, that was a good trip  – and the stuff that Monhegan legends are made of, at least sans fallout.

Four of a flock that grew to an impressive 8 Dickcissels, often found in the swale behind the
Monhegan House throughout the weekend.

And finally, here is our birdlist from the extraordinary weekend:

9/24 = * denotes ferry ride only
9/27 = * with just Jeannette
9/28 = with Jeannette; *denotes ferry ride only
24-Sep25-Sep26-Sep27-Sep28-Sep
American Black Duck00111
Mallard310262424
Mallard x American Black Duck Hybrid00011
Green-winged Teal0101*0
Blue-winged Teal0101*0
Common Eiderxxxxx
Ring-necked Pheasant613121610
Mourning Dove622301518
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO01000
unidentified cuckoo00010
Common Nighthawk00000
Sora10001
Semipalmated Plover01000
Least Sandpiper10201
American Woodcock10000
Spotted Sandpiper10100
Unidentified jaeger00001
Solitary Sandpiper0001*0
Black Guillemot23103
Laughing Gull1*0003
Ring-billed Gull0001*2
Herring Gullxxxxx
LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL1011*0
Great Black-backed Gullxxxxx
GREAT BLACK-BACKED X HERRING HYBRID1000
Common Loon1*0006*
Northern Gannet2002043
Double-crested Cormorantxxxxx
Great Cormorant03311*
Great Blue Heron01103
Bald Eagle2*111*1
Sharp-shinned Hawk00021
Belted Kingfisher00111
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker04382
Downy Woodpecker00143
Northern Flicker4541010
Merlin00486
Peregrine Falcon00686
WESTERN KINGBIRD00010
Eastern Phoebe00011
Blue-headed Vireo00010
Warbling Vireo01000
Red-eyed Vireo01081210
Blue Jay61881618
American Crow46xxx
Common Raven22022
Black-capped Chickadeexxxxx
CLIFF SWALLOW00200
Barn Swallow00100
Golden-crowned Kinglet044158
Ruby-crowned Kinglet02034
Cedar Waxwing3048406050
Red-breasted Nuthatch00003
White-breasted Nuthatch00022
Brown Creeper02111
House Wren01101
Carolina Wren04478
Gray Catbirdxxxxx
Brown Thrasher02000
European Starling1818181818
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH01000
Swainson’s Thrush04111
American Robin03034
American Pipit00010
Purple Finch01000
LARK SPARROW00002
American Goldfinch210413
Chipping Sparrow086108
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW024414
Dark-eyed Junco00021
White-crowned Sparrow00010
White-throated Sparrow21061510
Savannah Sparrow03301
Song Sparrowxxxxx
Lincoln’s Sparrow01315
Swamp Sparrow00212
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT01110
Bobolink06050
Rusty Blackbird02010
Common Grackle06964
Brown-headed Cowbird01000
Baltimore Oriole08151612
Northern Waterthrush10421
Black-and-white Warbler00110
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER01000
Tennessee Warbler10000
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER00001
Nashville Warbler03224
American Redstart01202
Common Yellowthroat26544
Cape May Warbler13002
Northern Parula05433
Magnolia Warbler01210
Yellow Warbler05432
Blackpoll Warbler1158106
Black-throated Blue Warbler00010
Palm Warbler0441410
PINE WARBLER00023
Yellow-rumped Warbler306075300150
Prairie Warbler0022*1
Black-throated Green Warbler03345
Wilson’s Warbler01221
Scarlet Tanager00210
Northern Cardinal410886
Rose-breasted Grosbeak04443
BLUE GROSBEAK00101
Indigo Bunting00044
DICKCISSEL08754
Day Total3465667477
Warbler day total513141515
4-Day Tour total=102
Plus with Jeannette after the group =3
Total warblers =20

Exceptional Morning Flight at Sandy Point, 9/29/2021

The carnage of this morning’s Morning Flight.

I don’t usually post my Sandy Point Morning Flight totals here, but today was more than worthy of a little something extra.  After 8 nights with little or virtually migration (well, at least not a big flight on ideal winds), clearing skies and a light northwesterly breeze finally opened the floodgates.  Here are the 1:00am reflectivity and velocity images, for example.

I am sure Monhegan – where I just spent 5 glorious days (despite the lack of a huge flight; more on that soon!) – was great, Sandy Point was just outstanding.  In fact, it was my 3rd highest all-time flight!

Early on, clouds made everything into little black shapes as the intense flight proceeded at all levels. Wind, a cacophony of kinglets ringing in my ears, and the two loudest and most vociferous Tufted Titmice who just stayed screaming in the magic birch all conspired to further reduce my ability to identify birds. But mostly, waves of dozens at a time were simply clicked as “unidentified” as I tried to keep pace with quantifying the flight. Furthermore, there were at least 3-4 hunting Merling, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a Peregrine Falcon, which added to the swirling chaos. It was a challenge, that’s for sure. “I do this for fun?” I asked Matthew.

Here’s the scorecard from the Morning Flight of birds that passed over and through Sandy Point, Cousin’s Island, Yarmouth this am:

6:34-11:00am

50F, mostly cloudy NW 7.9-10.0 becoming mostly sunny, NW 10.9-12.5mph.

2,012 unidentified – *3rd highest

1,335 Yellow-rumped Warblers– *New Record High

445 Northern Parulas

324 unidentified kinglets

230 Cedar Waxwings

148 Golden-crowned Kinglets

139 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers – *New record

109 Northern Flickers

108 Dark-eyed Juncos

92 Ruby-crowned Kinglets

77 Blackpoll Warblers

75 Black-throated Green Warblers

56 Palm Warblers

39 White-throated Sparrows

33 Black-throated Blue Warblers – *3rd highest.

33 American Robins

28 Rusty Blackbirds – *2nd highest

25 Red-eyed Vireos

22 Eastern Phoebes – *2nd highest

20 Blue-headed Vireos

20 Nashville Warblers  – *2nd highest

17 Chipping Sparrows

16 American Redstarts

13 Magnolia Warblers

12 Blue Jays

8 Black-capped Chickadees

6 Common Loons

5 Black-and-white Warblers

5 Sharp-shinned Hawks

4 unidentified blackbirds

3 Cape May Warblers

3 Swainson’s Thrushes  – including two observed crossing.

3 Tufted Titmice

2 Scarlet Tanagers

2 unidentified vireos

2 Yellow Warblers

2 Red-breasted Nuthatches

2 Tennessee Warblers

2 American Goldfinches

1 Chestnut-sided Warbler

1 Pine Warbler

1 White-crowned Sparrow

1 Broad-winged Hawk

1 White-breasted Nuthatch

1 Hermit Thrush

1 unidentified Catharus

1 Red-bellied Woodpecker

1 Osprey

X Common Yellowthroats

1 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO – my 7th all-time here. Made 4 “false starts” before crossing at 10:04am.

Cuckoos are such shape-shifters in flight that I feel like I could have counted each pass from the one bird as a different species each time it passed!

For a grand total of 5,487 birds, my *3rd highest all-time count.  So yes indeed, birds have very much been backed up.

Meanwhile, adding to the excitement (and chaos) this morning was a massive feeding frenzy of Double-crested Cormorants and gulls. While I am sure a few migrants snuck by overhead, I couldn’t help but take a few moments to enjoy it…and make sure there were no rarities among the gulls!   15-20 Laughing Gulls and 4 Bonaparte’s Gulls joined 75-100 Ring-billed Gulls in snatching the baitfish that the Double-crested Cormorants had pushed right up onto the sandbar as it slowly emerged from the tide.  It was quite a show!