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January 1, 2016 Bird Sightings

Male Surf Scoters, Diamond Passage Photo © Sam Wainright

Bringing in the 2016 New Year, bright and early, Michael and Sam climb into the now famous truck (please see December 2015 blog – Christmas Bird Count) to search the island for birds. Most exciting is that the truck has heated seats – yes, this addition is birding in luxury. They see the Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes off the South shore facing Cushing Island. Along the Backshore are scattered Common Eiders and Common Loons. The Red-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Long-tailed Ducks, and Black Guillemots are still feeding offshore, along with the ever-present gulls – Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls. The pretty Buffleheads are found both at the Backshore and Diamond Passage.

Common Loon, Non-breeding Plumage Photo © Sam Wainright

Red-necked Grebes, Non-breeding Plumage Photo © Sam Wainright

Red-breasted Mergansers: 2 Males, 1 Female Photo © Sam Wainright

Long-tailed Ducks: Female and Male Photo © Sam Wainright

Black Guillemot, Non-breeding Plumage Photo © Sam Wainright

Male Common Goldeneye Photo © Sam Wainright

With Michael’s 20X binoculars perched on a tripod, these intrepid birders see many of the birds close to Great Diamond Island within the passage, that may be missed with less powerful binocs. They see more of the Buffleheads. And even though the Black and White-winged Scoters are absent, the Surf Scoters are feeding in the middle of Diamond Passage as seen late in December – four of them with the distinctive white patch on the back of their heads and the colorful bill – reds and oranges (please see top photograph). Hopefully we will see the other two scoter species later in January or in February, as we did last year.

The warm and happy birders leave the truck to search the cold Battery Steele’s marshes for the Carolina Wren seen on the Christmas Bird Count. To their surprise they see two of them. But the most exciting sighting is a Northern Harrier (formerly called a Marsh Hawk which nicely describes its favorite habitat – marshes). Its long tail and wings, and most importantly – a distinctive white rump, easily identify this hawk. This hawk gracefully flies, and mostly soars, over the tops of marsh grasses in search of scurrying mice - a new addition this winter to the Peaks Island Land Preserve Bird List.

Northern Harrier - Composite of All Plumages (all have white rumps) Photo: Richard Crossley (1); Wiki Commons

For description of these above plumages please see: The Sibley Guide to Birds, National Audubon Society. 2000; Hawks at a Distance. Identification of Migrant Raptors. Jerry Liguori. 2011.

We hope you will see the above mentioned birds and those listed below - around Peaks Island this month and into February.

Bird List Compiled and Submitted to eBird by: Michael LaCombe

Peaks Island, Cumberland, Maine Jan 1, 2016 7:00 AM - 10:30 AM Protocol: Traveling 5.0 mile(s) Comments: With Sam Wainright 27 species

American Black Duck 16 Mallard 2 Common Eider 75 Surf Scoter 4 Long-tailed Duck 2 Bufflehead 12 Common Goldeneye 14 Barrow's Goldeneye 1 Red-breasted Merganser 8 Common Loon 8 Red-necked Grebe 6 Northern Harrier 1 Black Guillemot 2 Herring Gull 30 Great Black-backed Gull 6 Mourning Dove 1 Blue Jay 4 American Crow 10 Black-capped Chickadee 10 Carolina Wren 2 Northern Mockingbird 1 European Starling 12 White-throated Sparrow 4 Song Sparrow 2 Northern Cardinal 16 House Finch 30 American Goldfinch 8

1. Northern Harrier from The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds. Wikimedia Commons Ticket # 2013042210010844.

Thank you for your interest in Peaks Island Birds and the Bird Blog. If you have any questions or comments please contact Michelle:

Contributors and Reviewers: Michael LaCombe, Sam Wainright, Michelle Brown, Marty

By Patty Wainright


Welcome to

The Backshore Bird Blog


The objective of The Backshore Bird Blog is to share the wonder and diversity of bird species seen along the Peaks Island shore.

If you like birds...

take a look at our list of the 100 varieties of birds that have been spotted around the Island here. How many can you spot?

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