This column is the second of two describing the highlights of recent Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs). The CBC season spanned December 14, 2015 until January 5, 2016.
We’ll start with the Mt. Desert Island CBC, held on December 19. Although the species count was not particularly high for a coastal count (58 species), the quality of the species list was high. Counters found 17 species of waterfowl. The most unusual were a single Eurasian Wigeon (along with a single American Wigeon) and seven Ruddy Ducks, always a good bird in the winter in Maine.
Common Loons were common (79) but not a single Red-throated Loon could be found. Both of the expected grebes were present in good numbers: 59 Horneds and 98 Red-neckeds. Diurnal raptors were pretty scarce: a single Red-tailed Hawk, a lingering Northern Harrier and 13 Bald Eagles.
Red-breasted Nuthatches vary greatly from year to year across their broad geographic range. This species has been relatively uncommon in Maine this winter so the 87 nuthatches found on Mount Desert were excellent. The extensive coniferous forest on Mount Desert is favored habitat for this species.
This winter is not shaping up as a banner year for irruptive finches but this count was better than most. Nine Purple Finches, 18 Red Crossbills and eight White-winged Crossbills were impressive. A lingering Fox Sparrow was a nice addition to the list.
The Thomaston-Rockland CBC, also on December 19, produced a fine total of 74 species. Fourteen of those species were waterfowl, none unexpected. Two Red-throated Loons were found. Both cormorants were found: two Greats and two Double-cresteds. One lingering Belted Kingfisher was found.
The main highlights of this count were lingering land birds. Three species of warblers were present, each represented by singletons: Pine Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat. Pine Warbler is a summer resident but the other two are not. The northern limit of Yellow-throated Warblers is in the Mid-Atlantic States.
Other lingering species included a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hermit Thrush, 11 American Robins, two Northern Mockingbirds, one Fox Sparrow, a Swamp Sparrow and a Brown-headed Cowbird.
The Ellsworth-Hog Bay CBC on December 26 offers a nice comparison to the nearby Mount Desert Island count circle. Ellsworth counters found 45 species. A Northern Pintail joined 226 American Black Duck and 397 Mallards for an impressive puddle duck count.
The diurnal raptors found were a dozen Bald Eagles as well as a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk. A Lincoln’s Sparrow was surprisingly late. The only finches were 37 American Goldfinches and eight Pine Siskins.
An unusual count on January 5, the Jordan Basin Count in the Gulf of Maine yielded a dozen species. The most abundant bird was the Northern Fulmar with 67 individuals. Four alcids were found: two Dovekies, 11 Common Murres, seven Razorbills and an Atlantic Puffin. The gull count included 12 Black-legged Kittiwakes and a Glaucous Gull.
The Bunker Hill CBC on the Mid-coast, held on December 21, yielded 53 species. Nine species of waterfowl were found, including a lingering Ring-necked Duck. Lingering species included a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Harrier, a Belted Kingfisher, an American Kestrel, an Eastern Bluebird, 26 American Robins, a Red-winged Blackbird and five Brown-headed Cowbirds. A Black-backed Woodpecker was a surprising and delightful find.
The Waterville CBC on December 20 yielded 51 species. The Bufflehead count of 28 was a new high for count. Barrow’s Goldeneyes have become less common on this count; only one was found this year.
Diurnal raptors included three Sharp-shinned Hawks, three Cooper’s Hawks and two Peregrine Falcons. Five Red-bellied Woodpeckers were notable.
The farmlands in Clinton yielded seven Horned Larks. A single Bohemian Waxwing was found among 27 Cedar Waxwings. Lingering species included two Northern Flickers, five American Robins, two Carolina Wrens and two Northern Mockingbirds.