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Wednesday, May 25, 2016
A Gambel’s Quail (top) and a Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher (Photos by Don Reimer)
A Gambel’s Quail (top) and a Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher (Photos by Don Reimer)
Thursday, May 05, 2016 12:56 PM
Years ago I remember a balky old New Harbor lobsterman boasting that he hadn’t driven west of the Wiscasset Bridge in well over a decade: “Nothing over there I’m interested in” . . .
  • Birding with Don Reimer: Crossing Time Zones — Part 2
    In my column last week, I described the nature scene around Phoenix, Arizona. Now let’s move up to the Grand Canyon. Significant habitat changes were evident on the three-hour drive north. . . .
  • Drum, Drill, Tap
    In springtime I live in a noisy place. No, it’s not my human neighbors making the commotion – it’s actually six species of vocal, territorial woodpeckers
  • Face it, being a bird isn’t that easy—
    Decades have since passed, but a vivid winter memory lives in my recollection. As a 12-year-old, I was scouting a wooded path in New Harbor and toting along my Daisy pump BB-gun. . . .
  • Springing Ahead—
    In the pre-dawn chill, a male Song Sparrow sings from my front yard — a thrilled, persistent message announcing his intention to raise a brood this year. A second sparrow counter-sings . . .
  • Maine’s Alcids—
    We Mainers are fortunate to have three species of alcids nesting along our coastline in summer. What are alcids? They’re members of a family of web-footed diving birds with short legs . . .
  • West meets East—
    The “predict- able” catalogue of Maine’s wintering birds varies every year for a host of possible reasons. At the top of the list is the availability of consistent, reliable food sources. The scarcity of irruptive winter finches this winter is a prime example . . .
  • Camden’s Ducks—
    As the familiar maxim goes, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” While that premise is generally true, the particular kind of duck in question is not always so apparent. Individual species differ widely in size, body shape, color patterns or their distinctive profile in flight.
  • It’s Gulls Again—
    It’s a curious thing with gulls. Even some birders rank gulls low on their priority list, while non-birders may view them as noisy pests poised to snatch their picnic sandwich . . .
  • Maine’s Warbler Scene—
    Normally I wouldn’t be writing a column about warblers in Maine during the winter season, but things seem quite different this year. As an illustrative . . .
  • This Year’s Thomaston-Rockland Christmas Bird Count
    The Thom- aston-Rock- land Christmas Bird Count, conducted on Saturday, December 19, is just one of 32 counts conducted across Maine between . . .
  • Finch Forecast—
    Living in a four-season state like Maine, we come to appreciate the shifting cavalcade of birds that comes our way each month of the year. This . . .
  • Stranger in the River—
    With limited time for extended birding sessions, I strive to take best advantage of discovery opportunities during my routine daily travels. That means . . .
  • Smaller Than a Chickadee—
    We often use relative terms in describing some particular bird, such as crow-sized, robin-sized or chickadee-sized. For a few of our smallest species . . .
  • Yearbooks—
    Recently I browsed a copy of my old high school yearbook. I grew conscious of the rapid passage of decades, the then-youthful faces in the Senior . . .
  • The Fall Marsh—
    Designated as one of Maine’s 22 Important Bird Areas, the scene at Weskeag Marsh evolves gradually with the seasons. The green grasses of . . .
  • Fall Migration, Slow But Steady—
    We just returned from Monhegan Island, where fall migration was a somewhat slow but steady affair. Given the relatively warm temperatures . . .
  • Three from Alaska—
    Occasionally people ask, “What’s your favorite bird?” I can’t easily settle on a single favorite, but shorebirds are always high on my appreciation list. . . .
  • Birding by the Numbers—
    For me, Mr. Gump’s revelation comes into play every time I scan through a flock of birds. Most members of shorebird and gull flocks, for instance, will . . .
  • A Day at Sea—
    Boarding the 7 a.m. ferry out of Rockland, our group was headed for Vinalhaven to link up with Captain John Drury for a side trip to Seal Island National . . .
  • Armchair Safari—
    It is not uncommon for adventurous birders to trek to remote destinations in search of interesting and exotic birds. Sticking closer to the home front . . .
  • Beach Birds-
    Reaching the outer dunes at Popham Beach, I heard shrill kip-kip-kip vocalizations up ahead as Least Terns darted in from the ocean. A mere 8 to 9 inches in length, the exquisite Least Tern is the smallest of the North American terns. Its black-tipped, straw-yellow bill, black cap and nape and distinctive . . .
  • Tundra Travelers-
    Although I would never wish to hasten the passage of summer, mid-July is a time of year I anticipate - the period when southbound shorebird migration begins. The vanguard of bird movement is now apparent at Weskeag Marsh and along our coastal beaches and inlets. Extending from July through September . . .
  • Care and Feeding-
    Seen any baby birds in your neighborhood? For some species, the nesting season has reached the halfway point as fledgling birds are leaving the nest to trail their parents through the woodlands. Many ducks, geese and Pied-Billed Grebes have produced their yearly . . .
  • Island View-
    We spent the final days of May on Monhegan Island. Birding on an island provides some observational and geographical advantages. The land mass of islands is finite and precisely defined by boundaries of ocean and sky, in Monhegan's case corralling birds into a mile-and-a-half-long strip. Islands offer . . .
  • A River Runs Through It-
    For much of the year, Warren village is a sleepy little community tucked away between Routes 1 and 90. But each May the scene along the Georges riverfront is energized by the annual alewife spawning run. Interested local folks and a growing contingent of photographers from across New England assemble to . . .
  • City Birds-
    It is no small wonder that Maine bird watchers celebrate the spectacle of spring bird migration, a period of anticipated arrivals with a few surprises tossed in for good measure. For example, a wayward Cattle Egret strode across a Monhegan Island lawn last week. A majority of Maine's nesting warbler species are now . . .
  • Sap Days-
    The sapsucker couple that nests in my neighborhood is active again. I hear their characteristic dragged-out ratta-tat-tat-tat territorial drumming sounds on the maple trees and other resonant surfaces, such as metal street signs. Although several species of sapsuckers span the continent, our Eastern representatives . . .
  • Scheduled Arrivals-
    Neighbor #1: "According to my calendar, the Phoebe that nests on my porch each spring should return tomorrow morning." Neighbor #2: "It's amazing that you could possibly know that." Neighbor #1: "Not really; I just check my calendar. The Phoebe has no calendar, but still arrives right on schedule." . . .
  • On the Road-
    In late March, I motored south for the Connecticut Ornithological Association's annual bird conference. In general, conferences can be boring or stimulating, depending on your interest level in the subject. Birds? Well yes, I was definitely interested. Prior to the day's three birding talks, 215 registrants milled through . . .
  • A Farewell to Winter -
    Following our long, snowy winter, we now peer eagerly into March and the prospects of the vernal equinox. Winter birding conditions were challenging this year, leading many folks to stay home and monitor their feeding stations. Feeder watching can pay deep dividends by providing extended opportunities to . . .
  • Personal Ads-
    "Refined, healthy, well-educated man, 35 years old, blue eyes, brown hair, weight 160, 5 feet, 9 inches, wishes to correspond with lady able to finance good business proposition. I am a construction engineer and know the business thoroughly; object, wedding bells and business success for both parties. . . .
  • Black Beauty-
    It's 11 degrees outside and snowing lightly as I step into my backyard. Sitting in a state of calm watchfulness, a huge Raven occupies a weathered stub 200 feet away. It is his sentry post. For two weeks the solitary Raven had held vigil over a partially buried frozen Turkey carcass. Recently I added some beef neck bones . . .
  • Bird on a Rope-
    Back around Thanksgiving, sections of the midcoast lost electrical power for several days. When our power was restored, we evaluated the "edibility" of remaining food stocks from the fridge and freezer. Unfortunately, a 10-pound frozen turkey that appeared to be slightly . . .
  • Close Encounters-
    Years ago I led a group of youth birders from Bremen's National Audubon Camp on a late-summer field trip to Weskeag Marsh, where shorebird and falcon activity was high. The enthusiastic group watched with awe as an adult Peregrine Falcon chased after maneuvering shorebirds. Some kids were clearly rooting for . . .
  • Inside the Christmas Bird Count-
    Occasionally I'm asked about the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) process and how it works: "How can you count all the birds in your area in one day?" or "How do you know you're not counting the same birds more than once?" These are great questions, but first some background. The initial CBC event occurred in 1900 . . .
  • Christmas Bird Count - Results from Thomaston-Rockland count
    As part of National Audubon Society's 115th Christmas Bird Count, the annual Thomaston-Rockland Bird Count was conducted this past Saturday, on December 20. Currently there are 32 Christmas Bird Counts held across the state. The count period extends from December 14 through January 5 and is . . .
  • Staying Late-
    Birds and birders possess a strong sense of seasonal timing. By late April, our wall calendars foretell of arriving American Robins and Red-Winged Blackbirds and the spring nesting season. In fall, we watch with wonder as skeins of Canada Geese and Double-Crested Cormorants ramble southward. . . .
  • The Winter Finch Forecast-
    As December approaches, birders and feeder watchers anticipate the arrival of "winter finches," that diverse group of nomadic feathered wanderers that vacates the northern boreal forest and heads southward in certain winters. Successfully forecasting the movements of anything wearing feathers is a sketchy blend of . . .
  • Binos and Cameras-
    With years of persistent bird watching, it is often possible to identify bird species in a ready fashion. This isn't a magical feat, but actually a matter of visual practice that is possible for most everyone. Size and shape of a given bird are good starting points with identification. Behavior and color patterns are also very . . .
  • Shades of Yellow-
    One recent morning near Popham Beach I witnessed several hundred chirping Yellow-Rumped Warblers as they flitted throughout stands of bayberry and winterberry bushes or launched headlong, in twisting fly-catching aeronautics. The horde's springtime vestments of vivid yellow, charcoal gray and black . . .
  • Birds and Buildings-
    For probably thousands of years, certain avian species have adapted to perching and nesting on man-made structures. Buildings are either a boon or a bane to birds, depending on the circumstances. Bright city lights can confuse and disorient neo-tropical migrants at nighttime . . .
  • Summer Beach-
    Last week I explored Popham Beach State Park to take in the sights. Anecdotally speaking, there seemed to be fewer bikinis and striped beach balls than in summers past, but that's not why I actually went there. In avian terms though, the summer beach scene indicated that the month of July had arrived . . .
  • Long Journey Home -
    Unlike earthbound beings, birds possess considerable powers of flight and navigational ability to travel vast spans of our planet. This is especially true during peak migration periods, when about three-quarters of Maine's breeding birds rotate between breeding and wintering destinations. . . .
  • Great Egg-spectations -
    Mid-June is an opportune time to take stock of the current nesting season, as over 200 species nest across Maine landscapes. In recent decades about 25 southern nesting species have pushed northward into New England as indicated by an influx of Carolina Wrens, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and Cardinals . . .
  • Mob Scene -
    Two fundamental aspects of birding, species identification and behavior watching, can lead to challenging and enjoyable field experiences. While birding the perimeter of Monhegan Island's wet meadow in late May, I heard animated vocalizations coming from aloft. . . .
  • An Eye on the Spring River -
    During February, I often pondered the half-frozen Georges River that passes through Warren village beneath the Main Street Bridge. The channel opening would constrict at night, becoming a narrow slot carved out by the currents. Common goldeneyes and mergansers loafed along the ice floes . . .
  • Merit Badges-
    In human terms, a badge is described as "a distinctive emblem worn as a mark of office, membership, achievement, licensed employment, etc." For the avian population, badges constitute a variety of distinctive plumage patterns that contrast with the surrounding body feathers. . . .
  • Pretty in White-
    For delicate beauty and elegance, it's hard to match members of the heron/egret family. Snowy Egrets have returned to Weskeag Marsh for the summer season, and a roaming pair of Cattle Egrets recently passed through Rockland. Although superficially similar in appearance . . .
  • Spring Waterfowl-
    April is a peak period for waterfowl migration across the Northeast, as winging flocks of Canada Geese and ducks push northward. Equipped with narrow, pointed wings, waterfowl definitely do not have soaring as an option; for them, trans-regional movement is all about powered flight. . . .
  • Late Winter's Larder-
    Of the roughly 220 bird species that nest in Maine, about 75 percent of them retreat southward during the winter months. Cold winter weather is one driving force behind such movements, but lack of access to seasonal food is the primary influence at work here. . . .
  • Birds as Logos-
    From avian depictions on ancient cave walls, we know that birds have influenced man's thinking and given expression to cultural themes down through the ages. In the modern period, birds continue to exert an active cultural role. These days, birds are widely featured in art and photography, sports team logos . . .
  • Hoots-Who?-
    Given the amazing abundance of Snowy Owls visiting our region this year, it is easy to neglect other owls that winter or nest here in Maine. Ten species have been documented in the state, falling into several broad categories. Snowy Owls are the only tundra-nester in this group. . . .
  • Camera Birds -
    Keeping a camera at the ready when possible, I am always on the prowl for good bird photo opportunities. This week's column features two species that have passed through my camera's viewfinder. Last December I spied a lone Canada Goose nestled near a grassy cove in Cushing. . . .
  • Snow Job-
    With our winter bonanza of Snowy Owls here in the Northeast region, owl encounters are a pleasant reality for coastal birders these days. To illustrate, since mid-December I have recorded six separate Snowy Owls within a 10-mile radius of Rockland. . . .
  • January Hawks -
    The winter season can be a tough time for hawks in Maine as snow and cold weather systems complicate the food situation. Occupying the upper end of nature's food chain, overwintering hawks rely heavily on capturing birds or small mammals to sustain them throughout those long frigid nights. . . .
  • 2013 Thomaston-Rockland Christmas Bird Count
    As part of the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, the annual Thomaston-Rockland Christmas Bird Count was held on December 21. Seesaw weather systems prior to count day played a role in this year's outcomes as back-to-back snowfalls blanketed the region . . .
  • Winter Wanderers-
    My frequent column readers will recognize a familiar birding maxim: the winter season delivers different sets of birds each year. It is now mid-December and, as forecast, winter finches are quite scarce in these parts. We can trace that situation to widespread abundance of seed . . .
  • Thanksgiving-
    The Thanksgiving holiday is an opportune time to consider turkeys. I am not talking about those top-heavy, farm-raised birds that are pardoned and spared from the dinner table each Thanksgiving by the President of the United States. I'm talking about wild stock, the primogenitors of all turkeydom. . . .
  • Watching Birds Being Birds-
    Birding field guides provide the framework of identification through two-dimensional depictions that highlight general shape, size and distinctive feather patterns of a bird. And, of course, species identification is an essential step in learning to enjoy birds. Sometimes I strive to sharpen my personal birding skills while driving by identifying road-killed birds . . .
  • The Winter Finch Season-
    We have reached that time of year when birders contemplate the arrival of winter finches. This is an equally good time to consider Ontario biologist Ron Pittaway's annual winter finch forecast. Sandwiched between southern Hudson Bay and the five Great Lakes, Ontario's vast boreal tracts produce a high percentage of Maine's wintering finches. . . .
  • Bird on a Rock-
    I admit it - a streaky brown bird perched on a barren rock may not elate most bird-watchers. Frequently the "LBJ" (little brown job) factor causes us to pass by a drab-looking bird in pursuit of more colorful or more easily identifiable species. Often the small brown bird in question is a member of the sparrow family. But not always. . . .
  • Trap Days-
    In terms of worthwhile bird watching experiences, I heartily recommend Monhegan Island in late September. The active filming of a new movie there based on an island community, "Catatonk Blues," added to the existing fascination this time around. Monhegan's current eight lobstermen were busily focusing on October 1, known to islanders as Trap Day. . . .
  • A Visit from Big Bird-
    From years of birding and amateur photography, I have accumulated an adequate catalogue of photos to draw upon for my bi-monthly birding articles. Nevertheless, I always prefer to write about recent scenarios and timely photos whenever possible. The present article actually began on September 9 when I received some online photos of a huge white bird taken . . .