This column is the last of three reporting highlights of some of the Maine Christmas bird counts. These counts, conducted on a single day within a permanent circle with a 15-mile diameter, are compiled by the National Audubon Society.

The first count was held 119 years ago. Today, scientists rely on the decades of data to understand the long-term status of bird species.

We’ll jump all around the state today.

The Waterville count, held Dec. 16, was exceptionally good this year with 59 species found. That species total equals the totals from several coastal counts.

Two dams on the Kennebec usually keep some water open. This year the open water yielded 217 common goldeneye, six Barrow’s goldeneye, seven hooded mergansers and 32 common mergansers.

Predatory birds included 15 bald eagles, a merlin, a peregrine falcon and a northern shrike.

Both waxwings were present with Bohemians vastly outnumbering cedars, 341 to 18. A single snow bunting was seen, unusual for this species that typically flocks in the winter.

Irruptive finches were represented by 20 pine grosbeaks and one pine siskins.

Lingering birds included a belted kingfisher, a northern flicker, five eastern bluebirds, four Savannah sparrows, two swamp sparrows, a brown-headed cowbird and a rusty backbird.

We’ll head northwest to Hartland, where counters found 33 species on Dec. 22. With most water frozen, mallards and American black ducks were the only waterbirds.

Highlights included a lingering northern flicker, 38 Bohemian waxwings, a single purple finch and a dozen common redpolls.

Proceeding southwest, we come to Farmington, where 39 species were found Dec. 27. Not a single waterbird was detected.

The counters did get the trifecta of woodland hawks, though: one sharp-shinned hawk, two Cooper’s hawks and a single northern goshawk. They noted a hawk wannabe, a northern shrike, as well.

Four lingering eastern bluebirds were remarkable for this part of the state. Bohemian waxwings were present to the tune of 310 individuals. The northern finch list was impressive: 33 pine grosbeaks, 15 common redpolls and 37 evening grosbeaks.

The Misery Township count was held Dec. 23. About 30 miles south of Jackman, this area is the least developed of any Christmas count circle in Maine. The human population is sparse and most of the area is timberland. The low habitat diversity and the harsh climate is reflected in a modest species count every year. But the quality of the birds was outstanding.

Fourteen species were found this year: seven ruffed grouse, three bald eagles, two downy woodpeckers, two hairy woodpeckers, 10 Canada jays (formerly gray jays), 20 blue jays, one American crow, 24 northern ravens, 123 black-capped chickadee and a single boreal chickadee, 24 red-breasted nuthatches, three white-breasted nuthatches, two northern cardinals and five pine grosbeaks.

Note the absence of birds of open countryside like snow buntings or sparrows and the lack of birds associated with human developments (gulls, rock pigeon, European starling, house sparrow).

We’ll end with a coastal trip to Thomaston-Rockland, where a count on Dec. 15 yielded a list of 68 species.

Fourteen species of waterfowl were present with 14 American wigeons being the most unusual.

Lingering breeders included five great blue herons, a belted kingfisher, a northern flicker, an American kestrel, two Carolina wrens, eight eastern bluebirds, three northern mockingbirds and a Savannah sparrow. An Eastern phoebe was a nice find during count week but was not seen on count day.

Notable birds seen from shore included five razorbills and three Bonaparte’s gulls. A peregrine falcon and a northern shrike were sighted.

A pair of snow buntings were welcome sights as these winter visitors have not been very common this year.

Four pine grosbeaks were the only northern finches sighted.

Bopping over to Sweden in Oxford County, we discovered their count on Dec. 27 produced a list of 31 species. American black ducks and mallards were the only waterfowl found with much of the water frozen over.

Three red-bellied woodpeckers were good finds for this part of the state. The northern finches found were three evening grosbeaks, one red crossbill and one pine siskin.

Look for my next column. I’ll provide a brief overview of the Maine counts.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

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