The 122nd Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by the National Audubon Society is now history. On a day between December 14 and January 5, groups of birders spread out to census all the birds in a circle with a 15-mile diameter.
There are over 2500 CBC circles in North America with others in Central America and South America. This annual census is a powerful tool in assessing the changes in winter bird abundance.
This column is the first of three in which I will review the highlights of some of the Maine CBCs. Today we’ll look at four Mid-coast sites and two inland sites.
The Augusta CBC on December 18 produced a count of 59 birds. Six species of waterfowl included a Ring-necked Duck, a White-winged Scoter and a Bufflehead. A dozen Common Loons clearly found enough open water as did three Great Blue herons and a Belted Kingfisher
Counters hit the accipiter trifecta, finding one Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk and Northern Goshawk. The Bald Eagle count of 32 was impressive.
Hardy lingering landbirds included three Northern Flickers, a Hermit Thrush ad two Chipping Sparrows. A Clay-colored Sparrow was a rare find.
After last winter’s wonderful irruption of northern finches, we don’t expect to see many of these northern visitors this year. In Augusta, a single Common Redpoll and nine Purple Finches were the only northern finches.
The Lewiston/Auburn count on December 19 tallied 49 species. Unusual waterfowl were a single American Wigeon and 22 Ruddy Ducks. Five Common Loons and a Great Blue Heron were unusual for this late in the season.
For raptors, highlights were a Snowy Owl and a Peregrine Falcon. Lingering land birds were sparse, highlighted by a Northern Flicker. The only northern finches were one Pine Siskin and one Purple Finch.
On December 18, 72 species were found on the Pemaquid-Damariscotta CBC. A whopping 18 species of waterfowl were present including a King Eider, a Harlequin Duck and three Barrow’s Goldeneye.
Eight Red-throated Loons joined the 114 Common Loons. The eleven Great Cormorants were joined by a lingering Double-crested Cormorant.
The only alcids were a single Razorbill and 31 of the common, coast-hugging Black Guillemots. Four species of gulls were found, none unusual.
Upland, two Northern Flickers, a Hermit Thrush and a Pine Warbler were braving the cold weather. House Finches and American Goldfinches were the only finches found.
We’ll move up the coast to Blue Hill where 57 species were spotted on December 19. Thirteen species of waterfowl graced the count with three Barrow’s Goldeneye being the only unusual species.
A single Red-throated Loon was picked out from 28 Common Loons. Grebes were present in modest numbers: 26 horned and 16 red-necked.
The four gull species were all common species (Herring, Great Black-backed, Riing-billed and Bonaparte’s).
Away from the shore, a Northern Shrike was a nice find. A Hermit Thrush was the only lingering songbird. As with Pemaquid, American Goldfinches and House Finches were the only members of this family.
We’ll hop over Penobscot Bay to Mt. Desert Island where counters on December 18 found 63 species. This total included 15 species of waterfowl. The most unusual were a single American Wigeon and a single Green-winged Teal.
Common Loons were well represented with 159 birds but Red-throated Loons were absent. The 198 Red-necked Grebes made for an impressive count.
Only three species of gulls were present with the 632 Herring Gulls dominating the count. One Razorbill and 25 Black Guillemots were the only alcids.
An Eastern Phoebe may have been pushing its luck by lingering into December in Maine although members of this species will feed on fruit when insects are not available.
Ten Red Crossbills and two White-winged Crossbills were notable.
Just to the west of MDI, the Ellsworth CBC on December 26 yielded 49 species. Highlights were a Barrow’s Goldeneye and a Northern Shrike.