This column is the second in a series of three documenting the highlights of Christmas Bird Counts in Maine, held between mid-December and early January. Let’s take a trip along the coast of Maine, visiting six Christmas Count circles.
The Biddeford count tallied a fine total of 82 species on January 5. Snow Geese in Maine during the winter are unusual, so the two found here were good finds. Twelve other, more expected species of waterfowl were found.
Red-throated Loons are usually much less common than Common Loons during the winter in Maine; 13 and 146 of these species, respectively, fit this pattern. Red-necked Grebes (93) were outnumbered by Horned Grebes (176).
The 377 Purple Sandpipers were joined by a lone Dunlin for the only shorebirds found this year. Regularly occurring Black Guillemots along with the more unusual 14 Razorbills and two Thick-billed Murres made for a nice trio of alcids.
Some migratory breeding birds or migrants linger in Maine into the winter. Such birds included a Great Blue Hero, a Northern Flicker, a Gray Catbird, a Field Sparrow, three Savannah Sparrows and a Lincoln’s Sparrow. The total of 675 American Robins was impressive.
Four finch species were found with the nine Purple Finches and nine Pine Siskins being the most notable. These two species are tough to find this winter in Maine so far.
The count held in the Pemaquid/Damariscotta area produced a list of 69 species. This area usually has abundant Common Eiders so the 1,421 found this year were expected. Not expected were a King Eider and a Ring-necked Duck.
This area is also a good place to look for foraging Northern Gannets just offshore; 87 were counted this year.
A Turkey Vulture was an exceptional find this year; most have migrated from Maine by the end of October.
The rocky shores in this area are great for Purple Sandpipers and 223 were present this year. Less expected were the dozen Ruddy Turnstones.
Three species of alcids were found with three Dovekies and a singleton Razorbill joining the 22 Black Guillemots.
Three Belted Kingfishers either found open freshwater or fished in the ocean for their food. Lingering landbirds included an extraordinary nine Chipping Sparrows, a Fox Sparrow, a White-crowned Sparrow and two Common Grackles.
The Thomaston/Rockland count produced 72 species. The 15 species of waterfowl included a Snow Goose, an impressive 541 Buffleheads and three Ruddy Ducks. A Pacific Loon was an excellent find.
Six species of raptors were found including a couple of Rough-legged Hawk and an impressive total of 20 Red-tailed Hawks.
Four Bonaparte’s Gulls and a single Black-legged Kittiwake were present along with much more numerous and common Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls.
Lingering birds included four Northern Flickers, a Belted Kingfisher, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Swamp Sparrow,
The North Penobscot Bay count, including the town of Belfast, yielded 50 species. Waterfowl diversity was good with 12 species recorded. American Black Ducks (206) outnumbered Mallards (140). This region is reliable for Barrow’s Goldeneye. One was tallied this year along with 173 Common Goldeneyes.
Loon and grebe abundance was low with only five Common Loons and a single Horned Grebe found.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker was a nice find; this species continues to make inroads into Maine. A Carolina Wren was unexpected. This species is sometimes described as “half-hardy”; they can tolerate a moderate New England winter but not a severe one.
As I noted in the last column, this winter does not seem to be particularly promising for invasions by Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and other northern finches. But in the Belfast area, Pine Siskins (26) and Common Redpolls (25) nearly outnumbered the 35 House Finches.
Further downeast, the Schoodic Point count yielded 62 species. A Northern Pintail was the most unusual of 12 species of waterfowl. The 244 Red-necked Grebes were particularly abundant this year.
Less common gulls included two Bonaparte’s Gulls, a Glaucous Gull and 14 Black-legged Kittiwakes.
Most of the landbirds found this year were either residents or regular wintering species. The few lingering birds were two Belted Kingfishers, a Northern Flicker and five Common Grackles.
I’ll end with the northernmost count in Maine, the Presque Isle count. Participants found 29 species, about the average number of species on this count. The 180 Common Ravens outnumbered the 54 American Crows. Two Gray Jays were good additions.
Bohemian Waxwings had invaded with 412 counted. This area has lots of open fields, providing habitat for 2,342 Snow Buntings. The only finches were 39 Purple Finches and 14 Pine Siskins.
[Originally published on January 24, 2010]