Friday, July 1, 2011

ME - Chasing a 'Mega' - 06/30

Little Egret - Scarborough Marsh, ME. June 30th, 2011. First state record found by Doug Hitchcox on June 29th, 2011 - an ABA Code 4 species. Views off the Eastern Road Trail proved to be distant at all times, but the extra-ordinary nape plumes, in combination with greenish-gray lores and straight black bill provided relatively 'easy' separation from the neighboring Snow Egrets. Kudos to Doug for his excellent bird finding and obvious knowledge of the key identification features for separating these two very similar species.

On June 29th Steve Mirick forwarded a message from the Maine list-serve describing a Little Egret that Doug Hitchcox had found and photographed at Scarborough Marsh just south of Portland. I already had fond memories of this marsh, a spot which had hosted another 'mega' in the form of a European Golden Plover, which Susannah, Matan and I traveled to see on October 11th, 2008.

Having lived in New England since 2003, I couldn't recall hearing of a solid report of a Little Egret in any of the New England states in recent years, though I was aware of two historical records for Massachusetts (1989 & 1992). It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I've seen many tens of thousands of Little Egrets in the Old World, mostly in Israel but also on my travels in Europe, Asia and Africa. But I'd never come across one in North America, or had the opportunity to chase one so close to home!

With no further reports through the early morning of June 30th, but with the knowledge that the bird had been seen for most of the 29th, I decided to take my chances and set off from Gill in mid-morning. Wrestling with holiday traffic heading into New Hampshire and Maine was no fun and I arrived at the scene much later than I wanted to at 1:30pm. Luckily, the first birder I spoke to had just seen the egret and I walked along the trail to join Steve Grinley and Margo Goetschkes, remarkably the only birders present at the time. A few other birders came and went but I was surprised not to see more people at the scene. The Little Egret was in view, albeit distantly, throughout the 75 minutes that I spent at Scarborough Marsh, at times feeding alongside Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Heron and Glossy Ibis. Aside from myriads of tiny black biting flies, the marshes were full of the sounds of Eastern Willets, Bobolinks, and both sharp-tailed sparrows - Nelson's and Saltmarsh - all in all, a very pleasant experience and well worth the drive from Western Mass.


This shot, and the one below, were taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ 40 - one of the so called 'super-zoom' cameras. Here the Little Egret is the right most bird in both shots, with Snowy Egrets and a Glossy Ibis further left. Even on these distant 'grainy' images the extended nape plumes stand out as a key feature.

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