24 June 2024

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.

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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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