This column is the second of two in which I review the highlights of some of the Christmas Bird Counts conducted in late December to early January in Maine. Today’s column will concentrate on coastal counts. We’ll start in York County and work our way downeast to Machias.
The York County count, the southernmost of all the Maine counts, had a nice total of 89 species. With so much open water, coastal sites generally have more waterfowl in the winter than inland sites. That pattern held for York County as 18 species of ducks and geese were tallied. Highlights were a pair of Gadwall and five Green-winged Teal. Canada Geese were abundant with over 1100 counted.
Both Great Cormorants (43) and Double-crested Cormorants (a new high count of 59) were present. For shorebirds, 10 Dunlins joined the more expected Sanderlings and Purple Sandpipers. Other notable sightings were three Dovekies (always a good sighting from shore) and 132 Razorbills. Lingering migratory birds included a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Flicker, a whopping 62 Eastern Bluebirds, a Hermit Thrush, single Orange-crowned, Palm and Yellow-rumped warblers, a Savannah Sparrow and a dozen Common Grackles. Quite a count this year!
The Biddeford-Kennebunkport count produced a list of 80 species. A Cackling Goose was picked out of the 653 Canada Geese seen. The nine Harlequin Ducks and 1,320 Mallards were record high counts. Loons and grebes were unusually abundant: 151 Common Loons, 235 Horned Grebes and 178 Red-necked Grebes. High counts for some woodpeckers were set with 123 Downy Woodpeckers, 71 Hairy Woodpeckers and 11 Pileated Woodpeckers. The 238 Tufted Titmice set a high record as well.
Lingering birds included two Great Blue Herons, four Northern Flickers, six Carolina Wrens, 13 Eastern Bluebirds and nine Common Grackles.
The Portland Count took pride of place with the highest number of species (107) of any count this season in Maine. Significantly, four species were found for the first time on this count: Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and American Woodcock.
A few species were particularly abundant this year, yielding the highest number of each species in the past 30 years. These included 1,830 Mallards and 245 Common Loons.
A remarkable 26 species of waterfowl were tallied this year, highlighted by the species listed above as well as by two Wood Ducks and two Redheads.
The list of lingering species is long. Most of the following individuals either moved on to more southerly climes or perished as winter set in over the past five weeks: a Killdeer, two Northern Flickers, a Winter Wren, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Gray Catbird, a Common Yellowthroat and a Yellow-breasted Chat.
The Freeport-Brunswick count produced a list of 63 species. Highlights were record high counts of Common Eider (473), Long-tailed Duck (287), Glaucous Gull (5), Pileated Woodpecker (18) and Bohemian Waxwing (312).
Unusual species included a Killdeer, a Northern Flicker and a Gray Catbird. A Dickcissel present in the area was bashful on the day of the count.
Thomaston-Rockland counters found 79 species. The 396 Common Eiders, 949 Herring Gulls and 14 Great Black-backed Gulls were much less common than in previous years. However, the 114 Bald Eagles, 124 Red-necked Grebes and 45 Tufted Titmouse were found in unprecedented abundance.
Other highlights were a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Merlin, two Peregrine Falcons, 32 American Coots, a Black-headed Gull, a Long-eared Owl, a Pine Warbler, three Swamp Sparrows and a hardy Red-winged Blackbird.
On to the Belfast region of Penobscot Bay where counters found 67 species. Common Goldeneyes put in a strong showing (1001 individuals) with 11 Barrow’s Goldeneyes sprinkled in among them. Seven Great Blue Herons and a Belted Kingfisher were remarkable finds.
The counters saw an American White Pelican during the week of the count, but not on count day. Interestingly, several of these pelicans were seen last month in the Boothbay region.
The Schoodic Peninsula count produced a list of 66 species. Highlights included record high counts of 97 Black Guillemots and 188 Mourning Doves. Two Boreal Chickadees were mixed in with the 80 Black-capped Chickadees.
Fewer lingering species were noted here: one Great Blue Heron, one Belted Kingfisher and two Rusty Blackbirds were highlights.
The Machias-Jonesport count yielded a total of 55 species. The eight Brant represented an excellent count for this portion of the coast. The 24 Harlequin Ducks and 609 Long-tailed Ducks set new high-count records.
A Spruce Grouse was a nice find. Lingering birds included a Great Blue Heron and nine Common Grackles.
[First published on February 20, 2011]