This column is the last of three reviewing the recent Christmas Bird Counts conducted in Maine. We’ll concentrate on coastal counts from southern and mid-coast Maine in this column. These counts traditionally have the greatest diversity and abundance of birds on Maine counts. Such was the case again this year.
The York Count, held on December 15, yielded 94 species. Waterfowl diversity was excellent with 19 species tallied. The most unusual were three Wood Ducks, two Gadwall and a King Eider among the 984 Common Eiders.
The sharp-eyed York counters found three species of loons: 132 Common Loons, 13 Red-throated Loons and a rarity, a Pacific Loon.
Coastal York County has the mildest (or maybe I should say least harsh!) winter weather in the state. We therefore expect a good smattering of lingering summer birds on the York County. This year did not disappoint. Counters found a Great Blue Heron, two Red-shouldered Hawks, three Belted Kingfishers, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, two Winter Wrens, a Marsh Wren, four Hermit Thrushes, an Orange-crowned Warblers, a Common Yellowthroat and an Eastern Meadowlark. Whew!
The Biddeford-Kennebunkport Count was held on December 27 and produced a list of 89 species. The 17 species of waterfowl included an American Wigeon, two Ring-necked Ducks along with the more regular species.
Raptors included two Northern Harriers, two Red-shouldered Hawks, a Merlin, two Snowy Owls and a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Like the York County Count, this count produced a diverse collection of lingering species, including five Great Blue Herons, two Killdeer, three Belted Kingfishers, six Northern Flickers, two Tree Swallows, two American Pipits, an American Redstart (excellent!), a Western Tanager and 37 Red-winged Blackbirds.
Shorebirds were notable. The observers found 23 Ruddy Turnstones, 13 Sanderlings, six Dunlin and a gross of Purple Sandpipers.
The Portland Count topped the century mark with 105 species. The 21 species was spectacular, highlighted by a Gadwall, a Eurasian Wigeon, and 11 Ruddy Ducks. The requisite lingering Great Blue Herons were found (12).
Two Northern Harriers were the most unusual hawks. Owl diversity was super with five species tallied: seven Great Horned Owls, two Snowy Owls and single Long-eared, Barred and Northern Saw-whet Owls.
Notable lingering species included three Belted Kingfishers, 13 Northern Flickers, 15 Hermit Thrushes, a Brown Thrasher (excellent find), a Common Yellowthroat, a Lark Sparrow, two Red-winged Blackbirds and a Common Grackle.
We’ll move north of Portland to the Bath-Phippsburg area. The count there on December 20 resulted in a fine total of 85 species.
One Snow Goose was found among the 1,1114 Canada Geese. I thought the 74 Northern Pintails were a remarkable total.
Raptor diversity was excellent with seven species of diurnal raptors and two nocturnal raptors. The former included two Northern Harriers, a Peregrine Falcon and a Merlin. Two owl species were found, Snowy and Barred Owls.
The climate in the Bath area is a bit harsher than the climate in York County. It is not surprising that fewer half-hardy birds were found lingering there. Nevertheless, lingering birds included six Great Blue Herons, four Belted Kingfishers, two Hermit Thrushes, two Northern Mockingbirds, two Swamp Sparrows and a single Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle.
We’ll end our survey a bit further north along the mid-coast in the Thomaston-Rockland area. Counters there on December 20 found 79 species. Three species of Aythya ducks were found (two Ring-necked Ducks, eight Greater Scaup, two Lesser Scaup). American Coots were plentiful with 148 tallied.
One Thick-billed Murre and one Razorbill were found along with the more expected 22 Black Guillemots.
Lingering species included a Belted Kingfisher, two Northern Flickers, a Gray Catbird (excellent) and two Red-winged Blackbirds. A Clay-colored Sparrow was a superb addition to the count. Two northerly species that are uncommon this winter were found on the count: a Northern Shrike and three Evening Grosbeaks.
[Originally published on February 15, 2015]