For the Birds: Maine Christmas Bird Count Highlights III
This column is the last of three on the results of the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts (CBC’s, for short) conducted throughout the state of Maine. Each count could be conducted on any day between December 15 and January 5.
Let’s start with the three counts that experience the coldest winter weather of all the CBC’s in Maine. The Rangeley Count, held on December 17, produced a total of 34 species. Because of the unseasonably warm weather in November and December, ice had not formed over most bodies of water. The open water held six Common Loons and 59 Mallards.
Areas like Rangeley provide great habitat for boreal bird species. Those species did not disappoint this year as nine Boreal Chickadees were found along with 235 Black-capped Chickadees. Twenty-six Gray Jays made for an impressive total. Red-breasted Nuthatches tend to occur in coniferous forest while White-breasted Nuthatches are more often associated with deciduous or mixed forest. The conifers of the Rangeley area yielded 78 Red-breasted Nuthatches but only 3 White-breasteds.
The cone crops this year, particularly for red spruce, are heavy. Winter finches, which wander broadly in the winter abundant cones, put in a modest appearance with 65 White-winged Crossbills, 80 Pine Siskins and 87 Purple Finches.
Eight Northern Cardinals were counted, signifying the expanding range of this species into higher elevations in Maine. Seventeen American Robins were present.
The Misery CBC, centered in the town of Forks, was held on December 29. A total of 25 species was found. As at Rangeley, Northern Cardinals were found on the Misery CBC this year. Boreal species included five Gray Jays, 11 Boreal Chickadees, 48 Purple Finches, 17 Red Crossbills, 55 White-winged Crossbills and 70 Pine Siskins.
The Presque Isle CBC, held on December 30, produced at least 32 species (I don’t have the final totals yet). The highlight was an Eastern Towhee, the first ever recorded for this count. Towhees are quite rare in the northern half of the state at any time of the year. Two Black-backed Woodpeckers were nice finds. No doubt owing to the warm early winter weather, new high counts of Common Goldeneyes and Golden-crowned Kinglets were set.
It’s always interesting to compare the Orono-Old Town (December 16) and the Bangor CBC (December 30) because of their nearly overlapping locations. Counters on the Orono-Old Town CBC found 49 species. Notable birds included a Rough-legged Hawk, a Merlin, an Iceland Gull, two Northern Shrikes, four Bohemian Waxwings (very rare in the state so far this winter), three Red Crossbills, 20 White-winged Crossbills and 34 Pine Siskins. The 48 Tufted Titmice indicate that this species is continuing to expand its range northward in Maine. Lingering birds included a Belted Kingfisher, a Northern Flicker and 13 American Robins. A Carolina Wren was a nice find. The Bangor CBC yielded 50 species, with an interesting mix of birds of northern and southern affinity. Highlights were singleton Bonaparte’s and Iceland gulls, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Carolina Wren, a Northern Mockingbird, a new count record 101 Northern Cardinals, 10 Red Crossbills and 11 Common Redpolls. Seventy-one Tufted Titmice were impressive.
We’ll end with some more coastal CBC’s. The Machias Bay CBC, held on January 3, produced a list of 54 species. Thirteen species of waterfowl were found with a single Barrow’s Goldeneye being the most notable. Lingering birds included a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Flicker and 112 American Robins. Gray Jays occur predictably in the coastal spruce-fir forests of Maine from Mt. Desert Island eastward. Two Grays Jays were delightful but not unexpected. One Northern Cardinal was a noteworthy sighting. The only northern finch was a single Red Crossbill.
The North Penobscot Bay CBC held on December 30 had a total of 59 species. This portion of the coast is one of the most reliable in the state for Ruddy Ducks in the winter and the 107 tallied this year did not disappoint. The four Barrow’s Goldeneyes were expected but fewer than expected. A nice list of lingering birds included a Carolina Wren, five American Robins, five Northern Mockingbirds, two Swamp Sparrows and a Brown-headed Cowbird. A Yellow-breasted Chat was an extraordinary find. Six Red Crossbills were notable as well.
The Biddeford-Kennebunkport CBC held on December 30 yielded 93 species. Waterfowl diversity was extraordinary with 18 species found, including a Snow Goose, 13 Brant, two Gadwall and two Ruddy Ducks. Eight species of diurnal raptors included Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. A Dovekie was a highlight. Other noteworthy finds were singletons of the following species: Yellow-breasted Chat, Dickcissel and White-crowned Sparrow.
[Originally published on February 3, 2007]