This column is the second of three describing some highlights of the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs). More than 30 are conducted in Maine, so I can’t cover all of them, but we can detect general patterns of bird abundance. Today, a look at five coastal counts.

I will discuss Bath-Phippsburg in detail because of a mix of lingering species, winter visitors from the north and a genuine rarity. Altogether, participants found 79 birds on Dec. 14.

The rarity was a pink-footed goose, a European species whose closest breeding population is in Greenland.

Other northern visitors included two rough-legged hawks, 15 dunlin, a snowy owl (not surprising in this invasion year), a northern shrike, 15 pine siskins and a Savannah sparrow of the Ipswich race, which breed only on Sable Island off Nova Scotia.

Late December in Maine is still in a transition bird-wise between summer and winter. Despite the northern visitors, look at these summer birds found on the Bath CBC: three belted kingfishers, two yellow-bellied sapsuckers, a northern flicker, eight eastern bluebirds, three hermit thrushes, 11 yellow-rumped warblers (regular wintering birds in this area), a common yellowthroat, two red-winged blackbirds and a brown-headed cowbird.

Throw in a nice count of red-throated loons, common loons, horned grebes, red-necked grebes and four northern gannets to ice the cake.


Not far away, the Brunswick-Freeport CBC on Dec. 29 produced 80 species. Two snowy owls put in an appearance. The nine ruddy turnstones and 33 dunlins were nice totals.

Lingering birds were a northern pintail, a northern flicker, nine Carolina wrens, 46 eastern bluebirds, seven hermit thrushes and a common grackle.

Three northern finches were found: a singleton common redpoll and two pine siskins. The sharp-eyed observers found one Bohemian waxwing among 126 cedar waxwings.

Heading north, the North Penobscot Bay CBC on Dec. 28 yielded 55 species. The Stockton Springs area may be the most reliable place in the state to find ruddy ducks; 59 were found.

Grebe abundance was low – only seven horned grebes and no red-necked grebes. A single red-throated loon was found along with 25 common loons.

More northerly birds included a peregrine falcon, a fox sparrow and 12 purple finches.


The Schoodic Count, held Jan. 1, totaled 52 species. Like the North Penobscot Bay CBC, few lingering birds from the fall were found. A northern harrier and six yellow-rumped warblers were about it.

Highlights included a merlin and three northern shrikes.

The York County CBC on Dec. 16 produced 86 species. Sixteen species of waterfowl were counted. The 68 harlequin ducks were a treat to see.

Shorebird diversity was impressive: 115 purple sandpipers, a ruddy turnstone, 189 sanderlings and a dozen dunlin.

Only two species of alcids were found; razorbills outnumbered the normally more common black guillemots, 18 to 1.

Three snowy owls were found. A single Purple Finch was the only irruptive finch found on the count.


It’s a poor winter for northern finches in Maine.

Three American pipits were nice finds. A clay-colored sparrow and three fox sparrows were also notable.

We expect more lingering summer birds in this most moderate of Maine counts, and the birds did not disappoint on this count. Highlights were three great blue herons, an incredible 113 eastern bluebirds, a couple of hermit thrushes, a Baltimore oriole and 16 brown-headed cowbirds.

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

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