Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Patch Birding: Foreside Estates

My little family moved back to Maine from DC in September 2018 and rented a two bedroom apartment in a complex in Falmouth while we looked for a permanent home. I was born and raised in Falmouth and knew about the apartment complex before we moved into it; called Foreside Estates, it had a reputation as sort of a way-station for families in transition. It's nickname was "Divorcide Estates."

I did not have huge hopes for many birds during my morning and evening dog walks, but things were actually pretty lively. I should have expected as such, considering Foreside Estates is on a pretty good piece of land.

That's the complex at the top, just to the left (north) of Route 1. To the south is Maine Audubon, my employer (oh man I'll miss that commute!), and to the left of them both is the mouth of the Presumpscot River, which drains from Sebago Lake into the sea, just on the other side of this peninsula to the right. The presence of this tidal river meant there were good numbers of birds flying over the Estates. However, there's no actual viewpoint of the water from anywhere on my dog walk except for one tiny, very important sliver, which I'll get to in a bit. 

Here is a closer map, with my usual dog-walking route in red. I wouldn't do the whole thing every day, but parts of it every day. 

In yellow are some numbers indicating good spots. Here's a little breakdown.

  1. A nondescript corner of the complex, between a couple of dumpsters, with a weedy edge and a small ash tree. I didn't give this area a second glance until one snowy morning in February when eight Common Redpolls were just hanging out at the base of the ash. Redpolls are pretty uncommon and hard to come by in Cumberland County, and so this was exciting. I spooked an American Woodcock out from under that ash a few months later. Good corner.

  2. Speaking of Woodcock, I was treated to an incredible mating display here out front of the tennis court on April 1. With the chain-link fence and parking lot in the background, and the whole scene lit by an orange street lamp, it was a pretty surreal scene. This is not where woodcocks are used to displaying. But, circumstances be dammed, these birds had work to do, and I respect them for it.

  3. Easily the best bird I ever saw from Foreside Estates I saw from here, Point 3. It's a fairly insane story, actually. So, this is a little road that goes down a hill to some sort of utility substation or something. It's not owned by the complex, and we're not actually allowed down there (the utility roped off the road, I think after some people were going down there to, like, smoke weed or make out or something teen-y). But it's the only place to get an actual look at the wetland marsh, and from certain vantages out onto the open water of the river. The woods on either side of the road down the hill were the thickest around, and good for migrant warblers in the right season. One of those seasons is spring, and in the thick of spring migration -- May 15 -- I did something I never do on these dog walks: brought by binoculars. So, I am walking around and there are a couple good things around, and I get to the top of the hill here above Point 3 and look out at the tiny sliver of shoreline visible across the bay. I put my binoculars up and look at a flock of gulls on the far shore. One of the gulls is huge. Is that a pelican?? I think it is! White Pelicans are super rare in Maine! I know that the bird will be much easier to see from Maine Audubon property down the way, so I turn around and hustle back to the house to drive over there. As I'm halfway back I get a text from Maine Audubon's ED Andy, it's a picture he's taken about 10 minutes before on the other side of the peninsula while he was on his morning kayak, and he says "Hey is this a pelican?" It was! He had spooked the bird up off an island and watched it fly into the bay, where I miraculously saw it! So, I cruise over to Audubon and march down to the river overlooks, but no bird. Bogus. BUT, a couple miles inland, my colleague Doug was leading a free bird walk at Evergreen Cemetery (like I said, it's spring migration) and his group looks up to see...a white pelican! Three Audubon staffers were pretty much the ONLY people in Maine to see this individual, and we saw it in three different locations. Good times.

  4. Uhh ok phew no really good stories here, but this is where I got good looks at Cape May Warbler in migration. That's it.

  5. And uhh this is where there are woods for like Ovenbird, and Black-throated Green Warbler etc. 
That's about all! In the 10 months I lived there, I saw 92 species. Not bad. That's for the memories, Foreside Estates, but I've already started my new list here in Cumberland.

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