14 April 2024

Stormy day

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Peregrine falcon (young male), Monhegan Island, Maine, 01 October 2010.

Peregrine falcon (young male).

This was supposed to be a stormy day. Trap Day—when the Monhegan lobster crews head out with their traps amid great, traditional fanfare—was postponed until tomorrow. The forecast called for a 100 percent chance of rain. And sure enough, first thing, I looked out to see the island trees bucking and swaying in a strong wind. Fog cloaked everything beyond a few hundred yards out such that the island appeared to float on its own cloud. No rain yet, but my decision to postpone my return until tomorrow seemed sound.

Clay-colored sparrow and dickcissel, Monhegan Island, Maine, 01 October 2010.

Clay-colored sparrow and dickcissel.

Outside, warm air rushed by and rustled the spruce branches. The sound of surf rose from all around. We first strolled down toward town but didn’t see much in the way of birds: a couple rusty blackbirds, a swamp sparrow, the ubiquitous yellow-rumps. Down at the wharf, below high stacks of lobster traps, a female eider paddled fearlessly about. Gulls hung motionless above, all facing in the same direction.

Up behind the schoolhouse, an indigo bunting made an appearance, looking especially plain in its brown fall attire. Dickcissel and clay-colored sparrow posed agreeably on the same swaying twig. And on its open perch, a blue jay showed off its wind-blown crest.

After a while, the wind blew away the clouds and the sun emerged, causing us to strip off overshirts and tie them around our waist’s. Before long, the clouds would return, and we’d don the shirts again.

Blue jay, Monhegan Island, Maine, 01 October 2010.

Blue jay.

During a break in the clouds while returning through town, we spotted a peregrine on a utility pole near the meadow. A small young male bird. I took photos marveling at being so near a peregrine falcon. One of us noticed it’d been banded. Soon after, we learned that it was one of a couple of birds banded by some researchers on Manana, and that they were alarmed at its weight—that it weighed only about as much as a kestrel. The young bird apparently failed hunting class and was likely starving as a result. This put a damper on what I’d imagined might be inspiring photographs.

This afternoon before dinner I took a walk alone out toward Burnt Head, took a side path, ended up on a remote rocky shore. There was a huge bare rock there—which I’ve since learned is called Gull Rock—overlooking the ocean. I climbed it carefully, maybe three or four stories, and sat facing out to sea for a long time working out how to photograph diving gannets in a gale. I got a couple nice photos of gannets, but only one of a gannet diving. It began to rain on my return via Lobter Cove.

The wind tonight is high, the rain wet, the surf pounding.

Northern gannet diving, Monhegan Island, Maine, 01 October 2010.

Northern gannet diving.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

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

Monhegan cliffs, Monhegan Island, Maine, 01 October 2010.

Monhegan cliffs.

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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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