This column is the second of three summarizing the results of some of the recent Christmas Bird Counts in Maine. We’ll visit inland central Maine and two downeast coastal sites today.
I find it interesting to compare the counts from count circles that are geographically close. The Augusta and Waterville counts nearly overlap and were both held on December 14. Both counts had good diversity; Augusta counters found 53 species and Waterville counters found 61.
A Great Blue Heron was found on both counts. Raptor diversity was notable with each count yielding at least one Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk. A highlight was a Peregrine Falcon in Waterville, flying south along the Kennebec River to the delight of the observers.
Both counts had the expected Common Goldeneyes and Waterville counters were able to pick out two Barrow’s Goldeneyes. A Ring-necked Duck was a nice find in Augusta as well as three Common Loons. An unfrozen outlet stream from China Lake yielded an American Coot for Waterville counters.
Both counts had multiple Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a species that was virtually unknown in New England 45 years ago. Their range expansion has been remarkable. Augusta also had a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
The two counts had similar counts for the more expected songbirds. Both counts had good number of White-throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows, two species that are often scarce in the winter. Counters in both circles tallied multiple Eastern Bluebirds, also unusual in winter in this part of the state.
Augusta had a Northern Shrike, a Carolina Wren and a Red-winged Blackbird. Waterville had a Snowy Owl, 30 Horned Larks, two Savannah Sparrows and five Evening Grosbeaks. An Eastern Screech-Owl was heard trilling twice in Waterville but unfortunately the bird could not be relocated and recorded or photographed.
Let’s head east to Bangor/Bucksport. The count on January 1 produced a nice count of 52 species. The proximity to the coast explains the five Bufflehead and eight Red-breasted Mergansers. All three species of accipiter hawks were tallied (Northern Goshawk is the toughest one to find). Two Snowy Owls added to the raptor list. A total of 27 songbirds were found with highlights being a Northern Shrike, two Carolina Wrens and a Hermit Thrush. Northern Cardinals continue to push northward in the state. The Bangor counters found 95 of these beauties, a new high for this count.
Continuing to the coast, we can compare two adjacent counts: the Mt. Desert Island count and the Schoodic Peninsula count. The MDI count was held on December 20 and yielded 64 species. Puddle duck diversity was great; a Gadwall, a Northern Pintail and two American Wigeons joined the expected Mallards (743) and American Black Ducks (519). Eight Ruddy Ducks were notable. No Red-throated Loons appeared this year but there were plenty of Common Loons. Both Double-crested Cormorant (7) and Great Cormorant (15) were found this year.
Twenty-three species of songbirds were counted. Good sightings included a Northern Shrike, eight Song Sparrows and 13 White-throated Sparrows. The best songbird records were for members of the blackbird family. MDI counters found three Red-winged Blackbirds, two Common Grackles and a Baltimore Oriole. I am sure these lingering birds are long gone now.
The counters on the Schoodic Peninsula count started the new year off well with a count of 51 species. It’s always a treat to see Harlequin Ducks and the Schoodic counters found six. Buffleheads, Common Eiders and Long-tailed Ducks were the most abundant waterfowl, represented by 1,116, 801 and 446 individuals, respectively. Three Red-throated Loons were nice to see. A lone Iceland Gull was discovered.
Songbird diversity was paltry with only 20 species found. Among those species, goodies included a Common Grackle, a Baltimore Oriole and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Finches were hard to come by; 22 American Goldfinches and three House Finches were the only ones tallied.
[Originally published on February 1, 2015]