The 118th Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season has finished. In the next three posts, I will discuss the highlights of some of the Maine Christmas Bird Counts. These standardized censuses are a valuable tool to monitor the abundance of winter birds throughout North America and beyond. The data provide a lens to see how our Maine birds are doing.
I’m expecting some strong weather effects this year. The first part of the count period (December 16-24) was seasonably cold with a few inches of snow on the ground. Christmas brought a big snowfall to much of the area and brutally cold temperatures that show no signs of abating until the second week of January.
I’ll concentrate on any changes in regularly wintering birds, the arrival of erratic winter wanderers and records of any lingering birds whose wintering areas are well to our south. A rarity or two may pop up as well.
We’ll start with Lewiston-Auburn count, held on December 16. The counters enjoyed a fine day, accumulating a list of 53 species. The 342 Common Goldeneyes and 96 Lesser Scaup were all-time highs for this count. These waterfowl were joined by 10 other species including a Ruddy Duck, two Red-breasted Mergansers, 14 Greater Scaup and a Northern Pintail.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a great find along with five Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Two falcons were spotted, a Merlin and a Peregrine Falcon.
The most surprising songbirds were a Gray Catbird and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Dark-eyed Juncos seem to be very common this winter; the 383 support that observation. Sixty Northern Cardinals set a new count record.
Black-capped Chickadees and American Crows were present in lower numbers than expected. A local aberration we hope.
The Mount Desert CBC was also held on December 16. Participants found 58 species. This count always produces lots of Common Eiders; 829 this year did not disappoint.
Only one Red-throated Loon was seen along with 64 Common Loons, 54 Horned Grebes and 71 Red-necked Grebes. Only four species of gulls were found, the most notable being eight Black-legged Kittiwakes.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Northern Flicker would have normally migrated south by mid-December. A Black-and-white Warbler and an American Pipit were excellent finds.
Three species of northern finches were found: Purple Finch, Red Crossbill and Pine Siskin. All were in low numbers. So far, this winter does not look good for northern finch irruptions.
The Thomaston-Rockland count, also on December 16, yielded a fine count of 83 species. Nineteen species of waterfowl appeared, an excellent tally. Highlights were a Wood Duck, an American Wigeon, two King Eiders and a Ruddy Duck.
Two species of sandpipers were represented by two Dunlin and a dozen Purple Sandpipers.
Very late birds included a Pied-billed Grebe, a Turkey Vulture, a Belted Kingfisher, two Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Northern Flicker, five Eastern Bluebirds, a Vesper Sparrow two Savannah Sparrows and a Baltimore Oriole.
The best bird of the count was a Yellow-throated Warbler, a species whose nesting range is well to the south of Maine.
Two White-winged Crossbills were the only northern finches.
The Bunker Hill CBC was conducted on December 18. This count circle is in Lincoln County, including Nobleboro, Alna and Jefferson. A total of 55 species appeared this year.
Ten species of waterfowl were counted, the most notable being five lingering Ring-necked Ducks. Wild Turkeys put in a strong appearance with 181 birds sighted.
Four Red-shouldered Hawks make an excellent total for Maine in the winter. These hawks were joined by Cooper’s Hawks, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a dozen Bald Eagles and eight Red-tailed Hawks for an excellent hawk total.
Lingering terrestrial species included 11 Eastern Bluebirds, a Red-winged Blackbirds and two Brown-headed Cowbirds. American Robins and Dark-eyed Juncos were particularly common this year with 377 and 462 individuals, respectively.