This post is the last of three reviewing the highlights of Maine Christmas Bird Counts. These counts took place between mid-December and early January. Today we will visit some of the northern and central Maine inland counts.
The Misery Township Count (about 30 miles south of Jackman) was held on January 1. This count has the most severe winter weather of any count in the state and usually the lowest species total. This year, 20 species were tallied on a bitterly cold day.
No lingering fall birds were found here. The expected birds of the boreal forest were present: five Gray Jays, two Boreal Chickadees, 13 Red-breasted Nuthatches and three Golden-crowned Kinglets.
The most surprising bird to me was a Northern Cardinal, a testament to the continued northern range expansion of this species.
Northern finches were present in modest numbers with 48 Purple Finches, 11 White-winged Crossbills and 239 Pine Siskins.
The Caribou count, held on December 16, produced a total of 31 species. Four species of waterfowl were present, with 32 Mallards being the most abundant. Eleven Bald Eagles made for a nice total and a Red-tailed Hawk was unusual for this count.
Nine Horned Larks were found in the open countryside along with 108 Snow Buntings. Two Northern Cardinals were nice finds for this far north in the state. Five species of finches were present including 40 Purple Finches, 51 Pine Siskins, five Pine Grosbeaks and a couple of Common Redpolls.
Just a bit south, the Presque Isle count on December 30 yielded a count of 34 species. The 220 Mallards made for an impressive total. The only other waterfowl were 26 American Black Ducks. Bald Eagles were even more common here than in Caribou with 51 present along with one Red-tailed Hawk and one Sharp-shinned Hawk.
The 44 Red-breasted Nuthatches set a new high record for this count. Twenty-one American Robins were found, a fine count for this latitude. Two Northern Cardinals were spotted.
Finch diversity was good with six species found including a singleton Pine Grosbeak, 48 Purple Finches, three Common Redpolls, 22 Pine Siskins and an excellent total of 41 Evening Grosbeaks.
Let’s relocate to central Maine. The Unity counters on December 16 found 45 species. Waterfowl were scarce with only three species found, topped by 45 Mallards. A Common Loon was a nice find; some open water must have been available. Bald Eagles turned up in fine numbers with 47 seen, along with a Northern Goshawk.
Herring Gulls and a single Ring-billed Gull were joined by a remarkable Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Lingering landbirds included a Winter Wren, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two Rusty Blackbirds and 22 Brown-headed Cowbirds. As elsewhere in the state, Dark-eyed Juncos were more common than usual; 445 were found in Unity.
Just 20 miles southwest in Waterville, CBC counters found 52 species on December 17. Eight species of waterfowl were found despite little open water. The highlight was a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye. Red-tailed Hawks were common with 18 spotted. A Peregrine Falcon was found along the Kennebec River.
The agricultural fields in the north part of the circle yielded 100 Horned Larks, one American Pipit, two Savannah Sparrows and two Lapland Longspurs but not a single Snow Bunting.
A new high count record of Northern Cardinals was set with 94 of these beauties tallied. A White-crowned Sparrow was unusual for this time of year.
Lingering birds included a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Flicker, two Hermit Thrushes, six Rusty Blackbirds and 20 Brown-headed Cowbirds.
In overview, the early winter bird populations across the state show perhaps a few more lingering birds than usual. It is shaping up as a poor winter for visitors from the north (Bohemian Waxwings, Northern Shrikes, northern owls and northern finches). Our resident birds seem to be holding their own.