Monday, October 12, 2009

Monhegan Week

Monhegan Island Week

A week of birding at one of New England’s finest migrate traps…Monhegan Island, Maine. As I have stated in earlier blog posts….This is one of my favorite birding locations in New England. It’s been several years since I’ve spent a week on the Island, and as usual, it was fantastic!

(Above) An amphibious vehicle that was used during the Vietnam War. It would carry personnel and large vehicles (tanks) It is use around Port Clyde to deliver Propane and Oil trucks and whatever else to various homes on the islands around Port Clyde, but not Monhegan. This thing goes about 10 miles an hour and  the tires are "10 feet high". Last year while waiting for the boat to Monhegan...I watch them load a Propane truck into this thing...I could not see the Propane truck- "it just disappeared"

The Saturday crossing (Sept, 26) was uneventful, and that can be a good thing. Some crossings have been known to get a bit rough and little wet, but this day was smooth. Highlights of the crossing included numerous Black Guillemots, (already in their winter attire) hundreds of Common Eider, Northern Gannets (mostly sub-adults) and a handful of Harbor Porpoise.

Our main stay for the week was a lovely house near the Ice Pond. This area happens to be one of the better birding locations on the Island, but whether renting a house on the Island or staying at one of the Island Inns –you’re just foot steps away from great birding.

Although we never experienced one of Monhegan’s legendary avian fallouts, we did have a nice steady stream of birds all week. Our group consisted of Valerie and I, Bill  and Nancy Buchanan, Lynn Rubinstein and Joe Shoenfeld, Together we tallied 104 species for the week. Some of the birding highlights….Cory’s (60)and Greater Shearwaters (15), hundreds of Northern Gannets, Great Cormorants, Black-crowned Night-Heron, 7 species of raptors, Sora Rail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, (many) Western Kingbird, five species of Vireos-White-eyed, Blue-headed, Warbling, Philadelphia and Red-eyed, 17 species of warblers, Clay-colored and Lark Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, and close to fifty Baltimore Orioles.

Another nice aspect of birding the Island this time of year is the birders”. The Island was well represented and covered by many individuals and birding tour companies. It was nice to catch up with Kristen Lundquist, Bill Longergin, and Pat Sanborn. I also was delighted to meet Pat Moynihan who years earlier participated in the Quabbin Christmas Count!! (The world just keeps closing in) and Joanne Stevens, both were friends of Pat Sanborn. It was also a treat to be joined by Sue and Mike Frazier, Judith Espinola and Susan Perry, all were first timers to the Island and judging by their reaction, they'll be back. Some of the tour companies present, Wings- Will Russell and Evan Obercian, Vermont Bird Tours –Bryan Pfeiffer, Derek Lovitch - Freeport Wild bird Supply, and Massachusetts Audubon Society.

I started birding Monhegan in May of 1984 and during all my visits in spring and fall, I had never witnessed “Trap Day”. Trap Day is the beginning of the lobster season for the Lobstermen that live on Monhegan. Traditionally the season always began on Jan 1st. A few years back they moved the start date to Dec 1st, but three years ago the season was extended to ten months and now begins on October 1st. Currently, there are eleven active lobstering boats on the Island. What makes Monhegan unique is they have their own fishing grounds – roughly a two mile area around the Island that they call their own. No other lobstering boats from the mainland can come within two miles of the Island, and no Monhegan lobster traps can go beyond the two mile limit. With the extension of the lobstering season, Monhegan can only put out three hundred traps, unlike the six hundred they used to deploy. So…a couple days before “Trap Day” the Island is very busy with everyone participating in moving all the lobster traps to the dock and getting the first wave loaded on the boats for the October 1st dawn send off. (See photos at end)

We certainly lucked out in the weather department, after Monday morning the rest of the week was outstanding - basically sunny to partly cloudy with temps in high 50’s to low 60’s. Below are a bunch of photos from the week…..

(Below) Lobster boat from the mainland  heading in.

Lone Lobster boat in the late afternoon.

Monhegan Island- about 20 minutes away.

Looking down at the village from the Lighthouse.

Ice Pond- Islanders used the pond to harvest ice up until 1972.

Baltimore Oriole- after mid week- high count of fifty.

Bay-breasted Warbler- we had seventeen of the twenty species reported.

Cedar Waxwing- Juv

Black-throated Green Warbler.

Mourning Warbler- 1st fall bird near the Ice Pond.

Nashville Warbler- Worms took a beating that week.

(Below) Merlin on patrol.                                                                                                                                             

Looking towards the cliffs of Whitehead.                                                                                                                                                          

above- Clay-colored Sparrow- one of eight reported. We had five at one time at the feeding station across from the Trailing Yew.

Indigo bunting- Not showing a lot of indigo this time of year.

Lark Sparrow- one of two birds.

Brown Thrasher

White-eyed Vireo- always a good bird on the Island. This bird stayed all week around our house at the Ice Pond.
(Below) Philadelphia Vireo.

Warbling vireo - The only one of the week.

(Below) American Pipit- A very tame individual near the Lighthouse.

(Below) Horned Lark-near the old ball field.    
Lobster traps waiting to be loaded.

Lobster traps heading for the dock.

The Dock getting a bit busy!

Some of the boats loaded up for the Thursday morning departure.

Lights on and ready to roll- waiting for one crew!

Sea Hag getting restless....

Fireworks signal the beginning of the 2009-2010 season.

Back at the Ice Pond...Sora Rail put on a nice two day show for most of the birders on the Island.

Red-eyed Vireos made their presents known during the least 40 a day.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers- A late September/early October main Stay on Monhegan.

Blue-headed Vireo- Always a handful around.

Peregrine Falcon (Imm) Always a treat, but hard to get a handle on the numbers.

The many faces of the Yellow-rumped Warbler....What would a late September trip be to Monhegan Island without a billzillion of them.

Late afternoon- "Decking It"

Sunset over Manana- from the deck.

The return trip on Saturday to Port Clyde did get a little rough, but the highlight was the Cory's Shearwaters. We had a few individuals fly right in front of the boat, but a raft of thirty five was unexpected. Even though the weather was getting worse, huge flocks of Double-crested Cormorants were making their way south.

A great end to a great week!