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Wilson’s Phalarope in Maine

Wilson’s Phalarope

Nothing gets birders as excited as a bird being seen where it doesn’t belong.  Regular visitors to this sight have witnessed the delirium that Ingrid and I have displayed about the Eurasian Wigeon, Pink-footed Goose, Common Shelduck and Fieldfare visiting our area.

This week’s “What-the-hell” visitor is the Wilson’s Phalarope that is feeding in Weskeag Marsh . . . a birding hotspot about an hour north of us.

On Tuesday morning, as Ingrid headed off for work after a long weekend, she noted that a Wilson’s Phalarope being reported in Thomaston, Maine. Red Phalaropes and Red-necked Phalaropes are regular visitors off the coast of Maine when they migrate from their Arctic breeding sites to South America and back.

But  Wilson’s Phalarope is a prairie bird . . . it nest on the Great Plains and in Canada . . .  migrating through Central America to their wintering home in and around Argentina.  In essence, seeing one in Maine is a big deal.

Anyway, as soon a Ingrid arrive home from school (she’s a teacher) . . . we jumped in the Subaru Outback and headed for Weskeag Marsh.

Weskeag Marsh is huge.  You park in a small parking lot looking down on a mile square marsh . . . dotted with salt pan. It really can only be worked properly with a birding scope and a lot of patiences.

After we got a pot smoking teenager to turn the radio down in his car, we began a slow methodical scan of the area.  We worked the rear area near the trees  . . . a mile away . . . mallards and egrets.  We scanned the middle salt pans and screams . . . Yellow-legs and mallards.  And we scanned the edges . . . still nothing.

Suddenly after about 20 minutes Ingrid spotted him . . . about 100 yards away . . . just below the parking lot (why didn’t we look there first???).

The Wilson’s fed on and out of the sea grass.  Alternately swimming and standing as it ate.   One beautiful bird.

After a while, we relocated to get a better view (and immediately lost the bird) but heard and briefly saw a couple Nelson’s Sparrows . . . a regular summer resident of Weskeag Marsh.

The next morning I took a break of dawn trip to nearby Popham beach to see the Piping Plovers that are beginning to nest.

Saw one “Piper” serenely sitting on it’s nest.  The nests are inside a netted enclosure to protect the endangered bird from bathers, gulls, eagles and dogs.

Other than that, Popham was relatively quiet except for one fun surprised.  I was adjusting my binoculars on a spot in the sand that I thought might be a Dunlin when I caught a motion at my feet.  I looked down and found myself surrounded by Semipalmated Sandpipers!!!  These little peeps should already be nesting in the Arctic . . . what a surprise to see them so late (or early depending on your point of view).

A few other birds seen over the last couple days: