“Nature Notes” will be a near-weekly blog post to keep you updated on some things going on with Maine’s wildlife. This will include incidental observations (many of which are shared on our Instagram page), recent unusual bird sightings, and notes on our bird walks or other field trips.
Barred Owls seem to be everywhere this winter. There are almost daily photos posted on the MAINE Birds Facebook group of Barred Owls both roosting and hunting during the day. They are primarily nocturnal but are known to hunt in the daylight at times, especially when food is scarce. Many of the photos show owls around homes with bird feeders, most likely looking for rodents that are attracted to spilt bird seed. Unfortunately, many of these owls are also hunting along the sides of roads and are being hit by cars. The thick and heavy snow pack makes finding small mammals (the owl’s primary food source) difficult but cleared, plowed roads are easy places to find exposed rodents. The occurrence of food within the path of fast moving vehicles doesn’t bode well for Barred Owls. Deceased animals on the roadside are best left alone, natural recyclers are amazingly efficient, but if you find an injured owl we recommend contact either Avian Haven in Freedom (Central Maine) or the Center for Wildlife in York (Southern Maine). Below is a photograph of a deceased Barred Owl that was brought to us (to be used for educational purposes) after being found on the side of the road in Harpswell. The owl was still holding onto a Short-tailed Shrew, the prey that likely led to its own demise.
Recent birds sightings:
We stopped producing the weekly “RBA” last year because of the more useful and automatically produced Rare Bird Alert from eBird.org. eBird’s RBA is updated as soon as reports are submitted, includes media (photo/video/audio), and links directly to Google Maps for directions. Maine’s eBird RBA can be accessed here: ebird.org/ebird/alert/summary?sid=SN35688 Here are a few recent highlights:
A pair of Pink-footed Geese, along with a lone adult Snow Goose were found by Don Reimer in the ball fields adjacent to the South Elementary School (Former RDMS) on January 2nd. These geese continue to be present through the 6th and will likely stick around until snow blankets that field. This is the 10th record for this rare European goose to be seen in Maine, continuing their established pattern of fall vagrancy to the New World.
A long-staying Bullock’s Oriole that has been visiting private feeders in Camden continues to make regular visits. Details on accessing this bird are available here: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/maine-birds/A2SCBrJ0Zq0/EQOkTfeDBgAJ
And rare for Kennebec County, a Boreal Chickadee continues to visit a feeder behind 10 Hope Way in Augusta. It is very unusual for this typically northern species to wander out of the Boreal Forest so this is a fairly easy opportunity for birders to see this species.
Happy National Bird Day!
Our first Gilsland Farm walk of the year was a little low on species given the frequent 20+mph gusts that made the otherwise warm (28ºF) morning feel especially chilly. Most activity was around the feeders but we were able to boost our species count by working the river despite the low tide. Here were a few highlights:
Canada Goose numbers are increasing in the river, probably a result of local locations becoming iced in. Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser numbers were low today because of the low tide and a drake Barrow’s Goldeneye had been around at the end of 2016 so hopefully he returns. Raptors included a Sharp-shinned Hawk terrorizing our feeders, an ever-present Red-tailed Hawk around the Pond Meadow, two adult Bald Eagles over 295, and one unfortunately distant and unidentified falcon. A few entertaining White-breasted Nuthatches were around the building in the morning: two duetting males singing across the orchard and one bird making frequent visits to an old Hairy Woodpecker nesting cavity. Seems a bit early for breeding activity! A group of ~25 Snow Buntings flew overhead first thing in the morning – I’ve had two people report them foraging in the driveway this morning though.
A complete list from the walk is available at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33456223
Next Wednesday, January 11th we’ll be doing a FREE seawatching outing from Portland Head Light. We’ll have a few scopes set up to look for sea ducks, gulls, and hopefully and alcid or two. Dress warm and bring binoculars if you have them. And Thursday night (January 12th) is our Winter Ecology talk at Gilsland Farm, a fun opportunity to look at examples of how different Maine animals survive the winter.