Yearly Archives: 2021

Jul 262021

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Most of us are familiar with bird migration, the annual travel of various species from their wintering grounds to their breeding territory.  Generally this means they travel north in the spring and south in the fall. But a few perform counter-intuitive post-breeding migrations . . . traveling in a direction that is difficult to explain. […]

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Jul 172021

Shearwaters

Yesterday’s adventure in pointless bird counting took Ingrid and I back out to sea to find Shearwaters. These long winged seabirds spend their entire lives on or over the world’s oceans except when they come to land to nest and raise their young. Shearwaters are some of the world’s longest migrants . . . traveling […]

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Jul 112021

Red-billed Tropicbird

What two verbs characterize a Big Year? Travel and Wait Travel and Wait Travel and Wait Last January I stood in the freezing cold for a cumulative 10 hours before a Black-headed Grosbeak showed up in a Portland park. In May I drove five hours to Lubec (the eastern most point in the USA) and […]

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Jul 72021

Katahdin Woods and Waters

Yesterday, Ingrid and I visited Katahdin Woods and Waters . . . 87,000 acres of forestland in Northern Maine.  In 2016, President Obama made it a US National Monument under the Antiquities Act (I have no idea what that is). What I do know: its declaration as a national monument was quite controversial, moving a […]

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Jul 22021

Maine Big Year – Half Over

  It’s the beginning July and we’re at the halfway point of my Maine Big Year . . . six months to go. Bird #1 was an hour before sunrise on New Years Day . . . a Great Horned Owl calling at the Grange Hall Parking Lot in Cape Elizabeth. Bird #286 was June […]

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Jun 232021

Little Egret

If you regularly pass a marsh, a pond or swamp along the U.S. coastline you’re probably are familiar with the Snowy Egret . . . a graceful two foot tall bird with black bill and legs, yellow feet, and beautiful white feathers. Large flocks are common and Snowy Egrets are not particularly afraid of humans. […]

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Jun 222021

Disputed Territory

This morning (to celebrate our anniversary) Ingrid and I took a boat out to Machias Seal Island to see . . . you guessed it . . . birds!!! Machias Seal Island is located 10 miles off the Maine Coast and 50 kilometers off the coast of Nova Scotia. For those of you that didn’t […]

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Jun 162021

No Tropicbird

In the spring of 2005, a Red-billed Tropicbird, a stunning white bird with a bright red bill and a long streaming tail was seen in the cold waters off the Maine coast.  Thousands of miles off-course . . . this bird normally prowls the seas off the Lesser Antilles. It was seen off and on […]

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Jun 132021

Chuck-will’s-widow

With the pandemic winding down, date night has returned to America . . . dinner and a movie. For the Whitakers, last night was dinner . . . then a 90 minute drive . . . followed by a five mile hike, down a scary road, in pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded […]

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Jun 112021

Climbing Saddleback

I know, I know . . . you’re expecting a photo of a cute warbler . . . or a stunning raptor . . . or a rarity that has inexplicably appeared in Maine.  Nope, today you’re getting a selfie of MOI!!!! The Bicknell’s Thrush holds a special place in the hearts of the Maine […]

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Jun 82021

Out to Sea

When planning a Big Year . . . it’s easy to forget the deep sea birds . . . these are the most mysterious and the hardest to find.  To have a shot at the Maine State Record (317), I’ll need to get almost all of of the deep sea birds . . . and […]

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Jun 420213 comments

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

There have been a number of books (and a movie) about Big Years, and a running theme is the stress they put on a relationship. Fortunately, unlike most of the spouses and partners in these books . . . Ingrid is also a Birder and often she wants to get the bird just as much […]

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Jun 12021

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on Nest

Back in mid-April, I got a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Kittery . . . Maine Big Year bird # 178.  Forty days and 94 birds, later I hadn’t seen another one.  Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much . . . except my wife hasn’t seen her first Gnatcatcher of the year . . . and […]

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May 292021

One Warbler to Go

With spring migration pretty much over . . . I’ve picked up 27 warblers so far this year.  The only regularly occurring Maine warbler that I don’t have is a Mourning Warbler, a bird I have never seen.  During the summer it nests in northern Maine . . . looks like some summer road trips […]

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May 282021

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Today I drove almost four hours north to pick up the rare Black-backed Woodpecker. A friend found this bird (on its nest last week) and I was very excited about chasing it. Unfortunately access to birds in the Maine north woods involves horrible dirt logging roads . . . far away from civilization (i.e. Dunkin […]

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May 232021

Rushing Around

A Maine Big Year during migration season is chaotic as we rush from place to place looking for one rare bird at a time. I say we, because Ingrid is with me on many of my excursions (when she isn’t teaching her 4th grade cherubs). Most of the easy birds have been checked off but […]

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May 202021

Six Vireos

It’s a hot summer day, there isn’t a breeze blowing and everything is still and oppressive . . . except for one bird that is singing over and over again . . . as many as 20,000 times in a day. We hear the Red-eyed Vireo sing so often, a whistling phrase “here-I-am, in-the-tree, look-up, […]

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May 192021

Grassland Habitat

As Ingrid and I chase birds around the state of Maine trying to get to 318 . . . we are constantly shifting habitats. A bird that is very common on the beach . . . say a Piping Plover . . . is never found in woods, just a mile away. Next month I’ll […]

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May 142021

Ruff

One of the fun (and not so fun) parts of a Big Year is the constant change in plans. On a typical day, I’m up before dawn with a plan. I might be going to a particular beach, driving an hour to a marsh or hiking a preserve trying to add a new bird to […]

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May 92021

Solitary Sandpiper

This is a Solitary Sandpiper . . . let’s call him Sam.  Last winter he was hanging out in the Amazon basin, chowing down on frogs and insects without a care in the world. Then around March 15, a chemical reaction occurred in his brain . . . maybe triggered by the length of the […]

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May 52021

Blue-winged Warbler

Back in April of 2017, Ingrid and I were in High Island, Texas and we saw a beautiful bird called a Blue-winged Warbler. Its stunning yellow body, sharp black bill and grayish blue wings were breathtaking. Four years later we finally saw another one . . . well . . . actually two. A couple […]

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May 12021

Yellow-headed Blackbird

If I should die during my Maine Big Year . . . chances are it won’t be because I fell off a mountain or got mauled by a bear.  Rather it will be my habit of driving slowly about around rural neighborhoods, early in the morning and scanning the yard and shrubbery with my binoculars. […]

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May 12021

Chimney Swift

Today I hit a Maine Big Year milestone . . . Bird #200 . . . a Chimney Swift. Basically a flying cigar, this bird spends most of its life in the air, only landing to roost in chimneys.  They are incapable of perching in trees like other birds but have adapted to clinging to […]

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Apr 292021

Finding the White-faced Ibis

The Glossy Ibis has become a regular summer visitor to the marshes of southern Maine.   Feeding in huge flocks, their redish-black plumage gives off a shimmer in the sun.  The flock in this photo had 197 birds in it. Here is where the fun starts . . . somewhere along the Maine coast, in […]

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Apr 252021

Tricolored Heron

Each summer for the last six years, at least one Tricolored Heron has been seen in the marshes around Portland, Maine. This is unusual as this beautiful blue/gray/purple and white rarely nest north of New Jersey . . . but weird hybrid birds have been seen in the area in subsequent years . . . […]

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