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Birdwalk Highlights for 8/13: Spear Farm Estuary Preserve and Yarmouth Town Landing.

Updated: Aug 14

Fall songbird migration is definitely well underway now. After the first moderately-strong flight on the radar last night, we hit an impressive wave as soon as we arrived at the edge of the field at Spear Farm.


Two family groups of TUFTED TITMICE, a group of BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, a family group each of RED-BREASTED and WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, along with a CAROLINA WREN were making a fuss and helping attract migrants and other local breeding birds to the edge for easy viewing. A cooler start to the morning helped as well, as when the sun peaked out from the clouds, the sunny edge came alive.


We first noted a couple of AMERICAN REDSTARTS, but then spending the next 40 minutes virtually at a stand-still, tallying a respectable 8 species of warblers! A very visible TENNESSEE WARBLER led the way, with a pair of WILSON'S WARBLERS also putting on a good show. At least 3 BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS, 2 PINE WARBLERS, a single YELLOW WARBLER, two NOTHERN PARULAS, and a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER joined the show.


One of our 3 EASTERN WOOD-PEWEES on the morning was fairly conspicuous at the edge as well, and we started hearing a RED-EYED VIREO singing from the woods as the day warmed up. A RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was buzzing around, often foraging at or near sap running from a wound in a White Pine.


An EASTERN KINGBIRD buzzed from overhead as we entered the woods, which was pretty quiet other than Red-eyed Vireos. Stepping out into the marsh, about a dozen LESSER YELLOWLEGS were a little too far to really study, but the lone GREATER YELLOWLEGS was nice and close. A BALD EAGLE soared in the distance, as an OSPREY fished its way up the river.


Three SNOWY EGRETS left the marsh edge and joined a GREAT BLUE HERON roosting at the pond, as a migrant NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH darted in and out to add another species of warbler to the list. An adult BROAD-WINGED HAWK soared overhead.


Later, we rounded a corner and happened upon an adult male PILEATED WOODPECKER with a juvenile male in tow. Uncharacteristically, it paid little attention to us and allowed us all to stand under the tree it was working and admire it in all its magnificence. It must have known no one had a camera with them today.


Returning the the field, we checked mower-ravaged milkweed for Monarch caterpillars (poor timing on some bush-hogging here!). The recent mowing may also have been the cause of death of a NORTHERN BROWN SNAKE that we found earlier, sadly.


We had such a good time and so many cooperative birds at the preserve, that by the time we finally arrived at the Yarmouth Town Landing, we had missed the tide and very little mud was left exposed. However, in that little bit of remaining mudflat, we had about 20 SEMIPALMATED and 10 LEAST SANDPIPERS come and go, later joined by 8 SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS and 21 LESSER YELLOWLEGS.


Interestingly, the yellowlegs and at least some of the sandpipers took off due north, into and then over the treeline. A short, straight shot as the shorebird flies would take them to the Cousin's River Marsh. Are ALL of the shorebirds that feed in this corner of Casco Bay going here to roost, and not to the offshore islands? Or, is in only the taller yellowlegs that like to roost in marshes. And interesting piece to the local shorebird puzzle!


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