News & Notes: Conservation Issues


It’s Winter in Maine! Why do I see Robins and Bluebirds?

Posted on: Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

My phone has been off the hook lately and most calls go like this: “There are robins (or bluebirds) in my yard! Did they forget to migrate? How will they survive? What can I do to save them?!?”

Quick Answer: Don’t worry, they are fine. American Robins are not a sign of spring in Maine and have no trouble spending the winter here. Eastern Bluebirds have been expanding their range and have become increasingly common in Maine during the winter, especially southern Maine.

Eastern Bluebird (Photo: Doug Hitchcox)

Eastern Bluebird (Photo: Doug Hitchcox)

Long Answer: It is easy to answer questions like this based on my own experiences and observations, but being able to back it up with real data is always fun:

American Robins

First, I always like to point out the latin name Turdus migratorius. Obviously migratorius makes you think of migratory, but it also means wandering, which is basically what robins do throughout Maine winters. They wander around, usually in large flocks, looking for food sources. Any fruit-bearing trees and especially staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) are good places to find them.

Pulling observations from eBird.org, we can quickly create a graph showing the frequency of American Robins in Maine throughout the year (see below). The frequency is the percentage of all checklists submitted that include our species. You can see that this shows American Robins can be seen in Maine year-round, but their frequency does dip below 10% during December-January.

AMRO_chart

The birds we see in the winter are not necessarily the ones we see during the summer; they are probably completely different. I commonly hear people report “Canadian” robins, stating that they look larger. I think in the vast majority of cases, these birds just appear larger because they are fluffed up and trying to stay warm. That said, there is a population of American Robins nesting in Labrador and Newfoundland that are slightly larger (you would never notice this unless they were side-by-side) and adult males show black ending down the back. I would guess that the percentage of these nigrideus American Robins we see in Maine is very low; definitely less than 1% of all the robins I’ve seen fit this description.

Eastern Bluebirds

The history of bluebirds in winter is not a very long one but it is startling to see the change. Inserted below is the results from Christmas Bird Counts in Maine since 1993, showing the total number of Eastern Bluebirds reported on each year’s counts. The increase is dramatic, especially in the last 10 years.

EABL_chart

I don’t know if there is a perfect explanation for this, but I think it is a result of many factors. F

First, range expansion due to climate change. This would be pretty comparable to other ‘southern’ birds that are expanding into Maine, like the Red-bellied Woodpecker I wrote about in January.

There may also be an increase in habitat. This is a tough one, because it may not be a good thing if I have it right. Bluebirds do very well in suburban areas, and suburban sprawl is a never-ending problem that continuously threatens our biodiversity.

On the plus side, there seems to be an increase in landowners developing bluebird trails which increases nesting locations. One factor I think plays a big factor in their ability to stay in the winter is increased food availability.

With suburban areas come ornamental plantings (again, not a good thing as they are usually non-native) that hold fruit late into the winter. Bluebirds convert their diets from insectivores (ground arthropods) in the nesting season to frugivores (small fleshy fruit) in the winter so there is definitely an increase in the amount of food that is available.

What ever the cause, it is nice to see a little more color in the winter.

-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:

Why Taxing Nonprofits is a Bad Idea

Posted on: Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

The Background

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Gilsland Farm Audubon Center attracts thousands of people each year interested in learning about Maine wildlife and habitat.

Like many other nonprofits, Maine Audubon does not pay property taxes to municipalities for the conservation lands it owns. Governor LePage wants to change that. His proposal to allow municipalities to impose property taxes on real estate owned by nonprofits is bad for conservation, education, health care and practically every other service that the nonprofit sector provides to Maine people. The proposal completely ignores the widespread economic and social benefits that nonprofits bring to Maine people and their communities.

Conserved lands owned by nonprofits provide public benefits that far outweigh the costs of municipal services to them. Consider what Gilsland Farm, Maine Audubon’s headquarters and flagship sanctuary, adds to the greater Portland area. It is an oasis for wildlife and people. Tens of thousands of visitors come here each year, including legions of children who are acquiring a critical attribute of Maine citizenship: an appreciation for wildlife. Through formal programming and in countless, informal ways, Gilsland Farm delivers the public service of increasing environmental literacy for people of all ages.

Unlike some cities, whose land base is disproportionately in nonprofit ownership, most Maine municipalities have lived comfortably with the nonprofits within their boundaries. Municipal officials have not been clamoring for the authority to impose property taxes on nonprofits. The subject has recently assumed front-burner importance only because Governor LePage’s budget (the latest installment in an ongoing effort to cut state government) now includes a novel scheme for financial burden-shifting. It’s a game of fiscal musical chairs, intended to leave the nonprofit sector seat-less and paying the tab for the loss of the municipal revenue sharing.

What you can do

If you value the services that Maine Audubon and other nonprofit landowners provide, I urge you to speak up in opposition to the Governor’s proposal.  Please contact your local legislators and let them know that taxing nonprofits is a bad idea for Maine.

You can also attend the hearing this Thursday, February 19 at 1 pm at the State House in August. Get more details here.

On behalf of Maine’s wildlife and the people in the nonprofit world who are working hard to protect it, I thank you for speaking up!        

- Charles

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.

Action Alert! Speak Out Against the Governor’s Proposal to Tax Nonprofits

Posted on: Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Maine Audubon Action Alert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease speak out against the Governor’s proposal to tax nonprofit organizations.

The Appropriations and Financials Affairs Committee, together with the Taxation Committee, is holding a public hearing on the proposal require nonprofits to pay property tax.

When:
Thursday, February 19, 1:00 pm

Where:
Room 228 of the State House, Augusta

Why we need you to take action:

The Governor has proposed requiring tax districts impose a property tax on nonprofits who hold $500,000 or more in property tax assessment in a tax district.The assessed value over $500,000 would be taxed at half the local rate. There is another bill to reduce the trigger amount to $250,000.

Please attend the hearing on February 19 at 1:00 pm and testify against the proposal or contact your local legislators to share your concerns.

Talking Points to Share with your Legislator:

Nonprofits Enhance Our Communities

  • Places to hunt, hike, fish, snowmobile, play
  • Outdoor classrooms for the next generation
  • Preserving clean lakes, rivers, drinking water and healthy ecosystems
  • Protecting our heritage and historic places
  • Supporting health and wellness programs: exercise and healthy foods

Nonprofits Strengthen Our Economy

  • Access for commercial fishing
  • Conservation of working forests
  • Supports local farmers and healthy foods
  • Special places that attract tourists (raising more tax dollars from tourists is a key component of the Governor’s proposed shift from income to sales taxes).

Taxing Non-profits Will Result in Fewer Services From Fewer Conserved Lands

  • Providing public benefits like conserved land and community services costs money
  • Many land trusts already stretch existing dollars to maximize impact

The Proposal Is Not Right for Conservation Organization or for any Nonprofit

  • Land trusts and other conservation nonprofits require minimal government services
  • Services provided by land trusts and other nonprofits reduce burden on the government
  • As governments downsize, the need for nonprofits increases

Please attend the hearing on Thursday, February 19 at 1:00 pm and testify in opposition to the proposal or contact your local legislator to share your concerns.

For more information, please contact: 

JenniferJenn Burns Gray

Maine Audubon Staff Attorney and Advocate

jgray@maineaudubon.org

(207) 781-2330 x224

 

Love Birds

Posted on: Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, it seems fitting to discuss love this week. Here are a few fun facts about some of Maine’s lovebirds:

“Birds Mate for Life”

Let’s start by debunking a big misconception: “Birds mate for life.” The simple answer is no, they do not. Polygamy, in the forms of polyandry and polygyny, is very common amongst birds, especially song birds. There are some species that form monogamous pair bonds but the contrast with ‘mating for life’ is that they will only be monogamous as long as it is mutually beneficial.

A good example is Mute Swans: they form monogamous pairs but will seek new mates if their partner dies, becomes injured or is otherwise unable to reproduce. From a bird’s perspective, the ultimate goal is to produce as many young as possible each year, for every number of years possible, and they will find a mate, or mates, that will be most beneficial for them.

 

Mozzercork_-_Heart_(by)

Mute Swans. Photo credit: Mozzercork, Wikimedia Commons.

Even though it is February, there is love in the air for a number of species. Mate selection has already begun for many of our Maine-breeding owls. You may have noticed an increase in the nighttime activity (in the form of vocalizations) in Barred and Great Horned Owls. These species typically sit on eggs in Maine by March. Some owls further south are already feeding chicks: check out this live feed of a Great Horned Owl pair in Savanna, Georgia (their first chick hatched on February 3).

Another species breeding right now is Red Crossbills.They can be found nesting almost any time of the year, whenever food is abundant. Recently, a small group of Red Crossbills has been seen in Waterboro (York County).

 

Red Crossbills. Photo credit: Doug Hitchcox.

Red Crossbills. Photo credit: Doug Hitchcox.

Perhaps one of the best (or best known) love stories in the avian world is that of Central Park’s Pale Male. If you haven’t heard it before, I highly recommend reading “Red-Tails in Love” or watching the Nature documentary “Pale Male” this weekend.

-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:

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon to Release New Children’s Book at Winter Carnival February 14

Posted on: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

February 3, 2015

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

Maine Audubon to Release New Children’s Book at Winter Carnival February 14
‘A Snowy Owl Story’ is published in partnership with Islandport Press (Yarmouth)

The Snowy Owl_Cover_hrFalmouth – Maine Audubon invites members and the general public to celebrate the winter season at their family-friendly Winter Carnival on Saturday, February 14, from 10 am to 2 pm. The celebration will take place at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, 20 Gilsland Farm Road in Falmouth. The event is free for members and $7/person for the general public.

The seasonal celebration will feature outdoor games and activities, indoor arts and crafts, music and refreshments. The nonprofit will also release A Snowy Owl Story, a new children’s board book published in partnership with Islandport Press. The book is expected to be the first in a new series called “Wildlife on the Move.” The goal of the series is to bring well-written, engaging stories about wildlife migration, conservation and respectful human interaction with nature to a Pre-K through second grade audience. There will be several readings and book signings at the event, as well as a live appearance of a Snowy Owl. Ten percent of earnings from book sales will be used to support Maine Audubon educational outreach programs that benefit underserved preschools statewide.

Maine Audubon’s Winter Carnival & Open House is part of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. To learn more, please visit www.maineaudubon.org/wintercarnival.

 ###

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, 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

National Audubon’s New Website

Posted on: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

As we’ve gone through the first classes of our Birding Basics series this year, I’ve enjoyed looking for and sharing resources that I think will be helpful for new or beginner birders. One of these resources was just released – a new website from National Audubon and here are some of the things you can’t miss:

First, the renewed content on the Guide to North American Birds is definitely worth exploring. It now includes text from Kenn Kaufman and illustrations from David Allen Sibley. It also looks great on mobile devices!

audubonguide

There is also a new set of articles on birding, all worth reading. This includes a great piece by Falmouth native, Nick Lund, on “How To Begin Birding” and an excellent background piece on how he got hooked on birding:

audubonprints

This might fall in the “neat” rather than “helpful” resource category, but John James Audubon’s watercolors are all available to view on the site. You can even download high resolution version – I’m still picking out which will be the new background on my phone!

I hope you enjoy this great site and considering joining me for one of our upcoming Birding Basics talks:

February 12: Attracting Birds

February 26: Observing Behavior

March 12: Birding By Ear

March 26: Making it Count

-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:

Winter Wildlife Tracks

Posted on: Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Even when it seems like there is not much wildlife to see in the winter, there are often signs left behind of many of the animals that are active during the cold months. These signs, typically tracks, are usually more obvious in fresh snow so there should be some good opportunities this week to look and see what is active around you. Here are a few mammal tracks to look for:

Squirrels
A personal favorite to find in the winter is the dugout cache of an Eastern Gray Squirrel, especially because squirrel tracks can be found even when the top layer of snow is frozen. As seen in the photo below, you will often find these small holes with messy grass and leaves tossed around. If you look closely, you’ll often find the husk of an acorn. Each hole typically leads the squirrel to one of the hundreds of caches that it has.

Squirrel Cache

Dugout cache of an Eastern Gray Squirrel

Rodents
Small rodent tracks can be tough to tell apart, but there are a few signs to look for with each species. White-footed Deer Mouse are known for jumping, which often leaves a parallel set of tracks. Also, compared to other rodents that are active in the winter, they have fairly long tails that drag and will typically show up in the snow – look how obvious this is behind each set of tracks, especially the bottom set in the photo below.

White-footed Deer Mouse Tracks

White-footed Deer Mouse tracks

Medium-sized Mammals
Larger, more obvious tracks can be surprisingly abundant in winter, especially with the increase in Virginia Opossums and Eastern Raccoon we are seeing in Maine (particularly in suburban areas). Below is a photo of classic raccoon tracks in Maine: their digits (finger and toes) are long and very conspicuous on the forefoot with the hind foot showing a larger pad. You will often find fore and hind foot tracks right next to each other because of the way they walk.

Raccoon Tracks

Eastern Raccoon tracks

For those of you in the Bangor area this weekend, there will be a fun ‘Scats and Tracks’ walk at Fields Pond Audubon Center in the afternoon. Full details are available here. Have you found wildlife tracks this winter? Share them with us on on our Facebook page or tag us on Instagram!

-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 Preview of the 2015 Maine Legislative Session

Posted on: Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

State_HouseMaine’s legislative session has begun and it’s game time for Maine wildlife. What happens in Augusta is even more important as we work to protect Maine’s wildlife against climate change impacts.

There are numerous opportunities to work together to make improvements to existing protections for wildlife and habitat and to issue bonds to make critical infrastructure investments that benefit wildlife and Maine’s economy. However, we must remain vigilant against efforts to take Maine in the wrong direction.

Here’s a glimpse of our legislative priorities this year:

• Update the state’s endangered and threatened species list

• Invest in the Land for Maine’s Future program

• Safeguard our fish and water from toxic mining

• Protect the water quality of Maine’s lakes

• Advance the use of solar power

• Fund local efforts to replace stream crossings that are barriers to fish movement

• Maintain the integrity of the Bureau of Parks and Lands

• Ensure that managing the impending spruce budworm outbreak takes into account the many benefits our forests provide.

Black-crownedNight-Heron

The Black Crowned Night Heron may be upgraded from threatened to endangered in Maine.

In addition to these priorities, we will be highly engaged in a variety of other issues important to our mission. We will closely monitor the budget process to make sure our natural resource agencies’ budgets and missions remain intact. As a member of the Environmental Priorities Coalition, we will work closely with our partners to push forward legislation that will conserve Maine’s wildlife and habitat and defend against attacks that undermine these protections.

Stay up to date on our work in Augusta by subscribing to our Action Alerts, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

We welcome your participation in our efforts and thank you for all you have done and will do to help protect Maine’s water, land and wildlife.

- Charles

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin, Executive Director

Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the Rise in Maine

Posted on: Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

I love getting calls from people when they have rare birds in their yard. There is nothing more exciting than spotting something unusual or seeing something for the first time. The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one species we have received a lot of calls about this winter – but they are not as rare as some may think.

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Doug Hitchcox)

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Doug Hitchcox)

So what has changed?

The Short Answer:

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been going through a steady range expansion for a few decades. It was during 2004-2005 that these birds irrupted into Maine in larger numbers than had been seen before and have since become resident breeders.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker (Doug Hitchcox)

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker (Doug Hitchcox)

Here is a map (from eBird.org) of the southern half of Maine that shows all the locations Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been reported since 2010:

eBird_range

Red-bellied Woodpecker sightings in Southern Maine (click on image for larger view)

The Long Answer:

To elaborate on the answer above: Yes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are expanding in Maine, and here is some proof:

My favorite resource for looking at a bird’s distributions is eBird.org. So I went there and using their “Explore Data” feature that generates line graphs of the frequency Red-bellied Woodpeckers were being reported. The frequency is the percentage of all checklists being submitted that include the species in question. The result, below, which looks fairly messy, is very telling: notice how from 2010-2014 (as the line color gets darker) the frequency steadily rises. An especially dramatic change is noted when you see that the highest frequency in 2010 was barely over 4%, while the peak in 2014 was at 14%.

RBWO_frequency

Click on image for larger view

Another great resource for looking at how species’ populations have changed is Christmas Bird Count data. The chart below shows the number of individual Red-bellied Woodpeckers reported on Maine Christmas Bird Counts since 1990. The 2004-2005 influx is very noticeable here. The most interesting thing to me is the 4-year spikes that are occurring. 2005, 2009 and 2013 all indicate a big spike in the numbers reported; which was echoed by reports in New Hampshire (shown in light blue for comparison). The only reason I have seen noted for these Red-bellied Woodpecker “boom years”  is from an abundance of cicadas – but those don’t have 4 year cycles…

RBWO_CBC

Click on image for larger view

More to think about:

I’d love to hear from our readers if anyone has an explanation for these apparent four-year spikes. It could be connected to temperatures and observer effort, but maybe a grad student or another naturalist with more time could look into this.

What is really interesting about this expansion is that the likely explanation is climate change. A study published in 2014 examined museum specimens from across the Red-bellied Woodpecker’s range, prior to their expansion (which began in the 1950s). They found the birds classically followed Bergmann’s Rule: the birds at more northern latitudes (where it is colder) were larger and had greater mass than birds further south. Mass is an important factor in surviving cold climates. The study then looked at the woodpeckers’ mass since they expanded north and found birds with smaller mass at more northern latitudes. The reason birds with lesser mass can occur further north would be from an increase in temperatures.

I hope this answers everyone questions about Red-bellied Woodpeckers in Maine!

Resources:

  • Kirchman, J., & Schneider, K. (2014). Range expansion and the breakdown of Bergmann’s Rule in Red-Bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126 (2), 236-248.
  • National Audubon Society (2015). The Christmas Bird Count Historical Results [Online]. Available http://christmasbirdcount.org [12 January 2015]

-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:

Field Trip Report: Gyrfalcon Chase!

Posted on: Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Our 2015 field trips are off to a great start! Last Saturday we held our second annual January is for FOYS (First of the Year’s Birds) Trip that tallied 51 species. And this morning we met to bird Back Cove in Portland.

Unfortunately, the early morning temps were around 14 degrees F and expected to drop. Plus the wind howling across the cove made the ‘feels like’ temperature less than desirable for birding. BUT, as I waited for birders to show up, a GYRFALCON was reported from Kennebunk. Everyone agreed there was only one thing to do: pile in a car and go to Kennebunk!

Gyrfalcon 1 (Shiloh Shulte)

Photo by Shiloh Shulte

Gyrfalcons are the largest falcons in the world and live in the circumpolar arctic. You can explore their range map here and notice that some winters they do wander southward, but seldom into the lower 48 states. They were apparently more regular as Maine visitors in the 1970s and 80s, but are now so uncommon that the Maine Birds Records Committee decided to relist them as a review species and keep track of recent records.

Gyrfalcon 2 (Shiloh Shulte)

Photo by Shiloh Shulte

When we pulled up to Park Street in Kennebunk (where the Gyrfalcon had been feeding on a Herring Gull), all we saw was a pile of feathers. A few birders had gathered and said the one thing every birder hates: “You should have been here 5 minutes ago.” By a stroke of luck, the Gyrfalcon was relocated in a spruce tree across the road and gave us great views, especially through our scope, for around 30 minutes.

Gyrfalcon 1 (Shiloh Shulte)

Photo by Doug Hitchcox

We eventually lost track of the bird while trying to get a better angle on it. It was a life bird for everyone in the group, meaning a new species of bird we had not seen before. We all laughed at the facts: 1) We thought we’d be birding Back Cove; 2) We certainly didn’t think we’d see a Gyrfalcon today; 3) We never thought our first Gyrfalcon would be perched in a spruce; and 4) certainly not in a residential area.

If the bird is relocated, updates are likely to be posted on the:

Upcoming Field Trips

-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: