This column is the second of three, describing some of the highlights of the Audubon Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs). Over 30 Counts are conducted in Maine so I can’t cover all of them but we can detect general patterns of bird abundance from a sampling of the Maine CBCs. In this column, we will look at five coastal counts.
I will discuss the Bath-Phippsburg in some detail because of the intriguing mix of lingering species, winter visitors from the north and a genuine rarity. Altogether the participants found 79 birds on the December 14 count.
The rarity was a Pink-footed Goose, a European species whose closest breeding population to North America is found in Greenland. What a find!
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. The Ipswich Savannah Sparrows breed only on Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia.
Late December in Maine is still in a transition bird-wise between summer and winter. Despite all the northern visitors, take a look at all these summer birds that were 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 produced 80 species on December 29. Two Snowy Owls put in an appearance. The nine Ruddy Turnstones and 33 Dunlins were nice totals.
Lingering birds included 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 December 28 yielded 55 species. The Stockton Springs are is perhaps the most reliable place in the state to find Ruddy Ducks; 59 were found on the count.
Grebe abundance was low with only seven Horned Grebes and no Red-necked Grebes. A single Red-throated Loon was found along with 25 Common Loons.
This count had very few lingering birds. No doubt the bitter cold around Christmas Day had something to do with the decision of those half-hardy birds to seek warmer climes.
More northerly birds included a Peregrine Falcon, a Fox Sparrow and a dozen Purple Finches.
The Schoodic Count, held on January 1, yield a count of 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 for lingering birds.
Highlights included a Merlin and three Northern Shrikes.
The York County CBC on December 16 produced a tally of 86 species. Sixteen species of waterfowl were counted. The 68 Harlequin Ducks must have been 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 with Razorbills outnumbering 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 the 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, 113(!) Eastern Bluebirds, a couple of Hermit Thrushes, a Baltimore Oriole and 16 Brown-headed Cowbirds.