24 June 2024

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
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)


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.

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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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