Year of the Bird

Dana Little, June 1, 2018

2018 has been designated for the birds!  One hundred years ago Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which protects birds that pass between the United States and Canada. This act currently lists over 800 birds for protection.  Prior to passage of the act some birds were hunted to extinction. The Passenger Pigeon once darkened the sky as it flew over this area in flocks of millions. Experts consider it the most common bird in the US and possibly the world in the mid 1800’s.  People hunted the bird to extinction for its meat. Prior to the passage of this act, the abundant Snowy Egret faced a similar fate as hunters sought their feathers to sell for decorating hats.

Over 150 organizations world-wide, including the National Geographic Society and the Audubon Society, are celebrating birds this year in various ways.  My celebration this year will be to participate in the Maine Bird Atlas. This mostly volunteer effort led by IF&W (Inland Fisheries and Wildlife) aims to answer two questions: 1. How many breeding and winter birds can be found in Maine and 2. Where are they found?  I am submitting data to the atlas online through the program Ebird for my observations around Taylor Pond and Androscoggin County.  

Taylor Pond provides diverse habitats for birds including areas of open water, upland woods, swamps, grasslands, fens and marshes.  Over the 19 years that I have lived on the pond I have catalogued 105 species of birds that nest or raise their young in the area. These include seldom seen birds such as the Green Heron, VIrginia Rail and American Bittern or the more commonly seen birds such as the American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee and American Goldfinch.  Another 53 species migrate through the area with the change in seasons. One has to keep an eye out as these birds do not stay long typically. Such transients include many ducks such as Ring-necked, Ruddy, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup. I have observed 6 species of birds almost exclusively in the winter. These include the Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Bohemian Waxwing and Snow Bunting.

Most birdwatchers consider warblers to be the “jewels” of the bird world.  Bright colors and shy habits make them seldom seen without some effort, but well worth the labor.  They typically winter in Central or South America and travel here only for the brief summer to consume our abundant insect population.  They live only in this part of the world and Maine has one of the highest concentrations thanks to those pesky mosquitoes and blackflies!  I have catalogued 11 species that commonly nest here and another 16 species seen only on their way north.  So I recommend grabbing a pair of binoculars and gazing up into the trees for some entertainment.