Thursday, April 9, 2015

Birding Sabattus Pond

1. RWBL-kab Red-winged Blackbird at Sabattus Pond 4-2-15

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.

2. song sparrow-kab Can you find the bird in this photo?

3. SOSP-kab Song Sparrow!

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!

4. TUVU-kab Turkey Vulture flying over the bog at the south end of Sabattus Pond 4-2-15. There were five in all, but this series is all of one bird as it flew closer and closer to me and then over my head!

5. TUVU-kab 

6. TUVU-kab 

7. TUVU-kab Turkey Vultures show silver wing linings when seen from below.

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!

8. NOHA-kab 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.

9. flying away-kab Northern Harrier Flying away

10. clasic white rump-kab The classic white rump patch is an easy field mark.

11. classic dihedral-kab 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.

  1. Turkey Vulture-6
  2. Northern Harrier-1
  3. Bald Eagle-2
  4. Ring-billed Gull-6
  5. Mourning Dove-7
  6. Downy Woodpecker-1
  7. Downy/hairy woodpecker-1
  8. Blue Jay-1
  9. American Crow-11
  10. Black-capped Chickadee-3
  11. American Robin-1
  12. Song Sparrow-3
  13. Red-winged Blackbird-8
  14. Common Grackle-24
  15. blackbird species-3
  16. passerine species-3



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!


  1. Great photos!
    It is difficult to distinguish Norther Harries from the Montagu’s and Pallid Harries. On the other hand, here in Finland, Montagu’s are very rare.


    1. Anu, I have not heard of those other species but if they are like our harriers, they must be beautiful! Thank you for your visit, Anu!

  2. Lovely to have seen the Maarsh Harrier, pity you did not see the bird you went to see but that is birding1

    1. Margaert, yes. That is birding! And the information was just as valuable to the scientists as if I had seen some, because they want to know where they aren't as well as where they are. And birding is always fun to me anyways!

  3. Great outing, Kathie! It is a shame about the Rusty Blackbirds. I love the Song Sparrow, Vultures and the Harrier.. Awesome photos and post. Happy Birding, have a great weekend!

    1. Eileen, it is so tragic that their populations have dropped so drastically. I only hope we can find out why and stop the decline!

  4. love all your bird shots at the Pond!! especially the Harrier.

    happy weekend!

  5. Dear Kathie I am so happy that both your health and the weather has finally allowed you to get back outside and get to birding again :)


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.