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Closing Out the 12 months with Three Uncommon Birds


Some have referred to as it the “mountain mockingbird” or the “mockingbird of the sagebrush” however its official title is the sage thrasher. In case you’ve by no means heard of it, do not feel unhealthy. It isn’t a fowl we might ever think about to be a “Maine fowl” as its breeding vary is confined to sagebrush habitats of the arid American west. Western South Dakota is about as near Maine because it will get in summer season. Within the winter, it is discovered from southern California throughout to Texas and south to northern Mexico.

Though it is not a Maine fowl in any regular sense, a sage thrasher es on the listing of birds which were documented in Maine. In 2001, one hung round from mid-November by December at Cape Neddick and was photographed and loved by many birders.

Now, 21 years later, a second particular person has appeared. This time at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm Sanctuary the place it has been readily accessible and usually fairly simple to see because it was first found on December 22.

Based on eBird, that is the one sage thrasher at present west of Austin or San Antonio, Texas, however the species has a historical past of showing (often within the fall) in scattered areas throughout japanese North America.

It does look very very similar to a small mockingbird however with a streaked breast. The one at Gilsland Farm hops round on the bottom at instances, trying a bit thrush-like—coincidentally, it has been seen close to a wintering hermit thrush there, commonly feeding on multiflora rose hips.

Curiously, it is a species that’s apparently not effectively studied. So whereas it’s a mysterious wanderer to us right here in Maine, many mysteries about its regular actions and winter ecology stay.

One other western customer, a Townsend’s solitaire, was additionally present in southern Maine in December. The solitaire was found on the Wells Reserve at Laudholm in Wells. In an odd twist, the primary specimen obtained of a sage thrasher for western science was collected by a person named John Kirk Townsend in Wyoming in 1834. The identical man collected, in Oregon in 1835, which turned out to be a brand new species for ornithology that John James Audubon named Townsend’s solitaire in his honor.

Mr. Townsend had nothing to do with naming of one other species of rarity that appeared in Maine in December, the northern lapwing. This species was well-known to early European ornithologists as it’s a fowl of Europe and Asia. The closest factor now we have commonly to a northern lapwing is a killdeer. Each are within the plover household, and each are sometimes present in farm fields and pastures. The lapwing is taller with a flowery crest.

In recent times, extra lapwings have been showing in japanese North America together with right here in Maine. Fairly surprising, although, was the invention of 5 northern lapwings collectively in Houlton in early December. This was apparently a part of some type of motion of the species that was related to the very chilly climate that Europe was experiencing in early winter. Single lapwings had been present in Thomaston and Arundel in December as effectively, and one other over Plum Island in Massachusetts. Plenty of lapwings had been additionally discovered on Iceland in late November and on the Azores in November and December. A single one was seen on Antigua within the Caribbean in December. Maybe these are all a part of the identical motion that introduced the flock of 5 to Maine.

The very best factor about closing out 2022 with these three uncommon birds is that they’re nonetheless right here in Maine, which implies you can begin the brand new 12 months by going to see them!

Jeffrey V. Wells, Ph.D., is a Fellow of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Vice President of Boreal Conservation for Nationwide Audubon. Dr. Wells is without doubt one of the nation’s main fowl consultants and conservation biologists and writer of the “Birder’s Conservation Handbook.” His grandfather, the late John Chase, was a columnist for the Boothbay Register for a few years. Allison Childs Wells, previously of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is a senior director on the Pure Assets Council of Maine, a nonprofit membership group working nationwide to guard the character of Maine. Each are extensively printed pure historical past writers and are the authors of the favored books, “Maine’s Favourite Birds” (Tilbury Home) and “Birds of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao: A Website and Discipline Information,” (Cornell College Press).


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