Roger Tory Peterson once quipped that birds have wings and they use them. One of the thrills of birding is seeing birds that are either passing through or lost. A vagrant bird can really spice up a daily bird list.
We are accustomed to seeking out rarities during the concentrated spring migration or the more leisurely fall migration (August into November). In June, most birds should be on their breeding grounds.
Contrary to this logic, June brought some remarkable rare birds to Maine this year. On June 7, a Burrowing Owl was photographed near the Katahdin Inn in York. At this time of year, Burrowing Owls should be in the western half of temperate North America, nesting in abandoned prairie dog burrows on the plains. There is also a disjunct population in Florida. Unfortunately, the owl was a one-day wonder. If accepted by the Maine Bird Records Committee (hereafter, MBRC), this bird will be only the second ever found in Maine. The first Burrowing Owl lingered for over a month in late summer in Washington County in 2006.
On June 9, an apparent drake King Eider was sighted off Potts Point in South Harpswell. The written description and fuzzy photographs (taken from a long distance) support the identication. These birds breed in the high Arctic; an adult male in Maine in June is peculiar, indeed.
On June 12, a Magnificent Frigatebird was photographed while perched on Stratton Island and was seen later that day from Prouts Neck as well as Pine Point. The bird could not be relocated the following day. The MRBC lists eight records of this tropical species in Maine, none of which have been reviewed to date.
A Magnificent Frigatebird was seen off Salisbury Beach on the North Shore of Massachusetts on June 14. Perhaps it was the same bird that was found in Maine.
In an amazing contrast, a Snowy Owl was photographed on June 13 in a driveway in Freeport, near Hedgehog Mountain Park. Snowy Owls should be nesting on the arctic tundra at this time of year. Normally, more than 2,000 miles separate frigatebirds and Snowy Owls in June.
Why not add some western vagrants to add to the mix? On June 13, a Snowy Plover was found with Piping Plovers at Reid State Park. If accepted by the MBRC, the Snowy Plover will a new addition to the official Maine bird list. On the same day, a Townsend’s Solitaire was photographed in Whitneyville. Townsend’s Solitaires do wander regularly to eastern North America but a June record is quite unusual.
And the hits keep on coming. On June 20, a Brown Pelican was photographed off the Prouts Neck Yacht Club. The bird was seen regularly through June 23 by many birders. The bird split its time among Prouts Neck, Stratton Island, Bluffs Island and Pine Point.
The plumage and the presence of a pale stripe on the lower part of the throat pouch indicate this bird was in its second year of life.
The MBRC lists one accepted record for Brown Pelican in the state, a bird seen on June 16 in Harpswell. Four older records from 1826, 1914 (2 records) and and 1922 have yet to be reviewed by the MBRC.
Despite diligent searching on June 24, the pelican could not be located in Maine. However, a Brown Pelican was seen in Rye, New Hampshire on that day. This bird was also a second-year bird and may well have been the same bird seen in Maine. Two additional Brown Pelicans were reported from Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts.
New Hampshire birders enjoyed the first record of another tropical vagrant, a Brown Booby. This cooperative bird was found at Cobbett’s Pond in Windham. Here’s a remarkable YouTube video of this delightful bird http://bit.ly/2sk2dJE They are normally found no further north than the Caribbean.
[First published on July 2, 2017]