RARE BIRD ALERT: REDWING

UPDATE – 23 Feb 2021: The Redwing has not been seen since the afternoon of the 22nd, despite extensive searching on the 23rd and 24th.

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UPDATE – 4-22 Feb 2021: Redwing showed throughout the day in its usual spot. Dickcissel and Black-headed Grosbeak also reported daily, typically near feeders in the park. (See “Updates” section below for more timely status reports of this bird.)

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UPDATE – 3 Feb 2021: FOUND! After several negative reports through the morning, the Redwing was found in the afternoon in the same patch of multiflora rose between Macy Street and the small walking bridge inside the park (see map link from 30 Jan for approximate location).

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UPDATE – 2 Feb 2021: Snow storm overnight likely limiting coverage, but one negative report from the morning: “After about two hours of snow day birding at Capisic, I was unable to find the Redwing.”

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UPDATE – 1 Feb 2021: Reportedly still present at 7:00AM. Still present through ~4:00PM.

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UPDATE – 31 Jan 2021: First reports of the day came at 7:07AM, continuing through the morning at its preferred multiflora rose patch (map link in update from yesterday). It stayed in the area throughout the day, continuing its behavior of staying low to the ground, with intermittent trips higher up to forage.

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UPDATE – 30 Jan 2021: The Redwing put on a show all day, flying in with a large flock of robins shortly after 8:00AM. It spent almost the entire day in a patch of multiflora rose, often sitting low (and difficult to see) in the tangle, but like clockwork, every 10-15 minutes it would slowly start moving up and feed at the top of the tangle for a minute before dropping back down. I last saw it at 5:10PM, apparently roosting in this patch it used for most of the day, here: https://goo.gl/maps/U8uDxPJoXYwt8FKB8

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What? A Redwing was found at Capisic Pond Park in Portland by Brendan McKay on the afternoon of 29 Jan 2021. It was associating with a flock of American Robins, apparently attracted to the sumac and multiflora rose fruit in the park.

Who? Redwing! Not a Red-winged Blackbird, which are colloquially referred to (much to the chagrin of serious birders) as “redwings”, this is a European thrush. This bird’s genus, Turdus, is the same that our American Robin belongs to, and a better hint towards its behavior and identification than from a blackbird. Learn more about them here.

Where? Capisic Pond Park is an 18 acre park nestled between Brighton Ave and Capisic Street in Portland. We’ll update this blog as the bird’s routine becomes established, but on the 29th it was first found near the small bridge just south of the trail intersection (43.6681338, -70.3064107). From there, the flock moved north in the park and stayed along the stretch where the trail turns west. These birds were feeding mostly on the multiflora rose that is growing on either side of the trail, though the sumac also attracted a few robins. A Merlin made several passes that put the flock up each time but they’d settle back into this north end of the park. A final pass at 4:30PM, as the flock was staging in the tops of trees along the stretch parallel with Brighton, and the birds took off to the north, presumably to roost.

Parking/Access: Capisic is a heavily used park (see more below) by Portland residents, and while there are several options for parking, this could become an issue if large numbers of birders are visiting. Given the tight parking we’ve experienced during our spring bird walks here, I hope these recommendations can help: The main parking area for Capisic is located at the south end of the park, on Macy Street (https://goo.gl/maps/vfx1XreojVXQ1qVEA). Usually, after the designated spots are full, cars can park along the side of Macy, however with recent snow this may be too tight. Make sure cars can easily come and go, or park further out. Beware that the bridge on Capisic Street creates quite a blind spot from cars traveling from the west – be very careful if you are parking near here and walking along the road. Capisic can also be accessed from the east, via Machigonne Street, which has parking along the street, as do many of the adjacent roads. At the north end, the park is accessed from Lucas Street, which also has street parking but probably the fewest amount of spaces. The Greater Portland Metro also has a route along Brighton (Route 4) that stops at Lucas Street; schedule here.

Local Considerations: As mentioned, this is a very busy park. The pond is a popular spot for ice skating in the winter, and with this recent cold snap we can expect the ice to be especially attractive this weekend. Capisic is also a very popular location for dog walkers. Given the parks already heavy use, we can expect a bit of congestion as birders are sure to be traveling from far distances if this bird continues to be seen. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, please use common sense while birding here: Keep paths clear if you’ve stopped and are looking at/for the bird. Wear masks. Stay distanced. And check out local shops: There are some great cafes in either direction from Capisic along Brighton, which I’m sure could use some support and will be happy to help warm you up after ticking Redwing off your life list!

Updates: I’d like to strongly encourage birders to post updates to the Maine-birds listserv. This is the most timely and direct way to get updates out to the community. eBird is of course a great place to report sightings and the default repository now for records, but these often don’t get posted or distributed as quickly as the listserv. The best place to see updates on eBird is by using the Cumberland Rare Bird Alert. Note there is a hotspot for Capisic Pond Park that will list recent sightings, but these only show up as they’ve been reviewed (and since reviewers may be out looking for the Redwing, it won’t be updated quite as timely). There are Facebook pages like the Maine Rare Bird Alert that will also be updated, but this is a less than ideal method for reporting timely updates.

Other birds: The park has been frequently visited by birders lately thanks to rarities like two Dickcissels, and a Black-headed Grosbeak that have been reported for the past couple weeks. The discovery of this Redwing brings to mind a theory known as the “Patagonia Picnic Table Effect”, where birders continue to find more rare birds at a location as a result of their increased effort there from looking for a previously found rare bird. This theory has very recently been challenged (with data) but it is hard to say this isn’t the perfect example of PPTE in action!

Why? This is only the second record of a Redwing ever being sighted in Maine. Amazingly, the first was also from this month, one that was photographed in a private yard in Steuben on 8 Jan 2021, but unfortunately never seen again. There is a good push of European thrushes in North America right now, with Redwings also being seen in New Brunswick and Newfoundland recently, plus a Fieldfare in Quebec. Their occurrence is thanks to an interesting weather pattern in the north Atlantic, and their arrival was actually predicted by BirdCast just before the first Redwing arrived!