A male belted kingfisher, shown here in Montana, was among the surprise finds in the Christmas Bird Count in the Pemaquid-Damariscotta area. Robin Loznak/Great Falls Tribune via AP

This column is the first of three reviewing the highlights of some of the recent Maine Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs). This count season spanned Dec. 14 through Jan. 5.

We’ll concentrate on four Midcoast counts in this column.

The Pemaquid-Damariscotta CBC had 69 species on Jan. 3. The waterfowl included 682 mallards, 596 common eiders and 12 other species. The two Barrow’s goldeneyes were unusual for this area. Common loons and red-throated loons were common along with horned grebes and red-necked grebes just off the rocky coastline. In the alcid or puffin family, 20 razorbills joined the more common black guillemots.

Both cormorants were found: three double-crested and 11 great, and 20 purple sandpipers foraged on the intertidal rocks. Hardy lingering birds from the summer and fall included a belted kingfisher, two American kestrels, 63 eastern bluebirds and two northern mockingbirds. The highlights for the six species of finches in this exceptional flight year were 62 pine grosbeaks, five white-winged crossbills and 18 common redpolls.

The Dec. 19 CBC for Thomaston-Rockland tallied 74 species with a highlight being 17 species of waterfowl. Mallards and buffleheads were most common, followed closely by common eiders and Canada geese. Lingering waterfowl adding spice to the count were a green-winged teal, a gadwall, an American wigeon and a ring-necked duck.

Common loons and horned grebes were widespread, but red-throated loons (3) and red-necked grebe (6) were scarce.

A rough-legged hawk was among the six species of hawks that appeared during the Christmas Bird Count in the Thomaston-Rockland area on Dec. 19. Robin Loznak/Great Falls Tribune via AP

Rockland is a reliable spot of American coots in the fall and winter as long as freshwater lakes are open. Only seven appeared this year. Six species of hawks appeared with the most notable being a rough-legged hawk.

This count had a phenomenal number of lingering species. Most of these birds will get pushed south before the teeth of the winter sets in. These ambitious birds included a great blue heron, four belted kingfishers, three yellow-bellied sapsuckers, two northern flickers, 18 eastern bluebirds (they may overwinter), one hermit thrush, one gray catbird and a yellow-breasted chat. An excellent count for lingering birds!

The finch delights were spread over eight species with highlights of 80 pine grosbeaks, one red crossbill, four white-winged crossbills, 123 common redpolls, one pine siskin and five evening grosbeaks.

The Blue Hill CBC on Dec. 20 yielded a count of 64 species with 15 species of waterfowl, headed by 572 mallards, 506 common eiders and 410 long-tailed ducks. Five red-throated loons, 65 common loons, 119 horned grebes and 32 red-necked grebes kept the waterfowl company.  Lingering birds included a ring-billed duck, a great blue heron, a northern flicker and a common grackle. Eight species of finches were found including 11 pine grosbeaks, four red crossbills, one white-winged crossbill, 23 common redpolls and 20 evening grosbeaks.

We’ll make the short flight across Blue Hill Bay to Mt. Desert Island. where the Dec. 19 CBC produced a count of 69 species. This region is one of Maine’s best wintering areas for common eiders and the 935 eiders did not disappoint. The 714 mallards weren’t too shabby either. Thirteen other waterfowl species were counted in. A single red-throated loon was picked out from among the 135 common loons. Grebes were fairly conspicuous with 31 horned grebes and 49 red-necked grebes.

Double-crested cormorants outnumbered great cormorants, 67-8. Generally, double-crested is our summer cormorant and great is our winter cormorant. Purple sandpipers were down a bit this year with only 18 found. The 31 black guillemots were the only member of the alcid family.

Birds that were dragging their feet before heading to more southerly, moderate wintering areas included a belted kingfisher, a hermit thrush and a red-winged bluebird.

Everyone is getting finches this winter. On MDI, the highlights were six red crossbills, five white-winged crossbills, 14 common redpolls and seven evening grosbeaks.

Based on all four counts, there is a dearth of northern gulls (glaucous and Iceland gulls) this winter.

Herb Wilson taught ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at [email protected]


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