News & Notes


Bats!

Posted on: Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

As we approach Halloween you have probably noticed bats everywhere. They are carved into pumpkins, shaped into cookies and decorating cereal boxes. But you probably won’t see bats in the skies this Halloween, as they are getting ready for winter.

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There are eight species of bats that occur in Maine, but this is the time of year they disappear from our skies. Three of the eight species are called ‘tree bats’ and will migrate south for the winter, while the other five species stay in Maine year round by hibernating during the cold months. The locations they stay in, called a hibernacula, are usually abandoned mines or caves. Occasionally, bats are found inside houses and Bat Conservation International provides these helpful instructions if there’s a bat in your house.

The other reason you may not see bats on Halloween is a scary one: they really are disappearing. A disease called White-Nose Syndrome has been spreading in caves across the United States, causing high mortality in bats. An estimated 5.7 million bats have died from contracting the disease. White-Nose Syndrome was first detected in a New York cave in 2006 and was confirmed in Maine for the first time in 2010. Below is a map, updated in September, of all the locations where White-Nose is present.

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As a result of these steep declines in their population, three species of bats have been proposed listing under the Maine Endangered Species Act. That press release is available here. There are lots of resources available online for you to learn more about bats and how you can help them. A great place to start is this Bat House Builder’s Handbook, and this manual from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife: a Homeowner’s Guide to Bats.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Late Hummer at Gilsland Farm!

Posted on: Friday, October 17th, 2014

Remember the October 1 post about keeping your hummingbird feeders up in hopes of attracting a rare hummingbird? The post that said: “Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have vacated the state by the second week of October.” Well, we kept our feeders up at Gilsland Farm and we had a hummingbird here yesterday!

Derek Lovitch of the Freeport Wild Bird Supply received a report of a hummingbird around the community gardens on Tuesday and he and I were able to relocate the bird on Thursday afternoon.

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We spotted the bird feeding on the few remaining flowers in the garden and it was clearly an Archilochus-type hummingbird, which on October 16 we’d hope for Black-chinned Hummingbird (an overdue first state record!). Wrong… It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

unnamed (1)

When the hummer perched it was easier to see that the primaries (outer flight feathers) all had a tapered and fairly slender look. A Black-chinned Hummingbird has broad, almost club-looking primaries. Also, the bill was short and mostly straight: good for Ruby-throated, bad for Black-chinned.

I’ll bet the next hummingbird report this year is a ‘good’ one. So keep those feeders up and please let us know if you see one!

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

A “Yes on 6″ vote supports stream connectivity in Maine

Posted on: Friday, October 17th, 2014

On November 4, Mainers will have the opportunity to support the Clean Water and Clean Water Jobs bond, Question 6 on the ballot.  We are urging our members and supporters to vote in favor of this important measure, a $10 million bond that will provide investment in our natural and built infrastructure that provides water-related benefits for communities across Maine.

Yes On 6 – Clean Water & Clean Water Jobs for Maine: Something all Mainers can agree on.

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A “Yes on 6″ vote supports stream connectivity, which is critically important to maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations. With good stream connectivity, fish are free to move upstream or downstream, from the smallest stream to lakes and the ocean.

Free movement allows fish to find the appropriate water type and temperature to spawn, grow and stay healthy throughout their life cycles. And, healthy fish populations also support the health of other wildlife in the ecosystem.

Today, much of our water infrastructure, including the culverts that allow streams to pass under roads, were put in place during theWorld War II era or even earlier! As a result, these old, undersized culverts end up getting blocked and cut off fish and wildlife habitats into separate, isolated islands.

Yes on 6 vote invests $5.4 million to upgrade stream crossings to reconnect habitat for fish and other wildlife in communities across Maine.

Many of these culvert replacements will support healthy fish populations that are critical for ensuring the recreation and tourism economies in our state.

To learn more go to www.cleanwaterformaine.com, Find us on Facebook, and check out our Ad 

Some recent press coverage: WVOM, MPBN, & WCSH6

Please vote Yes on 6!

 

For more information, contact: Jenn Burns Gray, Maine Audubon, (207) 781-2330, ext. 224, orjgray@maineaudubon.org.

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon to Install New Solar System at Gilsland Farm Headquarters

Posted on: Thursday, October 16th, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release

October 16, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 

Maine Audubon to Install New Solar System at Gilsland Farm Headquarters
Installation will offset 37 tons of carbon emissions each year

Falmouth – Maine Audubon announced this week that it has partnered with Revision Energy to install a 42 kW solar system at its Gilsland Farm headquarters in Falmouth. The solar installation will produce an average of 74,000 kWh of electricity each year and will be the largest array of solar panels installed by a conservation organization in the state. The installation will consist of six solar trackers (for a total of 144 panels) and a rooftop array (composed of 24 panels) on the Environmental Center. The system will provide roughly 84% of Gilsland Farm’s electricity. Installation of the solar system is expected to begin on October 27 and completed before the end of the year.

The solar installation is connected to the electricity grid and will feed back energy when more electricity is produced than the facility is able to use. Maine Audubon will receive credit for excess generation. The six solar trackers (manufactured by AllSun of Vermont) use GPS technology to move throughout the course of the day and year to follow the sun, which provides up to 40% more electricity than a fixed array system. The first six years of operation are expected to offset 222 tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to 238,453 pounds of coal burned.

The total cost of the system is $238,761. Maine Audubon has partnered with Moody’s Collision Centers, who will pay for the equipment and installation of the project. The renewable energy project allows Moody’s to qualify for federal income tax incentives (as a nonprofit, Maine Audubon does not qualify for these credits). As part of the power purchase agreement between the two organizations, Maine Audubon will buy electricity from Moody’s for the next six years. At the end of the six year period, Maine Audubon has the option to buy the solar installation. Moody’s will be able to recoup its costs through electricity payments, depreciation, federal tax credits and the repayment cost of the system.

The solar installation is a continuing story of the organization’s dedication to investing in the latest renewable energy technology. In 1976, Maine Audubon installed early experimental solar panels on its administrative building. In 1996, the new Environmental Center was built with passive solar panels and a geothermal heating system. Now, twenty years later, the organization is committed to investing in the latest solar panel technology.

“Climate change is the number one threat to wildlife and habitat in Maine,” noted Charles Gauvin, Maine Audubon executive director. “As the state’s largest wildlife conservation organization, we must take action to reduce carbon emissions.” In addition to lessening its carbon impact, the organization will incorporate the solar installation into its youth and adult programming. The organization plans to unveil the project with an open house in early 2015.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

 

 

 

 

“SKUA!!” Another great pelagic trip!

Posted on: Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
Great Skua

Great Skua

Any pelagic trip that you get to yell “SKUA!!” is a great trip in my book. Skuas are essentially gulls on steroids; large, aggressive and quite often very hard to find. In 2013, it seemed unbelievable when we tallied multiples of both Great and South Polar Skua. Planning the 2014 trip to go in the same area during the same window of time, we crossed our fingers and departed just before sunrise on September 20.

Winds out of the southwest helped put birds in the air: a tight flock of Great Shearwaters crossed our path as soon as we hit deep water. This flock put on a great show and our chumming helped bring in a handful of Pomarine Jaegers, a surprise this early in the trip.

Pomarine Jaeger

Pomarine Jaeger

Then it happened: “SKUA!!” was shouted and the chase was on. What sets apart this pelagic trip from any other I’ve been on is the boat: Bar Harbor Whale Watching Company’s Friendship V is a jet powered catamaran that can do 30 kts with ease, which becomes very useful when you are chasing down skuas. At one point in this first chase we were travelling 32 mph and barely gaining on the bird. Finally getting close enough, we were able to see the overall rich-brown tones, golden flecks on the back and larger heavier bill – all clear field marks for Great Skua.

South Polar Skua

South Polar Skua

Within the next hour and a half, a second skua was spotted. This one eventually settled on the water and our expert chummer was able to bring it in with offerings of deliciously smelly fish. Luckily, this was an adult South Polar Skua, with completing wing molt and showing gray-brown coloration overall.

During the return trip we had to face into the wind (and 6 foot waves) which lowered our detection rate of birds. Many thanks to our great captain for doing an outstanding job maneuvering the Friendship V in those waves.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Here is a complete list of birds (and totals) from the trip:

  • Common Eider (200)
  • White-winged Scoter (3)
  • Black Scoter (9)
  • Common Loon (4)
  • Northern Fulmar (4)
  • Great Shearwater (201)
  • Sooty Shearwater (1)
  • Manx Shearwater (2)
  • Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (18)
  • Leach’s Storm-Petrel (8)
  • storm-petrel sp. (3)
  • Northern Gannet (34)
  • Double-crested Cormorant (17)
  • Bald Eagle (2)
  • Red Phalarope (1)
  • Great Skua (1)
  • South Polar Skua (1)
  • skua sp. (1)
  • Pomarine Jaeger (18)
  • Razorbill (7)
  • large alcid sp. (1)
  • Black Guillemot (2)
  • Atlantic Puffin (16)
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1)
  • Laughing Gull (1)
  • Ring-billed Gull (7)
  • Herring Gull (442)
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2)
  • Great Black-backed Gull (569)
  • Common Tern (1)
  • Merlin (1)

    Mammals:

  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
  • Harbor Porpoise
  • Minke Whale
  • Harbor Seal

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

How late in the year should we keep our feeders up to attract hummingbirds?

Posted on: Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Beginning as early as August, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds start migrating south, timing their movements with peak flowering times of jewelweed. So how late should we keep our feeders up to attract hummingbirds?

Looking at a line graph of hummingbirds’ frequency in Maine, we can see that the majority of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (RTHU) have vacated the state by the second week of October. There is one very interesting record of a RTHU in November; a bird that was apparently blown north after the passage of a hurricane.

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That would be be too easy of an answer, though; instead I recommend leaving your hummingbird feeders up until they are frozen (maybe the day before they would be frozen to avoid damage, but you get the point). This is because in the late fall we occasionally see western hummingbirds that fly east, rather than south. These vagrant hummingbirds will find themselves in an area with few-to-no natural foods and will target the few feeders are still available.

Rufous Hummingbird - Biddeford, ME - 26 Oct 2012

Rufous Hummingbird – Biddeford, ME – 26 Oct 2012

Rufous Hummingbirds have actually had a fairly remarkable change in their wintering range, to the point where they have become regular winter residents in the east. A technical explanation of this is available by clicking HERE>> 

 Calliope Hummingbird - first record for New Hampshire - 29 Oct 2014

Calliope Hummingbird – first record for New Hampshire – 29 Oct 2014

Rufous, Allens, and Calliope Hummingbirds are in different genera than our typical Ruby-throated Hummingbird so you will probably recognize them as looking different (smaller with more red tones). So keep your feeders up this fall and make sure to let us know if you are seeing any hummers after mid-October!

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Yes On 6 – Clean Water & Clean Water Jobs for Maine

Posted on: Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

On November 4, Mainers will have the opportunity to support the Clean Water and Clean Water Jobs bond, Question 6 on the ballot.  We are urging our members and supporters to vote in favor of this important measure, a $10 million bond that will provide investment in our natural and built infrastructure that provides water-related benefits for communities across Maine.

Yes On 6 – Clean Water & Clean Water Jobs for Maine: Something all Mainers can agree on.

1  2  4  3There are an awful lot of issues dividing Mainers as we head towards the November 4th election.  However, a “Yes on 6” supports clean water and clean water jobs for Maine and has earned the strong backing from Republicans, Democrats, Independents, business leaders, contractors, sportsmen and women, municipal leaders, economic development professionals and environmentalists from every region of the state.  A “Yes on 6” is good for Maine’s economy, good for Maine’s bottom line and good for Maine’s environment. 

A “Yes on 6” Supports Clean Water and Clean Water Jobs in Three Ways

Passed with support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents by a margin of 126-19 in the State House and 30-2 in the State Senate, a “Yes on 6” supports clean water and clean water jobs by allowing a $10 million investment in badly needed infrastructure improvements in communities across Maine. Funds will be split between investments in:

  • Built Infrastructure, $5.4 million to upgrade stream crossings to reconnect habitat for fish and other wildlife
  • Natural Infrastructure, $400k to restore wetlands to provide increased flood mitigation, water quality and wildlife habitat benefits
  • Maine’s Revolving Loan Fund, $4.2 million to secure $21 million in federal funding to upgrade the state’s drinking water systems and wastewater treatment facilities

An Uncommonly Broad Coalition of Mainers Support A “Yes on 6” Vote

  •  Associated General Contractors of Maine
  • Maine State Chamber of Commerce
  • Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine
  • Northern Maine Development Commission
  • Maine Rural Water Association
  • Maine Municipal Association
  • Maine Water Utilities Association
  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Mayors Coalition on Jobs and Econ. Development
  • Maine Lakes Society
  • Maine Audubon
  • Environmental Priorities Coalition
  • Natural Resources Council of Maine
  • GrowSmart Maine
  • Conservation Law Foundation
  • Maine Coast Heritage Trust
  • Androscoggin Land Trust
  • Bangor Land Trust
  • Southern Maine Regional Water Council
  • Maine Water Environment Association
  • Kennebec Estuary Land Trust
  • York Land Trust, and others

To learn more go to www.cleanwaterformaine.com, Find us on Facebook, and check out our Ad 

Some recent press coverage: WVOM, MPBN, & WCSH6

Please vote Yes on 6!

 

For more information, contact: Jenn Burns Gray, Maine Audubon, (207) 781-2330, ext. 224, orjgray@maineaudubon.org.

 

Maine Audubon Announces 27th Annual Apple Day Celebration

Posted on: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE 

For Immediate Release
September 24, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 

Maine Audubon Announces 27th Annual Apple Day Celebration
This year’s event features cider and wine tasting

Falmouth – Maine Audubon announced today that the 27th annual Apple Day Celebration will take place Friday, October 3 through Saturday, October 4 at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth (20 Gilsland Farm Road). The annual event is a celebration of the fall season and the property’s historic apple orchards.

On Friday, October 3, Maine Audubon presents An Evening with John Bunker, apple tree expert and board member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). Bunker will share a history of apple trees in Maine, how orchards help bees and other pollinators and how you can plant a successful apple tree in your yard. There will also be a hard cider, mead and fruit wine tasting featuring Kennebec Cider (Winthrop), Maine Mead Works (Portland), Tree Spirits (Oakland) and Urban Farm Fermentory (Portland) The event is $10 for members and $15 for the public. 21+

The following day, Saturday, October 4, from 10 am to 2 pm, Maine Audubon presents our 27th annual Apple Day celebration for families. This year, the event will feature crafts, live music, a scavenger hunt, apple toss, cider press, face painting, live beehive and membership deals. The event is free for members and $7/person for the public. Children under 2 are free. Complete details for the festivities can be found at maineaudubon.org.

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About Maine Audubon

Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

Many thanks to our sponsors:

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Have you seen any bald birds in your yard recently?

Posted on: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

This seems like a fairly bizarre phenomena in birds but can easily be explained. In most cases, we are observing one of two things:

Photo by Wendy Sawyer

Photo by Wendy Sawyer

1) Molt: Birds have to molt their feathers, otherwise they will wear out and the bird could lose flight. Different species will have varying methods but the timing of molt and which groups or tracts of feathers are molted is often similar. As an example, Blue Jays are now going through a fall molt, known as a definitive prebasic molt, in which nearly all the feathers are replaced. The outer flight feathers (primaries) are replaced from the inside going out and delayed enough so that the bird never loses flight. In contrast, the capital-tract feathers, the tract along the bird’s head, are dropped nearly simultaneously, resulting in a bald bird. This only lasts about a week and can occur in Blue Jays of all ages. Note this molt only occurs in the fall, typically between June and November while the birds on still on their breeding ground. If you see a bald bird at another time, refer to the next answer.

2) Parasites: Most birds get parasites, especially mites. Usually, by bathing and preening, birds are able to clean themselves and rid their feathers of mites. The problem here arises with a birds inability, or difficulty, in preening their heads. Mites, which are in the class of Arachnids, can destroy the shafts of feathers as a result of their feeding and thus causes the balding we see in some birds.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Rare Bird Alert: Creasted Caracara

Posted on: Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Photo by Steve Muise on 26 Aug 2014:

Photo by Steve Muise on 26 Aug 2014:

Most birders have heard of a Creasted Caracara. Even non-birders often recognized it from its fame as the national symbol of Mexico, where you can normally find this species. This large charismatic raptor is very closely related to our falcons (in the family: Falconidae) but acts more like a vulture (Cathartidae). So you can imagine my surprise when on Tuesday evening I received a message from Maine birder, Steve Muise, that was titled “MAINE CRESTED CARACARA.” I couldn’t have dialed Steve’s number any faster and soon the word was spread.

A handful of birders were on the scene in Unity, where the bird as originally found, first thing the next morning. Shortly after 6:00am the caracara was relocated but only stayed for about 15 minutes before flying off to the west. One very lucky birder relocated it on the side of the road, ready to devour some fresh painted turtle roadkill. It remained in this area for the next hour and a half before being flushed by the local traffic and has not been relocated since (as of Aug 29th). Here is a checklist with notes from that amazing 1.5 hours: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19587060

Photo by Doug Hitchcox on 27 Aug 2014

Photo by Doug Hitchcox on 27 Aug 2014

This is the first record for the species in Maine and seems incredibly improbable given this species normal range, however the is some precedence of this species making it to the northeast. In fact, Massachusetts has two previous records: 1-9 Jan 1999 in Middleboro and 14 May 2007 in West Tisbury. New Jersey had one in West Windsor on 8-13 Sep 2012. Even further north of us, a Crested Caracara was seen roaming around Nova Scotia for 9 months from the spring of 2013 through the winter of 2014. Though the provenance may never be truly know, it seems perfectly likely that these birds are naturally occurring vagrants.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug: