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Bird Sightings Early April

Common Eiders after a "Rockette Ride"

Spring migrants are arriving and many residents have taken notice. Michelle, on April 6 sees two Turkey Vultures flying over her house and on her walk to town, she sees and hears a beautiful American Kestrel. It has a bird in its talons while perching in a tree on Epps Street - just before it hits Brackett. "First time I've seen a kestrel on Peaks. Love those little guys..."

Jody is fascinated how waves travel toward shore, and then bend around the rocks. With her imagination she pictures these rolling and bending waves as Rockettes performing a dance into Woodlanding Cove. We learn from her son, a musical engineer, that this phenomenon is called refraction - a bending and slowing down of waves in shallower waters. Jody notes that the Common Eiders, male and female, enjoy these Rockette-waves, raising and lowering with them.

On April 6 Michael observed a little bird on the Backshore (lower end). His first observation suggests it is an Eastern Wood-Pewee. Louis Bevier ( the eBird specialist who teaches ornithology at Colby College, thinks otherwise, because it is too early for such a tropical migrant. The pewees arrive on the average mid-May - in Maine. It must be an Eastern Phoebe? Even so, Louis is interested as an early arrival for the Eastern Wood-Pewee is worth noting.

Michael and I are interested in whether the more mild winter affects the pewee's migration? "Not likely. They are Neotropical migrants coming from South America. No idea of weather up here; only internal clock. By contrast, phoebes and other birds like it that winter in the Southeast do likely respond to the changes." (Louis Bevier)

Michael returns again that day and comments: "I thought about it being a phoebe; kept going back to the cart, checking the bird guide, going back to the observation vantage point - the bird was very patient with me. The wing bars were very prominent, there was no tail bobbing whatsoever (phoebes bob), and the bird was plump and sparrow sized. I was struck by the over-long, completely black bill. On the other hand, the timing is better for a phoebe. When I checked eBird for species observations, the furthest north I could find a pewee this week was in North Carolina!" Michael plans to return again on April 7.

However, weather has other plans for April 7: "Raining here today, and very windy. So I’m guessing the bird is stuck on Peaks for a few days. I plan to go back tomorrow with a camera." Michael also notes that "ten phoebes are seen on Mackworth Island yesterday, five in Harpswell. Probably a phoebe."

Later, "The storm has morphed into a gale right now - driving rain is horizontal, in the cove off Fifth Maine at low tide right now. A basin of low water rimmed by rock is filled with Herring Gulls hunkering down. Now forecasting rain all day tomorrow."

So, Michael plans to return on April 8: "[I will be] back tomorrow AM for a stakeout with the truck, black raincoats collars up, smoking Turkish cigarettes, passing cheap whiskey in a bag, back and forth - watching furtively for the elusive Eastern Wood-Pewee."

On April 8, with all the diligence of a man determined to find a pewee, Michael pursues the bird the next morning after the storm. What did he find? "On the very same shrub this AM and it took off as I approached - white wing patches - a Northern Mockingbird." Good try, Michael.

Three bird lists from Peaks Island: April 6 and 8 Peaks Island Sightings

Peaks Island Apr 6, 2016 12:00 PM - 2:45 PM Protocol: Traveling 5.0 mile(s) Comments: Very cold; in twenties with stiff east wind; no one out on back shore except me 19 species American Black Duck 2 Common Eider 22 Roughly eleven pairs of male-female Long-tailed Duck 4 Bufflehead 6 Common Goldeneye 4 Red-breasted Merganser 26 Abundant; roughly 13 pairs of male-female; found on all sides of the island Common Loon 1 Herring Gull 20 Great Black-backed Gull 7 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 8 Northern Mockingbird 1 Stationary at top of bush lower end of Backshore; permitted long looks; long black curved bill, black legs, prominent wing bars American Crow 8 Black-capped Chickadee 4 European Starling 4 Song Sparrow 6 Northern Cardinal 1 Red-winged Blackbird 4 Common Grackle 1 House Sparrow 12

Peaks Island Apr 8, 2016 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM Protocol: Traveling 6.0 mile(s) Comments: Partly sunny, forties, high seas on back shore but much less wind; 27 species Canada Goose 1 American Black Duck 5 Mallard 12 Common Eider 30 Long-tailed Duck 2 Bufflehead 2 Red-breasted Merganser 2 Common Loon 3 Turkey Vulture 3 Northern Harrier 1 Bald Eagle 2 Herring Gull 20 Great Black-backed Gull 3 Eastern Phoebe 1 Blue Jay 5 American Crow 9 Tree Swallow 28 Black-capped Chickadee 3 American Robin 3 Northern Mockingbird 1 European Starling 8 Song Sparrow 20 Northern Cardinal 3 Red-winged Blackbird 12 Common Grackle 20 American Goldfinch 5 House Sparrow 12

April 9 Peaks Island Sightings and List

On Peaks Island Neighbor (April 9) Michael shares with us his new and exciting bird sightings:

"At the east end of Battery Steele there is a flock of 10-12 Golden-crowned Kinglets; smaller than a goldfinch, never sit still, quite brazen and bold, feeding in branches about 10-12 feet high and easy to see. They won't be staying very long. There is also in that locale as of this morning a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Winter Wren, and a Carolina Wren, but those will be tougher to find."

Michael also sees the newly arrived Tree Swallows in the wetland in front of Battery Steele. He sees a Thick-billed Murre (one was seen in late winter) and two Surf Scoters in Diamond Pass, Black Guillemots off Backshore, and a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets at east end of Battery Steele. Quite a morning. Being a friendly fellow, Michael offers eight tourists a tour of the island. "The four women crammed in the back seat of the truck and the four men tail-gated. Their first time on Peaks." Who got the heated seat? These folks will significantly remember this experience.

Peaks Island Apr 9, 2016 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM Protocol: Traveling 6.0 mile(s) Comments: Sunny; forties; beautiful day; little wind; rising tide. 34 species American Black Duck 7 Mallard 3 Common Eider 71 Surf Scoter 2 In Diamond Pass Red-breasted Merganser 11 Common Loon 2 Red-necked Grebe 2 Turkey Vulture 1 Thick-billed Murre 1 Black Guillemot 8 Ring-billed Gull 7 In Hadlock Cove off Picnic Point Herring Gull 13 Great Black-backed Gull 2 Mourning Dove 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1 High in birch, off east end of B. Steele Downy Woodpecker 1 Eastern Phoebe 2 At ponds - Brackett Avenue feeding off surface insects while hawking from a perch over the water – dropping to the water’s surface to pick off hatching insects (as Tree Swallows perform when fly fishing over water). Blue Jay 5 American Crow 12 Tree Swallow 11 Black-capped Chickadee 5 Red-breasted Nuthatch 1 Winter Wren 1 East end of Battery Steele; singing incessantly Carolina Wren 1 In wet land off east end Battery Steele Golden-crowned Kinglet 12 Small flock just off east end of Battery Steele; brazen, bold, unafraid, never still American Robin 11 Northern Mockingbird 2 European Starling 23 Song Sparrow 13 Northern Cardinal 8 Red-winged Blackbird 7 Common Grackle 2 American Goldfinch 4 House Sparrow 41

April 10 news flash from the mainland: Michael returns today from the mainland to search for Bohemian Waxwings who spend the winter in Maine, but rarely seen. They differ from our returning Cedar Waxwings (summer resident). The Bohemian Waxing has a grey belly with rufous-undertail feathers, and the Cedar Waxwing has a warm brownish chest and yellowish belly (1). On April 7, over 100 were seen on Cape Elizabeth. The search for these rare and elusive birds is unsuccessful for Michael, however, he sees a Great Horned Owl in Evergreen Cemetery! Perhaps these Bohemian Waxwings have flown from Cape Elizabeth to Peaks Island this day that Michael leaves the island to search for them. Keep your peepers open for them on the island.

Two lists from the mainland:

Capisic Pond, Cumberland, Maine Apr 10, 2016 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM Protocol: Traveling 1.5 mile(s) Comments: Cold, in thirties; partly cloudy; no Bohemian waxwings! 13 species Wood Duck 2 Mallard 4 Turkey Vulture 1 Red-tailed Hawk 2 Herring Gull 2 Black-capped Chickadee 5 American Robin 13 White-throated Sparrow 1 Song Sparrow 5 Northern Cardinal 4 Red-winged Blackbird 11 Common Grackle 2 American Goldfinch 7

Evergreen Cemetery--ponds, Cumberland, Maine Apr 10, 2016 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM Protocol: Traveling 2.0 mile(s) 13 species Mallard 15 Herring Gull 3 Great Horned Owl 1 Near nest just below; owlets not seen. 5-6 other birders present Downy Woodpecker 1 Pileated Woodpecker 1 Eastern Phoebe 2 Blue Jay 2 American Crow 8 Black-capped Chickadee 4 White-breasted Nuthatch 1 American Robin 12 Song Sparrow 6 Northern Cardinal 4

Other Information:

Compiled by Patty Wainright

Lists by Michael LaCombe

Contributors of stories: ML, Michelle Brown and Jody Halliday

All Lists: Submitted to by ML

Photos © Jody Halliday

Thank you for your interest in our Peaks Island birds, and if you have any additional bird sightings you would like to share or questions regarding Peak's bird life, you can send them to:

1. D.A. Sibley. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. National Audubon Society. Chanticleer Press, Inc. NY

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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.

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