Can you identify this whimsical birdhouse? Anybody in there?
This late May to mid-June bird blog includes: an update on the Great Horned Owl nest; a special section about the Black-crowned Night Herons and Bald Eagles – their new foraging strategies along the coast of Maine; and how to identify a newly fledged night heron from a 1st summer juvenile.
Michael provides for us lists of interesting and beautiful birds he observes on Peaks Island and Scarborough Marsh. The two lists below are a compilation of several lists, however, individual lists can be viewed on eBird.
An update on the Great Horned Owl nest in Evergreen Cemetery Guillemot Bird Newsletter reports that on April 16th an owlet fell out of the nest and it was transferred safely to a bird rehabilitator (1).
Black–crowned Night Herons (BCNH)
Stephen (Birdman) sees eleven BCNHs fly over Brackett Pond on the evening of June 10th, arriving from the direction of the South Shore, and perhaps Ram Island. The BCNH is on Maine’s Endangered Species List. Therefore, Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MIFW) closely monitors their populations. MIFW Biologist, Danielle D’Auria believes that these herons seen on Peaks Island build nests and raise their young on Ram Island. BCNHs [and Bald Eagles, see below] primarily feed on fish, but most recently on Maine islands their diets include seabird eggs and chicks. For example, the BCNHs on Stratton Island are upsetting efforts to protect another state-endangered species - the Least Tern, eating all of their eggs and chicks in 2015 (2). But why, do 'our' BCNHs fly over Whitehead Passage to Peaks Island ponds, when this new preferred food source (eggs and chicks) is available on Ram Island? Perhaps, is it to vary their diet from these eggs and chicks (Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants, and Black Guillemots) on Ram Island to fish, frogs, and invertebrates here?
The BCNHs apparently arrive at Brackett Pond in the evening to forage at night. As Birdman notes, they arrive over the pond but they do not immediately descend to the tree branches and bushes, instead they circle and fly over the treetops as though they are ‘playing’. Once they alight on tree branches overhanging the pond, we observe not only adults, but also juveniles. We ponder whether it is early in the season for fledged BCNHs (Note: Last year, 2015, newly fledged BCNHs were seen in July on PI ponds.). The female incubates the eggs for 24-26 days and the young will fledge in 6-7 weeks (3). The Guillemot Bird Newsletter (1) reports the first sightings opf the BCNHs in the first week of April on Mercy Pond, Portland – approximately 2 months ago – enough time to build a nest, incubate the eggs, and fledge the young? Math is close either way.
Sibley (4) reports that the BCNH juvenile’s 1st summer plumage (acquired in February and lasts through August)is less spotty on its wings with fewer streaks on its head and breast than the newly fledged juvenilein its first 6 months of life(this extensive streaky plumage lasts from July to January; see photo below). The 1st summer juvenile also sports a dark grey cap, as compared to the adult’s black cap.
We were unable to get a close look or a photograph of these juveniles over Brackett Pond to verify if these individuals are from last year’s brood (1st summer juvenile)or newly fledged juveniles from this year. Before this night Birdman observed many juveniles on PI ponds – if they are juveniles from last year (1st summer juveniles), he comments that 2015 was a good reproductive year for the BCNH in Casco Bay! Is it time for a return visit to check the juvenile plumage characteristics?
The Bald Eagle, whose populations are rebounding after pesticides nearly exterminated them in the 1960s, are taking advantage of nest delectables on Maine shores, including another one of Maine’s Endangered Species - the Great Cormorant*. This protected species suffers heavy chick losses from the eagles (5). On another island (Egg Rock), the presence of Project Puffin interns keeps Bald Eagles from taking the puffin and tern eggs/chicks – but once the interns leave the island the eagles (up to 15 in 2015) return for any remaining chicks (6). One can see evidence of other Audubon interns on Outer Green Island – their white tent. They too are protecting terns and the Black Guillemots from predators such as the Bald Eagles and gulls.
Adult and juvenile Bald Eagles are seen flying over Whitehead Passage toward Ram Island this spring – are the parents teaching their young to find not only fish, but an abundance of eggs and chicks of gulls and Double-crested Cormorants on the island? Have you noticed the huge plume of birds over Ram Island? It is the nesting seabirds’ response to a Bald Eagle’s ‘fly-by’. Remember David’s photographs of the Bald Eagle at Torrington Point – feasting on a gull (^ see his photos in the below "End of January and February Sightings" blog link) ?
Ovenbird Prothonotary Warbler [Call typical: rising notes of tsweet tsweet tsweet… Seen closely, clearly: green back; orange-yellow chest and head; black eyes; large for warbler. Rare in Maine.] Common Yellowthroat:
Chestnut-sided Warbler Yellow-rumped Warbler Black-throated Green Warbler Wilson's Warbler Song Sparrow Eastern Towhee Northern Cardinal Rose-breasted Grosbeak Red-winged Blackbird Common Grackle American Goldfinch House Sparrow
**Baby Common Eiders are seen in Spar/Wharf coves, Fifth Maine Cove, and the South Shore. However, their numbers are rapidly decreasing. The mother eider and the ‘aunts’ form crèches to protect the young, but even so, their success is limited against predators. For example on June 17, there are 20 females protecting 2 young. (ML, BM, PW)
'Aunts' and Mothers form a crèches to protect young Common Eiders (Peaks Island)
Single Common Eider young - unprotected from airborne predators (Peaks Island)
2. A few more birds seen and heard in late May and early June:
Unknown hawk (See May 29 PI Neighbor)
Wood Duck and young***
Northern Flicker (BM)
***Butch shared with us the first of June PI Neighbor photographs of a female Wood Duck with her expressive large eyes, guiding her young through the marshes. Birdman sees probably the same female three different times with 16 young and a second female with 4 young. It is encouraging that the first female is seen several times with her large complement of paddlers.
****Evidence of their activity is the typically large holes in tree trunks – searching for large beetle larva/grubs are spotted in the woods. Birdman notes their presence near Pleasant Street.
On June 14 from 8:30 to 11:15 AM Michael and Derek Lovitch, a guide for Wilderness, spend a “spectacular morning of birding in Scarborough Marshes”. Several sites***** are scanned with a total of 42 species identified. The highlight bird is the Little Blue Heron with its ‘amazing’ blue plumage. A healthy number of Roseate (25) and Least Terns (26) are noted. These birders spot 4 species of marsh-loving sparrows. Derek, being an expert birder, identifies a hybrid sparrow: Nelson's/Saltmarsh Sparrow (Sharp-tailed Sparrows). Awesome identification! The Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow is more common south of Maine and the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow is more common in Maine and further north. If two closely related species' ranges overlap, some individuals may choose a partner of the other species. Scarborough Marsh is a good overlap place for these two similarly feathered species to find each other - and hybridize.
Although, not seen on this trip the rare and federally protected Piping Plovers (14 pairs) were observed by wildlife biologists in the marshes with many lively chicks in tow – looking perhaps like little puff-balls. Good news.
Scarborough Marsh June 14 Birdlist (ML):
Northern Shoveler American Black Duck
Mallard Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret Snowy Egret Little Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture Broad-winged Hawk
Osprey Willet Ring-billed Gull Herring Gull Great Black-backed Gull Least Tern ( 26 individuals ) Roseate Tern ( 25 individuals ) Common Tern Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) Mourning Dove
Eastern Kingbird American Crow Northern Rough-winged Swallow Tree Swallow
Grey Catbird Northern Mockingbird
Nelson's Sparrow Nelson's/Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow hybrid Savannah Sparrow Song Sparrow
Bobolink (A field of them.)
Red-winged Blackbird Common Grackle American Goldfinch House Sparrow
1. Guillemot, Newsletter of the Sorrento Scientific Society. March-April 2016. Volume 46(2). 12 Spring St. Bar Harbor, ME 04609 (page 15).
2. Egg Rock Update. 2015. Maine Island Highlights: Stratton Island. Project Puffin; Seabird Restoration Program. 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850.
3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. eds. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona (pages: 418-419).
4. Sibley, D.A. 2000. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. NY (page: 65).
5. Podolsky, Richard Harris. June 2016. Environmental Threat – A once rare bird now eats another. Unintended consequence of great conservation success stories. Working Waterfront. Island Institute (page 23).
Contributors: Michael LaCombe (ML), Birdman (BM), Butch Sullins
By: Patty Wainright
Reviewed by: Michelle Brown, Marty, Michael LaCombe, Sam Wainright, Birdman
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: email@example.com.