Tag Archives: Sage Thrasher

2023 Next Maine Birds Predictions Blog.

OK, so it was technically first seen in 2021, but Steller’s Sea Eagle was the bird of the year. Or was it?  It’s suffice to say, however, that my only photos of it from 2022 were not my photos of the year! Here it is in Georgetown on February 18th.

It’s once again time for my annual Predictions Blog, where I view into my crystal binoculars and attempt to forecast some of the “new” birds to grace the State of Maine – and then my own personal state list – in the coming year.

Well, well, well, what a year of birding 2022 was here in Maine!  Four new species were added to the all-time state list this season, and one of them was a complete shock. Let’s take a look at last year’s prognostications and see how I did. 

Barolo Shearwater was added to the state list based on a 2021 photo by Doug Gochfeld from well offshore in the Northeast Channel, according to the Maine Bird Records Committee.  That was #21 on my predictions list for Maine’s next birds.

A Masked Booby (on my honorable mentions list) at Mount Desert Rock in August was perhaps a sign of things to come – it or another may have been photographed off Monhegan in late September. 

Also on my honorable mention list was Broad-tailed Hummingbird that graced a Freeport yard from November 5th through December 23rd.  The details and the full story can be found on my blog, here.  One could make the argument that this should have made the cut, as it has been long-overdue to be identified in New England.

Since the now-world-famous Steller’s Sea Eagle arrived at the tail end of 2021, it was not technically a new record in 2022. However, just about everyone saw it for the first time this year, and 2022 was definitely the year of the Steller’s Sea Eagle.

Shockingly, however, there was some debate about whether or not that was the bird, or even the raptor, of the year! Seriously. Since Steller’s Sea Eagle have bred on the continent and have been seen on several occasions in Alaska (and then “our bird” which was seen from Texas to Canada), one could argue that the raptor of the year was actually the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier that was discovered on North Haven on 8/25 and then found the next day at Weskeag Marsh in Thomaston (where it remained for less than 3 days). This was only the second record ever for the entire continent! The same bird resurfaced at the Troy Meadows in northern New Jersey in early November, but this is an incredible bird for North America.  However, I would argue that the worldwide rarity of the Steller’s (only about 4,000 individuals) trumps the marsh-harrier, as it is quite common through much of the Old World. (These are the things birders like to argue about over pints of beer)

And no, the Eurasian Marsh-Harrier was most definitely not on my predictions list!

So with four new records only one of which was on my list, it’s obvious that predicting vagrancy is getting even more challenging. Climate change, land-use changes, rising and falling populations, perhaps even pesticide contamination or electromagnetic pollution is all conspiring to put odd birds in weird places. And, there are more birders looking, and much better communication. 

While I would love to be “right” about my forecasts, we can now truly expect the unexpected, and one could argue almost any bird capable of flight (or long-distance swimming) could become Maine’s latest big twitch.  But, if only for tradition’s sake, I’ll take a stab at my Next 25 Birds for Maine forecast:

  • 1) Neotropical Cormorant
  • 2) Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • 3) California Gull
  • 4) Spotted Towhee
  • 5) Hammond’s Flycatcher
  • 6) Bermuda Petrel
  • 7) Graylag Goose
  • 8) Little Stint
  • 9) Audubon’s Shearwater
  • 10) Common Shelduck
  • 11) Anna’s Hummingbird
  • 12) “Western” Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran)
  • 13) Common Ground-Dove
  • 14) Allen’s Hummingbird
  • 15) Spotted Redshank
  • 16) Limpkin
  • 17) Ross’s Gull
  • 18) Black-capped Petrel
  • 19) Lesser Nighthawk
  • 20) Elegant Tern
  • 21) Heerman’s Gull
  • 22) Painted Redstart
  • 23) Hooded Oriole
  • 24) Black-tailed Gull
  • 25) Common Scoter

A Black-chinned Hummingbird is overdue for Maine, but unless it’s an adult male with his purple throat in good light, it’s likely going to take banding and measurements to identify (like this year’s Broad-tailed).

I’ve added Heerman’s Gull to the list thanks to a growing number of Eastern Seaboard records – most of which are likely the same individual moving up and down the coast, although it seems like a longshot to make it this far north. Limpkin also debuts after an incredible irruption in 2022 with extralimital records from as far north as Michigan and New York. Was this a one-off due to some drastic change in water or food levels in its limit range in Florida, or is this another sign of the “new normal” of tropical birds venturing northward? To make room, I’ve dropped Kelp Gull out of the Top 25 for now.

Heerman’s Gull, San Diego, CA, August 2011.

Personally, I added an incredible six birds to my own state list this year. I even predicted two of them: The flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Camden that I twitched on 5/2 were #7 on my personal next list, while the flock of White Ibis in the Webhannet Marsh in Wells on 8/11 were #14 on my list. 

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

The Sage Thrasher at Gilsland Farm was the first in line on my honorable mentions list, as it was long overdue for Maine to get it’s second.  Likewise, the two Henslow’s Sparrows in Brunswick (7/6) and the now-famous Freeport Broad-tailed Hummingbird were both on my honorable mentions list, but had not cracked the top 25 just yet.

Sage Thrasher

Henslow’s Sparrow

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Out of the blue was the aforementioned Eurasian Marsh-Harrier, which I happily got to see in Weskeag Marsh on 8/26. As Maine stakes its claim as the Raptor Rarity Capital of North America, I would not have wanted to miss this shocker.

As usual, I missed plenty of rarities too, although I was unable to chase many of them for various reasons (6 for 6 on chases this year is incredible…although it does help make up for all the times I did not see the Steller’s Sea Eagle!). American White Pelican (Grand Isle, 7/5; #1) and Franklin’s Gull (Sabattus Pond, 5/22; #3) are officially nemesis birds now. Other unchaseable potential state birds included Common Gull (Eastport, 2/17-23; honorable mention), Sandwich Tern (Mount Desert Rock, 7/6; honorable mention), and Western Wood-Pewee (banded at Riverpoint, Falmouth, 9/7; honorable mention).

As I approach the 400 species milestone, it’s not getting any easier, although I should hit the mark this year, based on current vagrancy trends!  That’s my first prediction. As for what bird it will be, I believe it will be one of these 25. Although, nowadays, anything seems possible!

  1. American White Pelican
  2. Franklin’s Gull
  3. Neotropic Cormorant
  4. Brown Pelican
  5. California Gull
  6. Brown Booby
  7. Slaty-backed Gull
  8. Boreal Owl
  9. Calliope Hummingbird
  10. Common Ringed Plover
  11. Graylag Goose
  12. Cerulean Warbler
  13. Gull-billed Tern
  14. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  15. Spotted Towhee
  16. Pacific Golden-Plover
  17. Wood Stork
  18. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  19. Brewer’s Blackbird
  20. Yellow Rail
  21. Ross’s Gull
  22. Virginia’s Warbler
  23. Common Shelduck
  24. Common Gull
  25. Heerman’s Gull

Brown Pelican records are increasing in the northeast. It’s just a matter of time for one to fly by me! San Diego, CA, August 2011.

This Week’s Highlights: December 24 – 30, 2022.

This Northern Fulmar graced Gloucester, MA harbor on 12/26. I originally found the bird in a short birding outing on Christmas Day. Details below.

My birding highlights this week were mostly from Christmas in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  I did very little birding, but in short outings, found two great birds!  The first was a NORTHERN FULMAR in Gloucester Harbor, during a short break from eating on Christmas Day. Although not a “rarity” in Massachusetts by any means, having one sit in the harbor was an exceedingly rare occurrence in New England.  I managed some lousy phone-scoped photos while hand-holding my phone to my scope with frozen fingers in 30mph winds.  We returned the next day where Jeannette greatly improved upon my photos (see above). Many birders enjoyed it through the 27th.

But that was trumped by a bona fide state rarity that Jeannette and I found while walking Bonxie on the 26th. This Eared Grebe we found off Niles Beach would be MA’s 20th record I believe. My phone-binned photos while out with the dog were the best we did, but many birders were finding it through week’s end.

We also had a THICK-BILLED MURRE off Niles Beach on the 25th (along with an intriguing distant grebe that was undoubtable the Eared we confirmed the next day) and I had 4 RED CROSSBILLS in the Eastern Point neighborhood on the 26th.

Meanwhile, here in Maine, my observations of note over the past ten days included the following:

2 female Greater Scaup, Yarmouth Harbor, 12/24 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).

1 Common Redpoll (FOS), our yard in Durham, 12/28-29.

1 continuing SAGE THRASHER, Gilsland Farm, Falmouth, 12/29. Great views and a prolonged period of observation with no one else present early in the morning. My photos were a little more distant than I would have liked (and backlit) but the quality time with this incredible rarity – unlike the brief view on my first visit – was most rewarding.

This Week’s Highlights: December 17-23, 2022

This snazzy, fresh adult male Red-winged Blackbird at a feeder in Wells was one of the few highlights in my usually-very-productive “Moody Sector” of the Southern York County CBC.

T’was the week before Christmas and all through Wild Bird Supply, no one was birding much, even this guy.  Nonetheless, I found some great birds when I did get out this week:

  • 1 incredibly late NELSON’S SPARROW, 1 Savannah Sparrow, 1 Northern Flicker, 4 Snow Buntings, etc, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 12/18.  I was unaware that the Portland CBC was being conducted that day, but apparently, the Nelson’s was a first count record! 
  • 1 THICK-BILLED MURRE (FOS), Pine Point, Scarborough, 12/18. Not in great shape; I first saw it on land fighting off a crow on land before eventually waddling into the water.
  • 20-21 continuing AMERICAN COOTS, 2 female GADWALL, 3 Ring-necked Ducks, 1 pair American Wigeon, 1 drake Northern Pintail, etc, Grondin Pond, Scarborough, 12/18.
  • “Moody Sector” of the Southern York County CBC, 12/19: 1538 individuals of 52 species (both quite low for me) with highlights including 4 American Wigeon (very surprisingly only a second count record!), 1 male Red-winged Blackbird, 2 Northern Harrier, and 18 Horned Larks.
  • 1 Great Blue Heron (late for inland) and 1 1st-winted Iceland Gull, Auburn Riverwalk, 12/22.
  • 1 SAGE THRASHER, Gilsland Farm, Falmouth, 12/22. 2nd State Record found earlier in the morning by Doug Hitchcox. I eventually had fantastic looks at it, including in flight, but I was on the wrong side of its favored tree for photographs, so this was the “best” I did!
  • Meanwhile, left off my weekly updates for the past four weeks has been my regular observation of one particular rarity right here in Freeport – Maine’s first ever Broad-tailed Hummingbird!  Here’s the full story.