News & Notes: Conservation Issues


Thank you People’s United Community Foundation!

Posted on: Monday, February 27th, 2017
Big Check People's United

From left to right: Linda Woodard, Scarborough Marsh Director & Educator; Eric Topper, Director of Education; Andrew Beahm, Executive Director; Dan Thornton, People’s United Bank Maine President; Bryce Hach, Director of Development; Katie Shorey, People’s United Bank Business and Community Development

This morning, People’s United Community Foundation delivered a grant check of $2,500 to support Maine Audubon’s “Bringing Nature Home” Portland Youth Stewardship Initiative. This money will allow us to engage urban youth in the restoration of native plants and wildlife habitat in city parks and schoolyards through afterschool and summer work projects, conducted in collaboration with Portland Recreation.

Maine Audubon educators will work alongside teachers and city staff to get students propagating native plants, monitoring plants and wildlife in their communities, managing invasive species, and educating their neighbors and community leaders. Not only will the “Bringing Nature Home” Youth Stewardship Initiative provide meaningful, hands-on education for the city’s children, but new plantings in public spaces will improve the ecological function there and provide visible models as examples for people to replicate at home.

Big Check People's United

Representatives from Maine Audubon and People’s United Bank with third graders from East End Community School, a long-time partner school for Maine Audubon and the site of some significant planting and stewardship work this spring and beyond.

We are grateful for this grant and for the longtime support of People’s United Bank, who have been Maine Audubon Corporate Partners since 2007. Thank you for supporting this project that will bolster children’s nature appreciation, sense of place, and pride of purpose, and also result in actual cityscape improvements via the planting of perennial native vegetation!

Maine Audubon Corporate Partners is a group of 130+ businesses that give back to our beloved state by supporting Maine Audubon’s mission to conserve wildlife and habitat for current and future generations. For more information on the benefits of becoming a Corporate Partner and to see a list of our current partners, please visit http://www.maineaudubon.org/corporatepartners

Marmota monax Madness!

Posted on: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Groundhog (Marmota monax)

Despite all the snow on the ground, the first groundhogs (aka woodchucks, whistle pigs, Marmota monax) will be emerging from their burrows soon. Groundhogs are one of the few “true” hibernating species that we have in Maine. They slow their metabolic rate and drop their body temperatures to wait out winter in the safety and warmth of their underground burrows. There are several families of groundhogs that call Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm home that are the subject of ongoing research by Dr. Chris Maher at the University of Southern Maine.

In the spirit of friendly competition, the staff at Maine Audubon is having a contest to guess the date of the first signs of emergence — the naturalist equivalent of the guess-the-birthday ‘Baby Pools’. We invite you, our readers, to join in the fun. Below is the calendar/grid we are using. To participate, all you need to do is email your guess (only pick one day) to [email protected]. We’ll have prizes for all the winners!

Pick your date from the calendar below:

marmota

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a photo of the first emergence observed in the spring of 2014 (exact date is being kept a secret) and a photo taken last summer of a baby groundhog about to be tagged for Dr. Maher’s research:

Signs of groundhog emergence from 2014

Baby groundhog – 26 May 2016

-Doug

App Review: Song Sleuth

Posted on: Friday, February 17th, 2017

Song Sleuth for iOS

Since the first time birders used Shazam to learn what song was playing on the radio, they’ve been waiting for an app that can identify what birds they are hearing.

There have been attempts at the technology and we’ve been teased with releases. Princeton, for example, has been dangling the “BirdGenie” app in front of birders for years but has pushed the release date back repeatedly. (It’s currently slated for “Summer 2017.”) But FINALLY we have an app that appears to be up to the test: Song Sleuth.

This app was created by Wildlife Acoustics, the same company that makes the Echo Meter Touch Handheld Bat Detector that Maine Audubon used in its initial monitoring efforts for a pilot project to survey bats in Maine. They teamed with David Allen Sibley (ever heard of him?) to combine great audio analysis with stunning artwork and detailed species accounts. Honestly, just seeing new Sibley artwork — including non-avian species — with new maps and descriptions makes me feel like this app is worth the modest $9.99. Here are my initial thoughts on this new tool:

First impressions…
I’ve only been using the app for about 36 hours and I can safely say I am pretty impressed. I’ve tried testing the app while walking around Portland (lots of ambient noise) and while birding at Gilsland Farm (fairly quiet background noise) and in a controlled situation (my office). The control case, in which I played an American Crow call from a coworker’s phone, worked perfectly. Read below for how the “real world” tests went:

Field Test: Tufted Titmouse at Gilsland Farm
At Gilsland Farm in Falmouth, Maine, I found a situation perfectly suited to demonstrate how I imagine the app should work. I stepped outside and could hear a distant Tufted Titmouse singing. The bird was probably 100 yards out, across the orchard. There was very little background noise. Despite the distance, the app was able to detect the song and correctly identify it as a Tufted Titmouse. PERFECT!

Tufted Titmouse singing from a distance – Falmouth, ME – 16 Feb 2016

Field Test: House Sparrow in the city
In the first recording below you’ll hear an excessive amount of background noise — the many sounds of snow removal in Portland — but the House Sparrow’s call is still distinct. This is what I would consider the worst-case-scenario for recording a bird and the results bear that out. The recommended ID was Red Squirrel, with Rock Pigeon and Blue Jay as other options.

House Sparrow with lots of ambient city noise

As a follow up to this test, I walked further down the road and closer to the calling House Sparrow. You can see that the recording is much clearer (visible calls in the spectrogram on the left) and this time at least House Sparrow was in the “likely matches” after Human.

Recording after approaching House Sparrow

I’m sure that the app developers would be quick to point out an error with my first recording: the recording is too long for the app to select the bird’s call. So, I used the trim feature to narrow down to just the bird’s call and the app did much better — at least House Sparrow showed up in the top three options.

Trimmed recording of House Sparrow call with lots of ambient noise – Portland, ME – 16 Feb 2017

 

Non-avian recordings
Honestly, one of my favorite things about this app is the inclusion of a few non-avian species, including frogs and toads, squirrels, and — to represent the “Great Apes” — Homo sapiens. These categories have limited breadth, with only three amphibians (American Toad, Gray Tree Frog, and Spring Peeper) and three squirrels (Gray Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, and Red Squirrel). However, these are the most likely, or most vocal, species that you would expect to encounter.

Shortcomings
The first issue, which I almost hesitate to point out, is the small number of species covered by the app. Two hundred species sounds like a lot until you spread those across the country and narrow them to certain times of the year. But you have to start someplace. Merlin, the great visual identification app, started around 400 species and recently updated to 650+ North American birds.

I also hope to see the app becoming more intuitive in future updates. I definitely recommend watching the (unfortunately fairly long) demonstration video when you first launch the app so that you can learn to navigate your recordings. More “Help” buttons along the way would be nice. Plus the “Species List” is grouped by families but displayed in alphabetic order. There is nothing intuitive about sparrows being at the top of the list under “Buntings and New World Sparrows” especially when none of the Embrizine Buntings are included.

Summary
I highly recommend this app for beginning birders looking to put a name to some of the common songs they hear around their yard. Birders who are already “birding by ear” probably don’t have much to gain from this app, yet. Even if you are a ‘pro’ I recommend downloading this to either: a) prove how much more you know than a dumb computer, b) be able to show and teach it to a budding birder, or c) to support Wildlife Acoustics, Sibley, and birding in general by showing that you ‘want’ more apps like this.

Reminder
Our “Birding with Your Smartphone” evening lecture was rescheduled to the evening of February 21st. In that talk we will cover various field guide apps, do an introduction to “digiscoping,” and now we will certainly be showing off Song Sleuth! More information on that event is at: maineaudubon.org/events/birding-with-your-smartphone/

Nature Notes 2017: 04

Posted on: Friday, February 10th, 2017

“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.

Observations:
Further evidence that this winter has been especially difficult for Barred Owls is mounting. Avian Haven recently shared on their Facebook page that they received 32 Barred Owls into their care in January, bringing their winter total to over 100 individuals since October 1, 2016. Center for Wildlife shared with us that they’ve taken in 10 Barred Owls since December 21, 2016, all of which were noted as “found in road” or “hit by car.” At Maine Audubon we’ve had six deceased Barred Owls brought in — we are NOT wildlife rehabilitators and cannot accept any live wildlife but we do have permits to possess specimens for educational purposes.

While one of those owls was “on the table” we noticed the feathers beginning to move. Suddenly an insect emerged and made repeated flights towards the lady who had brought in the owl. The insect attempted to (and unfortunately succeeded in) going up her shirt. She stayed remarkably calm and we eventually got the fly into a jar. We identified it as one of the Hippoboscids, or Louse Flies. These parasitic flies are flat bodied, making it easy for them to slide in between mammal fur or bird feathers where they use their needle-like mouth part to draw blood. The day this owl was brought in, temperatures were in the low twenties, and while parasites are inherently off-putting, it is hard not to be amazed that a fly is able to survive Maine’s harsh winter by clinging to the feathers (and feeding from) a Barred Owl.

Louse Fly – Falmouth, ME

Large Yellow Underwing larva (Noctua pronuba) – Falmouth, ME – 9 Feb 2017

Speaking of insects in the winter, the weather this past week (a sunny 50º F day stuck between two snow storms) definitely threw off some wintering species. A warm spike like that can fool some overwintering species and encourage them to emerge prematurely, an often fatal error. We saw one example of this on our Thursday morning bird walk in the form of a caterpillar found in the middle of a snowy trail. Many thanks to my young naturalist buddy Fyn Kynd for identifying this as Noctua pronuba, commonly known as the Large Yellow Underwing. These ‘cutworms’ are not native to the new world and were first found in Nova Scotia in 1979 before spreading to Maine by 1985. Their mode of arrival is unknown. They are strong fliers but the possibility of a northern Atlantic crossing seems unlikely. These, like other pests, were likely accidental stowaways in shipments of horticultural plants coming across the pond. As Fyn explained to me, they are one of the few local moths to winter in their larval stage — the showier Ctenucha virginica being the other common species — while others are wintering as eggs or cocoons.

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

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Six intrepid birders joined me for this week’s walk, getting out just before the big snow storm hit. The fresh snow was a little too ‘crusty’ for ideal tracking but we did encounter plenty of fox tracks. These looped all around both meadows, enough to make us wonder if more than one individual was involved. The other interesting tracks belonged to an American Crow that appeared to walk to the base of a few shrubs and dig around them, presumably looking for some food (photo below).

American Crow tracks and dig site.

Avian highlights included a lingering Northern Flicker, half a dozen Eastern Bluebirds, and a great look at in immature (probably two year old) Bald Eagle over the West Meadow. A complete list form the walk is available at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34257965

Past Nature Notes:
Nature Notes 2017: 01 - Barred Owls struggling this winter
Nature Notes 2017: 02 – Deer, Owl lice, and the Fort Williams Seawatch
Nature Notes 2017: 03 – Doug’s Arizona vacation

-Doug

Nature Notes 2017: 03 (Arizona Edition)

Posted on: Monday, February 6th, 2017

“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.
In case you missed it, past Nature Notes can be found here: Nature Notes 2017: 01, Nature Notes 2017: 02

Arizona 2017 birding spots

stars indicate places birded

Arizona Birding Vacation:
While my goal of these “Nature Notes” is to keep them about Maine’s wildlife, I thought you all might be interested in the birding vacation I just took to Arizona. This post will be a summary to point out some of the highlights from the trip, avian and otherwise. The 10 days I was there was basically split with birding north and then south of Phoenix:

North - During the first half of the trip, my father and I birded from Phoenix north, skirting the southern border of Utah, to look for some of the expected resident species in that area. Some of these birds are closely related to those we see in Maine, occupying many of the same niches: Mountain Chickadee and Juniper Titmouse being the common ‘tits’, Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and Stellar’s Jay filling in for Blue Jays, even the White-breasted Nuthatches out there may be different than those we see in Maine (read about that possible split here). California Condor was our other BIG target for going north thanks to the ABA now ruling that this “Code 6″ (extinct from the wild) species is now considered “countable” under their new “reintroduced indigenous species” recording rule. To see the condor, we drove to Navajo Bridge at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area because several have been known to roost there and offer the closest views. Upon arrival we learned that technicians studying the condors had flushed the roosting birds from the bridge in an attempt to keep the birds from becoming habituated to human presence. We had a great chat with the tech and she let us to listen to the ‘ping’ of one of the radio-transmitter-wearing previously-flushed birds that was soaring “about 10 miles northeast” of the bridge. The wait continued, hopeful that the bird could come back to roost for the evening, but with an hour left before sunset (and no audible ‘ping’ from the transmitter) we changed our plan and took the 45 minute drive east, down some sketchy/muddy road to reach the end of Vermillion Cliffs. At this site, as the sun was dropping behind the mountains, we got to see 31 California Condors settle into their roost sites along the cliffs. This vantage point was much further away from the birds than Navajo Bridge would have been but perhaps that made us appreciate the huge wing spans (nearly 10 feet) of these vultures even more. And since “a picture is worth a thousand words” I’ll let these tell the rest of the story from ‘the north’:

Mountain Chickadee – Mount Elden, Flagstaff, AZ – 16 January 2017

Lewis’s Woodpecker – Flagstaff, AZ – 17 January 2017

Mallard x Northern Pintail (hybrid) – Corneille, AZ – 17 January 2017

Anna’s Hummingbird – Tonopah, AZ – 15 January 2017

Le Conte’s Thrasher (with nesting material) – Tonopah, AZ – 18 January 2017

South – For the second half of the trip I was joined by a couple birding friends to explore areas closer to Tucson and around southeast Arizona. This area of the country is well known for hosting rare Mexican birds in the winter so we had a sizable list of targets, which with a lot of luck and more determination we managed to connect with. If there was one story to tell it was our trip to California Gulch in search of Nutting’s Flycatcher. We knew it would be a long trip in and decided to camp as close as we could; another hour and a half drive from the flycatcher spot. Camping was fantastic – what is better than a few guys with a fire and a few grocery bags of meat and carbs? The next morning we didn’t make it far… by car. The road had been flooded / washed out so we decided to leave the car behind and hike the rest of the way. As simple as this sounds, we didn’t actually know how far the hike was (it was a little over 12 miles) and we didn’t have the foresight to bring enough water or any food with us. Long story short: we found the Nutting’s Flycatcher… eventually. Here are some photos from our rarity round-up:

Rose-throated Becard – Tubac, AZ – 20 January 2017

Black-capped Gnatcatcher (female) – Montosa Canyon, AZ – 20 January 2017

Streak-backed Oriole – Portal, AZ – 21 January 2017

Nutting’s Flycatcher – California Gulch, AZ – 23 January 2017

Mammals – While the trip was all about birds, it is hard not to appreciate new mammal species that we encountered. We saw a total of 12 species, most of which were new to me with the exception of a few: Coyotes and White-tailed Deer occur across the country, so while these were not new species for me, their subspecies were. The Coyotes in Arizona are known as “Mearns Coyote” (C. l. mearnsii) and are smaller bodied but have larger ears than our “Eastern Coyote” (C. l. var) – a great example of both Bergmann’s Rule and Allen’s Rule. Included below for photos are some of the more unique species, like the Pronghorn which is the only remaining species of family Antilocapridae.

Pronghorn – Las Cienegas NCA, AZ – 22 January 2017

Tassel-eared Squirrel – Flagstaff, AZ – 16 January 2017

Antelope Jackrabbit – Amado, AZ – 20 January 2017

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Reports are often posted on the Maine-birds Listserv, like this one from the 26th:

Hey Maine-birds:

During yesterday’s bird walk at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth we managed to tally 32 species, helped in part by the high tide but trails remain a bit icy. Here are a few highlights from the walk:Waterfowl numbers were about average with a surprising lack of goldeneye. The last few years we’ve seen goldeneye disappear off Gilsland during late January and early February despite the river staying free of ice over that period. One drake Gadwall was mixed with the American Black Duck / Mallard flock off the West Meadow; likely one of the four that has been reported from the Mackworth Causeway earlier this month.One very vocal male Red-bellied Woodpecker was found visiting a potential/incomplete nest cavity near the pond. There is a great paper from the Auk on “Pair formation, mutual tapping and nest hole selection of Red-bellied Woodpeckers” by Lawrence Kilham that describes a synchronous mutual tapping behavior I hope we get a chance to see at this site. The paper is worth a skim if you have these birds near you: https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/auk/v075n03/p0318-p0329.pdfFrugivores remain in good numbers with 120+ American Robins, 13 Cedar Waxwings, and 4 Eastern Bluebirds around the property.
A complete list form the walk is available at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33943620

Coming up…

Back to Maine! Look for the next Nature Notes to be coming out very soon (and back to being Maine-focused).

-Doug

February Vacation Camps 2017

Posted on: Monday, February 6th, 2017

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center (Falmouth)

Vacation Camp for Kids in Grades K-5 
February 21-24, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Members: $220/week
Non-members: $280/week

A new theme will be introduced each day through cooperative games, scientific examination, and creative arts exploration. We’ll investigate winter food chains, the sounds of winter, and more! Friday’s session includes a Live Wildlife Show!
Sign up now>>

Look What I Found! - Vacation Camp for Preschoolers
Februry 21-24, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Members: $125/week
Nonmembers: $175/week

Kids ages 3-5 will explore and enjoy nature through free play, stories, songs, movement, games, natural crafts, and hikes. Each day we’ll explore a different topic related to winter adaptations, including snow & ice, predators & prey, tracking, and birds in winter. Friday’s session includes a Live Wildlife Show!
Save your spot>>

For both camps, registration for single day(s) is possible as space permits. Please call Beth Pauls 207-781-2330 x273

Don’t miss our live wildlife show!
Friday, February 24, 10:30 – 11:30am

Our friends at Center for Wildlife will bring furry and feathered guests to Gilsland Farm so that we can get a closer look at some of the wildlife we work to protect.

This program usually sells out, so get your tickets now>> 

Fields Pond Audubon Center (Holden)

Vacation Camp for Kids in Grades K-5
Februry 21-23, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Members: $150.00
Non-members: $225.00

Through outdoor activities, stories, games, and hands-on explorations of the natural world, we’ll learn how humans and other living things survive our wonderful winter months. Each day will focus on a different theme.

Sign up for the whole three-day session or

Register for Tuesday 2/21: Snow Science 
Register for Wednesday 2/22: Travel and Survival in Nature
Register for Thursday 2/23: Winter Birds 

An Action-packed Winter for Maine Audubon

Posted on: Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Happy February, friends.

This is my first blog post as Acting Executive Director at Maine Audubon, but my relationship with this organization — and with its mission in particular — goes back a long way.

IMG_9776

Acting Executive Director Andy Beahm

Growing up in Aroostook County, the natural landscape was more than the backdrop for all the exploring I did as a kid; it was a main character. Being outdoors is in my blood, and my love for exploring Maine’s iconic natural places and wildlife — by foot, by canoe, by kayak, you name it — continues today. It is a key part of what led me into a 34-year career at L.L. Bean, and to serve for 8 years on the Maine Audubon Board of Trustees.

The past month has been a wonderful whirlwind. There is always activity buzzing at Gilsland Farm and at our sanctuaries around the state. That’s one of my favorite things about Maine Audubon: the incredible range of programs our team is always working on, and the diversity of activities you can find here on any given day. It’s something I’m working hard to build on in the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for even more of the top-notch environmental programming you have come to expect from us.

This month is no exception: we have our fun-filled National Bird-feeding Month Celebration on February 4, followed by our Winter Family Day of Play on February 5 (part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend). We also have talks on birding with your smartphone, wildlife photography, and a live wildlife show. And don’t forget our February Vacation Camps in Falmouth and Bangor!

On top of all this, we continue to speak out on behalf of Maine’s wildlife and environmental interests. We are part of a coalition of organizations that is actively encouraging Sen. Susan Collins to oppose the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Agency, and we remain hopeful that she will do so — and, critically, that she will bring some of her colleagues along with her. Maine has a rich legacy of leading the nation to stronger, smarter environmental protections, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure that legacy is upheld.

I want to thank you for being a part of the Maine Audubon community. It’s your support that gives us the strength we need to provide our educational programming, conduct our conservation work, and advocate on behalf of Maine’s wildlife.

We hope to see you at one of our sanctuaries this month!

Sincerely,

Andy Beahm

East Point Sanctuary: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Posted on: Friday, January 20th, 2017

IMG_0197On the outer edge of Biddeford Pool, tucked just beyond beautiful private residences and the spectacular Abenakee Club golf course, sits Maine Audubon’s best-kept secret: the East Point Audubon Sanctuary.

At only 30 acres, it is Maine Audubon’s smallest sanctuary. But what it lacks in area it more than makes up for in beauty. A short trail weaves along the perimeter of the rocky point, providing rare public access to this stretch of the Maine coast. Visitors are treated to 270-degree views of Saco Bay and the Gulf of Maine, including the Wood Island lighthouse and long stretches of important coastal habitat. It is a premier migratory stopover and summer home to birds like the Chipping Sparrow, which are easy to spot from the comfort of benches placed along the open trail.

Over the past couple of years, the trail’s viewsheds have improved thanks to a collaboration with the Abenakee Club and Biddeford Pool residents. With their support, in 2014 Maine Audubon undertook a project to remove invasive plant species that proliferated in the sanctuary. The work included a full wetland delineation and mapping. The required permits were secured, and three-and-a-half acres has been cleared to date. With sufficient financial support, the project will continue into 2017.

The benefits of this work are already making themselves clear. Robert Searle, superintendent of the Abenakee Club, reports a greater variety of birds in the area. “This year was the first time I’ve ever seen a Killdeer on the golf course,” he explains. “We’ve also had a surge in Whimbrels the past couple years.” Longer term, he says, the removal of invasive plants will result in new vegetation and create an even greater variety of habitats for wildlife.

Searle notes that members of the club and local residents have a vested interest in this work. “Our members have a deep respect for the ecological significance of Biddeford Pool,” he says. “It’s in that spirit that the club has been and will continue to be a great neighbor to the East Point Sanctuary.”

Have you visited the crown jewel of Maine Audubon’s sanctuaries? Find directions and more information at maineaudubon.org/east-point.

_________

Interested in supporting the East Point invasives removal project? Please contact Development Director Bryce Hach at 207-781-2330 ext. 218.

Nature Notes 2017: 02

Posted on: Friday, January 13th, 2017

“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.
In case you missed it, last week’s Nature Notes can be found here: Nature Notes 2017: 01

Observations:
The deer population at Gilsland Farm has slowly recovered after their apparent extirpation following the deep snow two winters ago. An (apparent) family has been making daily visits to our orchard and uncovering long-since-fallen apples under the snow. For information on how Maine’s deer are able to survive during harsh winters, Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a put together a great handout here: Living on the Edge: How Deer Survive Winter

White-tailed Deer – Falmouth, ME – 10 Jan 2017

Following up on the Barred Owls mentioned in our last Nature Notes, as I was photographing the vole in its talons, a large number of lice started emerging from the bird’s feathers. Identifying louse seems to be more challenging than Empids so I’ll leave these unnamed but there are some entertaining louse facts out there: Did you know there is a species of chewing louse that is only found on owls, named Strigiphilus garylarsoni. The genus Strigiphilus makes sense: strig or strix, meaning ‘owl’ and -philus or ‘loving’, but what about garylarsoni?! Apparently Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side comic, has made a few “significant” contributions to science and has had a couple insects named after him. Where would we be without Larson dubbing the thagomizer?

Louse sp? on Barred Owl – Falmouth, ME – 3 Jan 2017

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:

One bird of interest that isn’t appearing on the [above] RBA, which people may be interested in, is a King Eider in Portland Harbor. There have actually been two, an immature male (found on 4 Dec 2016) and a female (found on 6 Dec 2016) that have been regularly seen in the harbor, most easily from the Portland Fish Pier (map here).

King Eider (female) – Portland, ME – 29 Dec 2016

The Pink-footed Geese continued throughout the week in Rockland and the Orange-crowned Warbler survived the cold snap and is still being seen at Pond Cove in Cape Elizabeth as of the 13th.

Seawatch at Portland Head Light
Many thanks to everyone who joined us on Wednesday for the seawatching event at Portland Head Light that we collaborated on with the Fort Williams Park Foundation. The strong wind and rain overnight cleared just in time and brought unseasonably warm weather making for a very pleasant viewing opportunity. We were able to tally 25 different species during our watch, highlighted by Northern Gannets, Great Cormorants, Razorbills, and two Iceland Gulls. A complete list from this event can be seen here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33599311

Birders seawatching at the Portland Light House – Cape Elizabeth, ME – 11 Jan 2017

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Reports are often posted on the Maine-birds Listserv, like this one from the 12th:

Hello Maine-birds:

What a change this week’s nearly 50º bird walk was from last week’s gusty chill! Trails at Gisland Farm, in Falmouth, remain a bit icy but much of the snow has melted and there was little-to-no ice left on the river. High tide helped bump up waterfowl numbers. Here are a few highlights:

Waterfowl (yes, mostly Mallard and Canada Geese) numbers were high thanks to the flood tide. Wild Turkeys, which are typically rare at Gilsland Farm in the winter, have been frequenting a neighbor’s yard off the North Meadow. Two Cooper’s Hawks have been stalking the feeders lately, hopefully reducing the House Sparrow population while providing our group with satisfying views. An adult Iceland Gull was bathing in the river; only my third time seeing this species at Gilsland and my first adult. A lingering Northern Flicker was in the treetops of the North Meadow with our ever-present Eastern Bluebirds. 

A complete list form the walk is available at: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33617201

Iceland Gull, digiscoped using iPhone through Swaroski spotting scope – Falmouth, ME – 12 Jan 2017

Coming up…
I’m off to Arizona! The next Nature Notes will be out in two weeks and might be supplemented with some Sonoran wildlife. Naturalist questions can be directed to our wonderful volunteers at [email protected].

-Doug

Nature Notes 2017: 01

Posted on: Friday, January 6th, 2017

“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.

Observations:

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.

Pink-footed Geese – Rockland, ME – 4 Jan 2017

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.

Gilsland Farm Bird Walk:
Our weekly bird walks continue at Gilsland Farm on Thursday mornings at 8:00AM. Reports are often posted on the Maine-birds Listserv, like this one from the 5th:

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

Downy Woodpecker feeding on an oak gall – Falmouth, ME – 5 Jan 2017

Coming up…
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.

-Doug