A cold and crisp morning was warming up nicely as we boarded the boat for our last ride of the season with our partner Seacoast Tours of Freeport. The cold air was the sign of calm winds, however, so the water was glassy when we began. Could not ask for more!
But of course we were asking for birds, but the birds did not disappoint, either! Our goal was to get out as late in the season as possible (the boat comes out of the water on Tuesday!) to sample the arrival of wintering waterbirds and the final departures of our summer denizens.
For the arrivals part, SURF SCOTERS were surprisingly common, with a tally of 115. Two small groups totaled 8 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, and my first GREATER SCAUP of the season was right on time. Meanwhile, a single female LONG-TAILED DUCK loafing on the floats of an oyster farm was quite early - maybe she oversummered nearby? COMMON EIDER numbers were actually a little low, however.
There was no shortage of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS yet; we had several hundred. But the total of LAUGHING GULLS (110+) was a little surprising; most usually leave Maine by now, but the late fall numbers in the northwest corner of Casco Bay continue to increase. About a half-dozen BONAPARTE'S GULLS were up in Middle Bay. Checking out several floating oyster aquaculture facilities yielded most of these species, with gulls often in direct comparison to one another: the Laughing and Bonaparte's were easy to compare their general shape and size to the hulking HERRING GULLS and a few (quite low, actually) massive GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS, with plenty of RING-BILLED GULLS to bridge the gap.
While we mostly looked for birds just arriving for the season, another pleasant surprise was a few "late" birds, including one OSPREY and more surprisingly 3 SNOWY EGRETS. The egrets were also taking advantage of the oyster farms to ride out the very high tide.
We returned to the Lower Harraseeket River just as winds were beginning to pick up, and with a pleasantly diverse birdlist. And some lovely fall scenery as a bonus!
A total of 6 COMMON LOONS, 3 BALD EAGLES