By Seth Davis
5 young birders joined count-leader Noah Perlut, Jonathan Alderfer (of National Geographic fame) and several others in participating in the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in the Greater Portland area.
Our circle began early out at Scarborough Marsh. It was certainly a frigid morning, but despite the temperature, we walked the trail across from the Nature Center. As the sun rose, numerous groups "murders" of American Crows streamed across the the sky - leaving their nighttime roosts and heading out for the day. To our surprise there was a group "unkindness" of 15 Common Ravens among them... a new high count for this CBC area! We also got great views of American Black Ducks and Herring Gulls among others.
We then moved down the road to the Eastern Trail where we spotted 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, one Belted Kingfisher, and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets above the Scarborough fowl (chicken coop :). As we walked down the trail where there was a group "hermitage" of Eastern Bluebirds followed by amazing looks at Snow Buntings, which Ian spotted, and some Red-breasted Mergansers in the alpen glow. As we moved further down the trail we came across a group "ascension" of Horned Larks which came in surprisingly close to us, and we got some distant views of Common Goldeneye and Hooded Mergansers.
Continuing our circle, we moved to the Scarborough River Wildlife Sanctuary which was extremely quiet and unproductive save for a pair of Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. There was a small group "ear-full" of Cedar Waxwings that flew over head.
Moving on we stopped by briefly at Seaveys Landing where we saw a pair of Common Loons and a few Common Eiders. Another brief stop at Pelreco, which again was rather slow, but we did pick up a Red-tailed Hawk, our first raptor of the day!
Arguably the highlight of the trip was Pine Point, where we warmed up with hot chocolate, cookies, and got views of numerous sea ducks including Long-tailed Ducks, Black and White-winged Scoters, and Bufflehead. It is duck hunting season and there were several hunters far out on the water. Though one's initial reaction may be negative, we found this a really good time to discuss how duck hunting provides a lot toward conservation efforts through the purchase of Duck Stamps (which 98 cents of every dollar goes directly to habitat conservation). We then got an opportunity to talk to some incoming duck hunters and they allowed us to see and study some of the birds they had. There was also a distant flyby of a Bald Eagle, but since it was outside of our count circle, we couldn't list it :(
We wrapped up the trip with a walk to Pine Point beach where we had a couple of Red-throated Loons and Horned Grebes.
Two young birders, Anna and Andrew, made a full day of it by attending the compilation where all of the teams tally up how many birds they saw. This is a very important part of this citizen science project, and over the years provides insight into the state of birds. It was a fun and educational day, and we hope to see everybody next year for the 119th CBC!