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home : birding w/don reimer : birding w/don reimer
January 29, 2020

2/1/2012 3:34:00 PM
Remembering Summer -
Bird #1 (top left), Bird #3 (top right) and Bird #2 (bottom)  Photo by Don Reimer
Bird #1 (top left), Bird #3 (top right) and Bird #2 (bottom) Photo by Don Reimer
by Don Reimer

As a kid growing up in a summer tourist town, I recall how local folks anticipated the arrival of the first of the "summer people" who vacationed at our shoreside inns and cottages. For a few warm weeks each summer, it was the "natives" and the "people from away" contentedly sharing the roadways.

In similar ways, a parallel situation applies to Maine's birdlife. Each spring about 125 species fly northward to join another 100-plus year-round residents for the annual nesting season. It is a time of bountiful food and (in most years) favorable nesting conditions.

Let's look back at three species that nested in mid-coastal Maine last summer and that were all photographed locally by me. From field observations, I learned a fair amount about each of them. The three birds will tell you the rest.

Bird #1: I am an adult Black-Billed Cuckoo that nested in a margin of mixed woods at the edge of a vast hay meadow in Waldoboro. I am a skulky character that spends much of my time in shaded leafy cover. I'm about the size of a robin, but I have a much longer pointed tail and a stout decurved black bill. We arrived in Maine in mid-May and soon constructed a loosely knit nest lined with catkins, dry leaves and pine needles. We fledged three youngsters this year, feeding them on beetles and spiders. They liked those bristly caterpillars the best.

In early spring I sang a rhythmic "coo-coo; coo-coo-coo" courtship song to establish our territory and unify our pair bond. Occasionally I sang at night and on rainy days. As you read this February column, I am wintering in the Andes Mountain regions of Colombia.

Bird #2: You are probably all familiar with me, the hyperkinetic Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. I am an immature bird hatched in late June of last year in Warren. My summer diet was mainly nectar and tiny insects. I am very selective about my nectar sources and only consume flower nectar that has at least 10 percent sugar content.

My mother built our nest all by herself in a thick apple tree. She used plant down and fibers tied together with spider web. Then she decorated the outside of the nest with green lichens. Several people walked within feet of our nest, but no one discovered it. Although I weigh less than a nickel, I made a 500-mile non-stop trip across the Gulf of Mexico in September. For now, I'm residing in Costa Rica.

Bird #3: I am a juvenile Turkey Vulture that hatched out on the floor of an abandoned summer cottage in Owls Head in late June. My parents have used this unlikely location several summers, and this year they raised us two chicks - my sister and me. We vultures aren't much for formal nest building, preferring to use remote cliffs, caves, hollow stumps or logs.

By late September our family had linked up with other fall vulture flocks as we awaited a strong northwesterly wind flow to push us down the southern coastline. Our best talent is effortless soaring and riding the winds. Where did my migration route take me? I went to Cape May County in New Jersey. It has been a truly mild winter here. Maybe I ventured too far south? I'll see you again on some blustery day in mid-March - maybe even sooner.

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