25 May 2020 Rockport, Maine, USA 

Signs of spring impending

Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Northern harrier, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 18 March 2012.

Northern harrier.

Felt a little antsy this morning, considering the forecast: a high of 68 degrees (F), blue sky, light winds. By early afternoon, I couldn’t stand it any longer and got gussied up for a long bike ride. Since the temps hadn’t broken 60 here yet, I decided on tights and a long-sleeved jersey—and right away was glad. Chillier than I’d hoped, and much windier. A south wind. Of course that’s the first direction I headed.

On the way to town, I figured maybe I’d continue on over to Weskeag Marsh to see what I might see in that expansive wetland. Saw geese and ducks and heard a hairy woodpecker. Thought I heard a kingfisher but couldn’t be sure.

Canada geese, Weskeag Marsh, South Thomaston, Maine, 18 March 2012.

Canada geese at Weskeag Marsh.

Cycled on down Buttermilk Lane to Owls Head and came back via Route 73. A noisy gang of roadside grackles got my attention. First sighting of that species this year. Then I continued on up Route 1 toward Camden, where I thought I might mosey around some back roads. Coming through Rockport, I’d just been wondering when I’d see my first turkey vulture of 2012 when one appeared, as called, soaring amid a flock of circling herring gulls. Stopped to try for photos (I’d brought my camera), but the light was wrong.

Rode through downtown Camden and, on a lark, swung up Mountain Street. About half-way up the hill by the cemetery, I realized the temperature had risen—or the winds weren’t so cooled by the bay up there—and I was sweating pretty good. But that’s not a problem at all, so long as it doesn’t dribble into my eyes (which it didn’t). Saw about fifteen cars parked around the Carriage Trail that leads to the summit of Mount Megunticook. Also saw a white admiral flutter by in front of me. I hadn’t expected to see butterflies. But the many folks arrayed on decks in shorts and tank tops didn’t much surprise me. It was some nice out there today, for March in Maine.

Took a left on Molyneaux Road and past the turnoff to the Snow Bowl—where, I hear, this was the final day of skiing for the season. (Must be crazy to ski in such temperatures.) The ice was breaking up in Hosmer’s Pond.

Turkey vulture, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 18 March 2012.

Turkey vulture.

In a grove of conifers, I heard a red-breasted nuthatch honking around. And back on Route 1 I thought I heard the loose trill of a palm warbler (which sounds a lot like a junco’s call), but I usually have to see on of those before I can add it to my list. Still, it’s likely that palm and pine warblers—the early ones—will be showing up shortly.

Ended up riding 31 miles today. And I felt it in my butt. And then, as soon as I got home, I changed into hiking clothes, grabbed Jack, and headed for Beech Hill.

Ascending the wooded trail, I noticed the cardinal I heard singing about half-way up yesterday was singing again today. That particular area has had no cardinals since I’ve been hiking the region. Also encountered the usual crow, chickadee, etc. No bluebirds at the fields. Nothing particularly noteworthy, in fact—except for the hordes of humans on the hill. A couple dozen, possibly. And coming down the open trail, I met my friend Liz and her son, Daniel, who had brought a pair binoculars.

Returning with them, we heard—then saw—a male bluebird flying over. First one either of them had seen. Near the summit, out toward the bay where a cloud of gulls was rising, Daniel thought he saw a hawk or eagle. I took a peek. Kid has an eagle eye: it was a red-tail. And at the summit, the second turkey vulture of my day soared over.

Accompanied my friends back down the open trail before returning. Most of the crowd had departed by then. Nearing the trailside birches, I spotted a harrier landing in a little thicket. Got a few photos as it rose again, and sailed away over the fields toward the north.

American robin, Beech Hill, Rockport, Maine, 18 March 2012.

American robin.

And that, pretty much, is the story of my day. Except for the fact that my feet are kind of achy. Certainly I burned more calories than I have in many moons.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 3:45 p.m., I hiked all trails.

1. American crow
2. Herring gull
3. Northern cardinal (voice)
4. Black-capped chickadee
5. Eastern bluebird
6. American robin
7. Tufted titmouse (voice)
8. Red-tailed hawk
9. Turkey vulture*
10. Song sparrow (voice)
11. Northern harrier


12. House finch
13. House sparrow
14. White-breasted nuthatch
15. Rock pigeon
16. European starling
17. Blue jay
18. Canada goose
19. American black duck
20. Mallard
21. Hairy woodpecker
22. Common grackle*
23. Mourning dove
24. Red-breasted nuthatch*
25. Dark-eyed junco

*First-of-year bird
Note: first-of-year turkey vulture was not the one at Beech Hill.

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2 Responses to “Signs of spring impending”

  1. kestrel says:

    FYI: No palm warblers have been reported on the Maine list-serv yet, and only a couple of pines in southern Maine. However, I’ve heard several singing juncos lately. So odds favor junco for your triller. Just thought you’d want to know.

  2. Oh, good. That’s a relief, actually. I’ve edited to add junco here (for the second strait day). Thanks, K!

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Bird Report is an intermittent record of what's outside my window in Rockport, Maine, USA (44°08'N latitude, 69°06'W longitude), and vicinity. —Brian Willson

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