This post is the last of three, reviewing highlights of Maine Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs), sponsored by the National Audubon Society. Each count was conducted on a day between December 14 and January 5 within a circle with a 15-mile diameter.
The Greater Portland CBC usually has the highest bird diversity of all the Maine counts. That pattern was true again this season as the December 18 count produced 100 species.
The 22 species of waterfowl were an extraordinary number. Lingering puddle ducks helped to get the species count up. Seven Gadwall, one American Wigeon three Northern Pintails and a Green-winged Teal joined the more abundant Mallards and American Black Ducks.
Both scaup species were present: 12 Greater Scaup and 7 Lesser Scaup. One Barrow’s Goldeneye appeared.
Northern Gannets are sometimes seen just offshore in the winter along the southwestern coast. Five were present this year.
Three sandpipers were tallied: 280 Sanderlings, six Dunlin and 78 Purple Sandpipers on intertidal rocks. The only alcids were 20 Razorbills and 28 Black Guillemots.
Notable birds of prey included three Snowy Owls, one Merlin and two Peregrine Falcons.
The relatively mild climate along the southwestern coast keeps water open a little longer than in other parts of the state so aquatic birds can linger. This list of birds included 12 Great Blue Herons and eight Belted Kingfishers.
Hardy lingering land birds included three Turkey Vultures, eight Northern harriers, one Killdeer, one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, five Northern Flickers, three Winter Wrens, a Marsh Wren and five Hermit Thrushes.
A Chipping Sparrow, a Savannah Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow made for a nice trio of unusual sparrows for this time of year.
Members of the blackbird family do not usually overwinter in Maine. Four species were pushing their luck this year with two Red-winged Blackbirds, a Common Grackle, a Brown-headed Cowbird and a Baltimore Oriole counted.
Northern finches were represented by a single Purple Finch.
A western stray, a Western Tanager, put the icing on the cake.
All birds count so we should acknowledge the abundance of three introduced species. This CBC yielded 819 Rock Pigeons, 910 European Starlings and 830 House Sparrows. These three species accounted for 20.3% of all the individuals on this count.
The York County CBC was held on December 20 and yielded a fine count of 90 species.
Sixteen species of waterfowl graced this count. Three Snow Geese were a nice find as well as three Northern Pintails and six Green-winged Teal.
Seven Northern Gannets were close enough to shore to be seen. Both species of cormorants were found: 42 Great Cormorants (our normal winter cormorant) and two lingering Double-crested Cormorants.
Seven species in the hawk family were present including a Red-shouldered Hawk, seven Bald Eagles and a rare Golden Eagle. Three owl species were present including an Eastern Screech-owl and a Snowy Owl.
The two Dunlin and 91 Purple Sandpipers are expected sandpipers in the winter but not a Wilson’s Snipe. A great sighting! The five gull species included one Black-headed Gull.
Lingering birds included seven Turkey Vultures, five Belted Kingfishers, four Northern Flickers, three Hermit Thrushes, a Pine Warbler, a Chipping Sparrow and five Savannah Sparrows (including one of the Ipswich subspecies that breed solely on Sable Island, Nova Scotia).
Four Purple Finches were the only northern finches present this year.
We’ll finish by heading downeast to Moose Island-Jonesport where the December 18 CBC produced 58 species.
The 22 Harlequin Ducks were the most notable of the 13 waterfowl species present.
This part of the state is good for Spruce Grouse and one was found as well as one Ruffed Grouse.
One Black-headed Gull was a nice find among four more common gull species.
Lingering land birds were few and far between. Two Chipping Sparrows and a Red-winged Blackbird were the only ones.
The finches present were seven Purple Finches, six Common Redpolls and 49 American Goldfinches.