Last week I decided to take part in the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz, so I drove over to Sabattus Pond in Androscoggin County which is the only place I have seen a Rusty Blackbird since moving back to Maine. I saw one in the swampy section across the road from the south end of Sabattus Pond last fall just at dusk. This time I got up early to drive over and be there early in the morning when I know the blackbirds love to get up and sing. I parked my car in the driveway of the Antiques Mall and rolled down my windows to watch and listen. It was a cold, raw, gray day and I was hoping to see something good. Since the pond itself was still frozen, I concentrated my efforts on the bog across the street. But, while there were plenty of redwings and grackles, I never once saw or heard a Rusty Blackbird. Rusty Blackbird populations have crashed in the last decade, falling by up to 90%! Efforts are being made to understand their decline and discover where the birds are, and where they aren’t.
While I did not see any Rusty Blackbirds, I did see a few others.
While most people look for Robins as their first sign of spring, most birders know that the return of the blackbirds is really the first sign of spring, along with the return of the Turkey Vultures!
Shortly after the vultures lifted off and disappeared into the steel colored sky I caught sight of a different raptor, a young male Northern Harrier! It was my first sighting of this species this year!
Male Harriers are a beautiful gray above and white below with black wing tips. With the obvious brown in this bird I am thinking it is a young male. Female harriers are brown and all harriers have a facial disk that is reminiscent of an owl.
Harriers, also known as Marsh Hawks, course low over fields and wetlands hunting for prey. They hold their wings in a slight dihedral like a turkey vulture and rock and sway on the wind. I love to watch them fly.
Here is a list of the birds I saw at the South End of Sabattus Pond on April 2, 2015 at 8:10 a.m. I counted birds for 60 minutes and drove and walked .7 miles.
- Turkey Vulture-6
- Northern Harrier-1
- Bald Eagle-2
- Ring-billed Gull-6
- Mourning Dove-7
- Downy Woodpecker-1
- Downy/hairy woodpecker-1
- Blue Jay-1
- American Crow-11
- Black-capped Chickadee-3
- American Robin-1
- Song Sparrow-3
- Red-winged Blackbird-8
- Common Grackle-24
- blackbird species-3
- passerine species-3
- Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz 2015
- Sabattus Pond—South end, an eBird Hotspot
- Chasing Birds-blog post from last fall’s birding at this location
- Kathie’s Poet Tree-NaPoWriMo/30 Poems in 30 Days
Note: With the weather improving it has been too nice to stay inside and write poetry or blog posts or do house work. Every time I leave the house to do errands I find myself not returning until late afternoon, tired but happy, so happy to be able to go outside again! My range of motion with my left arm continues to improve and I almost feel normal again!