By Nathan Hall and Fleur Hopper, photos by Fleur Hopper
Spring has sprung again in Deering Center, and it’s been a great season for observing and enjoying all of our abundant local and migratory birds. The annual parade of stunning wood warblers has been proceeding through Evergreen Cemetery and Capisic Pond park. Some highlights include multiple sightings of a Cape May Warbler (though sadly not by the authors!), a beautiful sunny yellow bird with a rosy face who winters in the West Indies and breeds in the Boreal forests of Northern Maine and Canada. Cape Mays’ population fluctuates depending on the availability of their favorite food, the spruce budworm. Their population fluctuates year to year, and seeing one in your yard or local park is a truly special treat!
In addition to many warblers, Evergreen is also currently hosting a number of other migratory birds, including at least one pair of Scarlet Tanagers, several flute-voice Wood Thrushes, and appears to be frequented by at least two Baltimore Orioles.
Our local birds have been busy starting their families. A pair of Canada Geese are displaying top-enoch parenting skills down at the Evergreen Cemetery ponds. We have watched their five little ones grow from tiny fuzzy babes to sturdy golisings with an independent streak! We were particularly glad to witness this goose family’s success, as last year’s breeding pair did not fare so well, losing a number of young chicks soon after hatching (perhaps to the lucking snapping turtles in the big Evergreen pond).
But perhaps the most exciting event of the spring has been the been the hatching of two Great-horned owlets in Evergreen Cemetery. These two have quickly become local celebrities, attracting the attention of wildlife biology researchers and casual nature enthusiasts alike.
We first learned of the owlets in early April while combing through eBird (a real-time, online checklist run by Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology) and finding a posting from by another local birder. The next morning we almost ran down to the big pond to find two gray balls of fluff high in one of the White Pines along the shore. It was a magical!
The young owlets have experienced their share of challenges, however. One evening about a week after our first sighting, we were shocked to find their nest gone and an owlet apparently missing. We later learned that one of the pair had fallen out of the nest but was found and taken to Avian Haven, a bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, ME. It was at about this time that the City of Portland blocked out the trail behind the pond to protect the birds. Happily, all ended well: the fallen owlet was returned by Avian Haven staff after only a week, placed in a nearby White Pine with a laundry basket lodged in the lower branches to prevent another mishap.
The owlets have been growing steadily since then, and have started to fledge, hop-flying from White Pine to White Pine. They seem to be seeking a little more privacy from the local bird paparazzi (though not finding much), and have moved slightly deeper into the woods from their original nest’s location, but they and their parents remain fairly easy to observe around the big Evergreen Pond, and will hopefully continue to thrive throughout the summer. According to long-time neighborhood residents, Great-horned Owls have resided in the forests around Evergreen Cemetary for decades. Let’s hope these two will keep up the tradition!