News & Notes: Conservation Issues


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.

unnamed

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:

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.

graph 1

 

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:

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:

Fall Migration Begins

Posted on: Friday, August 22nd, 2014

yell wwrb 2

As a follow up to our last post answering “where did all the birds go?”, many people don’t realize that there are already a lot of birds on their southern migration. Yellow Warblers are a perfect example of this as many that nested in Maine have already begun their journey back toward the Amazon lowlands in South America. Thanks to the participation of citizen scientists using eBird.org and the folks at BirdCast  interpreting their submission, we can craft a really cool visual of when our birds leave.

 

Below are two charts showing the frequency, or percentage of total checklists reporting a species, for the Northeast and Southeast:

Northeast:

BIRDCAST.GL_.NE_DEPART_1_Yellow-Warbler_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southeast:

BIRDCAST.SE_ARRIVE_2_Yellow-Warbler_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the number of Yellow Warblers being reported in the northeast has quickly decreased as they more into the southeastern US. Keep an eye out though! They will be slow to leave completely as the stragglers can last into the end of October in Maine: Bird Observations Chart: Yellow Warbler >>

-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 & MHS Mark 100th Anniversary of Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Posted on: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

August 19, 2014

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

Maine Audubon & MHS Mark 100th Anniversary of Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon - credit to Jada Fitch

Passenger Pigeon, Jada Fitch.

Falmouth – September 1, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last surviving Passenger Pigeon, who died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. In recognition of this historic event, Maine Audubon, in partnership with Maine Historical Society, will present Passenger Pigeons, Plovers & Puffins: A Story of Extinction & Survival on Tuesday, September 4 at 5:30 pm at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth.

A cash bar and light food will be offered. The event is free for Maine Audubon and Maine Historical Society members and $5/person for the public.

 The Passenger Pigeon’s population in 1814 was estimated to be about 3.5 billion. There are countless first-person stories about skies turning black with pigeons in the nineteenth century. Why did such an abundant species go extinct in less than one hundred years? Attendees will learn why this bird went extinct, what other wildlife we lost over the past 100 years and what you can do today to protect threatened and endangered species. There will also be information about successful comeback species, like the Atlantic Puffin and Bald Eagle.

The talk will be led by Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon staff naturalist and Laura Minich Zitske, Director of the Piping Plover & Least Tern Recovery Project at Maine Audubon. Presented in partnership with Maine Historical Society. Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a series of paintings, Recently Extinct Birds of North America, by Maine artist Jada Fitch.

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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

 

 

Where did all the Birds Go?

Posted on: Friday, August 15th, 2014
belted-kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I am often asked questions about fluctuations in bird populations. The common question is: “I’ve noticed that all my chickadees are gone this year. Are other people seeing this decline?”

Most recently, I was asked about a lack of Belted Kingfishers in southern Maine. It is easy to say that we haven’t seen any noticeable drop in their population but we can use real, publicly available data to see the proof. Below I’ll explain the process and encourage you to try this on your own with any species that you have been wondering about.

The data we will use is available from an online database at eBird.org.This is driven by citizen scientists submitting checklists of what birds they see, where and when.The tools eBird provides are available for anyone and are all free!

To start, go to eBird.org, click on the Explore Data tab, and we will be using ‘Line Graphs’ to illustrate this example. You’ll be prompted to select a species and then click ‘continue.’ You’ll want to adjust the area by clicking on ‘Change Location’ and you can narrow your data down to a state or county level. (Going lower than a county level may not give you enough data to work with). For our Belted Kingfisher example, I’ll narrow down to York and Cumberland Counties to represent “southern Maine.”

Click Here>>

figure 1

The default chart will show you information for ‘all years’, so you will want to restrict that to the current year.

Click Here>>

figure 2

Note that the scale of the frequency on the vertical axis changes on these two charts but overall the frequency (the percentage of total checklists reporting that species) is almost unchanged between the average (first chart) and this year (second chart).

You can download the raw data from each of these line graphs using the “Download Histogram Data” on the right side of each page. It makes for a better comparison if you drop this data into the spreadsheet software of your choice (Excel, Numbers, etc) and create charts there. Here is a graph comparing those two charts we created above:

figure 3

So, Belted Kingfisher look like they are doing fine in southern Maine! Here is an article I wrote on this same process, focusing on how Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are showing a fairly remarkable increase in the past few years:

-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: