17 April 2024

Archive for September, 2010


Thursday, September 30th, 2010
Northern gannet, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Northern gannet.

Up early. Mostly overcast, but with breaks in the clouds to the east. After breakfast, I took off along down to Lobster Cove. En route, a merlin swooped over and perched in the tip of a spruce tree, silhouetted against the golden sunrise.

I walked all over the place. Back through town to the ice pond, where I spotted a Nashville warbler in some low foliage amid the ever-present yell0w-rumps and a couple chickadees. Mallards in the pond, along with a couple of black ducks and the pair of blue-winged teals. No kingfishers today that I could see. But plenty of flickers, and sparrows, and, of course, ‘rumps.

Yellow-rumped warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Up the narrow path through the thicket behind the schoolhouse. On the ledges near where someone left some seed I saw a blue-headed vireo flitting about. Then around back of the meadow, where I met a woman who asked if I’d seen an older gentleman wearing a blue sweatshirt and carrying a cane. I hadn’t. If I should see him, I was asked to mention that he was missed at The Island Inn. I figured someone would track the old gent down.

The sun would emerge, the air would grow instantly warm, and I’d tie my over shirt around my waist; the clouds would overspread, a chill would rise, and I’d put my overshirt on again. Up beyond the lighthouse I found no sparrows or dickcissels, so I decided to head down the trail toward White Head. About a hundred yards in, I noticed a number of small birds zipping around in a stand of small trees: red-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, more ‘rumps, and a single black-and-white warbler. Just as I was starting to photograph the warbler, it took off in a hurry. I brought my camera down in time to see all the small birds vanish as a sharp-shinned hawk burst noisily through some leaves.

Chipping sparrow, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Chipping sparrow.

Nearing the cliffs, I heard voices and decided to take a side path to the north. The path wound around over roots and into a wood of tall trees, crossed a running stream, and met another small path. I turned west, and within a couple minutes ran into Ted, an older fellow birder whom I’d met earlier in my stay. Ted had had a stroke, so I was told, which explained why he walked very slowly, aided by a cane. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt. He was far from town—essentially in the middle of nowhere. It’d been a good half-hour since I’d seen the lady asking for him.

I turned around and walked with Ted through Cathedral Woods, down the trail lined with secret fairy houses made of bark and twigs, ornamented with shells and feathers and sea glass. At his diminished pace, it took us a good hour, hour-and-a-half to make it back to town, but Ted tells a good story.

After saying goodbye at The Island Inn, where Ted had a boat to catch, I returned to the birdy trail behind the schoolhouse, where I saw a pair of cardinals and about four or five dozen more yellow-rumped warblers. Then I headed back through town and down to Lobster Cove again. It was early afternoon. I made my way out to the exposed eastern rocks, just above the tide, where waves broke in white fountains below me. Fog hung low over the ocean. Northern gannets flapped on long wings back and forth not far from shore.

I must’ve sat there for a half-hour, forty-five minutes, watching the gannets fish. They’d flap by high, slow or circle, pull their wings in, then veer over and down—spiraling down, it looked like—and splash cleanly into the gray swells. Soon they’d emerge, float a moment, then take wing again. Over and over. I loved the feel of the sea wind, the sound of the waves, the ghostly appearance of gannets.

Got a few new birds. Had drinks with friends after. And just now I’m recollecting my time with the gannets.

Red-breasted nuthatch, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Red-breasted nuthatch.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

1. American black duck
2. Mallard
3. Blue-winged teal
4. Common eider
5. Ring-necked pheasant
6. Northern gannet
7. Double-crested cormorant
8. Sharp-shinned hawk
9. Merlin
10. Herring gull
11. Great black-backed gull
12. Mourning dove
13. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
14. Downy woodpecker
15. Northern flicker
16. Eastern phoebe
17. Blue-headed vireo
18. Blue jay
19. American crow
20. Common raven (voice)
21. Black-capped chickadee
22. Red-breasted nuthatch
23. Carolina wren (voice)
24. Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)
25. American robin (voice)
26. Gray catbird
27. Cedar waxwing
28. Nashville warbler
29. Yellow-rumped warbler
30. Palm warbler
31. Black-and-white warbler
32. Common yell0wthroat
33. Chipping sparrow
34. Clay-colored sparrow
35. Song sparrow
36. White-throated sparrow
37. Dark-eyed junco
38. Northern cardinal
39. Rusty blackbird
40. Purple finch
41. American goldfinch

Merlin, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.


More lifers

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
Blue grosbeak, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 September 2010.

Blue grosbeak.

Curiously, the most noteworthy birds showed up a stone’s-throw from The Trailing Yew this morning. Kristen, Bill, and I had no sooner turned down the main road, when a white-crowned sparrow greeted us from a small blaze-red tree. When the bird flew off behind the fire house, we followed down the boardwalk, and right away Bill (or Kristen, I forget which) spotted a blue grosbeak in its rich chestnut fall plumage. First time I’d ever seen a member of that species. Then we saw, apparently pals with the grosbeak, an indigo bunting. And not long after that, a northern waterthrush was agreeable enough to give me a peak at its white eyebrow. Another “lifer.” [Correction: I’ve since double-checked and it turns out I’d already listed a northern waterthrush—albeit by voice only—on my spring trip to Monhegan this year.]

Indigo bunting, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 September 2010.

Indigo bunting.

But the day brought other nice sightings—most dramatic among them likely the peregrine falcon that rose up the cliffs of White Head as we peered down at a cluster of great cormorants near a large group of touring birders. The falcon was riding the wind, nearly motionless, very near us. “Oohs” and “Ahhs” rose from the tour group. In the tangles near the ballfield behind the lighthouse we saw a dickcissel hanging with a group of white-throated sparrows.

The day—forecast to be wet and rain—turned out to be warm, sunny, gorgeous. I didn’t see as many species as my first two days here, but it was no less of a thrill. Later, relaxing back at The Yew, we watched palm warblers and dark-eyed juncos flitting about in the spruces lining the lawn, along with a solitary pine warbler.

Peregrine falcon, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 September 2010.

Peregrine falcon.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

1. Mallard
2. Common eider
3. Ring-necked pheasant
4. Northern gannet
5. Double-crested cormorant
6. Great cormorant
7. Osprey
8. Sharp-shinned hawk
9. Merlin
10. Peregrine falcon
11. Herring gull
12. Great black-backed gull
13. Mourning dove
14. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
15. Northern flicker
16. Eastern phoebe
17. Red-eyed vireo
18. Blue jay
19. American crow
20. Common raven
21. Black-capped chickadee
22. Red-breasted nuthatch
23. White-breasted nuthatch
24. Brown creeper
25. Carolina wren (voice)
26. Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)
27. Gray catbird
28. Cedar waxwing
29. Yellow-rumped warbler
30. Pine warbler
31. Palm warbler
32. Blackpoll warbler
33. Northern waterthrush
34. Common yellowthroat
35. Song sparrow
36. Swamp sparrow
37. White-throated sparrow
38. White-crowned sparrow
39. Dark-eyed junco
40. Blue grosbeak
41. Indigo bunting
42. Dickcissel
43. Bobolink
44. Rusty blackbird
45. Baltimore oriole
46. Purple finch
47. American goldfinch

White-throated sparrow, Monhegan Island, Maine, 29 September 2010.

White-throated sparrow.

Yellow-throated warbler

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Yellow-throated warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 28 September 2010.

Yellow-throated warbler.

Ever since I caught sight of my first yellow-throated warbler, I’d had a nagging wish to see it again but nearer and for a longer period—i.e., posing for a photo.

Yellow-throated vireo, Monhegan Island, Maine, 28 September 2010.

Yellow-throated vireo.

But first thing this morning, Kristen and I set off through rain toward Lobster Cove in hopes of spotting the yell0w-breasted chat everyone’s been talking about. After about five minutes, the sun emerged from behind a ceiling of clouds, and we grew hopeful. No chat, though. Nor any of the common warblers we hadn’t yet seen—black-throated green, black-and-white, black-throated blue. We did, however, see a nice aerial dogfight between a merlin and a peregrine.

Then a few of us trekked to the ballfield and around behind the school house and over to the Ice Pond on our mission for new warblers. Instead, we saw a dickcissel and an exotic sparrow or two.

No black-throated green, no black-throated blue. But we did hear from other birders that the yellow-throated warbler was still hanging around. Not until we were headed back for lunch and ran into Bryan Pfeiffer (of Vermont Bird Tours), did we think to take a little side trip along the harbor road to where we saw the yellow-throated yesterday. Sure enough, a couple noted birding experts had their binoculars trained up into some spruces, and before long we were staring ourselves up into a spruce above the road itself at the lovely little bird as it pecked around in the boughs. It lingered. It gave us some great looks. It didn’t seem to mind the little cluster of humans all observing it from just a few feet below. And I got some photos.

That made my day.

But the day wasn’t done: soon after, a couple hundred yards away, we were gazing up into an apple tree that contained a yell0w-throated vireo—another life bird for me. (Not one, but two yell0w-throated songbirds!) And then we saw a Tennessee warbler.

The weather was fickle, breeze and warm, overcast then sunny, a spattering of rain. Tonight the stars have emerged, and I hear the sound of the ocean out my window. Crazily, I ended up with the same number of species as yesterday.

I love this island.

Brown creeper, Monhegan Island, Maine, 28 September 2010.

Brown creeper.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

1. Mallard
2. Blue-winged teal
3. Common eider
4. Ring-necked pheasant
5. Northern gannet
6. Double-crested cormorant
7. Great blue heron
8. Osprey
9. Sharp-shinned hawk
10. Merlin
11. Peregrine falcon
12. Herring gull
13. Great black-backed gull
14. Black guillemot
15. Mourning dove
16. Belted kingfisher
17. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
18. Downy woodpecker
19. Northern flicker
20. Eastern phoebe
21. Yellow-throated vireo
22. Red-eyed vireo
23. Blue jay
24. American crow
25. Common raven
26. Black-capped chickadee
27. Red-breasted nuthatch
28. White-breasted nuthatch
29. Brown creeper
30. Carolina wren
31. House wren
32. Golden-crowned kinglet
33. American robin
34. Gray catbird
35. Brown thrasher
36. Cedar waxwing
37. Tennessee warbler
38. Yellow-rumped warbler
39. Yellow-throated warbler
40. Palm warbler
41. Blackpoll warbler
42. Common yellowthroat
43. Chipping sparrow
44. Clay-colored sparrow
45. Savannah sparrow
46. Song sparrow
47. Swamp sparrow
48. White-throated sparrow
49. Dickcissel
50. Rusty blackbird
51. Baltimore oriole
52. Purple finch
53. American goldfinch

Tennessee warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 28 September 2010.

Tennessee warbler.

Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson

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