It was just two years ago that Maine’s first Great Black Hawk was making itself at home in Deering Oak Parks in Portland. This rarity was a most cooperative bird, happily feeding on squirrels and rats while dozens of fascinated people watched it. The bird perished from the cold the following January but it’s visit is commemorated with a sculpture, unveiled in July.

As of this writing (January 27), we have another rarity in Maine that is as cooperative as the Great Black Hawk. On November 27, Diana Onacki photographed a wren through the window of Jackie Too’s Restaurant in Ogunquit. The wren was confirmed as a Rock Wren. The only other Maine record of this western vagrant was a one-day wonder in October, 2013 in Trescott.

The Ogunquit Rock Wren has been very reliable, often hopping among the rocks rimming the shore of Perkins Cove. Most birders that have sought the bird have been successful, often finding the bird within minutes of arrival.

I feared that the northeasters in December would deal a fatal blow to the rock wren but it is doing fine, continuing to put on a show for birders.

Rock Wrens are found in the western half of North America from the extreme southern portions of the Canadian provinces south into Mexico. They like rocky areas, like talus slopes of mountains.

Maine Winter Bird Atlas

The Maine Bird Atlas Project is over half done. We just completed the third of five years of the breeding season. The project also has a winter bird component, the Winter Bird Atlas.

You may be wondering why a Winter Bird Atlas project is needed since we have data from the National Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for over 100 years for some counts. The CBC data have two important limitations. The counts are done in the early part of the winter so we have no systematic assessment of winter bird presence from mid-January until the end of winter. Also, the CBC count-circles are not distributed evenly across the state. Most counts are done in areas where human population density is highest. The southwestern coast is sampled well while much of the northern half of the state is virtually uncovered.

Here’s the way the Winter Atlas project works. The state is divided into blocks, each 1/6 of a US Topo quadrangle. There are 4,246 blocks in the state. Each is roughly three miles square.

Currently about 10% of the blocks are completed for the winter atlas. Our goal is to get to 17% this winter. This is where you come in; we need your help.

Completion of a block is not particularly onerous. We need a minimum of three hours of birding in early winter (December 14 – January 31) and three hours in the late winter (February 1 – March 15). Those hours should be allocated among the different habitats in a block. In other words, you can’t do your six hours of birding by only watching your feeders from the comfort of your home.

As an example, I completed a block just west of Waterville last winter. The area had four habitat types: agricultural land, housing developments, a stream and some coniferous forest. I made sure I sampled each habitat well.

Once you do a census in your sector, you just enter your data into eBird and you are done. The Maine Bird Atlas people will add your data to the block.

Unlike with the Breeding Bird Atlas, we do not have Priority Blocks. Any block is fine. To find a block near you, check out this map:

Find a block near you that has a light fill (completed blocks have a gray fill). Click on it and click the right arrow in the upper right to see how many hours have already been recorded for that block ad a spreadsheet with species to date. Then, go winter atlasing.