Spring 2013 Summary

July 3, 2013

The weather this spring made birding difficult. The earlier half of spring saw clear sunny days and caused migrants to pass right over us. Then we were hit with a cooler, wetter, May with most days seeing a high in the mid 50s. During the second half of May, when migration on the island is usually peaking and the most birders are out, it rained on all but a few days and total precipitation was around 5.1 inches. Bad weather during migration can hold up migrants which then pulse when there is a clear night. This happened on the night of the 20th then the following rain kept many of the migrants around. The 21st was a perfect ‘fallout’ and the mass of birds stayed for a few days after.

Throughout the spring season, 167 species (+/-) were reported from the island. Below is a summary of these birds:

Waterfowl through Alcids

Only six species of ducks and geese were reported with Common Eider the only sea duck. The persistent rain minimizing visibility likely explains the lack of seawatching and therefore the lack of seaducks, especially scoters. A drake RING-NECKED DUCK found in the meadow on the 26th represented only the 3rd record for the island. Both Virginia Rail and Sora were present in the meadow where they were fairly vocal. The tagged Herring Gull (K195; tagged in Revere, MA on 3/22/13) continued in the harbor all spring. Black Guillemots were abundant while low numbers of Razorbills and Atlantic Puffins were reported near the end of May.

Doves through Swallows

One Rock Pigeon found in the rope shed was captured and turned out to be someones pet racing pigeon, further making this a ‘rare’ bird on the island. Two WHITE-WINGED DOVES were reported on the island this spring are the 6th and 7th records for the island:

White-winged Dove on 6/14

White-winged Dove on 6/14

Representing a first for the island was a BARRED OWL first reported by hikers but later confirmed by an experienced birder. A single Common Nighthawk was fairly reliable in the evening over the meadow for the second half of may but that was overshadowed by a high count of 25 on the night of the 30th. One or two ACADIAN FLYCATCHERS were found in late May representing the 4th (and maybe fifth) island record: one extremely cooperative bird I found on Fish Beach on the 25th and continued there on the 26th, then another (or the same) which was seen on the 30th near Lobster Cove and recorded on the 31st near the Monhegan House.

Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher

A massive empid flight of over 700 birds was reported on the 30th. All five of Maine’s regularly occurring swallows were reported this spring as well as a loose group of six Purple Martins that stayed for a few days.

Chickadees through Warblers

Though never abundant in the spring, only one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was reported. Singles of both Gray-cheeked Thrush and Wood Thrush were reported to eBird. European Starlings successfully bred thing spring resulting in depressingly high counts around town. 23 species of warblers stopped over on the island with American Redstarts being the most abundant: high counts of 250+ during the late May fallout. A female HOODED WARBLER was the only ‘rare’ warbler this season.

American Redstart

American Redstart

Sparrows through Finches

A late American Tree Sparrow was seen by a few birders along Wharton Ave on May 23rd. Two Clay-colored Sparrows were reported, one seen with the ATSP and another on May 30th in town. 2-3 Blue Grosbeaks showed for only a few birders in the last few days of May. A single immature male Orchard Oriole was present daily from May 24th through the 28th.


Apr 5-8: Early Spring

April 13, 2013

With some of our first migrants showing up in Maine, I was more than curious to learn what would be showing up on the island and took a long weekend to find out. Over the four days I tallied 55 species and surprisingly added 3 birds to my island list. Here are the daily highlights:

Apr 5:

My ‘best’ bird of the day was actually a House Finch. I am fairly surprised how many records of this species show up in eBird and that this was my first time seeing them. Apparently they even nested on the island in 1984. ‘Bout time then:

Where have you been all my life?

Where have you been all my life?

New migrants were scarce but included: two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 4+ Northern Flickers, 2 Eastern Phoebes, 1 Tree Swallow, 50+ Golden-crowned Kinglets (mini fall out), and too many Brown-headed Cowbirds. A Herring Gull roosting in the harbor was wearing a green ‘K195’ wing tag from the DCR Gull Study; she was banded on Revere Beach (MA) on 15 Mar 2013, continued there on 22 Mar 2013 and then moved out to Monhegan for 5 Apr 2013. A ‘probable’ nesting White-winged Crossbill pair near Burnt Head was a nice close to the day. Here is my complete checklist for the day: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13643415

Apr 6:

I have to think the strong (20+ mph) west wind helped blow out a couple of the rarities from today. Red-tailed Hawks, with their reluctance to cross water, have only been seen a few times from Monhegan and as far as I know always in the fall (all between 21 Sep and 29 Sep). So I was more than pleased when I found this adult near Lobster Cove:

First spring record?

First spring record?

And my third new species for the island during this trip was a surprise Snowy Egret that arrived sometime in the afternoon and spent a few hours catching fish in the Ice Pond. Complete list: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13653942



Apr 7:

Winds shifted overnight and were coming from the south all day. No new arrivals but it was a great day for seawatching with Great Cormorants and lots of paired Common Eiders streaming north. http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13664943

Apr 8:

Only a few hours before grabbing the boat but a Green-winged Teal, Eastern Bluebird, and Gray Catbird helped bump the trip list: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13675702

So it was a great trip for working on a patch list and seeing some early trickles of spring. Plus it is hard to be mad about a ridiculously cooperative Golden-crowned Kinglet:

Too bad they don't pose like this on the 'regulus'

Too bad they don’t pose like this on the ‘regulus’

Jan 2-4: Christmas Bird Count

January 7, 2013

Postponed from its earlier date in December, the Monhegan Christmas Bird Count was held on January 3rd. I was joined by Charlie Duncan, Paul Miliotis, William Nichols, and Peter Vickery to survey the birds on the island.

From left to right: Doug Hitchcox, Charlie Duncan, William Nichols, Paul Miliotis, and Peter Vickery

From left to right: Doug Hitchcox, Charlie Duncan, William Nichols, Paul Miliotis, and Peter Vickery

The weather is always a challenge for a Monhegan trip in the winter: winds were gusting up to 25 mph and temps hit a low of 7F giving us approx -14 degrees F. We were very fortunate to have an excellent day for conducting the count. There was a brutal west wind in the morning that we were able to evade by sea watching from the east side of the island. In two groups we watched from White Head and Burnt Head: from White Head the majority of Great Cormorants on the island can be counted along the cliffs, other highlights included two Peregrine Falcons and a Dovekie. The Burnt Head group had the “bird of the count” though with a Pomarine Jaeger they watched fly by. Jaegers are hard enough to see on the island even when they are more abundant so this winter record is exceptional.

Walking back to town the Burnt Head group’s luck continued with a first count record of Chipping Sparrow visiting feeders. Through the woods the White Head group turned up a roving flock of 25+ White-winged Crossbills. Both groups saw Hermit Thrushes, a species only reported on two other counts:

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Fortunately the wind calmed before a post lunch trek around town. We tried chumming gulls in at the harbor but an immature eagle kept scattering the building flocks. No rare gulls came into the suet offerings but we did have one adult Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gull earlier in the morning:

Kumlien's Gull

Kumlien’s Gull

One flyover passerine with good characteristics for a Horned Lark eventually went unidentified:

passerine sp. photographed from ~300 yds away

passerine sp. photographed from ~300 yds away

As soon as we stepped on the boat on Wednesday residents were telling us about a flock of six Snow Geese that had been seen on the island for a few days. It seemed like everyone we talked to kept telling us about them though we could not find them anywhere… being nearly the largest birds on the island and all white you wouldn’t think this to be too hard. On count day, Paul and I were looking into town from the lighthouse at just the right time to see five Snow Geese fly down to the beach but by the time we could get there the birds had once again vanished. Luckily on Thursday as we were all walking around town together before getting on the boat, we chanced upon the geese loafing on Swim Beach, a nice treat from the bird gods to wrap up the count.

Snow Geese - the most elusive birds of the count

Snow Geese – the most elusive birds of the count

53 species were tallied throughout the count day. An American Robin, Merlin, and White-breasted Nuthatch were seen on the day before and after the count, plus a Red-throated Loon was seen from the ferry on our trip back in (but still in the count circle!) giving us 58 species for the count period. Here is a complete list from the count:

Snow Goose – 5 (first count record)
American Black Duck – 20
Mallard – 10
Common Eider – 49
Surf Scoter – 4
Long-tailed Duck – 3
Common Goldeneye – 1
Red-breasted Merganser – 16
Ring-necked Pheasant – 3
Red-throated Loon – cw
Common Loon – 27
Horned Grebe – 2
Red-necked Grebe – 18
Northern Gannet – 5
Great Cormorant – 30
Great Blue Heron – 1
Bald Eagle – 3
Northern Harrier – 1 (first count record)
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Merlin – cw
Peregrine Falcon – 2
Purple Sandpiper – 5
Ring-billed Gull – 3
Herring Gull – 74
Kumlien’s Gull – 1
Great Black-backed Gull – 4
Black-legged Kittiwake – 7
Pomarine Jaeger – 1 (first count record)
Dovekie – 1
Razorbill – 49
Black Guillemot – 18
Mourning Dove – 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Downy Woodpecker – 3
Blue Jay – 6
American Crow – 24
Common Raven – 2
Black-capped Chickadee – 63
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 29
White-breasted Nuthatch – cw
Brown Creeper – 1
Carolina Wren – 10
Winter Wren – 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 1
Hermit Thrush – 2
American Robin – cw
European Starling – 10
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler – cw
American Tree Sparrow – 9
Chipping Sparrow – 1 (first count record)
Song Sparrow – 11
White-throated Sparrow – 4
Dark-eyed Junco – 2
Snow Bunting – 2
Northern Cardinal – 22
Red Crossbill – 9
White-winged Crossbill – 35
Common Redpoll – 1

Oct 13 – The Big Sit

October 14, 2012

The second weekend in October is time for “The Big Sit”. The goal here is to see how many species of birds you can observe in a single day from a single location (within a 17 foot diameter circle). For more on the history and rules, check out: Bird Watcher’s Digest: The Big Sit.

My location was at the edge of our property, looking out over the ocean, Sterling Cove Road to my right, and our feeders about 20 feet behind me. Here is a ~180degree panoramic of my circle:

I started at 7am and was up to 27 species in the first hour and a half. I was really hoping for more ‘tough’ birds (American Pipit, Dickcissel, etc) during the morning flight but the strong winds seemed to keep a lot of birds down. A White-breasted Nuthatch (photo below) was a nice pick-up since it was the only one I had from the circle. I did get lucky with a few uncommon warblers (Tennessee, Orange-crowned) and managed to hit 51 species by 11:30am.

Having set a goal of 50 for the day, I took two hours to walk around the island and visit a few hotspots to make sure there were no rare birds I was missing. Nothing crazy to report; the drake Eurasian Wigeon is still in the meadow.

Back at my post shortly after 1, I spent more time sea-watching and was able to add four new species of waterfowl. The rest of the afternoon passed slowly, only occasionally adding a new species. Activity at my feeders picked up around 3pm, adding Lincoln’s Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird. Carolina Wren was actually the last bird I added to the list, finally hearing one sing at 5:52pm. I turned in at 6pm with 65 species seen… still listening for a Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Full list:

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Common Eider (Atlantic)
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Loon
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Bald Eagle
Herring Gull (American)
Great Black-backed Gull
Black Guillemot
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker: very few on the island this fall; my first

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Only one of the day; lucky fly-by

Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Swainson’s Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler (Yellow)
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Hindsight: There are several ‘easy’ species that I missed today: I saw at least three Blue-headed Vireos but no Red-eyed (I did see two on my walk through town). Also had an Indigo Bunting on Main Street, not from the circle though. WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW… my god they are everywhere on the island! How did I not see or hear one from the circle today? Brown Thrashers have been at my feeders all week: none today. The list goes on. My point is that 65 species, which I am more than happy with, could (and will) be exceeded.

Oct 11&12 – late and uncommon

October 13, 2012

Strong winds and rainy weather have made birding fairly slow lately. There are some quality birds out here though: late migrants and a few uncommon birds.

Here are a few checklists from the last few days:

Oct 11: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S11781130

Oct 12: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S11785994

Personal highlight: AMERICAN COOT! I only know of two other records for this bird on the island so I was very happy to find this individual in the meadow on the 11th:

American Coot – my 209th species for the island

There is a good assortment of warblers lingering this year but also a late Least Flycatcher and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that were still here on the 11th.

late Least Flycatcher

Radar looks pretty good tonight, the NW wind is moving a lot of birds that should improve the situation out here. I’ve registered a spot for The Big Sit tomorrow so I hope to spend the majority of the day taking part in “birdings most sedentary event.” I’m setting a rough and extremely optimistic goal of 50 species from the circle. Last year’s big sit attempt didn’t start until noon because I missed the ferry and then was aborted by 2pm because of a Worm-eating Warbler being seen.

Oct 8&9 – slowing down

October 11, 2012

There are still lots of migrants lingering from the fall out on the 4th. Even if there aren’t mega rarities to be chasing, the photo ops out here are around every corner:

Palm Warbler

Blue-headed Vireo

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Black-billed Cuckoo

ridiculously tame Swainson’s Thrush

Lapland Longspur – only my second on the island

In my Oct 4 post I reviewed recent Northern Wheatear records in the northeast and hoped for one on Monhegan. One actually was found on the 8th in Kennebunk, so close! Having never seen one in Maine before, I took the morning ferry off yesterday and made it down to see the bird by 1pm. It took a few hours of sitting on a hard rock beach but the result was worth it (and I made it back to the island this morning):

Northern Wheatear in Kennebunk, ME

Predictions: Rain tonight won’t let up until around 3am, this storm is coming through on a south wind that will be switching from the west by morning. So, if a southern rarity is pushed up behind the storm, the wind could help move it out to sea and hopefully to Monhegan. Friday night looks promising with a northwest wind: we’ve missed a north component for a few days so we could get a little pop on Saturday, again helped by that west wind. Say’s Phoebe is still my most wanted bird out here: the latest record for the island is Oct 26th, so we are still ‘in the window’ for that species. Black-throated Gray Warbler was recently seen off Cape Cod…

Oct 6&7 – Rare birds galore

October 9, 2012

This week is what birding on Monhegan is all about: rare birds. Here are a few of the highlights from the 6th and 7th:

White-eyed Vireo – quickly becoming another ‘Monhegan trash-bird’ but I couldn’t resist posting a good photo:

White-eyed Vireo

Red-headed Woodpecker – first bird this fall on Monhegan (10/6):

RHWO documentation

Summer Tanager – spent the 6th around town:

Summer Tanager

Bell’s Vireo – this mega rarity continued for a second day, seen briefly but within 100 feet of the first sighting:

Bell’s Vireo

Apparently the Rufous Hummingbird was found in the greenhouse near the meadow, where it had been trapped all day on the 6th. The person who found it was able to get it out but the bird has not been seen since.

Le Conte’s Sparrow – Lysle Brinker found this bird early on the 7th in the marshy area at Lobster Cove:

Le Conte’s Sparrow

House Sparrow – seriously, this is a rare bird for the island. Only my second out here:


Eurasian Wigeon – one bird I never thought I’d get out here. Jeremiah Trimble had one fly-by while sea-watching behind the school house a few years ago but we were lucky to find this drake near the pump house on the 7th:


October 6, 2012

After the amazing fallout on the 4th, there were a lot of birds moving around the island late at night. Although it didn’t live up to a Machias Seal Island event, it was interesting to see a lot of birds being thrown off by the lights of the lighthouse. In my short observation just after midnight, I watched around 20 birds flying into the glass on the lighthouse and most having to rest along the guardrail:

Migrants resting on the lighthouse

I did take several recordings of the many call notes I was hearing. Lots of Savannah Sparrows, a good batch of Swainson’s Thrushes, plenty of unidentified warblers plus an almost comical group of herons.

Savannah Sparrow spectrogram

The morning flight from behind the school was a little difficult because of the low light but Yellow-rumped Warblers remained the dominant passerby.

‘morning flight’ Black-and-white Warbler

After breakfast things got really exciting: My dad had photographed the Selasphorus hummingbird that had been in our yard for a couple days. It didn’t take long to get photos of this bird’s tail and confirm it as a Rufous Hummingbird.

r5 looks pretty wide; r2 has a fairly significant notch

And patience pays off:

Rufous Hummingbird

Also in our yard, an extremely late Orchard Oriole was sticking to our new unmowed area. This species should pretty much be out of the US by now.

Orchard Oriole

The last real excitement of the day came while birding on the Under Hill Trail. I was hoping for an unusual flycatcher but had a pale vireo fly in very close. The pale head on a more colorful body and obvious wing bar were spot on for a BELL’S VIREO. Unfortunately it only posed once before vanishing:

Bell’s Vireo

Here is a full checklist of my 91 species from today: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S11722055


Oct 4: fallout! Selasphorus hummingbird

October 5, 2012

I made it on the 3:00 boat this afternoon to the island and instantly there were birds everywhere. Along the road, in the lobster traps, flying to Manana. It was crazy.

My parents have seen a selasphorus type hummingbird for a couple days in on yard and it made a quick visit soon after my arrival. Looks pale on the throat and belly but has very obvious rufous colored flanks.

Here is my checklist from the two hours I had to bird before sunset: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S11716462

Predictions: I still want a Say’s Phoebe: after the two in NJ last week, another was spotted at Plum Island, MA today. Northern Wheatear is another bird making a southern push this fall: southern Ontario has had three this fall, Block Island, RI had one on 9/30, and two in Trepassey, NF yesterday.

And we’re back!

October 4, 2012

Computer is fixed! I’ll get reports posted from the last few days shortly.

Big news is the fallout from last night. There was a massive movement of birds through northern Maine that were grounded by a little weather event passing through southern Maine. See the map below:

Mid-coast fallout

I’m unfortunately not on the island (until this afternoon) but there have already been some reports of a big sparrow push coming in last night. “Literally one hundred birds, mostly sparrows, in our first net run.” – bander in Acadia NP.

In near-by news: White Head Island in New Brunswick had an immature Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher yesterday; why not Monhegan?