July started on an exciting note. A friend called me to report the presence of some Eastern Screech Owls near his house in Essex, both red-phase and gray-phase individuals. Screech Owls have been a major nemesis bird for me and I hadn’t seen one since 2009!
Also of note in July was the return of shorebirds to the Essex lagoons, including Short-billed Dowitchers (year bird), a Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Wilsons Snipes, Least Sandpipers, and Solitary Sandpipers.
My first lifer of this July was a Hooded Warbler I heard at Brunet Park.
As of July 28, I started birding in Western Maine, and on my first day I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which was the year bird that brought me to 200 species on the year in North America! Other year birds found in Western Maine (and the trip there) include Common Raven and Red-shouldered Hawk.
Most exciting, though, was a hike day I took on July 31st to wrap up the month. Thus far, my hike days in Maine have usually been in the boreal forest in the Western part of the state. This year, however, I decided to stick to the coast. For my location, I chose Biddeford, Maine.
First, I visited East Point Audubon Sanctuary. Situated at the end of Biddeford Pool, the sanctuary has a short trail along the perimeter of the point. It is wonderful, giving good access to the rocky coast, with views of the Wood Island light house. I was impressed with the number of Common Eiders (a year bird) which are quite common in coastal Maine. I also was delighted to spot two Red-necked Grebes (lifer) and a Black-crowned Night Heron and a Northern Mockingbird (year birds). Being from Essex County, Ontario, it was odd to see a Northern Harrier harrying this time of year. The biggest highlight, however, was finding my #1 target on this trip, two American Oystercatchers (sadly, the photos are quite horrible.
Next, I moved to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge’s Timber Point trail. I had visited this gem briefly the previous year, but didn’t do it justice then. This year, I was determined to give it a thorough survey. I met and birded with volunteer/guide Susan Keefer and also spoke briefly with her husband Steve. She was an excellent companion and was very helpful in her knowledge of the local wildlife. Previously privately owned land, this recently acquired (2011) plot is spectacular. The seaside roses are simply delightful.
The trail, which is approximately a mile, provides access to Timber Island, tide permitting. I had a great photo session with a very compliant Bonaparte’s Gull. I was floored to see no less than 36 Semipalmated Plovers (year bird). The Common Tern count was also impressive and I was able to spot a Least Tern (lifer). Snowy Egrets (year bird) were plentiful and I got my first photo of one which shows the species lovely yellow feet. I was able to notch a couple more lifers, seeing a Laughing Gull and three Whimbrels flying over.
All in all, this “tide watching” was quite amazing. As if the day was not birdy enough, next I proceeded to Hills Beach, which is also in Biddeford and right next to the University of New England campus. There I struck gold with some amazingly close views of endangered Piping Plovers. No less than 8 of them! These stunning cuties walked and flew amazingly close to unwitting beachgoers. I first saw this species last year at Wells Reserve in Maine, but the views were extremely unsatisfying (and the pictures were even worse), so I was very happy to get some “up close” time with this remarkable species.
What a finale to July! My Essex County year count is at 193 species and the North America count is at 214. I added six lifers and 21 year birds this month. I call that a good July.