Tag Archives: SnowBirder Contest

The 2015-16 Winter SnowBird(er) Contest is Underway!

L1010480_RECR1_immMale,CousinsIsland,3-28-14_edited-1A group of Red Crossbills on Cousin’s Island that landed at our feet was just one of the highlights during the 2014-15 Winter SnowBird(er) Contest.

It’s December, and you know what that means! It’s time for the SnowBird(er) Contest here at Freeport Wild Bird Supply!

We are very excited to announce the start of the 7th annual “Winter SnowBird(er) Contest,” which was introduced as a way to encourage people to get outdoors in the depths of winter.  Just because it’s cold out does not mean there aren’t a lot of great birds to see!  While we offer free Saturday morning birdwalks throughout the year, it is much easier to entice people to participate in May when warblers are around, or July when it is nice and warm out.

Therefore, to get more birders out and interested in the great winter birding our area offers, we have added an extra incentive: prizes!  Participants accumulate points based on the temperature at the start of the birdwalk – the colder the morning, the more points are awarded.  The contest runs December 5th through March 26th, and at the end of the period, over $250 in prizes will be awarded!

Winter birding can be a lot of fun.  It is prime season to see seaducks, such as Common and Red-throated Loons, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and scoters.  The southernmost wintering flock of Barrow’s Goldeneyes on the East Coast resides in the lower Harraseeket River in South Freeport, and we frequently visit Winslow Park and the Freeport Town Wharf to enjoy this beautiful duck.
female BAGO with imm COGO1, East Machias River, 2-13-12_edited-1
Barrow’s (center) and Common Goldeneyes side-by-side is another highlight of winter birding in the area.

We’ll look for Northern Shrikes, enjoy our year-round woodland residents, and who knows what else? Last year, we spotted everything from a vagrant Townsend’s Solitaire to Red Crossbills literally at our feet. And, if this winter turns out to be another “irruption” year (and there is a good suggestion that for many species, it will be), we may find Snowy Owls, Common Redpolls, both crossbills, and much more!

Droll Yankees logoThe person with the most points at the end of March wins this year’s Grand Prize: a B7 Domed Caged Feeder complements of DROLL YANKEES. Large capacity, Gray Squirrel-resistant, pigeon-proof, and sheltered from the weather, this great feeder solves feeding station problems. Like all of Droll’s products, it is made in the USA and has a Lifetime Guarantee.

Royal River Massage logoThe runner-up will receive a one-hour massage from ROYAL RIVER MASSAGE in Yarmouth. Relieve “warbler neck” and other aches and pains in a 60 Minute Therapeutic Massage! It’ll be a great way to recover from the winter season of shoveling snow.

Laughing Stock Farm logoAnd, finally, the third place finisher will receive 2 weekly organic vegetable pickups (“medium” shares) at LAUGHING STOCK FARM CSA in Freeport. A selection of veggies will be available on each of two pick-up dates in April.  We’ve been members of the farm’s CSA for 10 years and love having fresh, organic, and local vegetables all year long.

Betsey Puckett, President at Droll Yankees was excited to provide the Grand Prize for the second year in a row, “Kudos…for providing a challenging and educational event. But then again, you Mainers are known for your endurance.”

There are some mornings in mid-winter that can make it tough to get out of bed, so we hope to add a little extra motivation. The real prize of course, is the birding our area offers in the depths of winter.

For a recap of what we have been seeing on our recent birdwalks, you can always visit the News page of our website to see what you are missing. And with 240 species seen in the 11 years of free Saturday Morning Birdwalks, you have been missing a whole lot!

So join us on a Saturday this winter to see how fun winter birding can be, and start accumulating points! Birdwalks meet at the store at 8:00am for a short carpool to a local site, rarely more than 10-15 minutes away. We return to the store between 10 and 10:30 for free shade-grown, organic, bird-friendly coffee and a look at what’s hanging out at our feeders.  The birdwalks are free and do not require advance registration.  Hope to see you soon!

SNOW,Brunswick_Landing_birdwalk,1-31-15_edited-1
This Snowy Owl in Brunswick during last winter’s birdwalk was the 237th species ever seen on a Saturday Morning Birdwalk

Rarity Season Ain’t Over Yet..and Fun Store News and Contest Stuff

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” – Yogi Berra

Before we get to my birding of recent days, a couple of quick orders of business. First of all, tonight is our “After Hours Sale” here at the store.  This is our biggest sale of the year.  From 6:00 to 8:00 tonight only, everything in the store (with the usual exception of seed, optics, and sale items) is 25% OFF!  And we’ll have treats, coffee, and other refreshments to fuel your shopping

Then rest up and be sure to join us on Saturday morning for our usual Saturday Morning Birdwalk (meets at the store at 8:00am for a carpool to a local park.  We’ll return for coffee and feeder-watching between 10 and 10:30).  While I would, of course, love to see you all year long, you don’t want to miss tomorrow (or any of the next 17 weeks) as it’s the start of the Fifth Annual “SnowBird(er) Contest,” where we’ll award points to birdwalk participants based on how cold it is.  The top three birders at the end of March will receive some great prizes!

GRAND PRIZE: MAINE BIRDS by RALPH PALMER!
The classic tome from 1948 is still a valuable reference for students of the birds of Maine. This excellent condition copy is valued at over $75. It’s great for comparing status and distribution from then to now, and for collectors of birding books.

2ND PRIZE: BACKYARD BIRDHOUSE from Coveside Conservation in Casco. Perfect for everything from House Wrens to White-breasted Nuthatches, this house is perfect for any yard and made from New England White Pine.

3RD PRIZE: $25 GIFT CERTIFICATE to EDNA & LUCY’S in Pownal – Enjoy a great sandwich, award-winning donuts, and more. Perfect for your next trip up to the Bradbury Mtn. Hawkwatch!

Visit our website for more information and how the game is played. 

OK, back to birding….

In my blog a few weeks ago in which I summarized the Rarity Season through the middle of November, I suggested that it was unlikely that many rare passerines will turn up away from feeding stations.  However, the possibility of strays “concentrat(ing) along the coast as they seek out more favorable microclimates or seasonal food sources,” still seemed like a cause for hope.  And sure enough, yesterday, I found female Hooded Warbler in the Biddeford Pool neighborhood – a wicked good December bird anywhere in the US!

Unseasonable rarities like this really fascinate me.  How did it get here?  Had it flown the wrong way during the usual period of Hooded Warbler migration and only now was detected as it moved towards the coast to escape the recent cold?  How long has it been present – maybe it’s been in these thickets for months and only now did someone walk by the right place at the right time? (Based on how thoroughly I, and a few others, work this area in November, I find this scenario a little less likely)  Or perhaps, it was a mirror-migrant afterall that flew north instead of south from its usual range in the Southeastern US.  Instead of ending up in Central America, it ended up somewhere in the interior of southern New England.  Then, the recent cold “encouraged” the bird to move on.  But “mis-wired” somehow, it just kept flying the wrong way.  I always wonder why so many birders assume that once birds have made a mistake (i.e. flown north instead of south), they’ll magically figure things out and do the “right” thing the next time.  Of course, who really knows?  But it’s a fun thing to ponder (well, it is to me anyway).

Of course, I was only down at the Pool to look for Snowy Owls.  In that same blog, I wondered if we were seeing the first signs of an irruption.  My goodness, were we ever, and so far, it is HUGE!  There have been dozens up and down the Maine coast.  Jeannette had an amazing TEN in and around Biddeford Pool on Tuesday.  Not only are they widespread, but they are in unusual concentrations.  I “only” found four yesterday, but some of my time was spent walking a mile back for the camera (it was raining and my shoulder was aching when I departed the car) and then not refinding the warbler.
DSC_0157_SNOW,Hatties,12-5-13

This particular bird, that Jeannette also photographed on Tuesday, has made a temporary home for itself in the marsh behind Hattie’s.

While it is unlikely that this density of Snowy Owls will continue, we’ll certainly enjoy it while we can.  Some will head further south, and unfortunately, no small number will succumb to starvation (the reason they’re here in the first place – and with up to 80% of raptors dying in their first winter, it’s no surprise that most of these birds will not make it back to the tundra).  I also wonder if these recent very high tides (astronomical high tide plus a deep low pressure system well offshore) will flood the marshes too much.  In such cases, many rodents (especially voles) will drown as they run out of high ground.  That’s a natural occurrence, but if there are few voles in the marshes, that will be a lot less food for hungry owls.

Meanwhile, in that aforementioned blog I also postulated about the potential of finally getting a good goose in the “Greater Yarmouth Goose Fields,” despite the late date.  Finally!  Although my high count of Canada Geese was only 434 birds (on Wednesday), they were punctuated by an adult Greater White-fronted Goose, in the field off of Cross and Winn Road in Cumberland – the first rarity of the season in the fields.  My stubborn perseverance finally paid off.  Today, I improved upon my photos, and I posted a couple here.

I also had a Gray Catbird at Biddeford Pool yesterday, along with the Hermit Thrush that Jeannette found on Tuesday.  I also had a Winter Wren near the store while walking Sasha on Wednesday afternoon and a Northern Flicker fly over the highway in South Portland yesterday. So there are still some “lingering” migrants around.  Meanwhile, with another increase in seaducks offshore (250+ Black Scoters off of East   Point for example), things are picking up along the coast.

Oh yeah, and there are Snowy Owls everywhere!  In other words, go birding…well, after you visit us at the store, that is!