Date: 3/14/19 6:36 am From: RALPH ELDRIDGE <lightrae1...> Subject: [Maine-birds] MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND REPORT
Tuesday, the 12th and Wednesday, the 13th, both proved relatively mild. Temperatures were mostly above freezing and winds stayed low under a mostly sunny sky. All in all pleasant weather shrank our few snow drifts and bared most of the island. I took advantage of the weather, combined with afternoon high tides, to circumnavigate the island a couple of times and assess our winter residents.
PURPLE SANDPIPERS currently stand a bit over 150, which is towards the high end of the expected number and well above the number usually seen in the past couple winters.
HARLIQUIN DUCKS seem to be consistant with other recent winters at approximately 4 dozen.
I confirmed 6 RED BREASTED MERGANSERS (always in pairs) and suspect one or two more pairs.
Some LONG TAILED DUCKS are passing by the island, with a scattered few stopping to feed in the area.
COMMON EIDERS are at seasonal low and mainly represented by random singletons and very small, loosely associating groups.
COMMON LOONS drop by daily and a couple or more are frequently seen in the cove. I can't say whether these are recurring visitors or simply passerbys prospecting for a snack.
Gulls are at expected levels, ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred, mainly lounging on Gull Rock unless driven to MSI by high seas. The gull mix is also pretty much as expected at about 60:40 :: HERRING:GREAT BLACK BACKED. There's also a small but steady representation of ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS with rare RING BILLED GULLS.
BLACK LEGGED KITTIWAKES roam the area and occasionally concentrate near the island to feed. BONAPARTE'S GULLS only rarely show out here. They seem to favor the near-shore regions.
Our continuing pair of RAVENS top the list of songbirds.
The retreating snow cover has encouraged the cadre of sparrows to disperse over more of the island. Nonetheless, I was able to get a decent count and this is easily the most populist winter that I've seen in 23 years. SONG SPARROWS exceed 2 dozen, easily double any previous year. WHITE THROATED SPARROWS number at least 4. While that's a tiny number, remember that I've never seen any Wht. Throated even attempt to over-winter before, let along actually survive. I have found only the one JUNCO, but again, it's significant because it's the only one which I've ever seen try to over-winter.
EAGLES are notable for their relative absence. Only a couple sighting in a week, compared with pretty much daily sightings that are usual in winter.
ALCIDS have been evident but there's no significant indication that they are staging to begin their breeding congregation. On Tuesday there was a large RAZORBILL movement westward, typical of presumed feeding shifts. I estimated 15,000 for the day. A few (200) stopped near the island and in the tide streaks east of the island, apparently finding a bit of food. Only one COMMON MURRE and one PUFFIN were confidently identified. I expected to see a good deal of breeding plumage but virtually every Razorbill remains in winter dress.
GREY SEALS continue in small numbers: perhaps a dozen of so and no pups yet sighted.