Adult Red-Tailed Hawk (Photos by Don Reimer). Click on dots below for more images.
Adult Red-Tailed Hawk (Photos by Don Reimer). Click on dots below for more images.
According to Forrest Gump’s mother, “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” The same might apply to annual Christmas Bird Counts. Each year is different in terms of weather and travel conditions for participants, combined with food availability and myriad other factors for the birds themselves. With temperatures ranging from the teens to mid-20s, our December 16 count was chilly with clear skies and unrestricted travel conditions. The Thomaston/Rockland bird count area is a 15-mile circle centered at the Knox Mansion.

What did we find? Overall, 81 different species and 6,552 individual birds were recorded. Winter finches: Despite stellar crops of coastal spruce cones and ample stocks of fruits and berries, winter finches were no-shows so far this season. Two White-Winged Crossbills, a spruce cone specialist, were notable finds at Clark Island. Waxwings are currently scarce (a total of 3 Cedar Waxwings for the count and none on the recently completed Pemaquid count).

Other land birds: A Baltimore Oriole in Warren was a bonus bird. This young male oriole has visited yard feeders in recent weeks to enjoy seed and offerings of grape jelly provided by the homeowner. Small groups of American Robins and Bluebirds remain along the coast to feast on fruits and berries. A single Chipping Sparrow and Vesper Sparrow were unexpected finds.

Warblers: This may seem like an out-of-sync category of birds for the winter season, but a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers remain to feed on coastal bayberry. The other warbler species, a Yellow-Throated Warbler, discovered in Tenants Harbor is another story. This southern nester that frequents pine trees is totally out of place here. However, there is history of this striking species appearing in the Northeast in winter (currently several reported across New England). Go figure.

Waterfowl: Wintering flocks of sea ducks were at typical levels. Two immature King Eiders off Owls Head Light were a special treat. A bit smaller than the familiar Common Eider, this more northern species features a colorful bulbous bill that is particularly evident on adult males. A female Wood Duck at Rockland Harbor was also unusual for the time of year. The unfrozen lower section of Chickawaukie Lake held several surprises, including a group of Ring-Necked Ducks and a single Ruddy Duck. A late-season Pied-Billed Grebe and an assemblage of 25 migrating American Coots were also welcome sights.

Shorebirds: Most self-respecting shorebirds have moved to warmer climes, bit a few hardy species can be seen in winter. Purple Sandpipers are reliably found at rockbound locations such as the Rockland Breakwater and offshore ledges. A few Dunlin make occasional winter appearances along the Maine coastline.

Raptors: Not a lot of variety this time around, but a tricky trifecta of accipiters, those woodland hawks that eat your feeder birds, was achieved. Northern Goshawks are denizens of deeper woods and are less frequently observed than the neighborhood Sharp-Shinned and Cooper’s hawks.

Thomaston/Rockland CBC Results, December 16, 2017

Red-throated Loon 2
Common Loon 59
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Red-necked Grebe 10
Horned Grebe 44
Great Cormorant 3
Canada Goose 359
Wood Duck 1
Black Duck 459
Mallard 791
Common Eider 241
King Eider 2
Long-tailed Duck 101
Black Scoter 2
Surf Scoter 47
Wh-winged Scoter 2
Common Goldeneye 105
Bufflehead 326
Hooded Merganser 31
Common Merganser 37
Rd-brsted Merganser 69
Ruddy Duck 1
Gr-winged Teal 1
American Wigeon 8
Downy Woodpecker 20
Hairy Woodpecker 24
Pileated Woodpecker 7
Blue Jay 135
American Crow 225
Common Raven 12
Bl-capped Chickadee 496
Tufted Titmouse 28
Rd-brsted Nuthatch 21
Wh-brsted Nuthach 27
Brown Creeper 7
Gold-crowned Kinglet 48
Eastern Bluebird 5
American Robin 294
Northern Mockingbird 3
Cedar Waxwing 3
European Starling 389
Baltimore Oriole 1
Yellow-rump Warbler 3
Y’low-thr’ted Warbler 1
Northern Cardinal 64
Am. Tree Sparrow 78
Chipping Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Vesper Sparrow 1
Bald Eagle: Adults 9
Immature 15
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Northern Goshawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 7
Ruffed Grouse 1
Wild Turkey 77
American Coot 25
Purple Sandpiper 12
Dunlin 2
Bonaparte’s Gull 4
Ring-billed Gull 49
Herring Gull 538
Gr. Bl-back Gull 21
Razorbill 1
Black Guillemot 44
Rock Pigeon 275
Mourning Dove 241
Great Horned Owl 1
Barred Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 3
Red-bellied Woodpkr 2
Yellow-b Sapsucker 2
Song Sparrow 16
Swamp Sparrow 2
Wh-thr. Sparrow 19
Dark-eyed Junco 255
House Finch 62
Wh-wing Crossbill 2
American Goldfinch 179
House Sparrow 78
Northern Flicker 1
Turkey Vulture 1
82 species and 6,553 individual birds