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Bird watchers can see seasons in transition

A pine grosbeak, one of the largest and rarest of the winter finches, in Fort Kent in the winter of 2017. (Julia Bayly | BDN )

A pine grosbeak, one of the largest and rarest of the winter finches, in Fort Kent in the winter of 2017. (Julia Bayly | BDN )

With comfortably cool temperatures, late winter is good time to be outside and, among other things, keeping an eye and ear out for birds.

Northern Maine’s year-round winged residents — the chickadees, owls, ravens and woodpeckers — are starting their breeding rituals, says Bill Sheehan of Aroostook Birders

Several bird watchers have spotted a snowy owl spending time at the Presque Isle Country Club, perhaps hunting, Sheehan said.

The yellow-eyed snowy owls are the largest by weight of the North American owls, and spend their summers in far north of the Arctic Circle, visiting less hostile places like Aroostook County in winter.  

Also in Presque Isle is first gadwall duck that’s been found to be overwintering in the pond behind The Aroostook Medical Center.  

A snowy owl wearing a high tech GPS transmitter is held by biologists for a couple minutes on Feb. 23, before being released in blueberry barrens in Cherryfield. The owl, which was captured at Portland Jetport, is the second owl in Maine to become part of Project SNOWstorm, a collaborative research effort to learn more about the species and their migrations. (Aislinn Sarn | BDN)

A snowy owl wearing a high tech GPS transmitter is held by biologists for a couple minutes on Feb. 23, before being released in blueberry barrens in Cherryfield. The owl, which was captured at Portland Jetport, is the second owl in Maine to become part of Project SNOWstorm, a collaborative research effort to learn more about the species and their migrations. (Aislinn Sarn | BDN)

The gadwalls are a highly-adaptable duck that have been increasing in populations; they’ve also been known to steal food from diving ducks and American coots.

A number of regular winter bird visitors are also still hanging around, including pine grosbeaks and snow buntings, Sheehan said.

In mid and late March, people can look out for the start of spring bird migrations, as “the first birds that wintered down south will begin to return,” he added. Among those are species such as the common and hooded mergansers, wood ducks, American robins and Canada geese.

On March 15, Aroostook Birders will host their annual business meeting and potluck at the state Department of Environmental Protection office in Presque Isle. The group is also collecting notable of birds spotted in the region from the last year for a slideshow.

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