Birders have a big day from Orono to MDI

Posted June 06, 2011, at 8:07 p.m.

Birders like having a Big Day in May — a day when we find as many bird species as we can. Some birders start at midnight and go birding for 24 hours. Not us; we start at 4 in the morning and end our day at 11 in the evening. Members of our team are Bob Milardo, Bruce Barker, Joni Dunn and me.

On a stop at the Orono Bog Boardwalk we found a male spruce grouse. He has black feathers on his neck and breast with red combs over his eyes. He spread out his tail in display like a turkey. I think that he had a female with a nest or a brood of chicks close by.

Spruce grouse eat needles and buds of spruce and fir, some mushrooms, herbaceous leaves, fern fronds and a few insects. Once I saw a spruce grouse eating moss capsules — a spore-producing structure that looks like tiny lollipops poking up out of the moss.

In Prospect we went to look for peregrine falcons that nest on the old Verona-Bucksport Bridge. Joni looked up and saw a falcon high on top of the bridge. It was eating something — perhaps a pigeon. When we looked down under the bridge, we saw a second peregrine falcon. This bird was sitting on a nest in a specially placed box.

After finding more birds inland, we went to the ocean in search of saltwater birds. On Mount Desert Island, we found a large flock (about 100 birds) of scoters.

First we identified the surf scoter, mostly black with white on the back of the neck, and a multicolored bill of orange, white and black. They swim in the breaking waves where the ocean meets the rocks, hence “surf” in the name.

Next in the flock there were black scoters — all black with a yellow knob on the bill of a male, and pale cheeks on the brown female. This species is the rarest of the three scoters, and can swim the deepest. Seventy feet down if they need to.

Looking for the third scoter; we found it — the white-winged scoter. These birds usually dive 25 to 40 feet down, and eat blue mussels, oysters, scallops, crabs and starfish. They are black with some white feathers on the wing. A white “comma” below their eyes makes them look like they were winking.

It was a wonderful day!

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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