28 February 2024

Life and death

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010
American redstart, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

American redstart.

Up at dawn. Windy still but cold, with a painfully blue sky. Took a solo walk through town. Didn’t see much—rusty blackbirds, nuthatches in the spruces, a couple merlins flying over. I was watching sleeping ducks at the ice pond when firecracker explosions from the harbor announced the beginning of lobstering season and woke up the ducks in a hurry. Then I climbed the lighthouse hill and with the sunrise behind  me looked down at Manana for a little while.

Palm warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

Palm warbler.

After breakfast I spent a while photographing a redstart in an apple tree, which at one point also got a visit from a ruby-crowned kinglet. Then we all headed to town to see our friends Amy and Charlie off into the whitecaps on the early boat. On our return, Kristen, Bill, and I ran into a birding-tour group whose binoculars were trained on an “empid” (empidonax flycatcher). It turned out to be a least flycatcher. Afterward we sashayed over behind the school, where chippies were hanging out with a dickcissel, and up again to the ice pond, where waded a solitary sandpiper, we saw a blue grosbeak, and Kristen got her elusive (albeit common) black-throated green warbler. It seemed strange to be walking under such an empty sky.

But that sky would be great for flyovers, Bill predicted. And he was right. Falcons and sharpies, a northern harrier, a Canada goose. We also saw ravens—and the others spotted a small, flapping flock of great blue herons.

Ruby-crowned kinglet, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

Ruby-crowned kinglet.

I’d booked passage on the 12:30 boat, but as boarding time neared we heard that island birding patriarch Tom Martin had a dead peregrine up on his porch. Right away we all knew what bird that’d be: yesterday’s young, sick male. Tom called us over, and we took a quick side-trip to see the bird. He held the dead thing up by its wings. A lovely young bird. And, sure enough, it had the band. The bird’s plumage was beautiful close up. Somebody found it on a porch nearby and brought it over to Tom (who is 89 himself). I don’t think it’d been dead long.

Least flycatcher, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

Least flycatcher.

There’s also been juvenile great black-backed gull with a broken wing on the island. It hangs around near the road, and people have been feeding it donuts. I don’t expect it’ll last much longer. There’s the mourning dove here with the missing tail. Once or twice on every trip here I see a collection of feathers where a hawk has dined. We saw the carcass of a black-back on the rocks below the wharf this morning.

Every living thing dies. Birds’ lives are short. Still, I felt saddened about the falcon.

The trip back had some bounce in it but was nice and swift. I lugged my stuff to the pickup and headed for home. The inshore world seems so cosmopolitan after a week on a Maine island—all the cars and trucks and motorcycles driving so fast. Still, I couldn’t help but look forward to seeing Jack, my dog, again.

Then coming through Rockland, nearing home, I found myself suddenly behind an old pickup which, I couldn’t help but notice, had a dead moose in its bed.

Tom Martin holds a dead peregrine, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

Tom Martin holds a dead peregrine.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

1. Canada goose
2. American black duck
3. Mallard
4. Blue-winged teal
5. Common eider
6. Ring-necked pheasant
7. Northern gannet
8. Double-crested cormorant
9. Osprey
10. Northern harrier
11. Sharp-shinned hawk
12. Merlin
13. Peregrine falcon
14. Solitary sandpiper
15. Herring gull
16. Great black-backed gull
17. Black guillemot
18. Mourning dove
19. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
20. Downy woodpecker
21. Northern flicker
22. Least flycatcher
23. Eastern phoebe
24. Blue jay
25. American crow
26. Common raven
27. Black-capped chickadee
28. Red-breasted nuthatch
29. Brown creeper
30. Carolina wren
31. Golden-crowned kinglet
32. Ruby-crowned kinglet
33. Gray catbird
34. Northern mockingbird
35. Cedar waxwing
36. Yellow-rumped warbler
37. Palm warbler
38. Blackpoll warbler
39. American redstart
40. Common yellowthroat
41. Chipping sparrow
42. Song sparrow
43. White-throated sparrow
44. White-crowned sparrow
45. Dark-eyed junco
46. Blue grosbeak
47. Dickcissel
48. Rusty blackbird
49. Purple finch
50. American goldfinch


51. Common loon

Blue grosbeak, Monhegan Island, Maine, 02 October 2010.

Blue grosbeak.

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One Response to “Life and death”

  1. kestrel says:

    Actually, I think the jury is still out on the mystery empid. I went back with Luke later and he played recordings and took video of the bird. He and Derek are wondering if it might be a dusky flycatcher (a Western species). The differences between least and dusky are quite arcane and this question may never be resolved.

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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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