Hog Island: Puffins, Corvids, and One of the Greatest Weeks of my Life Part 2

The third day of Hog Island promised to be a good one. The corvids would be traveling to the main land on the Snow Goose III and would be birding that area. We had a couple of birding spots on the mainland that we were going to try; two were wooded roads, one was a privately owned stretch of blueberry barrens, and the last was a wetland surrounded by meadow.

Arriving at the mainland, we split into different vehicles to drive to the first birding stop. We got into our van and found that the back middle seat belt didn’t work. It ended up being not that much of a problem though because the birding sites were fairly close together.

The first we would be stopping at was one of the roads. It was called McCurdy Rd. and one of the reasons for stopping there was to try to find Canada warblers. Upon stepping out of the car, we saw a baby raccoon sitting near the top of a tree.

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Baby Racoon

If this wasn’t enough, we could hear black-and-white warblers and northern waterthrush in the area, and a chestnut-sided warbler appeared and gave good looks. We proceeded to walk down the road, hoping for other good birds and keeping our fingers crossed for Canada warblers. A hermit thrush and veery made short appearances, and another waterthrush got us good looks. We also had awesome looks at a broad-winged hawk which was soaring overhead. What we hadn’t seen however, were Canada warblers. We were beginning to get worried about not finding one at all as we were beginning to reach the point where we were going to turn around. So, we decided to use a small amount of playback to entice any warblers that might be nearby to come out. It worked quite quickly and we all got great views of a single Canada warbler.

We returned to the vans and headed to the next stop which was a wetland surrounded by meadows which is owned by the Damarascotta River Association or DRA. Pulling up, it looked like the birding was going to be good. From our vantage point at the top of a hill overlooking the wetlands, we could see a couple of pied-billed grebes, and a raft of black ducks below us. We also saw a crow being mobbed by four or five red-winged blackbirds. The blackbirds were really worked up over something and actually managed to force the crow to land in the reeds of the marsh to take cover.

Starting to walk down, we began to hear bobolinks singing in the grass. We also heard a sora whinnying from somewhere in the marsh. Yellow warblers and catbirds singing around us reminded me of Pennsylvania and of the hoards of yellow warblers that brighten up similar habitats there. Then we started to actually see bobolinks. Every so often a male or occasionally a female would fly up out of the grass then land somewhere farther along.  It wasn’t however, until we neared the marsh that we got a really good view of a male singing from atop a clump of brambles (muntiflora rose I believe). As pretty as bobolinks are, I think that a lot of their charm comes from the weird, bubbling songs they sing. Who doesn’t love a bird that sounds like they do?

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Male Bobolink

As we got closer and closer to the wetlands, we kept on hearing more and more sora. By the time we actually arrived at the platform that juts out into the wetlands, we had heard a total of four calling from the reeds. We were all getting hungry though so we didn’t stop long at the marsh and instead headed back up the hill to eat at the top. After lunch (nothing’s better then a cheese and cucumber sandwich on homemade Hog Island bread) we loaded back into the vans and went to our third location.

This location was another road. However, our target this time were Nashville warblers. The first bird we heard however, was a alder flycatcher calling. A bit of playback, got it to come into the open where it gave good looks. We walked a little farther down the road before we got our target (and as a bonus, another Canada warbler put on a show for us).

The last location we would be visiting during our time on the mainland was an area of blueberry barrens which are privately owned (the Hog Island camps have permission to bird them). Our target here was vesper sparrow (and upland sandpiper if we get lucky). Savannah sparrows sang as we walked down the road through the barrens. A few savannahs and songs popped up as we went along causing a few temporary false alarms. It wasn’t long however until the real vesper sparrow appeared on top of one of the boulders that are scattered around the fields. By this point though we were getting pretty tired from a long day of birding so it was hard for us (or at least for me) to focus on sparrows (we did in the end see a few more vesper sparrows). Highlights on the way back to the vehicles were a harrier and a kestrel (though not everyone saw the kestrel).

Everyone was tired on the way back (though a well needed stop for ice cream was much appreciated) but a porcupine crossing the road was very cool indeed.

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Porcupine (Reflection is caused from trying to take the photo threw the windshield).

The next day was our last on the island. However, it was as good of a day as all the others. What we were doing in the morning was going to the great blue heron colony on Wreck Island. We had the privilege of landing on the island and being able to walk into the colony which is something not many of the Hog Island camp get to do. The cool thing about Wreck Island is that all the heron guano has caused a lot of the trees to die but a lot of the undergrowth to grow higher then on a lot of the other islands. This means that some of the birdlife is different with less of the typical coastal Maine species (like black-throated green warbler) and more of different bird (like tufted titmouse).

The heron colony itself was really cool. It was like stepping back into the prehistoric era and hearing all these primordial sounding, guttural sound that great blues make.

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Great Blue Heron Nestling

However, I think that the highlight of the day was the bird banding that we did that afternoon. I had never attended a banding session before and it was really cool to see banders working. Also, it was cool because the people doing the banding were really good at what they do (they were Sarah Morris, Scott Weidensaul, and Kimberly Kaufman). We managed to catch and band two black-throated green warblers and one northern parula. I also got to release one of the black-throated greens which was awesome to say the least.

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Black-Throated Green Warbler

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Northern Parula

That night was the our last on the island and it was also a special one. It was Dendroica memorial day and we were honoring Guillemot Appreciation Day (which technically was in a week). So, instead of a normal evening presentation, we had various people talk and give presentations about both the tragic loss of Dendroica or about guillemots. We also had a slideshow of photos taken during the week.

The next morning, we woke up early to prepare to leave the island and return home. I was going to the airport to take a plane home, so I was to leave on the eight o’clock boat back to the mainland. I was very sad to leave as I had grown quite attached to the island in my one-week stay there. The trip to the airport went smoothly as did the plane ride back and I arrived back in PA with the sound of parulas and terns still sounding in my head.

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One Response to Hog Island: Puffins, Corvids, and One of the Greatest Weeks of my Life Part 2

  1. Pingback: Birding News #29 | Prairie Birder

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