27 July 2017 Rockport, Maine, USA 

Archive for May, 2010

Dead bird report

Monday, May 31st, 2010
Dead cedar waxwing, Monhegan Island, Maine, 31 May 2010.

Dead cedar waxwing.

Earlier this month, the Alaotra grebe—a small species from Madagascar—was declared extinct. On Monhegan this morning, I got a look at the preserved remains of a lovely cedar waxwing that’d run into a window and died. (Note: an estimated 100 million or more birds die in the U.S. each year from running into windows.) Then on a hike through Cathedral Woods this afternoon, my friends Kristen and Paul and I came upon a whimsical memorial to a dead wood-warbler.

Ovenbird memorial, Monhegan Island, Maine, 31 May 2010.

Ovenbird memorial.

This particular trail in the woods is known for its tiny “fairy houses” made of bark and twigs and lichen and spruce cones. And this particular house had a makeshift cross, a snail shell, and a sort of lean-to holding the corpse of a lovely ovenbird. I can hardly express how touching this was to stumble upon on Memorial Day.

A number of house cats—including an exotic breed or two—stalk the yards of Monhegan, and no doubt a few kill birds. In fall, the island gets by peregrine falcons and other raptors, efficient machines for murder. And, sure, every living thing dies. But it sticks with you when you view the dead bodies of more than one recently living bird in one twenty-four-hour period. It sticks with me, at least.

White-eyed vireo, Monhegan Island, Maine, 31 May 2010.

White-eyed vireo.

So it’s with somewhat deeper appreciation that I counted forty-five living species this warm, summer-like spring day on Monhegan—including plenty of living waxwings (about a hundred). Also including a white-eyed vireo (a lifer for me), a bird Kristen and I tracked down in a thicket off the Burnt Head trail; obligingly, it hopped up onto a dead branch just as I raised my camera. Three individual birds were most discussed this weekend: Saturday’s western kingbird, the white-eyed vireo, and an olive-sided flycatcher reportedly seen in the same area as the vireo. We tried for what one birder called the “all-excited flycatcher” but saw and heard only a bunch of alders. Oh, well.

One interesting aspect of this trip were two thirteen-year-old Maine birders—long-time friends—who really knew their stuff. One of the boys got nice photos of the white-eyed, and the other ended the day with a sighting of a black-billed cuckoo. I believe they both photographed the wayward western kingbird. And this afternoon, on the boat back inshore, they both stood with me in the bow snapping photos of northern gannets.

The northern gannets, by the way, were very much alive.

Northern oriole, Monhegan Island, Maine, 31 May 2010.

Northern oriole.

Monhegan List
(Numbered for full trip; not in order of listing.)

55. White-eyed vireo**
56. Northern flicker (voice)
57. Spotted sandpiper*
58. White-throated sparrow (voice)
American robin
Cedar waxwing
Red-breasted nuthatch
House wren
Winter wren (voice)
Carolina wren
Magnolia warbler
Alder flycatcher
Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)
Double-crested cormorant
Herring gull
Great black-backed gull
Laughing gull
Common eider
Black guillemot
Mallard
American goldfinch
White-winged crossbill
Ring-necked pheasant (voice)
American crow
Common grackle
Red-winged blackbird
European starling
Purple finch (voice)
Common yellowthroat
Yellow warbler
American redstart
Black-throated green warbler (voice)
Blackpoll warbler (voice)
Gray catbird
Mourning dove
Black-capped chickadee
Northern oriole
Brown thrasher
Northern cardinal (voice)
Eastern kingbird
Alder flycatcher
Eastern wood-pewee (voice)
Song sparrow
Blue jay (voice)
Osprey (voice)

Elsewhere

Northern gannet
Bald eagle
Tufted titmouse (voice)

*First-of-year bird.
**Life bird.

Northern gannet, Muscongus Bay, Maine, 31 May 2010.

Northern gannet, living and breathing.

Island time

Sunday, May 30th, 2010
Carolina wren, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 May 2010.

Carolina wren.

It’s hard to put into words the shift in reality you feel when staying on an island a several miles offshore. A smallish island, with another hundred souls or so, and some leashless dogs, and pickups without license plates driving slowly along windy one-lane gravel roads. Especially at this time of year, when the air smells of the ocean and lilacs and cut grass and roses. And there’s a bird in every tree.

Cedar waxwing, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 May 2010.

Cedar waxwing—not an uncommon bird on Monhegan.

Another fruitful day on Monhegan. Up at first light (about 5 a.m.). Two hours birding before breakfast. Hazy in the morning, then a spattering of rain. Then clearing into full sun and summer-like warmth. The calendar seems much earlier than the season.

Birders’ excitement yesterday—there’s always some crazy vagrant—was the western kingbird we saw hanging out with the eastern kingbirds at the watery wetland they call The Meadow. We also heard tell of a white-eyed vireo and, today, an olive-sided warbler, but we neither saw nor heard either. However, I personally listed a dozen new island species, including four first-of-year birds (red-breasted nuthatch, winter wren, golden-crowned kinglet, and willet). That’s a good fifty-four species on the trip so far—certainly no record, but not bad for a migration mostly gone by.

Yellow warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 May 2010.

Yellow warbler.

I got a couple decent photos but thought I’d lost them all as my camera battery died while downloading. Thankfully, I didn’t—but if I had, it wouldn’t’ve been nearly as upsetting as if I’d been inshore. The Carolina wren was fairly nice. Also a couple of waxwing shots. (I saw a pair of waxwings, by the way, feeding each other berries—a behavior I’ve witnessed in the past but involving apple blossoms.) But no photo overshadowed the dramatic Heimlich Maneuver rescue of a guest at dinner. Lucky for him he sat near a doctor who, though she acknowledged it was her first Heimlich, expelled the food expertly. (Others of us who had taken CPR classes stood by just in case.) In the end, he finished his meal and had chocolate cake for dessert.

This evening, I watched the sunset over the ocean with Kristen and Paul. Gulls were riding the wind lazily in the gathering darkness, headed somewhere to roost. And on my walk back to my room at the Trailing Yew, I saw the silhouette of a great blue heron in flight.

Such is Monhegan. Such is life.

Willet, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 May 2010.

Willet.

Monhegan List
(Numbered for full trip; not in order of listing.)

43. Brown thrasher
44. Common raven (voice)
45. Chipping sparrow (voice)
46. Northern parula (voice)
47. Red-breasted nuthatch*
48. Magnolia warbler
49. Alder flycatcher
50. Willet*
51. Ruby-throated hummingbird
52. Winter wren* (voice)
53. Golden-crowned kinglet* (voice)
54. Great blue heron
Laughing gull
Common eider
European starling
Ring-necked pheasant
Mourning dove (voice)
Blue jay (voice)
American goldfinch
Common yellowthroat
Northern gannet
Black-throated green warbler (voice)
Blackpoll warbler (voice)
Barn swallow
House wren
Cedar waxwing
American redstart
Carolina wren
Black-capped chickadee
Gray catbird
Eastern kingbird
Double-crested cormorant
Northern oriole
Red-winged blackbird
Common grackle
Song sparrow
Yellow warbler
Herring gull
Mallard
American crow
American robin
Gray catbird
Osprey
Black guillemot
Great black-backed gull

*First-of-year bird.

White Head, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 May 2010.

White Head, Monhegan, 30 May 2010.

Monhegan

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
Western Kingbird, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 May 2010.

Western Kingbird, Monhegan Island.

Our morning routine fell apart this morning, Jack’s and mine. We didn’t hike Beech Hill early. Instead, we hung around the house until my friend Mark came to take Jack off for a weekend at his farm in the country and my friends Kristen and Paul came to take me and a couple bags down to Port Clyde. Then we all boarded the Elizabeth Ann and sailed off to Monhegan. It might even become a Memorial Day tradition.

Black-throated green warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 May 2010.

Black-throated green warbler.

I’d planned the trip—my first spring visit to the island—to correspond with Kristen’s and Paul’s annual stay. We came to bird. But for whatever reason spring came early in 2010, and Memorial Day came late, and when we made our obligatory stop at Tom Martin’s place (to pay our respects to the 89-year-old grandfather of Monhegan birding), Tom said, essentially, the birds were gone aready. A few blackbirds hanging around his usually fruitful yard. Some nesting starlings. Reports of more than twenty warbler species by one birder friend—but that’d been a few days. Thus, we began with low expectations.

People should always begin things that way.

By nightfall, I’d personally listed 45 species (naturally, Kristen had listed about eight or ten more than that), including ten first-of-year birds—at least one of which was a lifer (maybe two, I’ll have to check). The lifer: a western kingbird.

Not a lot of electricity out here, and my laptop battery’s running low, but I’ll post a couple photos and a list of species.

(Note: now all is dark here, with the sound of the ocean out the window and a slowly-flashing blue-green light on the horizon. A magical place, this island.)

Gray catbird, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 May 2010.

Gray catbird.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of listing.)

1. Ring-necked pheasant*
2. Common grackle
3. Red-winged blackbird
4. European starling
5. Song sparrow
6. Yellow warbler
7. American redstart
8. Common yellowthroat
9. Black-throated green warbler
10. Blackburnian warbler (voice)
11. Blackpoll warbler
12. Northern waterthrush* (voice)
13. Blue jay (voice)
14. Northern cardinal (voice)
15. American goldfinch
16. White-winged crossbill*
17. Eastern kingbird
18. Western kingbird**
19. Great crested flycatcher (voice)
20. Easter wood-pewee (voice)
21. Bobolink (voice)
22. Barn swallow*
23. Black-capped chickadee
24. American crow
25. Merlin*
26. American robin
27. Swainson’s thrush* (voice)
28. Eastern bluebird
29. House wren
30. Carolina wren* (voice)
31. Gray catbird
32. Northern oriole* (voice)
33. Osprey
34. Mallard
35. Double-crested cormorant
36. Herring gull
37. Great black-backed gull
38. Black guillemot
39. Common eider
40. Blue jay (voice)
41. Mourning dove
42. Red-eyed vireo

Elsewhere

43. Northern gannet*
44. House finch
45. Laughing gull

*First-of-year birds.
**Life bird.

Sunset, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 May 2010.

Sunset, Monhegan Island.

 
Bird Report is an intermittent record of what's outside my window in Rockport, Maine, USA (44°08'N latitude, 69°06'W longitude), and vicinity. —Brian Willson



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