Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings

Ingrid joined me on a whirlwind day of Maine Big Year Birding which took us to six stops and helped me add three more birds to my year.

Our first top was in Waldoboro where Kathie Brown, one of the state’s more active birders, has had a Fox Sparrow visiting for several weeks.  I contacted her the day before, and she graciously gave us directions to her house and the brush pile where the bird has been seen.  Kathie kept emphasizing that the bird was shy and does not always appear . . . which we assured her we knew was part of the game.

Arriving at the legendary “20 Acre Wood”, Kathie’s eBird name for this location we quickly found the brush pile and began to wait.  A few minutes later Kathie joined us and the three of us discussed the Purple Gallinule that

Purple Gallinule

had shown up in Maine the night before.   This Texas/Florida bird had made poor choices and travelled to Maine in January (it’s now in the care of an avian veterinarian).

Suddenly I saw a moment in the brush and a few seconds later all three of us saw a large red-striped sparrow emerge from the brush . . . and then sink back out of sight.  The photo below was taken a couple years ago in Southern Maine . . . but this was the bird we saw.

Fox Sparrow


Kathie was clearly thrilled that we got the “Fox” (not as thrilled as we were) and after ten minutes we decided to declare victory and leave Kathie in peace.  We thanked her profusely and headed to out next feeder stop . . . to get an Evening Grosbeak in Bowdoin.

On the winding backroads, I suddenly had a Ruffed Grouse (bird #110 of the year) fly right in front of the car.  Ingrid missed it (she was looking at her phone).  Oh wait, I forgot to mention that earlier in the day I had a Northern Shrike fly in from of the car (guess who was looking at her phone?!).

Our next host was Travis Sparks, a software engineer and a talented birder himself.  Travis has been having Evening Grosbeaks visit his feeding stations all winter and this earned him a pitiful and pleading request to visit his home.

Travis has among the busiest feeding stations we have ever seen, with Chickadees, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers swarming the seed and suet.

Bowdoin Feeders

For 30 minutes the three of us visited and counted birds (no easy task).  At some point Travis walked out to the road, Ingrid walked down the driveway  scanning the woods, while I continued to watch the feeders when a flock of approximately 30 Grosbeaks came overhead . . . their yellow underwing coverts unmistakable.

Maine Bird #111 for the year!!!

After that Ingrid and I had less success . . . striking out:

  • Searching for a Wood Duck in Auburn
  • Three failed stops for a Peregrin Falcon
  • Two failed stops for a Ring-necked Duck for Ingrid

But we got lucky with a flock of Snow Buntings at the Brunswick Executive Airport.  We watched them feed, fly and land over and over again for five minutes . . . guessing this must be an anti-predator strategy.

Snow Buntings

After returning home, Ingrid needed a walk after all of that riding in the car. As she rounded a crest in the hill at the top of our road, she was rewarded by a flock of pine grosbeaks landing in a stand of spruce trees. Her first of the year and her reward for leaving her phone at home.

All in all a wonderful day with my beautiful wife!!!


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