Date: 3/24/17 4:46 pm From: RALPH ELDRIDGE <lightrae1...> Subject: [Maine-birds] MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND REPORT
Spring? I don't believe it, in spite of the few avian speculators that seem to be moving north.
On Tuesday we saw a minor pulse of two or three dozen SONG SPARROWS, a couple JUNCOS, two ROBINS and one STARLING. Hardly startling numbers but a big jump from the five or six Song Sparrows and one Robin that we had been seeing for some time.
PURPLE SANDPIPERS are holding at around 60 and our 2 RAVENS continue daily.
Gulls have been low in recent days but that's no surprise because they cycle frequently, according to their foraging and the weather. I have noticed, though, that a few HERRING GULLS have started hanging out at favorite perching rocks within the seabird colony. I'd speculate that they are anticipating the ALCID'S return and those food opportunities.
Those aforementioned Alcids (RAZORBILLS & MURRES) have been rafting off the island frequently but are not yet doing it every evening. This will certainly be a year to watch closely. Will things normalize or will breeding success continue its downturn?
HARLEQUIN DUCKS have been hovering around 60 most days although there have seemed more at times. I suspect that my impressions were right because this is the time (just before departure to their breeding grounds) when we see a significant jump in numbers here. Presumably, the increase is the first step in the spring migration, with greatly elevated displaying, courting and aggression.
BIRD OF THE DAY: There were up to 56 Harlequins hanging out at our boat ramp for most all of this morning and well into the ebb tide early this afternoon. Lots of preening, courting and aggression on display with a surprising amount of the aggression displayed by a handful of females.
The GRAY SEALS are slowly increasing but I've only seen a couple of pups. I'm not too surprised, considering the particularly violent sea conditions which we've had recently. All the local haul-outs would have been more or less unusable for days on end.
BIRD OF THE WEEK: Yesterday, at about mid-day, under bright sunshine, gale force wind and sub-freezing temperatures, I watched a WOODCOCK fly in and land on the frozen lawn beside the lighthouse. It found its bill defeated by the solid soil. It made several short flights to test other areas with the same failure to penetrate. The last I saw, the poor bugger was exploring among the boulders and burrows of the PUFFIN colony. There's a chance that he found unfrozen ground in sheltered niches. Even so, finding food sufficient to survive the current weather would be a definite challenge. I can only imagine how desperate that bird must have been to find food. It's small wonder that there's talk of exceptionally high mortality among the species. An elevated number of dead and dying Woodcocks have been reported in New England. This last big storm and cold snap, piled onto the previous severe cold will certainly take a toll.
Small numbers of COMMON LOONS, RED THROATED LOONS, CANADA GEESE, BRANT, GREAT CORMORANTS & LONG TAILED DUCKS pass daily, rarely more than 1-2 at a time.
Almost completely absent since I arrived on the 9th have been EAGLES. I've only seen one brief fly-by whereas I expect to see at least one pretty much every decent day. True, the weather hasn't been so good but certainly not so bad as to stop the off-shore hunting trips. I wonder if the "local" Eagles have found a closer, easier or larger food source that's holding them more to the mainland.