Maine Bird Rarity Round-Up: December 12th-18th.
This past weekend saw the 120th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the banner citizen science birding event of the year that often produces rarities in under-birded spots due to the unusually high observer effort.
However, while no startlingly unusual vagrants were found this week, the Greater Portland CBC on the 15th rustled up a snow goose with Canada geese on Great Diamond Island, a yellow-breasted chat at Dragon Fields, Portland, a lark sparrow in South Portland, and an incredible count of at least 195 tree swallows among multiple sites, including 68 at Great Pond, Cape Elizabeth. This unprecedented number of tree swallows blows the previous Greater Portland CBC record of a single individual out of the water and may possibly reflect an artifact of major weather systems hitting the east coast of the continent earlier in the fall, or a adaptation to the warmer than typical temperatures. Many ponds and lakes were free of ice throughout the review period and the swallows were observed feeding on airborne insects.
Other late-staying seasonal rarities from the past week included a single Gadwall (Back Cove, Portland, 15th), clay-colored sparrow (Mill Island Park, Somerset County, 15th), and American Kestrel (Portland, 15th) , while multiple Baltimore orioles, pine warblers, gray catbirds and dickcissels were scattered across the state.
Exciting wintering seabirds continued to be recorded this past week with Iceland gulls present at multiple sites including this hatch-year bird (above) from Portland on the 15th, while dovekies and common and thick-billed murres were seen from well-known seawatching sites along the coast of York county throughout the week.
In other news, the Maine Bird Atlas winter season began on December 14th so please go here and read all about how you can help build our understanding of bird diversity and populations here in Maine this winter.