Sunday 3 December 2023

New England - May 2023 - Day 4 - Maine and Eastern Egg Island

I was at Pease International Airport in New Hampshire at 6.15am, gazing through the southern fence at a vast expanse of short grass. Somewhere here was an Upland Sandpiper. If I could find it it would be a world lifer! It was quiet, somewhere behind me a Hermit Thrush called and a Cardinal pipped. Then, movement. A Meadowlark flew out of the grass and perched on a distant bit of airfield kit. Rats. And then I heard it, an absurd uplifting whistle, upslurred and then down again. It did it again, where on earth was that coming from? Way above the airfield was the answer! I followed it through binoculars as it came back down, and then scoped it up as it perched on what looked like an oil drum or bollard. Sweet! 

I'd expected this to be much harder from the descriptions I'd read. It had allegedly been present at the Eastern Whip-poor-will site, though I'd only been there in the late evening and I not heard a thing. I drove around to the other side of the airfield in the hope of getting close but if anything it was more distant, but the change angle allowed me to pick up some Killdeer in the same area. Meanwhile the Sandpiper continued to display, what a brilliant bird.

On the coast a short distance away at Odiorne Point I followed up a lead of a King Eider but couldn't find it - I just checked eBird to remember what I had been to looking for to discover it was still there in November! Anyway, lots more Eider and Black Scoter, and Least Sandpiper and Little Blue Heron on the pools behind the road. An Osprey caught a fish as I watched.

Eastern Egg Rock

I birded my way slowly up the coast and into Maine, it was nice day and I wasn't in any real hurry. It was just nice to be out and I stopped quite frequently on my way up to New Harbor. The boats were running today, but the only possibility had been a short trip out to Eastern Egg Rock, a well known Puffin colony, rather than a longer trip that deposited me on the migrant hotspot of Monhegan Island. I'd already seen Puffin from Pemaquid Head, but as there was also a chance of Razorbill and Purple Sandpiper, I had decided to take what was available. In the event it was rubbish, a massive grockle-fest with the so-called experts on the boat seemingly unable to identify Terns. They had a number of posters of 'popular' birds and made zero effort to point out anything other than those. The punters loved it! I am not a punter. Still, at least there were good numbers of Purple Sandpipers on the island, but we never got anywhere near them as we were too busy looking at adorably cute Puffins. I spent the way out and back scanning for Razorbill without success.

Eastern Phoebe

Back on dry land I tried various spots to scope out to sea for auks, but drew a complete blank. A worthy consolation prize was a barrel-chested female Goshawk that flew across the road somewhere near 
Bristol. This became a world lifer with split later in 2023. I carried on up to Alna to bird a road rather oddly called Hollywood Boulevard - a narrow track running through mature woodland. This was excellent, with three species of Woodpecker including Red-bellied, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, and lots of Warblers. This was a large loop and as the afternoon drove to a close I birded Head Tide at the far end of it, a small village with a bridge over the Sheepscot River. This too was great, with Goosander and Belted Kingfisher on the river, and good mixed flocks of passerines feeding in the vegetation alongside it. There were a pair of Baltimore Orioles, a glowing Yellow Warbler, American Goldfinches, a White-breated Nuthatch, and much more. I left at dusk and drove about 100 miles west via Augusta to Gorham in New Hampshire where I spent the night. This was so that I could be close to Moose Bog again for another attempt at Black-backed Woodpecker. I hate dipping!

Baltimore Oriole

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