January 20, 2013

Birding: Christmas count delights from around the state

By Herb Wilson

This column is the second of three in which I will describe some notable sightings of Maine Christmas Bird Counts. We'll take a tour around inland portions of the state this week. The next column will cover some coastal and off-shore counts.

The Lewiston-Auburn CBC on Dec. 22 produced a nice mixture of lingering species and winter visitors from the north. Enough water was open to provide habitat for 80 lesser scaup, five common loons, a pied-billed grebe, two horned grebes and a great cormorant. Half-hardy species included 16 Eastern bluebirds, nine Northern mockingbirds and 39 American robins.

Winter visitors included a peregrine falcon, a Northern shrike, 75 bohemian waxwings (along with 26 cedar waxwings), 20 pine grosbeaks and 296 common redpolls. The final species tally was 52.

The Unity CBC produced 44 species on Dec. 15. Lingering birds included a great blue heron and two American pipits.  A rough-legged hawk was a treat along with three Northern goshawks.

Winter finches included eight pine grosbeaks, 318 common redpolls, a single pine siskin and nine evening grosbeaks.

Thirty-six species were found on the Farmington CBC, held Dec. 29. Not much open water was available; three common mergansers were the only waterbirds found.

A red-bellied woodpecker was a nice find for this part of the state. The 20 tufted titmice and 19 Northern cardinals were excellent totals for this region. Two Carolina wrens were braving the Maine winter here. Other half-hardy species included nine Eastern bluebirds, a hermit thrush and two white-throated sparrows. 

Irruptive finches included 10 pine grosbeaks, 96 common redpolls and 12 evening grosbeaks.

The Bangor-Bucksport CBC on Dec. 29 provided a marvelous mixture of rare birds, lingering birds and irruptive finches. A feeding station in Winterport produced a Townsend's warbler, a Western species that appears sporadically in the winter in the East. As of this writing, this hardy and perhaps confused warbler is still present. Most Townsend's warblers winter in Mexico or Central America.

A pine warbler also was found on the count; most winter in the Southeastern and Gulf Coast states. A common grackle and Baltimore oriole were also unexpected lingering birds. One common loon was sighted.

A suite of birds has been expanding northward through Maine. Excellent counts of some of these species on this CBC indicate continued expansion of ranges. Bangor counters found three red-bellied woodpeckers, 99 tufted titmice, five Northern mockingbirds and 75 Northern cardinals.

Our state bird seems to be doing well in this area; CBC participants counted 870 black-capped chickadees.

This count had its share of Northern visitors as well: a peregrine falcon, two Northern shrikes, 78 bohemian waxwings, 110 pine grosbeaks and 175 common redpolls.

Let's head up to Aroostook Count for a couple of CBCs. These counts had a distinctly Northern flavor.

The Presque Isle CBC yielded a nice list of 35 species. Two unexpected lingering birds were a brown thrasher and a Savannah sparrow. 

A common pattern in the northern part of our state is that common ravens outnumber American crows. Final score on this count: ravens 192, crows 138. A gray jay was not unexpected but always a delight to see. The open fields of eastern Aroostook County are always good for ground-living passerines. The nice count of 242 snow buntings was not surprising.

Irruptive finches included four red crossbills, 615 common redpolls and 30 evening grosbeaks.

Farther north, the Caribou CBC produced 30 species on Dec. 29. No lingering birds were found here. Two Northern cardinals were nice finds. Highlights were a black-backed woodpecker, a Northern shrike, 935 common redpolls, one hoary redpoll, 68 pine grosbeaks and 17 evening grosbeaks. Like the Presque Isle CBC, this CBC produced more common ravens than American crows.

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

whwilson@colby.edu

 

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