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January 1, 2016 Bird Sightings

January 13, 2016

 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: brownmichh@aol.com


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

By Patty Wainright






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