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).
So much for the mythological “summer birding doldrums.” They never really existed, but between climate change, land use changes, and better birding communication, they certainly don’t exist now. Several rarities headlined the week, along with the first wave of southbound (fall!) shorebird migration. My highlights of note over the past seven days included the following:
1 adult Black Tern, Pine Point, Scarborough, 7/2 (early migrant/post- or failed-breeding dispersal. With client from North Carolina). N. Gibb had two that afternoon, and one bird continued through 7/8 (with Buffalo Ornithological Society)
“Fall” migration is definitely underway, with the vanguard of southbound shorebirds now arriving. A good diversity for the date in Scarborough Marsh on 7/2 included 9 Black-bellied Plovers, 7 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Short-billed Dowitchers (first of fall), and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs (FOF). (With client from North Carolina).
1 HENSLOW’S SPARROW, Crystal Springs Farm at intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Casco/Church St, Brunswick, 7/6. Found on 7/5 by Gordon Smith. Observed from 6:25am through 8:15am, singing nearly constantly. Video (better than the photo above) at: https://fb.watch/e5wtcTjSrV/
4-5 Red Crossbills and 4 Short-billed Dowitchers, Reid State Park, Georgetown, 7/7.
1 continuing BLACK-NECKED STILT, salt pannes on north end of Scarborough Marsh from US Rte 1, Scarborough, 7/8 (with Buffalo Ornithological Society).
1 continuing proposed TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X LITTLE EGRET hybrid, Eastern Road Trail, Scarborough Marsh, 7/8 (with Buffalo Ornithological Society). *Hybrid combo as proposed in: Lovitch, Derek J. 2022. Photo Salon: Hybrid Herons of Maine. North American Birds 72 (2): 28-40.
Migrant shorebird migrant totals from Scarborough Marsh on 7/8 (with Buffalo Ornithological Society): 100+ Least Sandpipers, 19 Short-billed Dowitchers, 8 Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Greater Yellowlegs, and 4 Black-bellied Plovers.
My observations of note over the past eight days included the following:
Rangeley Birding Festival, June 10-12. Cameron Cox and I led a total of four tours, and while none of them expected to find “boreal specialties,” our group did hear 2+ CANADA JAYS at Hunter Cove Preserve on 6/13. Otherwise, we mostly basked in the glow of Blackburnian Warblers and other area denizens, like the above Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Proposed* TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X LITTLE EGRET(S) in Scarborough Marsh, 6/16 (with Ted Floyd and Hannah Floyd). The saga continues! Although I have spent dreadfully little time in the marsh this summer, reviewing photographs has led me to consider that there are now two of this proposed three-way combination – one distinctly whiter (especially on the wings) than the other. On the 16th, we observed both birds distantly (darker bird off Eastern Road, whiter bird at Pelreco Marsh). In both cases they were very far and even phone-scoped photos were worthless due to heat shimmer. If you have great photos of birds from this year, I would love to see them!
*Hybrid combo as proposed in:
Lovitch, Derek J. 2022. Photo Salon: Hybrid Herons of Maine. North American Birds 72 (2): 28-40.
The Blizzard of 2022 provided some great opportunities for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing locally for the first time this winter, so I took full advantage of that, even if it did further limit my dedicated birding during this busy week plus. Interestingly, my most “serious” birding was a half day (post-snowblowing and shoveling) on Sunday searching Portland through Cape Elizabeth for storm-related birds, but that effort turned up nothing at all of note! Here are my observations of note over the past 9 days:
5 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, 2 COMMON REDPOLLS (FOY), 6 Pine Siskins (FOY), and 1 Purple Finch, Long Falls Dam Road area of Carrying Place Township, 1/31 (with Jeannette).
The Androscoggin River between the downtowns of Lewiston and Auburn remain a surprisingly productive mid-winter hotspot. On 2/1, Jeannette and I discovered an incredible (especially for the interior of Maine) five species of dabblers from the Auburn Riverwalk! Amongst the Mallards and a couple of American Black Ducks, there were single female GREEN-WINGED TEAL, AMERICAN WIGEON, and NORTHERN PINTAIL. Making this even more interesting is the fact that it’s usually the drakes that we find overwintering in Maine. Additionally, the drake RING-NECKED DUCK continues, and we had a single 1st-winter Iceland Gull. Two Bufflehead and 5 Hooded Mergansers joined the usual Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers for a goodly inland total of 10 species of waterfowl. A unusually conspicuous Beaver continues to amuse here as well.
3 drake and 1 hen BARROW’S GOLDENEYES and 8 Dunlin (FOW here), Winslow Park, Freeport, 2/13.
My article – a 13-page photo salon – on the Hybrid Herons of Scarborough Marsh (Patches!) has finally been published in the most recent issue of North American Birds. In it, I lay out the theory that at least 5 different individuals have been seen in Scarborough Marsh since I first found an odd juvenile heron in July of 2012 that we now believe is a hybrid between a Snowy Egret and a Tricolored Heron.
I made the case that the two current birds are backcrosses, one with a Snowy Egret (SNEG X TRHE X SNEG) and the other with a Little Egret (SNEG X TRHE X LIEG). I’ll be watching them carefully for the potential of a developing hybrid swarm.
Unfortunately, at this time, the journal is only available online to members of the ABA. However, digital e-memberships (with access to all of the ABA publications) are only $30 a year, and you can purchase issues of the magazine directly from the ABA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you wanted to take a peek at the article, I do have a couple of extra copies here at the store for you to peruse.
Believe it or not, a hybrid heron is much rarer than a Steller’s Sea-Eagle, at least from a world perspective…in fact, it’s possible these birds are one of a kind!
My observations of note over the past fourteen days included the following:
Rare mid-summer SCOTER hat-trick with 4 Black, 2 White-winged, and 1 Surf, Simpson’s Point, Brunswick, 7/3.
4 Greater and 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, Wharton Point, Brunswick, 7/3.
Seawatching from Eastern Point, Gloucester, MA on 7/8 during Tropical Storm Elsa (with family): In about 2 hours where fog lifted enough to see, Great Shearwaters were passing at an average of 199 per 5-minute segment and Sooty Shearwaters were passing at an average of 314 per 5-minute segment. Plus 2 MANX SHEARWATERS, 1 unidentified JAEGER, and 1 Cory’s Shearwater.
My observations of note over the past eight days included the following:
1 immature male/ female pair of ORCHARD ORIOLES, Green Point WMA, 6/21 (with Jeannette). Clearly paired up but no breeding behaviors noted.
1 immature male ORCHARD ORIOLE, 1 Yellow-throated Vireo (probably my first here), and 1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Fort Foster, Kittery, 6/22.
141 immature Bonaparte’s Gulls, Fort Foster, 6/22. The largest number of Bonies in the summer that I have seen in the south coast in a number of years.
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Seapoint Beach, Kittery, 6/22.
1 continuing SNOWY OWL, 6/25: Observed (with clients from AZ) from the Colony Beach parking lot in Kennebunkport, looking across the river to a house behind Gooch’s Beach, Kennebunk (new location; photos above).
1 out of place male American Kestrel, atop a cell phone tower in downtown Biddeford from Palace Diner, 6/25 (with clients from AZ).
1 continuing proposed TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X LITTLE EGRET HYBRID, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 6/25 (with clients from AZ).
One of the highlights for me this week, however, was non-bird: 20+ Gray Seals feeding very close to Fort Popham in Phippsburg on 6/20 (with client from CT). While Harbor Seals are frequent here in the summer, I don’t recall seeing so many Grays inshore in this or other nearby areas.
My highlights over the past seven days included the following:
2 Red Crossbills, feeding on Scots Pine here at the store, 5/1.
1 continuing PROPOSED TRICOLORED HERON X SNOWY EGRET X LITTLE EGRET hybrid, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 5/2 (with clients from Maine. Full explanation in an upcoming article in North American Birds slated to be published this fall).
10 species of warblers (FOY; finally!) led by only 9 Pine Warblers and 7 Black-and-white Warblers but including 1 LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, Morgan Meadow WMA, Raymond, 5/7.
1 Evening Grosbeak, Morgan Meadow WMA, 5/7.
As the Neotropical migrant floodgates open, my personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals included: