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
Comments: With Sam Wainright
American Black Duck 16
Common Eider 75
Surf Scoter 4
Long-tailed Duck 2
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributors and Reviewers: Michael LaCombe, Sam Wainright, Michelle Brown, Marty
By Patty Wainright