February 2, 2013

Birding: As the birds fly up and be counted

By Herb Wilson

This column is the last of three in which I will describe some of the highlights of Maine Christmas Bird Counts (hereafter, CBCs). We'll travel along the coast today.

The York CBC, held on Dec. 20, is the southernmost of the Maine counts. This count produced 100 species. The species list is a nice list of expected birds, invaders from the north and half-hardy lingering species.

Fourteen species of waterfowl were counted. The York County shore is a stronghold for harlequin ducks in the state and the count of 121 was impressive. Six species of diurnal raptors were counted, including nine Cooper's hawks.

The alcid count was excellent. We expect black guillemots in the winter. Razorbills are hit-or-miss; 123 on this count were a big hit. Great finds for other members of the family were a single Atlantic puffin and common murre. Both of these species tend to winter well offshore.

Irruptive species on this count included one Bohemian waxwing, 32 pine grosbeaks, seven red crossbills, seven white-winged crossbills, 40 common redpolls and 11 pine siskins.

The list and numbers of lingering birds was even more impressive. Counters found three great blue herons, 15 Carolina wrens, three winter wrens, a marsh wren, 106(!) Eastern bluebirds, 543 American robins, 31 northern mockingbirds, 11 American pipits, two yellow-breasted chats, a Savannah sparrow, two red-winged blackbirds and two brown-headed cowbirds. That is an impressive count.

You can see the value of the CBC. This diversity and abundance of lingering birds was unheard of 30 years ago. The data provide a compelling signal of the impacts of climate change as our winters ameliorate.

The Biddeford-Kennebunkport Count (Dec. 30) resulted in a fine count of 89 species. Six species of diurnal raptors included a red-shouldered hawk and a peregrine falcon. The 182 wild turkeys were an all-time high count. Five irruptive finch species were found, including a single evening grosbeak.

Half-hardy species included six belted kingfishers, one northern flicker, five Carolina wrens, one winter wren, five American pipits, two pine warblers, one palm warbler, a fox sparrow and two common grackles.

The Thomaston-Rockland CBC (Dec. 22) ended with a total of 80 species, an excellent count for this part of the state. A Pacific loon was a super find. Two species of falcons graced this count: a merlin and two peregrines.

American coots assemble in this area in the fall until the lakes freeze. The relatively mild December resulted in a nice count of 129 lingering coots. Other lingering birds included 15 ring-necked ducks, three great blue herons, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, four Carolina wrens, four eastern bluebirds, two Savannah sparrows, a gray catbird and a red-winged blackbird.

The North Penobscot Bay CBC (Dec. 28) produced a list of 68 species. This area is reliable for ruddy ducks in the winter; 119 of these ducks cooperated. Oddly, a single cormorant (a double-crested) appeared on this year's count. The two waxwing species were equally represented: eight cedars and eight Bohemians.

A lark sparrow was a genuine rarity, an excellent find. Other highlights were two red-bellied woodpeckers, a northern flicker, two northern shrikes, a gray catbird, two white-crowned sparrows and a red-winged blackbird. The counts of 331 common redpolls and 25 evening grosbeaks were impressive.

Fifty-seven species were found on the Deer Isle CBC (Dec. 29). Highlights included six red-bellied woodpeckers, two tufted titmice and a courageous hermit thrush. The count of 208 common redpolls was impressive.

The Schoodic CBC (Jan. 1) resulted in a count of 48 species. A highlight was a black-bellied plover. Only one American tree sparrow was recorded.

The Moose Island-Jonesport count (Dec. 16) produced a tally of 57 species. Highlights were a Barrow's goldeneye, two belted kingfishers, a yellow-bellied sapsucker and three northern shrikes. Irruptive finches were pretty scarce; pine grosbeaks, white-winged crossbills, common redpolls and pine siskins collectively yielded 41 individuals.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at:

whwilson@colby.edu

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)