informal thoughts on acting, writing, and birds
Joined Jeff Wells and Rob O’Connell on a Cessna 207 to Matinicus Isle to participate in annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Flight out, approx. twenty minutes in very rough winds. Gusts up to 45 knots. Flight was breathtaking, if a bit white-knuckle. Dozens of golden islands in early light and eight foot swells scattered like torn lace over Penobscot Bay.
Despite Matinicus’ reputation as “an island of outlaws,” most people we met on the island were friendly enough. One eighty-year-old man was surprised to see more footprints than just his own in the mud on the road. All seemed to know exactly what we were up to. Only one woman gave us trouble, telling us to get off “private property” and letting out her massive, but thoroughly uninterested dog.
Birding conditions were less than favorable. Strong winds kept most passerines down and out of sight. With persistence, and some excellent pishing from my companions, we were able to work some birds out and get some good numbers inland. Crows were numerous, but difficult to determine exact count, as they seemed to enjoy flying in circles around different areas of the island.
Gulls remarkably absent from the island, except on farthest rocks, and very high flyovers. Islanders are rumored to shoot errant gulls. Perhaps they have learned to steer clear?
Seas very choppy, making it difficult to spot smaller ducks and alcids. Again, patience was an ally. Remarkable to see eiders and guillemots using the troughs of the big waves to dive down for food churned up by the rough sea. Northern Gannets looking like ancient pterosaurs wheeling above the surf were also a treat to watch.
Jeff and Rob are remarkable birders with top equipment. Good numbers on the count were a result of their work, with a few quick catches by myself. My top catch was at the end of the day, spotting a Northern Flicker rapidly working the tops of a few White Spruce.*
Submitted the full list of species on eBird.
Start time: 8:54AM End time: 3:15PM
Weather: Sunny with scattered clouds. Winds 16 mph (WSW), gusts up to 28 mph. High 34 °F. Frozen sea foam blown up by high winds was an interesting non-avian encounter and deserves recording. Globs of the stuff floated through the air like giant milkweed seeds on the windward side of the island.
Approx. 8 miles covered.
All things considered, a fascinating day.
*Working on my tree ID skills, so this may not be 100% accurate.